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.
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