I’m Confused About How I Feel About Chris Brown

I recently read some anti-Chris Brown playing the Grammy posts, most notably “I’m Not Okay With Chris Brown Performing at the Grammys and I’m Not Sure Why You Are” on Hello Giggles. I can’t say I disagree with anything stated in the article, because I really don’t. The article is mostly on-point. But my retort to this question is “Why Do We Care So Much About Chris Brown But None of the Other Domestic Violence Perpetrators in Hollywood?”

Entertainer Chris Brown in a gray suit and tie, looking to his left.

I’m not going to be presumptuous and assume that the author doesn’t care about those things, because I am certain she does, so the question really is aimed at white-bred feminism at large. Why does Chris Brown particularly offend us so much, and yet I have witnessed people laugh at and take someone like Charlie Sheen with a grain of salt? They’ll deride Chris Brown and yet use the word “Winning!”, the proud proclamation of an addict and misogynist who shows, in my opinion, way less mournfulness over his actions than Chris Brown (but I guess it’s difficult to measure less than zero).

Is it because the victim, Rihanna, is so high profile? Is it because we like her music so much, while Brooke Mueller mostly resembles what privilege looks like in our society? Is it his age? Or maybe the fact that Chris Brown is a man of color?

I am not running out and saying people who think Chris Brown shouldn’t be performing on the Grammys are racist. Not in the slightest. I do not want to be mistaken as apologizing for his behavior. But I think as a group we need to look at who we forgive using our consumer power and who we choose not to forgive. What both Chris Brown and Charlie Sheen did (oh and Christian Bale and Alec Baldwin and other people who have been connected to domestic violence have done) is not forgivable.

But the facts speak for themselves. Black men are criminalized without batting an eyelash in this country, while many of us question whether someone like Julian Assange is capable of rape because he is such a Valuable Person Who Contributed Valuable Things.

Truthfully, I do find it despicable that he is playing the Grammys, especially considering the connection the Grammys have to the altercation with Rihanna. I find it despicable that most of these men have careers in the public eye and are celebrated as people to look up to. Heros, even. I’m confused, though, about where our derision towards him is rooted from. I worry that sometimes a bit of it is a chunk of unchecked privilege and unaccounted for systemic racism that really criminalized Chris Brown even before he did this terrible, unforgivable thing.

I’m not leaving this post with a solution or even an answer to my own question. I’m just throwing this idea out there. With the way the criminalization of black men looks to me like a modern day version of slavery, as a white woman, I feel like I need to be more aware of where my feelings come from in situations like this. I don’t see that discussion happening in the blogosphere.

Editor’s note: Republished from Fat Social Worker, with permission.

57 replies on “I’m Confused About How I Feel About Chris Brown”

When the whole Charlie Sheen mess happened, the press at large didn’t mention the domestic violence in his past.  I know a woman who went to his “show” and tried to tell me how funny he was.  I said, “You do know that he shot one of his girlfriends?  And beat many of his other ones?”  She replied that she didn’t care, he was still funny.  I was appalled.

Most of my feelings toward the matter have already been mentioned by many folks above, but this article really struck a spot with me (truth bomb). I despise Brown for what he did, and the way he continues to be rewarded.  But I think one of the reasons he continues to act the way he does is as opposed to say Fassbender, is because while  hollywood enables people like Sheen, Fassbender, Oldman, Gibson (the list can and does go on) when their abuse happens and seems to drop it, hell even amped their careers. With Brown, its followed him even as his career has bounced back.

That being said, it should. But I do think the fact that what we “should do” is following around Brown as opposed to Sheen who got a Broadway show after assaulting a sex worker is extremely hypocritical and yes, racist. Brown has talked about how his own father was abusive, which yea, duh, abuse is cyclical.  But I think the enabling of Brown has made him feel like the world is against me, Im amazing instead of strangling, slamming, and biting Rihanna. The fact that people always seem to say ” she deserved it, in this case, young women (which I also think made the case more well known) validates a lot of that enabling.

Does anyone remember the Heidi Fleiss abuse case in the 90’s? As a quick FYI- Fleiss was a madame and was severely beaten by her boyfriend Tim Sizemore, who was a well to do actor at the time. Fortunately, the photos, which were also seen in every newspaper, are hard to find today, but were devastating, so trigger warning if you do go looking for them. He beat her so that she was unrecognizable and in the photo she is crying, and it always reminds me of the Rihanna photos.

The thing is, Sizemore was convicted on similar charges that Brown was booked on and served minimal jail time, but ended up having a career boost afterwards (not for too long, drugs convictions), while Fleiss was basically “ruined” afterwards. He came out still on top even after being convicted. Also, many people thought Fleiss deserved it because she was involved in sex work. Another incredibly fucked up thing that happened was Fleiss’s restraining order on him expired in early 2010 and without her knowledge, Celebrity Rehab(that awful awful show) brought him into the center when she was there seeking treatment. It was “amicable” they said, but what the fucking hell? But thats how seriously domestic violence is taken. Which is, not at all.

Now that I’ve rambled on, I just agree with Silverwane and many below. Why are we not showing this same large scale rage towards Polanski (that petition that was signed by MANY hollywood elite) and oh god, the Assnage defenders (Naomi Klein, said feminist and rape apologizer) ? Why are we not demanding that they seek counseling and treatment?


There are many things which make me angry when reading this article and the commentary. And not just what I suspect I’m supposed to be angry about..

Who says people are NOT angry about the ‘white’ domestic abusers in Hollywood? Clearly from the commentary people are. So why water down the entirely valid anger being expressed towards Chris Brown, whose recent Grammy win is as offensive as Sheen’s record breaking paycheques were?

Edit: Removed the above, as I realized it was a complete side issue to what was really upsetting me.

Perhaps more importantly, however, is the apparent failure of some to understand the difference between accusation and established legal fact when throwing labels around. Without endorsing the activity of domestic abusers of any gender, there is a reason most civilized countries hold a person innocent until proven guilty.

I am not saying anyone did or did not do the things they are accused of by the commenters in this thread. I am saying I feel that as adults we are inundated constantly with opinion disguised as fact and we owe it to ourselves and our culture to be critical, discerning and dedicated self educators, especially about issues which strike close to home.

It doesn’t cite any sources, but looks legit“. Kudos to Dr. Song for pointing out the link did not cite sources, but…without the burden of proof just about anything can look ‘legit’.


I think, given the climate of distrust for women who speak out against DV, and the frequency with which charges are dropped because the system makes it so difficult and ultimately not worth it to follow through on legal proceedings, and the propensity to explain away abusive behavior (which seems to increase proportionally with how attractive and well-liked the abuser is), I’m inclined to default to believing the accuser. If I’m wrong, it’s not like my beliefs have hurt the person any, and if I’m right, I know that I didn’t support a perpetrator of domestic violence.

And like @leezaleigh downthread, I think the situation in the case of someone like Gary Oldman or Patrick Stewart, when a person acknowledges it, shows genuine remorse, and takes every step to make sure it doesn’t happen again, the public’s reaction and perception is different than in the case, say, of Chris Brown, who makes it a point to be an unrepentant asshole at every opportunity.

Yikes, I had to google Oldman and Stewart – that was so disappointing to read.  I’ve found links to Patrick Stewart’s writing and advertisements for Amnesty International however, and that’s been a huge relief to see – I’ve always liked him as an actor, even before ST-TNG (oh teenage me…).  And if Oldman isn’t drinking anymore, that’s probably helped too – I’ll cautiously reinstate him in my entertainment affections as well…

At any rate, there is most-probably-definitely an element of racism in the way that Chris Brown is viewed as opposed to Bale or Penn or (barf) Polanski.  There is still a lot of viability in the stereotype of the “violent black man”, and his seeming lack of remorse and arrogance only fuels that perception, conscious or not.

Sorry, I think I worded that poorly. Stewart’s father was abusive, and he’s spoken out extensively against domestic violence, often citing that it’s difficult to overcome, as an adult, what was learned at the hands of an abusive parent. As far as I know, he’s never done anything but be awesome.

Gary Oldman (who also grew up in an abusive home) has acknowledged that he was an alcoholic, and has since gotten sober, and stated that alcohol was a key factor in his behavior in previous relationships (his ex accused him of abuse in the late ’90s, I believe). He seems to be fairly open about it, and his recovery, although I don’t know if he’s ever commented directly on the abuse accusations specifically.

When I saw the pictures of Rihanna after she’d been beaten up, my brain just flipped over into blind rage. And just a year or two after, he was losing his temper because people were still asking him about it. Two years is not a long time, especially when it comes to a crime like that.

Of course I would like to say that racism plays no part in my hating him, but I’m not completely prepared to say that. I live in a racist culture and I don’t know everything about myself.

Big questions I have are: how the hell do so many white men get away with so much, and where is their remorse?

When he was 16, Mark Wahlberg beat up a Vietnamese man (while saying racist things) and blinded him in one eye At least he did some time. But this didn’t even get discussed in his early career! He says he doesn’t feel guilty about it.

Although he wasn’t convicted, I’m 99.99% sure Michaael Fassbender is a horrible abuser. But how did he get those charges dropped in the first place, and why don’t they come up every time he’s discussed? Shame, indeed.

And I can’t even get started on Roman Polanski.

I think it’s really a combination of a lot of factors that were mentioned in this article and also those mentioned in the comments. I think probably the biggest factors are the incontrovertible evidence against him and that the victim was also a celebrity. I think that any time someone is accused but no charges are ultimately filed, fans of the person/the general public will take that as a sign that maybe it didn’t happen. However, this is almost always a false assertion, as domestic violence cases are rarely prosecuted. I think people will look for any way to discredit the allegations, particularly if it’s someone they like. Chris Brown is a rare Hollywood case in that there’s no disputing what he did and that he was actually charged, tried, and convicted, which is usually (and often wrongly) the public’s standard on whether these types of allegations are “true.”

Personally, I can’t look at any celebrity the same way again if that person has been accused of domestic violence. If a celebrity/public figure/organization does something that I find disturbing or offensive, I do the only thing I can– I don’t support them. I don’t give them money; I don’t go see their movies; I don’t buy their CDs. They may not miss my $10, but I feel better knowing that they’re not getting anything from me or from others who feel the same way and do the same.

Chris Brown wants a second chance at not being an asshole, and yet he continually acts like an asshole…. I also don’t like Charlie Sheen for the same exact reason!  In regards to reconciling Gary Oldman’s past in domestic violence I feel as though he’s expressed remorse, and changed his behavior (got sober) so that it won’t happen again.  I certainly don’t think that violence is ever excusable, but I also don’t believe that people can be perfect, and that to err is human.  I’ve certainly fucked up hard core in the past , and I’m glad that the people in my life have been able to recognize that I’m remorseful and we’ve subsequently moved on.  But that has only happened because I acknowledged that I fucked up and showed real remorse.  Chris Brown has done none of these, and therefore I’m not confused about how I feel about him.  I think he’s an ass, and that won’t change until he starts acting like he’s >12 yrs old.

This reminds me of the shit that Jez is going through right now in that it’s acting like a HUGE asshole.  I would’ve continued my reading & commenting over there if they had shown some sort of remorse for being dickwads.  Instead they’ve doubled down on ass-ness, and I can thus no longer reconcile my being a member there.

Agreed. For me, not only did I not want to continue contributing content to that site, but I also realized that I didn’t have anything in common with any commenter that would choose to stay. How could I debate with them on any topic with any pretense that we were starting out on equal footing when they allowed Jezebel to mistreat their readership and a rape victim? How could I go on seeing puppy videos and pictures of cake after that? Maybe my anger is misplaced here, but, not only did Jezebel show they had no respect for their readership-that readership showed they weren’t worthy of respect because they didn’t demand it.

I don’t care if he plays the grammys, but he wont be getting a dime of my money. I won’t pay to see or buy products that pay for endorsements or pay for music or movies that are produced by anyone who has engaged in relationship abuse or sexual violence and is unapologetic. I don’t think no one should ever hire them, but I won’t be participating. Some people make mistakes, lead troubled lives and are truly sorry for the wrongs they commit. People deserve second chances. Chris Brown is not sorry, and frankly, not that great an artist. No thanks.


Like many here, my biggest issue is that he isn’t remorseful in the slightest. In fact, he’s indignant about it. Anyway, I feel perfectly free to hate him, because I provide equal opportunity hate for all misogynists and woman-beaters! If I know about it, I boycott that celebrity. Ruined Michael Fassbender for me, but that’s alright.

The Fassbender one is a toughie for me because there seems to be such contradictory information about it. And it gets into that really gray area between tearing down a victim’s character and trying to get to the facts of the situation. And it does seem shady that her story was extremely similar to a story that a previous boyfriend said she tried to blackmail him with, with no evidence. I’m not trying to be an apologist, but without being one of the parties involved, we can’t know what did and didn’t happen when details are fuzzy and contradictory.

That’s a whole different can of worms than the Chris Brown thing, though.

I suppose I’m giving her the benefit of the doubt here, since like you said, nobody really knows the details. However, since he has legions of fans who will take his side, and his popularity doesn’t seem to have suffered, and women are commonly called liars for speaking out against DV, I’m going to go ahead and stay away from the Fassbender. If it isn’t true, my opinion doesn’t affect anything, and if it is, then I don’t have to worry about that either. It’s certainly a gray area though, and we probably won’t ever know the truth!

But yeah, Chris Brown can fall off the face of the earth now.

For me, I can not stand Chris Brown because he appears to have no remorse for his actions. Today, he is a very popular performer, and SO many young kids look up to him. As a role model, he should have thought about his actions before he hit Rihanna.

Unfortunately he didn’t, but he could have at least shown more regret for his actions. By just ignoring what happened, he is perpetuating this culture of violence among his followers. It is ok to beat your girlfriend, because there will be no real consequences for what you do.

there’s an interesting discussion developing over at Feministe re: the number of men who maintain celebrity status despite being abusers.
I agree with Rocky (formerly known as RaquelWelts)  with the visibility thing. other male celebrities have been accused of domestic violence but photos were never released. oh yikes not that that’s, like, “better” or anything, those pictures never should have been released in the first place.

I think your question is a really great place to start. no one is saying that we should all forget what Chris Brown has done, but maybe we should start looking further, at other people who have committed acts like his, and maintain the same standard of treatment. I mean, Charlie Sheen has never not irritated me (except in Red Dawn, which I am ashamed to admit I like. but also I thought he was Emilio Estevez until a few months ago?), but for the past year and a half I’ve made a point of asking people to change the channel when that terrible show is on, or what have you. Other celebs I’ve had a harder time with. Sean Connery? Gary Oldman? trying to make our entertainment endorsements line up exactly with our morals can be really tough sometimes! but it can be done, and we should be thinking seriously about who we are supporting with our attention and our money. it won’t ever be perfect, and everyone has their own threshold re: what they can still watch/listen to/see/read, and that’s okay?
but I think the start of the answer is “more calling out, more naming names, more repercussions for people who abuse. it’s never okay, no matter how much you make us laugh/swoon/dance/cry/whatever”. that sounded grander than I was going for.

Honestly, I have to say that I kind of commend Gary Oldman for the way he’s handled it. I mean, I wouldn’t get into a relationship with him, but he seems to honestly understand how wrong it was what he did, and he’s actively keeping himself a better, healthy person in order to not be the kind of person that beats someone he loves. We can only play the hand we’re dealt, and Oldman’s hand involved some serious alcoholism. I’m an abuse survivor who has displayed some questionable and violent behavior as a result, but I’m working my ass off to not be that person.

However, Chris Brown, Charlie Sheen, Roman Polanski, Terrance Howard, Sean “sometimes it’s okay to hit women” Connery, et al can go fuck themselves hard.

I think our continued distaste for Chris Brown (at least mine) is that he doesn’t seem in the least sorry for what he did to Rihanna- just sorry that he got caught. It’s true, we don’t really know his private feelings on the matter, but we have heard time and again about his ridiculous and childish tantrums that show he has not yet received the benefit of anger management therapy and this anger-aside from immaturity or a persistence to remain an abuser- to us represents not only a lack of contrition but a sense of entitlement. Chris Brown feels entitled to our forgiveness.  And yet he’s done nothing that shows he’s had any sort of a revelation or  inner transformation, so why should we forgive him?

It’s true, the internet is not as hard on the other men you mentioned but it’s not for the reason you think.  None of those men pretended to be sorry, pretended to get help, pretended to care about our opinions of them. So, we dismiss them as eccentric or intractable and we basically stop caring.  These are not just white men, they are OLD white men.  They are old white men who have been wealthy for a very long time.  To us, they seem like they’re from a very different place and life and they don’t need us.  We can laugh at them and ignore them and not relate to them in any way, all of a piece.  Chris Brown matters to us.  He is not just a black man, he is a YOUNG black man.  He is a young black man who got a lucky break in a very hard business and doesn’t seem to appreciate it.  We stay angry at him in a misguided attempt to teach him a lesson about privilege and entitlement, like we would any kid.  It’s the same reason we freaked out at Rihanna over the possibility that she might want to stay with her abuser but we didn’t freak out when Brooke Mueller went back to Sheen again and again. Rihanna was-in our eyes a young girl. Brooke was an adult woman.  A lot of that comes from how these two women are packaged and marketed for us, of course, but there it is.

So it may seem like we’re being unfairly tough on Chris Brown and Rihanna. But really what we’re subconsciously doing is presuming to parent them.  Is this because of their race? Maybe. But I’d say in this case, it’s age that outstrips race.

I think the abuse from Chris Brown seems more real because we saw photos whereas I can’t recall seeing any photos of what Charlie Sheen, Michael Fassbender, Terrence Howard, etc. did. But even without seeing pictures, I still dislike them just as much. I’ve even argued with Jeremy London and some of his fans on Twitter because of some remarks he made about having his son’s mother killed or wishing she was dead or something to that effect. (Oddly enough, he was questioned for assaulting her just a few days after this exchange.)

My big problem with Chris Brown, though, is that he has yet to take responsibility, other than what some PR person wrote for him, and he has yet to show any remorse or signs of changing other than posting a photo of the certificate of completion from an anger management class. And based on the public temper tantrums he has thrown since then, I’m thinking another class or two wouldn’t hurt.

I think the lack of contrition, the lack of even one second of anything other than a great big F-you from him is really a huge part of the issue, here. It’s impossible to tell what’s really going on with someone in their own life, whether they are sorry or feel remorse. But when you see photos of someone who has been beaten and the person responsible is jet skiing the next week and telling people to stop being “haters” and all that craziness…..well, it’s hard to forgive and forget.

I speak for myself here, but I do take domestic violence into my account via. my purchasing power.  After the Michael Fassbender deal, I went out of my way to avoid his films- partly because I knew that he was a jerk and partly because they didn’t interest me thematically.

I think the awareness of other people in the entertainment industry’s indiscretions are limited compared to Chris Brown for several reasons

1. Rhianna is a super star.

2.The extent of the abuse in the police report is detailed and severe.  Other cases, the details are fuzzier or less severe.  Or out of the public memory (Yeah, you Charlie Sheen. I remember)

3. It happened JUST before a widely publicized event and their absences were notable.

4. Chris Brown has continued to be violent.

All of these things are in play into the “angry black man” trope, but I think they contribute more to the “why” this is still talked about.  So still talked about—> racist trope.

I think a huge part of it is because it’s Rhianna, and because of those pictures.  And because so many of the other people have drug abuse or alcoholism to fall back on as an excuse.   I mean Charlie Sheen was such a shit-show of epic proportions the abuse was overshadowed.

But half of those other examples I had to google.  I hadn’t heard of them/didn’t remember.  Is that because there were no startling pictures?  Because they were white men?  Because they have better PR people?  I just don’t know.

I have to admit though, that any time Roman Polanski is accepted anywhere it shocks and disgusts me.

Amen to all of this. I haven’t seen pictures of the beat up faces of anyone those other guys hurt, so I don’t have the visual pop up in my head every single time I hear their name. And there is soooo much more wrong with Charlie Sheen than just the abuse. He’s a terrible human being, all around, so it’s hard to focus on the one specific part of it, even though it was awful.

As for the others, perhaps they do have better PR people. Or perhaps it is because we don’t know the victim as well. Maybe it’s because we hear about them less. It could be because they’re not being honored at the very event that their actions happened around. I’m sure there are a variety of reasons working together. One of them could definitely be the race issue. I just think it’s a plethora of things that make Chris Brown such a hated figure.

Yeah, that too. It’s hard not to hate someone when you have definite and obvious proof of what they’ve done, they admitted they did it, and they aren’t sorry.

It’s a lot harder to think of it every time when it’s just accusations, even if they’re completely true. We just have no way of knowing for sure, so it’s easier to ignore it. It may not be the right thing to do, but it definitely happens.

Yes. Chris Brown should have to pay for his actions, at the very least show contrition, but we should also demand contrition from the other people who perpetrate violence in the media and demand our attention noisily.

The one I have a real issue with is Michael Fassbender. There are people I really respect who think the sun shines out of him, to the extent they write  limericks about him and his sex appeal, and he’s been accused of abusing a partner in such a way that an ovarian cyst burst. I’m going to get Tumblr Saviour just for the purpose of making sure he doesn’t come across my dash any more.

Edit: This just came across my dash

Hey remember that time Michael Fassbender got drunk and beat up his girlfriend and everyone just forgot about it cause he’s white and they think he’s hot?

I’m glad I’m far from the only one on Tumblr who thinks this way.

Yes! Thank you! I get so tired of the Fassbender worship. Every time he was mentioned on Jez, I felt compelled to remind people, or point it out to those who had never heard anything, that this man was accused of beating his girlfriend so badly that a cyst in her ovaries burst so can we please stop talking about how hot he is?

And like 99% of the replies were either “omg I had never heard this!” or “well just because she accused him of it doesn’t mean it happened especially since she dropped the charges.” So basically the validity of abuse allegations is measured by how hot, famous, or likeable the perpetrator or the victim happen to be. See also: Taylor Armstrong.


I didn’t know that was him in the X-Men movie until after I had already seen it. Abuse allegations aside, I just don’t see what people find so attractive about him. If I walked by him at a bar, I wouldn’t turn around to look a second time or anything.

Buster Blonde’s article the other day on Taylor Armstrong was really eye-opening. All those women denying her abuse or using it against her is horrifying.

Also I hate the comment “Well it can’t be true since she dropped the charges”. No, perhaps she was sick of the pressure she was under, perhaps she was scared. Making a complaint against your partner is a hard thing to do. Those comments almost seem to say “She made it up for attention”, which again, is just horrifying.

But at the same time, doesn’t the possibility exist that the person dropped the charges because it didn’t happen?  I don’t mean to imply that the person made it up for attention at all, but they could have made it up.  Not everyone who is accused of something has done it.

Edited to note that I’m not a Fassbender apologist.  I actually don’t know who he is or what movies/tv show he is on.

Could be, but I think it’s a dangerous path to go down to speculate why she did what she did (and I’ll admit,my comment has a bit of speculation in it!). The shame is because of her high profile relationship, sher most personal issue got dragged into the public spotlight, and she suffered even more because of it. He appears to have had no repercussions from it. That can’t be right.

And Fassbender’s ex even said that she dropped the charges because he was overseas (Ireland, I think?) filming a movie and she didn’t want the criminal issue to prevent him from returning to the States and ruining his career. It wouldn’t surprise me at all that she was charmed, guilt-tripped, or pressured in some way to do so.

Yeah, like no woman has ever found herself attracted to the same type of man more than once and that there’s some kind of limit on how many times a woman can get involved with someone who abuses her. Between the allegations against Fassbender and another ex-boyfriend plus the rumor that she dated Terrence Howard, I’d say she’s just caught in a pattern rather than being a habitual liar who just goes around falsely accusing men of abuse like some people are making her out to be.

I was one of the 99% that had never heard about Fassbender’s abuse. I first heard about it in the Jezzie comments. In fact, two of my friends went out the way not to tell me because they were afraid it would “ruin” my crush. And I have to say, after I found out, it pretty much did. But it’s okay because then I found Benedict Cumberbatch. And then the world was better again.

Also, I saw still went and saw Shame recently, and there are a couple really intense moments in that film that, in light of the new information about him, seemed realllllyyy creepy.

I used to post Fassbender stuff ALL THE TIME, because I was somehow (no, seriously) unaware of all of this until the night of the Golden Globes. I haven’t posted a thing about him since, and I really hope no one sees me as an apologist or thinks less of me because I posted stuff about him in the first place.

This is so true. One of the things that ticks me off when people talk about women accusing men of abuse and/or assault and/or rape is the dialogue of “if a man was falsely accused, it would ruin his life/career.”

…Yeah. Right. How ruined was Roman Polanski? Charlie Sheen? DSK? Julian Assange?

But when it DOES dog a person, how often are they black? Like with Chris Brown? Certainly, his career isn’t ruined, but it gets talked about a hell of a lot more often than with any of the other (white) men mentioned.

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