Four Five Seconds to Domestic Violence

Sometimes, when you spend eight ten twelve hours a day working on something, you start to see that thing everywhere, even when other people might not.

For me, that thing is domestic violence. As an attorney who works on child abuse and neglect cases, I get more than a few cases a day that involve domestic violence (because hey, if you’re going to beat up your kid, you may also be beating up your partner).

So as I was driving into work the other day, I heard Rihanna and Kanye West’s new single, Four Five Seconds. For the unfamiliar, here are the lyrics:

Four Five Seconds (Lyrics from metrolyrics.com)

I think I’ve had enough
I might get a little drunk
I say what’s on my mind
I might do a little time
‘Cause all of my kindness
Is taken for weakness

Now I’m FourFiveSeconds from wildin’
And we got three more days ’til Friday
I’m just tryna make it back home by Monday mornin’
I swear I wish somebody would tell me
Ooh, that’s all I want

Woke up an optimist
Sun was shinin’, I’m positive
Then I heard you was talkin’ trash
Hold me back, I’m ’bout to spaz

I’m FourFiveSeconds from wildin’
And we got three more days ’til Friday
I’m tryna make it back home by Monday mornin’
I swear I wish somebody would tell me
Ooh, that’s all I want

And I know that you’re up tonight
Thinkin’, “How could I be so selfish?”
But you called ’bout a thousand times
Wondering where I’ve been
Now I know that you’re up tonight
Thinkin’ “How could I be so reckless?”
But I just can’t apologize
I hope you can understand

If I go to jail tonight
Promise you’ll pay my bail
See they want to buy my pride
But that just ain’t up for sale
See all of my kindness
Is taken for weakness

Now I’m FourFiveSeconds from wildin’
And we got three more days ’til Friday
I’m tryna make it back home by Monday mornin’
I swear I wish somebody would tell me
Ooh, that’s all I want

FourFiveSeconds from wildin’
And we got three more days ’til Friday
I’m just tryna make it back home by Monday mornin’
I swear I wish somebody would tell me
That’s all I want

Songwriters
Mccartney, Paul / Fenty, Robyn Rihanna / Omari, Kanye West

Published by
Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

The radio show hosts couldn’t figure out what it meant. They spent a long time discussing what “Four Five Seconds” means–is it forty five seconds? Four, five? Four “five seconds”?

They did not talk about the heart of the song, which is, to me, obviously about domestic violence. At least, I thought it was obvious. Apparently the internet doesn’t think so. I googled “Four Five Seconds meaning”, and didn’t find anything about domestic violence, other than one article that simply hints at “ins and outs” that Rihanna and Chris Brown have gone through. Wikipedia had this to say about the meaning of the song:

Lyrically, it “express emotions ranging from the flip to the resigned”.[9] Sharan Shetty of Slate stated that the song is about “heartbreak and redemption”,[17] while a Yahoo! Newsreviewer noted that it is about “personal travails and confusion”.[18] Nora Crotty of Elle magazine described the single as an “ode to repenting in the morning for the foolish mistakes you made the night before”.[4] -Wikipedia “FourFiveSeconds”

Baffled that that nothing explicitly mentioned the clear domestic violence message of the song, I tried googling “Four Five Seconds domestic violence”. Nothing. There were some sites about the song and some sites about domestic violence, but really nothing that linked the two. So, dear internet, let me tell you. “FourFive Seconds is a song about domestic violence, told both from the perspective of the abuser and the victim. It attempts to go beyond the surface level discussions that so often surround these debates, and get into the heart and souls of people in such relationships.

All of My Kindness is Taken for Weakness

Rihanna doesn’t waste any time getting into the heart of domestic violence. Survivors might feel like they’ve had enough, but they’re willing to give their abusers one more chance, out of the kindness of their hearts. Over and over again survivors talk about not wanting to give up on their abusers. They love their abusers, and so, even while recognizing that they’re not being treated as they should be they bestow “kindness” on the abuser, giving the abuser a chance to redeem themselves.

From an outsider’s perspective, this “kindness” is so many times called “weakness”. We often hear things like “Why can’t she just leave that guy–he’s always beating her and slapping her, she’s just too weak to leave”. Rihanna herself suffered such victimization. After Chris Brown famously assaulted her in 2009, Rihanna left him. After many rumors that they were back together, she announced in 2013 that they had reunited. Commenters on a Rolling Stone article about the reconciliation had this to say about that decision:

“I love seeing someone like her run back to her abuser-she looks like the idiot she is by her actions.” Hook UK

“Rihanna is a role model for young women. By staying with her abuser, she is encouraging other women to stay in abusive, dangerous relationships. It’s only a matter of time before one of those women ends up battered, maimed, or dead. As far as I’m concerned, Rihanna has or will have blood on her hands. Shame on her.” Robotclam

So many times victims say that they want to give their abusers “one more chance”. It is an important step. While so many people view it as weakness or idiocy, it is not meaningless. It is an important step that a victim takes towards recognizing that there is a problem in the first place.

Four Five Seconds from Wildin’

I absolutely love the chorus of the song. It evokes so much emotion. The pouty, slow breaths of the lines bring up feelings of struggle. The references to Friday and Monday make one remember that personal struggles are not just about these lofty ideals of “what type of person is right for me” and “what do I want out of life”, but rather are often much more finite–“how will I pay the rent this week” or “my child is sick but I can’t take any more time off of work” or “we don’t have any more chicken in the freezer but I don’t get paid until Thursday”.

I remember one night in college, I was all stressed out because I had a big paper due that I wasn’t nearly ready to turn in, along with some other finals and shifts at my part time job. I called a friend, who told me that she was also feeling stressed. We decided to meet up and talk about our issues. I remember feeling almost angry with her when she told me that the problems that were keeping her up at night were “what type of person do I want to be” and “where do I see myself in 10 years?”. Of course those are important questions to answer, but you can’t really deal with them until you turn in that final paper, which is due no matter what type of person you are.

While a relationship can give people joy and love and safety, there are also practical benefits. There’s housing, there’s shared finances, there’s co-parenting. I know someone who has been separated from his wife for years, but still hasn’t signed the final divorce papers because he and his daughter are benefitting from being under his wife’s insurance. This arrangement works for him, but if his wife was abusive, it may not be practical. There’s a lot of extortion that happens: Sleep with me and be my partner, or you can’t stay in my house anymore. If you leave, you’ll have no where to go. Your job (if you even have one) won’t be enough to pay for an apartment and living expenses all on your own. Stay with me, where it’s safe.

If I Go To Jail Tonight, Promise You’ll Pay My Bail

If my husband needed to be bailed out of jail, I would march over there and bring every single penny in my account to help him out. Because I love him and he’s good to me and he deserves my help. Even if he did something foolish and stupid–he might have to deal with the consequences later, but I’d help him out in the moment because, love.

For so many victims, the sentiment is the same despite years of being treated badly. There is still love. There is still affection. There is still a very real feeling that the abuser deserves to be loved, despite whatever may have happened in the past, because, love.

This can’t be dismissed very easily.

There are no easy answers. We can educate boys and girls how to behave in relationships and what is healthy and what is unhealthy, but at the end of the day, every individual has to make the choice that is right for him or her. There are so many nuances involved in the decision that an outsider can’t see. All that an outsider can do is offer assistance and support, and most importantly, to be there, no matter what.

“He put me in the hospital when I was pregnant with her. The next day he started crying, begging for forgiveness. He said: ‘I’m so sorry, I was drunk, I need you so much.’ So I took him back. The next time it happened, he managed to convince me that it was my fault. He said that he wouldn’t have gotten so angry if I had paid more attention to him. So I started thinking that I could be better. Then it happened again. Honestly, I stayed with him so much longer than I should have because I was afraid of becoming the stereotype of a single black mother.” HumansOfNewYork.com
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Miley Cyrus, Robin Thicke, and Jew in the City

I’ve hated Jew in the City ever since I saw her nauseating video about the beauty of Mikvah, and the hate was reignited again after I saw her ruin all that is wonderful about Buzzfeed with an eye-rolling, kiruv style article about Orthodox Jews.

So when I saw that she wrote something about Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke’s performance at the 2013 Video Music Awards, I have to be honest, I assumed it was going to be just as cliche and holier-than-thou as her other posts.

But, I have to give credit when credit is due, and I actually liked what she had to say about it.

She writes that Miley explained her song, “We Can’t Stop”, as a celebration of adulthood and maturity. The lyrics of the song are an anthem of what grown-ups can do, simply because they’re grown ups: “It’s our party we can do what we want/…Doing whatever we want/This is our house/This is our rules/And we can’t stop/We won’t stop”. But, Ms. Jew in the City explains that that’s not real maturity, in fact, it’s the essence of childishness:

“The irony in defining maturity as being able to do whatever you please is that it’s the immature kids who we find screaming that it’s their toy and they can “do what they want.” Or telling their moms and dads “you’re not the boss of me!” When considered in that light, Miley’s hyper-sexualized, know-no-boundaries song sounds a bit like a spoiled little child having a fit about how she wants what she wants!”

Allison Josephs, Jew in the City, “We Like to Party: Childishness Masquerading as Maturity”

She goes on to explain that real maturity involves boundaries and limits and knowing when to say enough is enough. I’ve written about that before, and I agree.

The article also made me think about how exciting my first year of marriage has been for me. We were no longer simply our parents’ children, we are now our own family, complete with our own family traditions. Some we’ve adopted from our parents, but some of our traditions are completely our own, and I love that. I love being able to say to my husband “I don’t like the way our parents do X, lets do Y instead”. We’re adults, and we now have both the freedom to set our own customs, and the responsibility to make sure these customs fit our needs.

As adults, we sometimes use our freedom to eat junk food for dinner and to go three weeks without cleaning our room. But, our responsible nature also tells us that these things are okay, if done with moderation. We eventually clean our rooms, and a junk food dinner is usually balanced out the next day by a healthy salad and steamed veggies dinner.

This self-responsibility is one of the best things about being a grown-up.

Edited to add:

Please watch this amazing video response to Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines. Blurred Lines is a song about how the line of consent can be “blurry” for men. This is a feminist response, and it is wonderful.

The Post-Tznius Purge

Some time ago, I was at a wedding in Israel. I ran into a woman I knew from years before, and we started talking about life and religion. She mentioned, “I hope this outfit is modest enough for this wedding. I had such a hard time finding something to wear to this wedding because I threw out all my tznius clothing after I stopped being Orthodox.” She was wearing a stylish black dress with thin straps at the top and that hit a little above her knees. She looked beautiful, but definitely was outside the norm for an Orthodox wedding, where most people wore sleeves that, if they didn’t hit the elbow, they almost did.

She wore a dress not unlike this one.

Orthodox women have a way to “tziusfy” just about every piece of non-tznius clothing. For example, on the dress above, one could easily throw on a cardigan over the sleeves and call it a day. (There are varying levels of tznius. Some women wouldn’t feel comfortable showing as much clavicle as this dress shows, they’d probably put a black or white shirt underneath the dress).

When she made the comment to me, I reassured her “You look great. No one here cares what you wear anyway.” It was true. The wedding was mostly liberal Modern Orthodox Jews who like to pride themselves on how open-minded they are, even if their own practices might be somewhat different. Still, I couldn’t help but think, “You didn’t keep one black cardigan?” That’s not one of those pieces that scream “ORTHODOX”. It’s a piece that most women, tznius or not, keep in their closets because it’s good to wear to work, good for when the weather gets chilly, and can dress up pretty much any outfit. It was a staple among my [mostly non-Jewish] female co-workers.

Sometimes, people who aren’t used to dressing according to tznius rules don’t think about putting pieces together in the way that tznius dressers have to do. They might see the dress above and never even consider wearing a cardigan with it, because cardigans only go with pencil skirts, silly. But this woman, my friend, was different. She grew up lubavitch, went through a litvish-chareidi phase in high school, a modern orthodox phase in college, and then stopped being religious all together sometime after college. She knows the drill. She knows all about shells and cardigans and various ways to turn a scarf into sleeves.

But here’s the thing. Just because she no longer dresses that way doesn’t mean she shouldn’t have the pieces in her closet to do so if she felt the need.

On facebook recently, a girl I know posted that she was getting rid of all her “super-frum clothing from high school”. (She’s about to graduate college now).

I don’t understand this trend. Maybe it’s because I’m a pack rat and have a hard time getting rid of anything, but I find that if it still fits and is in good condition, there’s usually a way to wear it.

Screen Shot 2013-08-14 at 1.12.05 PM

“Sleevies”, cotton sleeves to wear on your elbows under a short sleeve shirt to give the appearance of layering, are one of the few items I was willing to throw out after high school.

Screen Shot 2013-08-14 at 1.12.56 PM

These days, I definitely don’t dress the way I did ten years ago. Ten years ago, I made sure that every time I left my house, my elbows, knees, and collarbone were covered. I only wore skirts. I thought I was “modern” because I didn’t wear tights all the time. Today, I dress modestly, but I’m of the opinion that modesty is in comparison with the society in which one lives. I pretty much cover my knees, but I wear pants. When I exercise, I wear shorts. At the beach, I wear shorts and a tee shirt. In general, I don’t have a cut-off for how short I’ll allow my sleeves to be, but I’ve been known to wear cap-sleeves occasionally. I don’t care if my collarbone shows, but I don’t show any cleavage.

Still, I own my share of cardigans and longer-length skirts, because sometimes I go places where it is appropriate to wear such things. I don’t do the long-sleeve white tee shirt under a short sleeve tee shirt thing anymore, but I sometimes wear those white long sleeve tees with a pair of jeans and a funky necklace. Half of my closet consists of cardigans and other types of layering pieces, because layering is the greatest thing ever. If I had to, I could find a great outfit in my closet to wear to a secular cocktail party or to a chassidic wedding.

The point is, it’s not what you have, it’s how you wear it.

Bad Rhymes #2 and #3

Why, why, why must Beyonce ruin such a great, empowering song by rhyming “minute” with itself?

“I could have another you in a minute/ matter o’fact he’ll be here in a minute”

Ouch. That Hurts.

It’s almost as bad as when The Steve Miller Band rhymed “Texas” with “The facts is”.

How To Get That Song Out Of Your Head

THIS site, songtapper.com, is awesome! If you’ve got a beat in your head, but you don’t know the words to the song, you can use your spacebar to play it out, and the site will find songs that have that same beat.

It works much better than the time I googled “song that sounds like dum dum dum dum da dum dum”.

The (Wrong) Bottom Line

The claim is that some people only dream in black and white, and researchers believe that those who do are older people who grew up with black and white television.

From the end of the article:

“The bottom line: A small percentage of people dream in black and white”

Nope. That’s not what I think the bottom line is. The interesting thing here is the REASON they dream in black and white. Not because the neurons in their brain are programmed differently, not because they are color blind, but because of the type of TV they watch.

Studies have shown that Americans are watching more TV now than they ever were before. The latest Nielsen study claims that the average time Americans spend watching television is 142 hours a month, or over 4.7 hours a day. Still, there are 19.3 hours left unaccounted for. Some of that time is spent sleeping (or dreaming!). The suggested amount of sleep for an adult is around 7 hours. Now we’re left with 12.3 hours of awake, non-TV watching time. 12 hours a day of working, running errands, eating meals, playing sports, whatever. But apparently, that’s not what the brain focuses on. This time is unimportant to the brain. All it cares about is what’s going to happen on Grey’s Anatomy, or, which I Love Lucy rerun will come on next.

4.7 hours a day is significant. It’s way too much. I can’t even imagine finding the time to watch 4.7 hours of television every day. Still, it’s not the majority of the day. I wonder what is so different about the way the brain interprets TV that it can alter dream images? Do the little pixels of light really creep into your head and change your wiring that much? And, more importantly, why didn’t the New York Times think this was the real significance of the study?

Little Boxes

Ikea, the world leader in efficiently-packed, mass produced, globally distributed housewares, now builds houses!

Nearly my entire apartment is from Ikea. Before school started, I spent a week putting together a bunk bed, 2 desks, 2 bookshelves, and a dresser, all from Ikea. Many of the tools in my kitchen are also from Ikea, and lest you think that all kitchen utensils are packed the same way, I also had to assemble my pots and pans-it’s cheaper to ship them with the handles removed, and placed inside the pots.
I can spend days walking around the Ikea store. The fact that there is the entire second floor dedicated as a showroom, there just for the benefit of the design-less like myself, makes me smile. But Ikea houses? I’m not so comfortable with that. My desk is a bit wobbly, and we had to return the bunk bed because some of the boards didn’t fit into where they were supposed to. All that is fine for furniture that I’ll be done with in 2 years, but a house is a long term investment, and I’m not sure I trust Ikea with that.