Is Rihanna The New Face Of Girl Power?

Teenagers are victims of domestic abuse too.

Rihanna’s latest music video Man Down immediately became controversial upon its premier on television.  Why is a music video, any music video so polarizing?  Music videos and music are after all art and by its very nature expressive and open to interpretation. This particular video portrays the titan-haired singer as a young, coy island girl who shoots the man who rapes her after they shared a flirtation at a  dance hall.  Various groups are up in arms because they believe the Barbadian pop singer is promoting vigilante justice for her impressionable female teen audience.  If we can agree that music and music videos are art, then it follows that Rihanna’s video is not to be taken literally.

The singer inelegantly Tweeted in her own defense that the song was about empowering girls.  Girl power then is a much palpable concept for the general public to process and a more accurate description of the motivation behind her music video.  It also follows with Rihanna’s personal journey of self-discovery and rehabilitation after being the victim of domestic abuse.

Teenaged girls are victims of domestic abuse.

Perhaps Rihanna is fashioning an image post-Chris Brown as a champion of girl’s rights with sets of feministic lyrics set to catchy beats to entertain while educating her fans.  It is a noble aspiration and certainly there are not enough positive role models for tweens and teens these days to be found in the Day-Glo nail polish and hot pant wearing celebrities that are spread over glossies these days.

Typically when a woman is a victim of an assault, she can go one of two ways:  continued victimization or developing into a strong, independent woman.  It is unfortunately very common for women who have been victimized to extend the cycle by surrounding themselves with abusive types, continuing to view themselves as a victim thereby insuring the cycle will persist.

Rihanna Channels Tina Turner Circa Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome In Search Of Her Edginess

On the other hand, some women become stronger, tougher.  They vow to never be a victim again, they take steps to become mentally and emotionally healthy through strong support systems,  counseling and a renewed self-confidence and self-image.  Which is exactly what Rihanna appears to have done.

Is it okay to forgive your abuser?

Her fans and the media have watched her morph from a sun-kissed teen pop star with innocuous lyrics and bouncy beats  into a goth-loving performer who sang of suicide and mental illness among other alarming subjects.  Artistically, Rihanna has made a point of showing the world with her choice of hairstyles and color, lyrics and music and even tattoos and wardrobe, that she is no longer a victim.

Fortunately for her fans who were not in love with her previous look and album Rated R, a dark treacherous musical  journey into a broken heart and mind, she seems to have had her cathartic moment and found a good place to be, artistically and mentally with her latest disc Loud, a vibrant uptempo collection of radio-friendly hits.

What happens when you go back to your abuser?

The song Man Down with its addictive reggae beat and plaintiff wailing encourages the victim to take back her life after the attack, stand up and face the situation and the abuser (whether it be literally or in court) and move forward…not pick up a gun and shoot their attacker.  Pop stars searching for relevance in a world where Al Quaeda vows to destroy America and men in power display a shocking lack of honor and integrity are usually met with rolled eyes and laughter.  But Rihanna has brought to the forefront a taboo subject when sexually assaulting women has become institutional policy in wars across the African continent and standard procedure in the Bosnian War.  Rapes were rampant in Haiti before and after their devastating earth quake and continue to occur in the most civilized and developed nations.  This list compiles the five worst countries for women to live in.  Considering the climate that many women live in,  standing up to face and challenge the adversity that pervades the world around them is sadly a novel idea.

Signs he or she may be abusive.

Watching Rihanna portray a vulnerable character not only brought to mind such harrowing statistics about how downtrodden and victimized women are around the world, it reminded me of one my favorite books:  The Botticelli Secret.

The Botticelli Secret

This novel features a beautiful female protagonists who is the least powerful in a society where power is a commodity.   The Botticelli Secret is a story about a gorgeous, teenaged prostitute that teams up with a handsome, faithful monk to decipher one of Botticelli’s famous works and solve a mystery of Da Vinci Code proportion.

I didn’t just enjoy this novel because it reads  like a travelogue of Italy or because it is set in Renaissance Italy.  I found this story most interesting because of the way the main character turned her victimized status into an empowered girl-child all the while utilizing her beauty, sex and street smarts to stay one-up on her antagonists.

Girls and young women all over the world are beaten, raped and abused in various and sundry ways.  Females need encouragement to speak up about abuse,  need to be empowered to seek justice. In today’s fast-paced, superficial world of reality stars and every life moment uploaded for public consumption, tweens, teens and college students will have to find their role models in the darndest of places.

25 thoughts on “Is Rihanna The New Face Of Girl Power?

  1. It’s difficult to believe of modern pop divas that they make such videos with any sincere intentions or message but rather just for the publicity. Madonna started it and it hasn’t stopped since. Good on Adele for making it purely on the strength of her talent. She’s a breath of fresh air.

  2. If Rihanna believed in girl power she would have pressed charges against Chris Brown herself. She does whip and chains one min and now she is a victims right advocate. This from a woman who has only used the domestic violence card for promotional gain. She is the least thing for a role model a woman who cussed out a fan on twitter for questioning her decision for following Chris Brown. If this is what it takes to be a powerful woman keep me in a man’s world. No thank you

  3. Rihanna has grown as a person and the way she put out so many albums in a short time is good as well.She impressed me.She not be the best singer,but from what I seen she can sing.Good job Rihanna.

  4. The thing is if rihanna did not have an altercation with chris brown then it (man down) wouldn’t have had such controversy,people are shrubbled by the fact that the video has been done by a woman who has experienced a much similar form of abuse and no matter how much she has been over the abuse any similar material she releases will be evaluated by public because of her #rihistory.Neitherless I love the video and the controversy around is a very loud alarm to people so that they know that RAPE EXISTS.The more we ban material like this we are also banning REALITY.But then again people TRYING to ban mandown just do so based on her #rihistory

  5. I honestly think its just a song…I never thought it could represent girl power until the music video came out and I praise Rihanna for her stance on empowering women and standing up against violence and abuse against women..but as for being a role model? if it means selling sex and dancing naked on stage and singing about being tied up or blowing things up etc then hey if thats your thing then she’s a great role model…but I don’t think so

    and honestly not many people in an abusive situation would listen to “mand down” and think “oh girl power” its a good song that rihanna did not write or think of to inspire women…and itz so obvious everyone who commented on here is a fan of hers and thinks anything good said about her is great and anything bad is just people being haters

  6. This article is not only thought provoking but inspiring as well. A must read for any fan of both Rihanna’s and female empowerment. I greatly enjoyed your detailed description of the similarities and the present truth the world wishes to hide. I do think they attacked her creativity and expression to keep it quiet but this is a matter that needs light and I’m happy it’s finally getting some. Your words are a candle of hope for all those who wish to explore the dark. I hope you follow up with more works discussing the treatment of women world wide. I can only pray more women who have endured such abuse whether battered, raped, or otherwise can stand up and be strong in the eyes of their abusers. The world needs more role models and I’m glad she is one of them. A fan for life. RIHANNA NAVY!

  7. To be honest about it ..Rihanna proved she wasnt going to allow herself to be a victim the minute she seen the text on CB’s cell and threw a hissy fit, fought back, then spilled everything to the police. As much as we love the Man Down video ..anyone w/ any sense who knows Rihanna knows the last thing she’d do is run and get a gun when she has a cell phone. She’d manipulate the whole situation & turn that victim thing around at the first opportunity ..which you could say is a good thing on her behalf. Secondly, any abused woman w/ money & fame has get back. Those two things alone empowers any human being. So no, she didnt do anything fantastic. Everything was already in her favor. Dont get me wrong ..I love most her music. I’m just keepig it real.

  8. I agree with Andre. It’s sad to know that people keep saying Rated R was a flop or unappreciated, when it did so well, according to CHART records.

    Anyway, proud of her & Rated R marked Rihanna’s period of ARTISTRY for me. That album was raw & real & incredibly sonically diverse. My favorite album of hers lyrically, sonically, vocally & artistically.

  9. Feminism and girl power are two very different concepts, one is an ideology and one is a marketing strategy. Her songs are catchy and can be quite good. However, I would say that reaching her impressionable audience with lyrics such as “..come on rude boy, boy can you get it up..” and “..whips and chains excite me..” is not really doing much to engender sexual equality?

    1. David,

      I believe Feminism is historically considered a political movement focused on achieving political and societal equality for women, while Girl Power is more about individual empowerment, the ability to self-express, personal ambition and the willingness to be assertive. I agree that the concept of Girl Power is marketing-friendly but that doesn’t make it any less a real and significant ideology for today’s young women.

      I also agree that while Rihanna’s lyrics are not age appropriate for her younger fans, being sexually aggressive, assertive and confident are all characteristics of both Feminists and proponents of Girl Power.

      A Woman Reading

  10. Great article on Rihanna… This piece was well thought out and understanding. Women tend to continue to experience a cycle of abuse, why is it so wrong for her to take up arms? Art is an interpretation of life and not a reality but a fantasy in most case. Keep Doing Your Thing! :-)

  11. This is highly intellectually sound. What more can I say? I am proud of Rihanna rediscovering herself & standing up for who she is! This is not in anyway a simple trait, it is a hard one & am very sure everywoman needs such self confidence.

  12. I love this article! Rihanna has evolved into the woman she sees her self to be in her own eyes and not in the eyes societies wants her to be. Her video mandown is receiving so much slack because she chose to shine light on an issue that women face everyday! It’s about time we take back what is ours and LIVE! Why should any woman have to feel liked she was stripped down and made to feel as if she was nothing because a man couldn’t keep his damn hands to his self. Then after that we live with the burden of these nightmares that these men have created? Women of today are expressive in every way shape and form and it needs to be hurd because how can we as a gender grow if we cant talk to one another and shine lights on situations that hurt us most. Rihanna is a role model in her own right and it may not be the damn cookie cutter type but everyday she chooses to be her self without being apologetic for who she is and honestly that’s the life everybody fights for everyday in defining who they are. So Rihanna keep doin your thing boo everybody aint gone like what you do and for those who do we Stan the hardest because ur the voice that so many woman our age fail to have….no body is perfect but yet there is perfection in all of our flaws. It’s the matter of seeing who loves you because of them and the woman you truely are. You truely are A MUTHA FUCCN FACTOR BITCH. Lol *muah*

    1. Not one penny, Anonymous. It never occurred to me until I read your comment that anyone would think that.
      If you take a look around my blog you’ll see that I mostly review books. This post initially began as a way to
      discuss Marina Fiorato’s The Botticelli Secret but I happened to see the Man Down video and it just hit me how
      similar the characters were and how they could be viewed as role models to women. I’m pleased with how
      the article came out and hope some of my blog visitors will pick up a copy of the book – it’s one of my faves!

      1. Ignore her/him!!! This anonymous individual is unable to understand your breakdown of the video and how you related it to the book!!! Great article!!! I just might read this book!!!:-*

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