I remember the moment I became a Chris Brown fan. It was the summer of 2005 and I was confined to an Atlanta suburb visiting family. To keep cool, I did what most 13-year-olds did: I binge watched music videos in the central air conditioning. BET's The Center was minutes from ending before "Run It" came on the screen. In the video a 16-year-old Chris Brown and his crew break into a school gym for a dance battle in which he hoped to win the crown and the girl. It was like Love & Basketball meets You Got Served. My fandom grew from there. My dad supported me in my endeavors, surprising me with both Chris Brown and Exclusive CDs. Brown was everywhere and that's how I liked it. He had the voice, the dance moves, and the charisma to be R&B's next big thing and his Doublemint commercial proved brands were noticing. But Grammy night in 2009 changed the course in his career and complicated my fandom when Chris Brown was arrested on domestic violence charge after an altercation with his then-girlfriend Rihanna.
In the past decade, I changed from an obsessed schoolgirl to a listener engaging tepidly from afar. I watched along with many other fans as Rihanna gave her perspective on what happened that night in a 2009 interview with Oprah. The following year in a Michael Jackson tribute for the BET Awards, Chris Brown ugly cried during his performance of "Man in the Mirror." The couple reconciled on Rih's 2012 Unapologetic album, which made you wonder if it would ever be okay to "forgive" Brown? But Brown would inevitably face more trouble. In 2011 he threw a chair out the window of Good Morning America's studios. In 2012 he got into an altercation with Drake, and in 2013 with Frank Ocean. He served 108 days in an LA County jail in 2014 for violating his five-year probation from the 2009 incident involving Rihanna. In 2017, ex-girlfriend Karrueche Tran obtained a five-year restraining order against him. And this week, Chris Brown is back in the news for a rape allegation in Paris. Though he maintains his innocence, he's using social media to embarrass his accuser.
On Tuesday, the AP reported that Brown was detained after a woman claimed she was raped by the singer and his entourage after meeting him at a club. He was released later that day, and took to Instagram to post a now-deleted photo of a shirt from his clothing line, Black Pyramid, with the words “This Bitch Lyin.” The caption read, "I WANNA MAKE IT PERFECTLY CLEAR…… THIS IS FALSE AND A WHOLE LOT OF CAP! FOR MY DAUGHTER AND MY FAMILY THIS IS SO DISRESPECTFUL AND IS AGAINST MY CHARACTER AND MORALS!!!!!” According to TMZ, Brown is filing a defamation case against the woman. But he didn't stop there. On Black Pyramid's homepage Brown is now selling "This Bitch Lyin" shirts, Paris Edition, with Mona Lisa on the front. Yes, this is as fucked up as it sounds.
Sexual assault allegations in the #MeToo era have the power to end careers. Bill Cosby may spend the rest of his life in jail, and in the wake of Surviving R. Kelly, Sony severed ties with the artist. The music industry is still searching for answers on how we handle sexual misconduct, and the rest of us are reckoning with what that looks like in real time. If Brown is innocent it makes sense that he’d want to clear his name and distance himself from the allegations. But selling a shirt that publicly shames an accuser isn’t exactly firm ground to stand on. Brown’s behavior is in line with many of the reasons why women often do not speak out about sexual assault. Last year ahead of Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing, President Trump questioned why Dr. Blasey-Ford didn't come forward "immediately." The hashtag #WhyIDidntReport was created for women to share why they didn’t come forward after their assault. Fear of retribution was a common answer. A study conducted by Standford Law Review cited "women do not report (or delay reporting) harassment because they fear retaliation, they believe no one will believe them, or they think that reporting will make the situation at work worse."
Brown’s antics remind me of 50 Cent, who I stanned for in my formative years, and who has worn the reputation of a bully like a badge of honor. Last year, Teairra Mari sued 50 Cent in a revenge porn case claiming her ex boyfriend, Akbar Abdul-Ahad, and 50 Cent shared explicit photos of her on Instagram. After she failed to show up in court, a judge dismissed the case awarding 50 Cent $30,618 for legal fees. We can't be sure the exact reason Mari decided to skip the court date, but perhaps after facing harassment online she decided she'd had enough. Since 2019, 50 has posted six Instagram posts directed at Mari, with some pretty wild captions. "Now Teairra you can cough up the money or you can go with R.Kelly and shit in a bucket. LOL," he wrote. Another reads, "Bitch I’m not gonna tell you again, I want my money now."
Maintaining your innocence is one thing, and everyone is entitled to due process. Chris Brown is slut shaming, and while that’s not illegal, the repercussions do little to challenge an antiquated system.
Kristin Corry is a staff writer for Noisey. Follow her on Twitter.