DAUGHTERS, by John Mayer (From the album Heavier Things, 2003)
The rumor about John Mayer’s song, “Daughters,” is that he begged his producer not to release it – he felt the song was career suicide. Instead, this powerful song about the effects of abuse won him Song of the Year at the 2005 Grammy Awards.
“Daughters” is a powerful treatise on the later-effects of abuse as he sings about a girl who he deeply loved, but was so deeply affected by the abuse of her father, she was unable to be in a serious relationship with him. The poignant lyrics give us all things to consider about the long-term affects of abuse and the understanding of such from the perspective of both the abused and those who love them later on.
“I know a girl
She puts the color inside of my world
But she’s just like a maze
Where all of the walls are continually changed
And I’ve done all I can
To stand on her steps with my heart in my hands
Now I’m starting to see
Maybe it’s got nothing to do with me
Fathers, be good to your daughters
Daughters will live like you do
Girls become lovers who turn into mothers
So mothers, be good to your daughters too”
DAMAGED, by TLC (From the album 3D, 2002)
Most of us now remember TLC for their varied hits, but there is a little-known song by TLC that was most important: Damaged, which only hit #53 on the contemporary charts in 2003. In this vivid music video, we see a woman’s world literally falling to pieces due to the cheating of her boyfriend and his subsequent physical beatings upon her. Video shows the vivid consequences of domestic violence go beyond the physical, into the emotional and spiritual realm as well.
“My heart’s at a low
I’m so much to manage
I think you should know that
I’ve been damaged
I’m falling in love
There’s one disadvantage
I think you should know that I’ve been damaged”
NO MORE DRAMA, by Mary J. Blige (From the album, Family Affair, 2001)
I did not know much of Mary J. Blige prior to her “Family Affair” album, but when I heard the song “No More Drama” and saw its accompanying music video, I found myself in tears. This powerful video profiles gang violence, drug addiction, and yes, domestic violence in a way that reaches even the staunchest viewer. What can we do about these issues? How can we better educate? Seeing the truth about these issues in this video (including domestic violence) gives us a clear-cut impression of the pain they cause and the necessary changes to bring about much-needed change.
“Why’d I play the fool
Go through ups and downs
Knowing all the time
You wouldn’t be around
Or maybe I liked the stress
Cause I was young and restless
But that was long ago
I don’t wanna cry no more”
FOR COLORED GIRLS, directed and produced by Tyler Perry, based on the play, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow Is Enuf by Ntozake Shange (Film, 2010; play, 1975)
Starring: Janet Jackson, Whoopi Goldberg, Phylicia Rashad, Thandie Newton, Loretta Devine, Anika Noni Rose, Kimberly Elise, and Kerry Washington.
It is my own opinion that “For Colored Girls” was the most powerful and important movie of Tyler Perry’s career, and I was very disappointed to see a near empty movie theater when I went to see it in 2010. The story follows the lives of eight women (known by a color, which they are seen wearing throughout the movie) and their life struggles as women, experiencing the various things women encounter in life: spousal abuse, rape, unplanned pregnancy, self-respect, promiscuity, alcoholism from a woman’s perspective, men living on the down-low (and the result is a woman infected with HIV), manipulative and abusive men, abuse of her children, fails of the system, and distractions on the job as a result of so many difficulties in one’s own personal life.
Every woman needs to see this important movie, which is difficult to watch at points, but so accurately showcases the specific difficulties of life as a result of abuses and problems unique to the female experience.
“Save your “sorry.” One thing I don’t need are anymore apologies. I got sorry greeting me at the front door. You can keep yours. I don’t know what to do with them… I can’t even… I have to throw some away. I can’t even get to the clothes in my closet for all the sorries. I’m not even sorry about you being sorry.” (Jo/Red, played by Janet Jackson)
“THE ROWDY GIRLS,” Designing Women, Season 4, Episode 6 (1989)
The show “Designing Women” was known as a progressive voice on many issues, so the fact that it explored issues of domestic violence shouldn’t shock anyone. In Episode 6 of Season 4, Charlene’s long-time friend Mavis teaches the girls a dance routine and introduces everyone to her husband, who seems like the perfect man. Charlene overhears him attacking and beating her, and goes on to find her friend bruised and afraid. She implores her friend to receive help and asks her to take her and her girls and meet her at a talent competition so they can find her some help. The overall tone of the show was to remind Mavis that they grew up as “the rowdy girls” and that their independent spirit should not allow her to be pushed around and mistreated by her husband.
Charlene: Mavis, I’ve been so upset since the other night. I just can’t stop thinking about you.
Mavis: Yeah, I’ve been thinking about our whole family — how much I miss Mama and Daddy.
Charlene: They wouldn’t want you to live this way.
Mavis: Y’know it’s funny, but I haven’t really felt alive in a long time. And I’ve forgotten what I used to be like. Every once in a while there’s this little voice inside that says, “Hey. It’s me. It’s Mavis. I’m still in here.” But basically I’ve been dead. And then two things happened — this baby and seeing you again.
Charlene: Then all you have to do it get Ginny, Julie and Kate and come with me now. After the show we’ll go back to my house. You can all stay with Bill and me until we can find you an apartment.
Mavis: I can’t afford that.
Charlene: Mavis, you can’t afford not to. There are places you can go for help, but first we have to get you out of here.
Mavis: I get an allowance! I don’t have any money to move into an apartment.
Charlene: You do now (handing Mavis an envelope). This is from Bill and me, and the other check is from the rest of us for helping us rehearse.
Mavis: Oh, Charlene. This is too much. I mean, how could they do this? They don’t even know me.
Charlene: That’s just the way they are. That’s why they’re my friends. The fifty dollars is from Anthony.
Mavis: (starting to cry) I don’t know what to say.
Charlene: Just say you’ll do it! Now, Mavis, I have to go. If you won’t come with me right now, I’ll be at the Arts Center until 11:00. Just get your girls and come. Just take this first step. I will be by your side the whole way.
Mavis: I’m so ashamed. I don’t know how I ever let it get to this point.
Charlene: It’s ok. Just remember, you don’t have to take this, cuz we’re the rowdy girls, remember?
Mavis: Yes, I remember.
SUBMISSION, produced by Theo Van Gogh (2004)
Producer Theo Van Gogh was killed on his way to work in Amsterdam, the Netherlands by a radical Muslim for the contents of this film. A sobering narrative look at the way women are treated and oppressed in many Islamic states and sects, every person in the world needs to see this short-film and realize the difficulties women under the extremes of Islamic systems encounter.
First minute and a half shows a woman praying in Arabic and then narrative is in English. It is subtitled in Dutch.
“Two years ago, on a sunny day, while at the Sook, my eyes were caught by those of Rahman, the most handsome man I have ever met. After that day, I couldn’t help but notice his presence whenever I went to the market. And I was thrilled when I learned his appearance at the bazaar was not a coincidence. One day he suggested we meet in secret…and I said yes. And as the months went by, our relationship deepened. What is more, out of our love, a new life started to grow. Our happiness did not go unnoticed, and before long, envious eyes gave way to malicious tongues. Let’s ignore these people, Rahman and I said to each other, and trust in Allah’s mercy. Naive, young, and in love, perhaps. But we thought your holiness was on our side…Then when I was 16, my father broke the news to me in the kitchen: you are going to marry Aziz.”
“THE BLOOM IS OFF THE ROSE,” The Golden Girls, Season 6, Episode 13 (1991)
When we think of domestic violence, most of us think of young women who are involved with loud or abusive men. The Golden Girls proved that violence can infiltrate any relationship, no matter how old a person may be, and whether or not they actually live together as a married couple or family. In “The Bloom Is Off The Rose,” Blanche Devereaux, who viewers of the show were well aware had dated her share of men and knew men reasonably well, involves herself with Rex Huntington, a loud, abrasive, and abusive man. It takes no time at all before she is doing his laundry and he is calling her things such as “barrel butt,” giving her wrong information, showing up late for dates, and criticizing her in all sorts of ways. It takes an incident where he attacks Dorothy Zbornack, a fellow roommate and survivor of abusive relationships, to bring Blanche to her senses.
The episode was important because it proves that no matter how much experience you might have with dating, anyone can be susceptible to an abusive interaction because of the manner by which an abuser interacts. The standoffish nature, the early signs that seem intriguing and alluring, are something that can be attractive to anyone. The Golden Girls alerts all of us, no matter how experienced or inexperienced at dating, to the warning signs of abuse.
Sophia: [about Rex] Boy, he makes Wallace Beery look like Adolphe Menjou.
Dorothy: Has been a long time since I’ve taken you to the movies, hasn’t it?
JEREMY, by Pearl Jam (From the album Ten, 1991)
Pearl Jam’s Jeremy was based on two life stories: a 15-year old named Jeremy Wade, who shot himself in front of his classmates in Richardson, Texas in 1991, and a classmate of frontman Eddie Veder’s from junior high school. The song itself is about a boy who is abused via neglect, is a problem at school, and eventually turns on himself. The graphic music video and lyrics changed music, switching the general theme of music from love to emotion. This video won numerous awards, including MTV’s Video of the Year in 1992.
“Daddy didn’t give affection
And the boy was something that mommy wouldn’t wear
King Jeremy the wicked
Ruled his world
Jeremy spoke in class today
Jeremy spoke in class today
Try to forget this…
Try to erase this…
From the blackboard.”
JANIE’S GOT A GUN, by Aerosmith (From the album Pump, 1989)
The inspiration for “Janie’s Got A Gun” came to frontman Steven Tyler after reading a Newsweek article about gunshot victims. The dark lyrics to this song reflect a girl who kills her father, who has been sexually abusing her. The intensive music video features realistic scenes pertaining to sexual abuse and incest and the realistic consequences of the two.
“Janie’s got a gun
Janie’s got a gun
Her dog day’s just begun
Now everybody is on the run
Tell me now it’s untrue.
What did her daddy do?
He jacked a little bitty baby
The man has got to be insane
They say the spell that he was under the lightning and
the thunder knew that someone had to stop the rain”
“SILENCE IS NOT GOLDEN,” Full House, Season 6, Episode 17 (1993)
Full House wasn’t one of those shows that we think of when it came to serious topics, such as domestic violence, but in Episode 17 of Season 6, that’s exactly the topic they tackled. What made this particular episode of interest is that the program did not deal with adult spousal abuse, but childhood abuse, inflicted by a parent. Stephanie is paired up for a class writing project with Charles, the class “pain,” who was always making other students miserable. In preparation for the project, Stephanie learns Charles’s father severely abuses and beats him, to which Charles makes Stephanie swear she won’t tell anyone about what she’s learned. Things go from bad to worse when Charles is suddenly absent from school due to a mysterious “accident” in which his father told the school he fell down the stairs. Through a particularly intense outburst, Stephanie tells her Uncle Jesse what happened to Charles and he reports the abuse to authorities. We learn at the end of the show that Charles was removed from his father’s household and put in foster care. Stephanie also views her own father with new appreciation because he handles the girls with fairness and without violence. The end of this special episode featured information about reporting child abuse with the number of the Child Abuse Hotline.
Uncle Jesse: [after finding out Charles’ father is abusing him] I’m calling children’s services to handle this.
Uncle Jesse: Because if I don’t, I’m going over there to straighten him out myself.