Yesterday, the Australian government warned Chris Brown that his visa application to perform down under will likely be denied, citing his criminal conviction for abusing his former girlfriend Rihanna back in 2009. Having received the “notice of intention to consider refusal,” the R&B singer now has 28 days to prove why he should be allowed into the country.
Women's minister Michaelia Cash recently spoke out about the Brown ban, saying: “People need to understand if you are going to commit domestic violence and then you want to travel around the world, there are going to be countries that say to you, ‘You cannot come in because you are not of the character we expect in Australia,’ and certainly, without pre-empting the decision of the minister, I can assure you it is something that the minister is looking at.”
The notice of intent came on the heels of a GetUp! petition imploring Australia to bar the singer from entering the country. Previous petitions organized by a feminist activist group called Collective Shout have worked to ban celebrities whose songs contain misogynist lyrics (like Tyler the Creator and Snoop Dogg) or who have a history of violence against women (like boxer Floyd Mayweather).
Yet while Australia isn’t the first country to have banned Brown on these grounds — with the U.K. and Canada both denying him entry — some critics have suggested that a feminist argument is being mobilized to mask a deep current of racism inherent in Australia's immigration policies. As Australian journalist Clem Bastow notes, “that would be admirable were it not for the fact that such campaigns seem almost entirely concerned with the alleged misogyny of rap and R&B." Bastow points to white musicians who regularly perform songs that include depictions of violence against women, like Cannibal Corpse and The Decemberists, or those with histories of domestic abuse themselves, like Ozzy Osbourne, who have had no problem entering the country.
"Make no mistake: Chris Brown is an entirely unpleasant man whose abuse of Rihanna remains abhorrent, as does his apparent unrepentance,” Bastow continues. "But this desire to "send a message" to abusers must be consistent; as it stands - with Brown and Tyler having had their touring visas revoked while other artists are free to tour - these campaigns are inconsistent at best, racist at worst.”
In a statement, Brown's publicist Nicole Perna said she has "faith that a decision will be made with the full consideration of his continued personal growth, on-going philanthropic endeavors and desire to perform for his fans."