Rihanna: feminist icon or bad role model?

oouinoiun via Flickr

Last September, one of the strangest moments of the decade occurred on this island. R’n’B superstar Rihanna had chosen Northern Ireland as the location to shoot the video for her collaboration with Calvin Harris, We Found Love, a slice of euphoric dance pop. So, as befitting of an upbeat dancefloor filler, it needed a moody video full of lots of sex, drugs and violence. And there was the “running through a field topless” segment, which local DUP councillor Alan Graham-the owner of the field in question- objected to.

The latest critic of Rihanna’s antics could not be more different from a conservative Unionist farmer. Singer Will Young has called her a bad role model.

“I don’t think Rihanna is a massively great role model for women, her lyrics aren’t empowering. She’s a brilliant pop star and recording artist but her lyrics are not empowering – young girls have to listen to those lyrics,” the Pop Idol winner said. “I saw Rihanna kissing a girl in one of her videos [S&M] and I thought who is this for? If you’re going to do it just go the whole way like Madonna did and have sex on a bed. Women in a patriarchal society should be empowering and owning their bodies, I don’t think Rihanna is. I feel quite strongly about this.”

To be fair to Rihanna, she has said she has no interest in being a role model for young girls. “I just want to make music,” she told Vogue. But that doesn’t stop her being held up as a role model. In the latest issue of Cosmo, an interviewee refers to her as a “feminist icon”.

What? Rihanna may be many things, but a feminist icon, she is not. Apart from the seedy lyrics, the raunchy videos, the attention-seeking wandering about town without a bra, there’s also the Chris Brown factor.

In case you may have memory loss, as Rihanna herself appears to have had, three years ago Rihanna and Brown were on their way to the Grammys. An argument ensued, and Brown beat the crap out of her. The leaked pictures shocked her fans, and even led to proposals of “Rihanna’s Law” that would protect the identities of domestic violence cases, no matter how well-known they might be.

For a while after the incident, it seemed that Rihanna was moving in the right direction. She released her anger in 2009′s Rated R. She gave an interview on Good Morning America in late 2009, talking honestly and bravely about the experience, and the embarrassment and shame she felt. “When I realised that my selfish decision for love could result in some young girl getting killed, I could not be easy with that part. I couldn’t be held responsible for telling them to go back. Even if Chris never hit me again, who’s to say that their boyfriend would not. Who’s to say that they won’t kill these girls?” she said. “These are young girls and I just didn’t realise how much of an impact I had on these girls’ lives until that happened.”

Chris Brown (via Wikimedia Commons)

She’s changed her tune. Now she has not only forgiven Brown for what he’s done to her, but she is back collaborating with him. He appears on the full-length mix of her single Birthday Cake, and she appears on his song Turn Up The Music. Moving on from what happened is admirable, but does she really need to work with the guy again? Brown has apologised. His original statement read, “Words cannot begin to express how sorry and saddened I am over what transpired.” What transpired made it sound like he dropped her car keys. Nobody’s fault, certainly not his.

Brown has made it clear that he’s moved on. He’s said repeatedly that he is sick of being questioned about the incident. He even smashed up a TV dressing room last year because he is sick of being known as the guy who beat up Rihanna. He answered his critics with a series of abusive Tweets when he won at the Grammys this year. Eh, hello? What does he expect? All most people remember Ike Turner for is beating up Tina.

Rihanna has said that she picked Brown for simply musical reasons. “I thought about rappers, and I’ve done that so many times, and the hottest R&B artist out right now is Chris Brown,” she said. Many are not convinced, and Brown’s lines in the song (“Girl I wanna f*** you right now. Been a long time, I’ve been missing your body”) will hardly convince them otherwise.

Compared to say, Beyonce, who you could never imagine letting a man treat her like that, Rihanna is no feminist. Her sexuality is relentless and tiring. The shock value is wearing off, and worse of all, she doesn’t seem to be having much fun. You couldn’t imagine her coining an iconic dance like Beyonce did for Single Ladies, because it wouldn’t be sexy and shocking. Rihanna’s sleaziness is turning into a one-trick pony, and it’s getting boring.

Would you rather your little niece entertained the family by singing Run The World or S&M?  I rest my case.

This article appeared on Studenty.me on March 16 2012. 

One thought on “Rihanna: feminist icon or bad role model?

  1. This is one of the 4 artists I’ve researched. (Mainstream)

    RF took a quick approach. Use famous persons song and character – get publicity on YouTube. (IA – many are doing this) This approach has worked for other people, like Justin B. They get noticed quicker and approached by a team or teams from the mainstream.

    They mention that they did idol, look up to, admire, want to be like and the like. They inadvertently expose that idols were alike role models for them. At minimum they are in the know about how they will be projected to the mass. They ‘admired’ that demeanor of projection and emulated the ‘star’ they admired. They want to be in that seat, be that. For girls, that seat, be a seat, where she can embellish herself and get projected to the mass. There is more to this, but I focus on this because it’s pertinent. It’s pertinent to the reason, that many young girls are on forums asking for help with jealousy and envy, while boys are asking fir help with lust and obsession.

    I see other females like IGGY A – making hand gestures and or vocals about ‘in between their legs’. Not just RF.

    I don’t know what RF does musically – outside of singing. I do know there is a team if writers and producers for just about every song. I don’t know her contract(s). I do know that she is part of a business team in the music entertainment industry.

    In a nut shell-

    Any tween or teen knows that if they pursue the star seat – that that female star seat includes an embellished image, with sex appeal and allot of modeling a role that is significantly embellished.

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