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Going 'Brenda Richie'



Unless you've been living under a rock, I'm sure that you've heard about the still-unfolding Tiger Woods debacle.

Originally reported as a car crash in which his wife, Elin Nordegren, helped to free him, it has since been alleged by TMZ that Woods may have suffered injuries prior to the crash and that he was actually running from his golf-club wielding wife who went all "Brenda Richie" on his ass upon learning of an affair ... allegedly.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the now-infamous "Richie" incident, Brenda Richie, singer Lionel Richie's first wife, beat him and his then mistress (and now second ex-wife) Diane Alexander to such an extent that he had to call 911 for help.

Subsequently, Brenda was arrested for corporal injury to a spouse, trespassing, vandalism, battery and disturbing the peace. As a result of the assault, Lionel became the butt of many jokes by comedians during that time, clowning him for getting beaten up by a woman. This was one of the first widely reported and high-profile incidents of domestic violence where the woman was the aggressor, which leads me squarely back to Nordegren.

As of press time Tiger Woods has been mum about the incident, canceling three interviews with police. He has reportedly obtained an attorney and the alleged mistress has obtained Gloria Allred, which doesn't bode well for Woods.

At any rate, these allegations come on the heels, pun intended, of pop singer Rihanna's recent 20/20 interview and Chris Brown's upcoming interview with 20/20 after his disastrous interview on Larry King Live. My older sister and I recently talked about the Rihanna interview and how she never stated that she had any culpability in the attack, even though it has been widely reported that she attacked Brown first upon finding a text that was sent by his bottom chick. Allegedly, she hit him with a spiked heel while he was driving.

What she didn't expect was that he would go O.J. on her and beat her like she stole something. Now, I don't believe that you should ever put your hands on someone, but if you hit someone in anger (and sometimes in jest), you should expect to be hit back. Do I think that men should hit women? No. Do I think that women should hit men? No.

This is a glaring issue in domestic violence -- a fact that no one wants to talk about: women jumping on men in some of these instances. It's unpopular to discuss because then women's rights advocates -- of whom I am one -- often accuse you of blaming the victim. It is not about blame; it is about addressing this pervasive problem honestly, and battering men, even cheaters and batterers, is not going to stop domestic violence in any community. It is never OK for women to hit men, even when they are cheating.

Further, it is ridiculous that some women think they can hit men without recourse because men aren't supposed to hit women. Really. To women who think that ... how's that working for you? In the world that I grew up in, if you hit someone, you should expect to get hit back -- male or female. I've been mad, cheated on, mistreated, etc., but nothing has ever prompted me to put my hands on a dude. I'm not trying to fight a dude or go to jail for hitting someone because I exercised the same lack of control that he demonstrated when doing his dirt. I just walk away, leave him alone and keep it moving. I'm not married and have never been married, so walking away is easier said than done for married folks. Walking away from a potentially volatile situation is easy if you think of the consequences though.

Nordegren's story has changed twice so far, which is why the police want to question her and are seeking a warrant for the house. It is not OK to attack your husband with a golf club because he came home late or is cheating, if that's what actually happened. Now the Woods family is scrambling to come up with a plausible story because everyone can pretty much determine that a Cadillac Escalade hitting a fire hydrant head on does not merit the need to bust out a back window to "free" the driver, which was originally reported. I guess it could happen, but not bloody likely.

If this is a case of domestic violence run amok, then it sheds light on an issue that needs to be addressed. Women need to accept responsibility just like men when they attack their partners or spouses and get anger management, jail time or whatever it takes to make sure that it does not happen again. Hopefully, people will not find this incident to be a laughing matter like Richie's, but will treat it with the seriousness that it deserves.

Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D. is an assistant professor of Communication and Media Studies at Goucher College and writes the blog Tune N (, which examines popular culture through the lens of race, class, gender and sexuality.