John Mayer, Perez Hilton, and the Politics of Victim Blaming

Yesterday, Perez Hilton got punched in the face. This lead to karma jokes, and "I've been wanting to punch him in the face for years" jokes, and all sorts of tacky, tasteless comments that make light of the fact that someone was the victim of violence. Yes, Perez is a pain; a pain who ridicules both gay rights activists and gay rights critics when not drawing crude genitalia on paparazzi photos. Did he deserve a beating? No: no one does. And yet that fact gets obscured when the victim of said beating is a churlish gadfly.

Some background: gossip blogger Hilton (nee Mario Lavandeira) is alleging that the manager of the Black Eyed Peas, Liborio Molina, assaulted Hilton backstage at the MuchMusic Video awards in Toronto. (Molina has since turned himself in to police). This came after a heated discussion wherein Will.I.Am asked Perez to lay off the band on Perez's site, and Perez responded by calling Will.I.Am a "f-----." (This is not high level diplomacy, here, people.) Perez called the cops after the attack, then went right to Twitter, asking his fans to do the same. That move, along with the fact that Perez is something of a media punch line while still being an incredibly important (and well-paid) media creator, has lead to lots of eye rolls and rationalizations and aforementioned jokes.

The weirdest of all this victim-blaming comes from musician John Mayer, who has also taken to Twitter to express his disgust with Hilton's handling of the situation. ". Later, he and Hilton got into a rapid back and forth Twitter conversation (twonversation?), with Mayer insisting that the assault was the direct result of Hilton's abrasive personality. " These types of comments continue, each insisting that Perez could have prevented the attack had he not been so darned annoying. The worst part is that Mayer's little sermons comes from this weird, faux-concerned place of condescending kindness. "

Meanwhile, Hilton is responding with a maturity and restraint absent from his earlier...life's work, really. Aside from repeatedly asking Mayer to take the conversation to a more private venue (which...horse is kind of out of the barn there, Mario), he quite reasonably argued that, "

This whole discussion is just a 21st century version of what women and assault victims have been hearing for years. The logic that it falls on the victim to prevent irrational actions of the assailant is really outdated and really, really dangerous. Many victims of violence—and especially domestic violence—will tell you that the slaps, punches, and shoves perpetrated upon them didn't happen when they were just sitting their minding their own business. It came during some sort of disagreement. Maybe she snapped at him out of frustration. Maybe she hit on a particularly sore subject. These are all things that happen during the course of an argument—we're never at our best when tempers are inflamed. But that doesn't make it right, ever, to take the fight from cutting remarks to physical violence.

We all should try to be better people: less annoying or abrasive, less prone to reaching for the cheap (verbal) shot, more sensitive to those around us. But it's not our responsibility to ensure that the person we're arguing with doesn't cross the line from nasty name calling to physical violence. This tired line of thinking keeps women with abusers (because if she just avoided certain subjects...), makes it ok to beat up gay men who have the temerity to walk down a crowded street in the wrong side of town (because really, what did he expect?) and subtly endorses sociopaths who think it's their life's work to beat some sense into people who don't fit a cultural norm. It's Rhianna, it's Matthew Sheppard, it's Angie Zapata. It's wrong.

This is something we all know. Most of us claim to be all about non-violence and peaceful solutions and treating each other with kindness. The actual practice of supporting the victim, however, is a lot harder when the victim is kind of a douche. That, however, is when it's most important: you can't demand that people earn basic human rights with kindness points.

So ersatz sensitive guy John Mayer is trotting out tired old tropes that basically boil down to "what were you expecting in a skirt that short," Perez Hilton is responding with a level maturity that makes it feel like opposite day, and all this is happening on Twitter. Tawdry, silly, and totally unimportant, especially when people are dying in Iran over the fight for democracy. Still, the point remains: it's never ok to hit someone in anger. Even Perez Hilton.

Update: The women at Jezebel, among others, say I'm brushing off Perez's misogyny and use of homophobic slurs. Let me state here what I should have said more clearly in the first place: Perez's behavior was out of bounds, and there should be consequences. But that reckoning can't be done at the business end of someone's fist. In fact, the second you rough someone up, it becomes much harder to take that someone to task for their abhorrent behavior.

If John Mayer wanted to challenge Hilton on his use of slurs, we'd be having a different conversation. But Mayer didn't write that he wanted to train Hilton in a martial art called

John Mayer, Perez Hilton, and the Politics of Victim Blaming | News