So.... obviously Rihanna’s #BBHMM video slayed, which I knew it would because my queen never disappoints me. That said, the hot takes are flying fast and hard because that’s how white feminism operates.
The New Statesman has a piece out by Helen Lewis that basically amounts to “Rihanna is a misogynist for torturing a white woman.”
I want to finish up by talking about race, which I am think I am definitely not meant to do. This is where the basic-ass nature of my praxis is really going to be revealed. I’ve read some suggestions that the video is supposed to be disturbing — it’s a comment on how black women’s bodies are routinely sexualised and objectified in our culture in a way that is both racist and misogynist. Ah, goes this line of argument, you don’t like it when it’s a rich white woman dangling on the hook? Where were you when worse things happened to black women?
Yeah, this is true. No one should deny it. There is a hierarchy of victimhood in our society — if you get kidnapped, raped and murdered, you will make more front pages if you’re white, pretty and “virginal” than if you are black/Hispanic, a mother, an older woman, an immigrant, a sex worker or any other category that apparently downgrades your death from a tragedy to a commonplace.
But the answer to that is to make more noise, to raise our voices louder, when women who are doubly disadvantaged are objectified and marginalised — not even up the score with a bit of rich-white-lady torture. In Catharine MacKinnon’s searing essay on this subject, she speaks of the white woman as a “‘woman, modified’ . . . meaning she would be oppressed but for her privilege”. As she points out, being white does not exempt a woman from sexism — it merely means that she does not also experience the oppression of racism too.
I don’t really want to talk about this white people, but I do want to discuss it, so I thought I’d bring it here. To me this woman seems to be missing that white women and black women are not equal in the struggle for equality. We’re both women, and that’s it. We are dealing with twice the shit as you and sometimes you’re the source of that shit. She positions white women as innocent bystanders being tossed back and forth between white men oppressors and angry black girls as though white girls are just pawns in the race game. NO BITCH YOU MISTRESS EPPS! Oppressing us right alongside your men.
I did really like Pitchfork’s take though. Which ironically, Helen cites and misses the point of. These were my favourites parts:
The world we live in is fucked, far from a utopia despite so many everyday struggles and small fights. Rihanna knows this, and she’s carved out a space for herself in which survival-level politic is always referenced first – and this is what speaks to me personally about the music she’s making currently and the imagery she’s using. This entire song and video is about how one does not fuck with Rihanna, which is, any way you look at it, an incredibly bold assertion of power that deserves our respect and a deeper context than ‘is this feminist or not.’
Like sure, Rihanna might be into BDSM, but she’s about to roll up with chainsaw and actually use it—that’s a hilarious, boner-killing curveball. I love that for once, when a pop star plays a murdering psycho, it isn’t in the trope of “crazy ex-girlfriend”. This is some mercenary shit, but I admire RiRi going all in.
Rather than just Tarantino-style revenge, her elaborate cutlery is labeled not by the effect, but by the offense she is exacting revenge for. Rihanna is a savage, but she is doing it for all the reasons any person who has ever been screwed financially is. She’s owed and he thought he could get away with it . He thought wrong. Not only does she triumph blood-soaked, naked and covered in money, she makes sure her opponent is none other than Hannibal, the murderous madman of our television moment. Rihanna doesn’t just triumph she makes sure to take out the baddest motherfucker on TV. That her captive ends up giggling and toking with her seems inevitable, because really she’s having a better time, and in the end Rihanna doesn’t ask her to show anything she doesn’t show herself. That Rihanna herself is the blood spattered legs hanging out of the trunk drives home the most important thing: it’s between her and the bitch who had her money—and she wins.
What do you guys thinks about the politics of the video?