On Rihanna's Privacy.

Samhita at Feministing takes issue with the LA Times‘ decision to run Rihanna’s name after she pressed charges against Chris Brown:

Is it OK that they ran her name? Celebrity culture currently thrives on depicting the stories of women’s demise. We have seen this with Amy Winehouse, Britney Spears, among others. There is an obsession with making spectacle of women. So, all the more reason to keep her name out of the initial press materials.

On the other hand, Rihanna is really famous and one would hope that she has the resources and support to deal with a situation of domestic violence. She is a model to young women and they are affected by how she responds to this problem. This is a tremendous amount of pressure for anyone, let alone a young woman who is a victim of domestic violence. So it is the double edged sword of fame. She has the power and influence to make a statement, get the help she needs and take whatever legal means she needs to. But what if she doesn’t want to?

Slate‘s Jessica Grose disagrees.

Most newspapers do not print the accusers name in sexual and domestic assault cases without the victim’s permission, though it’s Slate media guru Jack Shafer‘s anecdotal sense that the press tide has been turning on the naming of accusers in recent years. In the American Journalism Review, Geneva Overholser, Missouri School of Journalism professor and the Pulitzer prize winner for a series on rape, argues that “In the long run, we’ll never get rid of the stigma if we don’t treat these like regular crimes…It’s just not ethical to make a choice about guilt or innocence, which is effectively what we do. It makes us look like we are assuming innocence on one part, guilt on another.. We should not be determining who deserves our protection.”

But more practically, Rihanna is globally known as Chris Brown’s girlfriend. The second Brown’s arrest for domestic violence was publicized, the world would know that Rihanna was the accuser. To gingerly dance around her name would be ignoring the 800-pound gorilla in the room to a nearly absurd degree.



Gene "G.D." Demby is the founder and editor of PostBourgie. In his day job, he blogs and reports on race and ethnicity for NPR's Code Switch team.
  • kaya

    i agree that this type of crime should be treated like any other assault to remove the stigma. had another (famous or unfamous) female been accused of assaulting rihanna, there would be no hesitation to post both names.
    also i think this whole situation is an interesting opportunity to change mindsets about domestic violence. before this weekend did chris brown even cross your mind as the stereotypical “abusive boyfriend?” maybe people will begin to see that abusers aren’t always huge, scary and mean-looking. maybe this will help open more conversations about domestic violence?

  • I agree that females should be treated equally when it comes to cases like this. I also think the newspaper was not being professional when releasing her name. Of course, there would be spectulation and that’s what gossip blogs are for but LA Times? No.

  • quadmoniker

    Something quick in newspapers’ defense: I have to deal with this often. Many times you know who the victim is, and if your paper has a policy that you don’t identify them you have to have a special reason to break the rules. I’d argue that the victim being Rihanna is special enough, BUT if the reporters can’t get any of the lawyers to confirm that she’s the victim then you just can’t say it. Even if it’s obvious. You have to get someone to tell you that yes, she’s the victim, on the record, or you run a huge risk. Better to insinuate for your sake.