Here Are 4 Easy Ways You Can Stop Celebrity Domestic Abusers

Yesterday, I wrote about a few of the many, many male celebrities who are guilty of domestic abuse and other violent acts. I first became interested in this subject matter because I found it absurd. How did these men not just make it through these crimes with almost no repercussions, but continue to have huge careers for years afterward? How did they still make money? Why weren’t more people angry? Where was justice?


The more I thought about it the more I realized my own complicity in the system. Kovie Biakolo, writing for Thought Catolog, puts it best:


“The truth is if the majority of the public wanted something better from our celebrity culture, we would have it, so if we’re going to claim that celebrities owe a certain responsibility to the public, it would do you and I some good to first take a long, hard look in the mirror; to ensure that we are not part of the problem.”


I have taken this long, hard look in the mirror, decided I no longer want anything to do with this system, and now I’m looking for ways to actively remove myself from it.


A few quick caveats before diving in:


  • The point of these actions is not to suggest that we should attempt to control public figures by expecting that their morals and beliefs completely align with our own. Freezing out a celebrity because they are voting for someone else for president, said something stupid, or claim a different religion or belief system seems pointless. Extending this line of logic would mean cutting off all human relationships because no person’s beliefs line up exactly with another person’s. However, it’s not unreasonable to hold public figures, especially celebrities whose work is not for the public good, accountable. In cases of documented offenses universally considered wrong, we should not allow the elevation or idolization of these figures to continue.
  • Believing that I, personally, should not financially support these men does not mean that they are evil human beings who do not deserve to live have any income. It means they should not be held up as icons in our culture. There’s a difference between celebrity accountability and celebrity shaming. This is accountability.




I’m not interested in critical writing (or thought, for that matter) that leads to lots of intellectual wandering and no action. Just because justice appears impossible, does not mean we do not bear personal responsibility to pursue it. (More on that in the coming weeks.)


With all of this in mind, here are four ways you can challenge the system that allows male abusers to go unpunished.


1. Don’t purchase their products


It’s obvious, but shouldn’t be overlooked. Don’t reward entertainers who beat up women by buying their albums, concert tickets, or movies. Removing this direct line of financial support is the easiest way you can hold them accountable.

2. Let corporations know you disapprove


The entertainment industry is just that. An industry. Until companies are convinced that violent abuse perpetuated by their employees will affect their brand’s financial viability they will not act. Don’t think Fox should headline their biggest show with a documented abuser? Tell them.


(It might sound hypocritical for someone who just last week wrote about the shallowness of trendy social media justice attempts to advocate for using these tactics, but changing the standard for celebrities is a different task than tackling the problem of global poverty.)

3. Abstain from celebrity culture



The reason celebrities yield the power they do in our economy is not because of their artistic talents but because they sell products by selling themselves. When you follow a celebrity on social media, buy a magazine with their face on the cover or a product they’re a spokesperson for, or even just click through on articles about them, you make them a profitable person for companies to work with. This is the reason there are no celebrity names mentioned in this post.


4. Don’t make celebrities role models in the first place


When I put this question out on Twitter, the most common response was to question the moral authority of celebrities in the first place (something I’ve written about before here):




This is probably the hardest, and most important, thing you can do. Hard because our culture has allowed celebrities to cast themselves as humanitarians and activists, and important because if they don’t have this role we can focus on bigger issues and worthier people. Our moral guidance shouldn’t come from Hollywood, but from ideas that have weathered history, people who have devoted their life to service, and our own constantly re-examined perspectives.

We should not expect celebrities to be role models, but we should expect them to pay the price for their crimes.


Want more ideas for how to take action for good in the world? Subscribe here.


Why Do You Support Abusive Male Celebrities?

Last week the world was rocked. Partially because of explosions in New York City and ongoing horrors in Syria and other places around the world, but mainly because Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie announced they are getting a divorce.

Brangelina’s demise beat the discovery that Donald Trump settled legal disputes for his for-profit businesses using $250,000 in funds from his charity as the most important news topic of the day. It also detracted from President Obama’s speech at the United Nations.

The divorce saga culminated in a possible FBI investigation into Pitt for potential child abuse. Though authorities say they will likely not pursue the charges, people were shocked and outraged.

Given the long list of celebrities who have retained their wealth and fame after committing horrible crimes, it is unclear why anyone would be surprised.

We Need to Talk About Chris Brown

In 2009, singer Chris Brown attacked his then-girlfriend Rihanna until, in her own words, she was “battered” and “bleeding.” This is actually an understatement. Brown choked her until she nearly passed out, threatened to kill her then bit her and beat her until her mouth was full of blood. He was convicted of a felony and spent five years on probation.

Three years later he performed at the Grammys and won the award for Best R&B album. Earlier this year he was arrested for assault after a woman called the police claiming Brown pointed a gun at her. Investigation into the incident led to a stand off with police that lasted hours.

Brown isn’t alone. The list of famous men in the entertainment industry who have committed incredibly violent acts with little to no repercussions is depressingly long.

A Brief Primer On Hollywood’s Leading Abusers

Terrence Howard, the star of Fox hit show, Empire, has been repeatedly accused of assaulting women. He admitted to hitting his first wife (“even slapping her was wrong”), and his second wife accused him of beating her as well. He reportedly makes $125,00 per episode and the showrunner, Lee Daniels, has defended him.

Woody Allen’s daughter has repeatedly accused him of molesting her. His latest movie Café Society has made 20.7 million so far at the box office in 2016.

Sean Penn once dangled a photographer over a balcony and allegedly beat Madonna with a baseball bat. He is usually described as an activist and humanitarian.

Mike Tyson is a convicted rapist. Sean Connery— has said “it’s not the worst thing to slap a woman now and then” and “I don’t think there is anything particularly wrong in hitting a woman.” Johnny Depp reached a settlement in charges of abuse from his wife Amber Heard. She submitted photos documenting the abuse as part of her case.

Dr. Dre attacked journalist Dee Barnes in a bathroom. Charlie Sheen shot his fiancé in the arm.

And Marky Mark (people who call him Mark Wahlberg are only fooling themselves), was convicted of assault in 1988 for beating a man to the point of making him blind in one eye. It was racially motivated. Also, he asked to be pardoned in 2014.

I could go on, but you get the idea.

Who’s to blame?

Most careers only require minimal morality. The kind that applies only to how well you perform your professional responsibilities and can be checked at the door when you leave work.

Celebrities are necessarily different because they have sold their lives—their personalities, morals, and choices—as the product. A celebrity is less a person and more of a business idea. If you are a successful celebrity it means millions of people implicitly approve, and in many cases, idolize, your lifestyle.

“When we don’t hold these men accountable, when we prop them up on pedestals with awards and accolades and lots of money, we’re saying that this is OK,” writes Zeba Blay, in a piece for The Huffington Post.

“Terrible crimes don’t automatically negate an artist or celebrity’s contribution to society—but rape, sex crimes, and brutalizing women are not hobbies that audiences should tolerate,” Asawin Suebsaeng wrote for The Daily Beast. “It’s the sort of behavior that is now unacceptable in virtually all other forms of business. Surely, Hollywood should not be exempt from such a standard.”

Suebsaeng isn’t wrong. Hollywood shouldn’t be exempt from the standard. But he wrote this piece in 2014 and nothing is different.

Numerous other essays and opinion pieces have been published, including Aly Neel’s much lauded “No More Free Passes for Famous Men Who Abuse Women” for The Washington Post in 2013 with no discernible changes.

But the free passes have not expired. Nothing has changed, including the fact that, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence 10 million men and women will be the victims of abuse by an intimate partner this year.

Expect More

Why write on this topic when so many have already called out the ridiculous leeway granted to male entertainers? Precisely because none of the “calling out” has worked.

The economy of celebrity relies on our eyes and wallets. This means the person to blame for Chris Brown’s continued popularity is not the Grammy’s or media. It’s me. These men are still famous, wealthy, and receiving free passes because we allow them to.

If we believe that physical abuse is wrong and not to be tolerated, then it is time to stop expecting more from Hollywood and start expecting more from ourselves.

Come back tomorrow for a more detailed breakdown of what you can do to abstain from supporting violent, male celebrities.

Subscribe here to never miss a post.