August 12, 2010

Domestic Violence Is More Than Just a Burning House (trigger alert)

Trigger alert (thanks, Sarit).

“Love the Way You Lie” by Eminem featuring Rihanna is certainly not the first song to discuss domestic violence and intimate partner abuse. From the first recording of “Banks of the Ohio” – a 19th century “murder ballad” in which a man drowns his girlfriend after she refuses to marry him – in 1927 by Red Patterson’s Piedmont Log Rollers to Lesley Gore’s outright “You Don’t Own Me” released in 1964, the “Golden Oldies” are rife with lyrics discussing sexism, abuse (Both physical and emotional), and domestic violence. More recently, I recall from my own adolescence the music videos of Paula Cole’s “Where Have All the Cowboy’s Gone?,” Jewel’s “Foolish Games,” and – what might be seen as a precursor to “Love the Way You Lie” – Shawn Colvin’s “Sunny Came Home.” Released in the later 90s, these songs and their accompanying videos may be seen as the mainstream’s cooptation of the Riot Grrrls’ brand of music and feminism.


  1. this is a great post. typically speaking, i happen to appreciate eminem and the fact that he has the moxie to address things in a way that no one else will. however, the video happens to be fairly realistic (i say this from watching 30 seconds, but upon reading the rest of your post, i get that it may not be)

    i did, however, find the video triggering and with no initial warning of that probability, i was unable to prepare myself. i unfortunately suffer from ptsd as a result of my abusive marriage and when i watched it, or tried to watch it, i immediately burst into tears and stopped breathing. not really ok. at the time i initially read the post, there wasn’t a trigger alert (thanks for adding one!). i follow and look at issues concerning DV regularly because i want be able to affect change, be of service, while also maintaining a sense of awareness about it. it helps, in that case, to have a trigger warning up so that survivors can prepare themselves sufficiently if they intend to watch it. ptsd is unpredictable…

    i do appreciate your honesty, however, and really felt that you uncovered an oft ignored factor in videos and their propensity for glorifying domestic violence. the scars are “deep and powerful” yet sadly, there is a prominence of denial and ignorance surrounding DV from a world level. i can’t tell you how many people, women included, that said “are you sure you really want make that accusation? i can’t see him doing that” to me. it’s shocking and at the same time, indicative of how violence has saturated our environment and imbibed us with denial.

    Comment by sarit — August 12, 2010 @ 8:46 pm

  2. Hey there…I can definitely understand the trigger. I hate to credit a music video or a popular song with this, but while dissecting its lyrics, I too felt triggered. Until then, I had never considered my experience abuse, but once I did, I had to also confront how I’d perpetrated it myself. It’s true, there is a world denial of it, in others and in ourselves, for I too had someone telling me, “But I can’t see you doing that.” Oh, but I can and I have. Of course DV and abuse can look like the video, but there’s lots of times when it does not, and I feel that oversimplification has contributed to denial. Sorry about the trigger – there is now a warning. Thanks for reading and good luck with everything.

    Comment by Liz — August 12, 2010 @ 9:00 pm

  3. Triggers can come from anywhere, really, as can lessons and understanding of one’s own situation. Not much triggers me anymore in the way this video did, and I attribute that to being aware and conscious regarding my surroundings. I’ve had a lot of healing as a result of that type of awareness as a result of my meditation practice.

    Since my original post, I have gone back and watched the video in its entirety. It was shot well, with beautiful use of light, shadow, angle, etc.; at the same time, it was also clearly shot from a male perspective in terms of those same angles and lighting styles. Fox seems persistently under golden light, most flattering to anyone, right? She’s suggestive with her looks, almost as if she’s “asking for it” at times, which we know isn’t true in a DV situation. What the video does do, however, is illuminate the mind-twist that is so prevalent in those situations: the placation of gift-giving, the constant presence of alcohol, the intrigue, the desperation to try and change the situation with one’s sexuality, the tug of war, and the isolation. Those things DO happen, and most people who are lucky enough to walk away are too afraid to admit to them. It’s a means of survival in a world where domestic violence is looked upon more often than not as an irritation or something deserved. Our media tells us over and over again how “hot” it is to be afraid, cowering to some dark shadow. I’m glad you talked about it, and I’m grateful for Feminist Fatale in general for persistently shining light in dark corners.

    Comment by sarit — August 12, 2010 @ 10:57 pm

  4. Thanks, Sarit 😉

    Comment by Melanie — August 13, 2010 @ 2:17 am

  5. Liz with yet another fabulous,think piece 🙂

    That said,I can’t stand this song.I love this song.That pretty much sums up how I feel about this song.It takes abuse,a very serious,dangerous and sometimes deadly subject and makes it pretty and golden.Literally.They apparently live in the land of the eternal late afternoon sun.The video features 4 very attractive people telling a story that almost can’t be heard for the imagery.Let’s face it,Megan and Dominic are hot and the effects are cool,most people won’t/can’t see past that.And that’s wherein the problem lies like you said.

    But on the flip side,I give Eminem cred for pushing envelopes and buttons yet again.I may dislike 80% of what he says but he says what no one else will,even when it’s really not PC.And he does it with wit and speed.It’s art.The inspiration and even the execution may be questionable,but i can’t deny the boy’s artistry.

    Barring those things,I have to agree with Liz,in the end it’s not about proper portrayal or PSA status.It’s about a known abuser and a known victim making a vid about the exact (extremely high profile) situations they were in.It’s a way to sell records.Not the most high brow way of doing it,but that’s the sad fact of the matter.

    Comment by Cleo — August 13, 2010 @ 12:03 am

  6. Thanks for inspiring me to update my blog and post about this video. I have been fascinated by it for quite a while. It’s become a theme song to yet another relationship I am trying to end…

    Comment by Mariko Passion — August 19, 2010 @ 10:35 am

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