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Amidst the fashion commentary, and glitz and glamour, last Sunday's Grammys featured a powerful message from an equally powerful source.
In a video recorded at the White House, U.S. President Obama shared a public service announcement asking the public to stop violence against women. Obama then asked artists and their fans to join “It’s On Us”, a campaign focused on ending gender-based assault on university campuses.
“Artists have a unique power to change minds and attitudes and get us thinking and talking about what matters,” he said, but, “All of us, in our lives, have the power to set an example.”
Obama’s message was followed by the powerful words of domestic violence activist and survivor Brooke Axtell, who delivered a spoken word piece, urging women to find their voices, and break out of the cycle of violence and abuse.
At Interval House, we were very glad to see the spotlight shone on domestic violence at such a widely-viewed and culturally important event. We don’t doubt that just a year ago, this issue would not have been pushed to the forefront in such a significant and meaningful way.
However: despite the emotional prowess of Axtell’s speech and Katy Perry's poignant performance that followed, there is still a disconnect in today's media-fuelled culture, all the more apparent in last Sunday’s award ceremony.
Take 2015 Grammy award winner Eminem, who most recently rapped about assaulting singer Lana Del Ray, and whose (very popular) song lyrics graphically describe how he would kill his wife. Or Chris Brown, nominated for a 2015 Grammy, who pleaded guilty to assaulting his then-girlfriend Rihanna in 2009.
When these artists are celebrated at the very same awards ceremony, what is the message sent to the public, to the youth who idolize them?
In a culture that normalizes violence against women and thrives on scandal and Twitter-wars, it will take more than words and speeches to change the public mindset. "It’s On Us" is in its early days, but behind it is a message that can be easily shared; it's on all of us to speak out against abuse, and not to support or award those who choose to sensationalize or capitalize on violence against women.
Want to help in your own way? Rather than support artists that glorify abuse, choose to donate to agencies like Interval House. Whether it's clothes, financial support. or your time that you’re able to give, your support will help women and children who are victims of abuse, and work to stop the cycle of violence in our communities and our culture.
“It’s on us, all of us,” President Obama said, “ to create a culture where violence isn’t tolerated, where survivors are supported, and where all our young people – men and women – can go as far as their talents and their dreams will take them.” Let’s make that a reality in our own daily lives.