My thoughts on Rihanna’s Man Down video [in which she shoots and kills a man because he assaults and possibly rapes her] -mainly in defense of Rihanna/ a feminist reading.
The Parent’s Television Council points out that the explicit violence is “a clear violation of BET’s own programming guidelines,” which it is. But BET is breaking the rules in order to give voice to a pressing social issue: violence against women, rape, and questions of justice.
“If Chris Brown shot a woman in his new video and BET premiered it, the world would stop. Rihanna should not get a pass and BET should know better. The video is far from broadcast worthy,” Paul Porter stated on the Council’s website. Double standards are dangerous, no doubt. But we aren’t equal, we aren’t the same, and sometimes its not good to pretend we are and sweep things under the table. It’s a matter of weighing the positives versus the negatives. [Also- Eminem abused a woman in their collab “Love The Way You Lie” video… it aired on MTV]
In my opinion, the video shows a counter story to the usual woman-as-helpless-victim, or vengeance-seeking crazy. Her rightful “how dare he have the audacity” attitude leads her to kill him, a decision she regrets afterwards, but one born of the anger and emotional distress. The truth is that men’s physical and social power is a real, and often unchecked, threat to women. Is murder the answer? No. But the video shows a possible consequence of societal systems wherein women are often blamed for attacks against them. Think about the things we hear in the street, news, and even/especially in the courtroom: she arrived at the club scantily clad, she walked down the alley alone, she was dancing suggestively with him.. etc, etc. And we all have a vague sense of how often rapes are not prosecuted. Rihanna airs the unfortunate and regrettable actions of a woman choosing (or pushed) to take up for herself where others historically have not.
She says of women: “We’re strong, innocent, fun, flirtatious, vulnerable, and sometimes our innocence can cause us to be naive! We always think it could NEVER be us, but in reality, it can happen to ANY of us!” she wrote. ‘And then what do you do?’ the video addresses. A violent and viscerally angry reaction is actually not outlandish.
Why isn’t anyone in the media frenzy over this video able to empathize with the sexual assault survivor?
She launched a series of tweets again after the controversy spread in media reports Thursday: “I’m a 23 year old rockstar with NO KIDS! What’s up with everybody wantin me to be a parent?”
“Cuz we all know how difficult/embarrassing it is to communicate touchy subject matters to anyone especially our parents!”…. “And this is why! Cuz we turn the other cheek! U can’t hide your kids from society, or they’ll never learn how to adapt! This is the REAL WORLD!”
The discussion on parenting/parents responsibility in engaging their children/her viewers is interesting given her lyric: “Makes me want to cry, because I didn’t mean to hurt him, could’ve been somebody’s son… Oh, mama, I just shot a man down.” She explicitly implicates parents in the song! Her victim could have been someone’s son… what did they do to instill in him that his actions were not OK? How did society raise him? And also, the cry to her own mother, which brings up questions about having strong and positive women role models to guide us in how to survive and productively address the violence we face, as well as the question of who we feel we can turn to after facing assault or rape without being judged. Even our mothers are not always safe havens…
Controversial topic! What do you think? Please Reply!!
Want to read more? The International Business Times has a somewhat decent article voicing multiples sides of the debate.