The past 24 hours have not been kind to Angèle. Since her brother, rap darling Roméo Elvis, was credibly accused on Instagram of sexual assault, pressure’s been mounting on the young star to respond with her usual fervor against misogynistic violence.
On Twitter and Instagram, users have been commenting #balancetonfrère (#denounceyourbrother), a cruel twist on the newly trending #balancetonrappeur, and on Angèle’s pop feminist anthem, “Balance ton Quoi”.
Angèle and Léna Simonne, the model/influencer and Roméo’s long-time romantic partner, have been the main targets of this online vitriol; the accused has been mostly spared. Voices on social media mock their relationships, and question the instrumental role of Angèle and Léna in #balancetonrappeur.
This hashtag was born just 3 days ago, after numerous accusations of domestic violence surfaced on Instagram against the French/Algerian rapper Moha la Squale. Léna was an early motor of the controversy, as one of the first accounts to share the story of an alleged victim. Following this, Angèle shared a post denouncing the juridical presumption of innocence which so often allows rapists and abusers to walk free. #boycottmohalasquale came soon after.
Now that accusations against Roméo are in the spotlight, the women’s silence has invited reproaches; some have cried hypocrisy, or criticized the selective denunciation of a French/Algerian from Créteil while ignoring the violence of a white Belgian from Linkebeek.
Of course, these comments don’t take into account the whiplash speed at which the news emerged, and the betrayals that Angèle and Léna must first process in the intimacy of their relationships to Roméo. Some users are sympathetic to this heartbreak, and defend the privacy of the two women while they learn the facts. All expect that once the dust has settled, Angèle will take a position.
It is clear that she must: Angèle is inextricably bound to Roméo, in family as in fame, and she has built her career on years of feminist advocacy; to remain silent would be complicit. However, her public participation in the fall from grace of Moha la Squale does not force her hand as much as some may think.
It may seem that Angèle’s family ties and political convictions are now at an irreconcilable gap, and that the singer is faced with the impossible choice of either cutting ties with her own brother or damaging her vibrant career.
However, in the strange position of hating abuse while loving an abuser, the young creative has an open playing field. “Balance ton Quoi” will now forever be associated with #balancetonfrère, but its meaning is not lost- it is complicated.
Angèle may now become a leader for the innocent relatives of abusers, those secondary victims of violence, on how to safely love and forgive someone who has shattered your trust. She might learn how to care for survivors once they have named their abuser, and offer compassion and protection every step of the way.
The star’s association with her brother will force her to explore in her art something of direct relevance to us all: our coexistence with violent offenders, be they relatives or friends, loved ones, coworkers, celebrities we look up to, or individuals we despise, dehumanize, and lock away. Faced with this novel difficulty, Angèle may show us light; we'll never know when we might need it.