It happens every day. In fact, it is pretty hard to avoid it. There are some things that can only be understood with a slap on the forehead. Things so mind-boggling that one wonders how humans managed to evolve thumbs while being this mentally inept. Case in point:
Feminists pitch fit over Rihanna’s new music video
Feminists continue to prove themselves a petty lot of whiners. In the latest instance of utter petulance, feminists railed against famed singer Rihanna. Rihanna’s sin? The video for her latest single Bitch Better Have My Money. The Guardian offers a synopsis:
The plot is simple – an accountant has defrauded the singer out of money, so she kidnaps his wife, a spoiled, wealthy white woman complete with chichi dog and diamonds. With two friends, she bundles her into a trunk, strips her, swings her upside down from a rope, knocks her out with a bottle, then lets her almost drown in a swimming pool.
When that doesn’t get her the money, Rihanna finds the accountant, straps him to a chair, shows a collection of knives presumably used to finish him off, and then is shown blood-covered and naked in a trunk of money.
The video is rather explicit and is not safe for work.
Setting aside the lackluster nature of the song, the video is serviceable. It is not the greatest video ever made, yet it does work for the song. It shows Rihanna as a domineering woman capable of enacting revenge on anyone who screws her over. It also shows her being in total control over the situation, her associates, and her sexuality. So what is the problem?
It was not very feminist — not even very hashtag feminist — of Rihanna to “torture that poor rich lady”. That is because it is not very feminist to torture women. Even if they are white. Even if they are rich. Even if you are a woman yourself. Sorry if this comes as a surprise.
Apparently, however, it is very feminist to torture that poor man. That is what happens at the end of the video. Yes, it is not depicted, but it is implied. Judging by the way feminists reacted to the off-screen rape of Sansa Stark on Game of Thrones, even undepicted acts are taboo. So feminists should be equally outraged by that violence. To the contrary, Lewis is outraged by the absent depiction:
It is only at this point that Rihanna takes her grievance up with her male accountant. Surprise! He gets to keep his clothes on! He doesn’t get sexually humiliated, or put into a context that’s heavily suggestive of sexual assault. His death doesn’t even get that much airtime, really. Five seconds later, RiRi is smeared in blood and relaxing in a big trunk of cash.
There may be a legal reason for that. Rihanna based the premise of the video on her experience with an accountant:
The song, the second single from the singer’s eighth album, is based on Rihanna’s grievance against an accountant, Peter Gounis, whom she filed a lawsuit against in 2012, claiming he gave her “unsound” financial advice that led to a loss of $9m in 2009 alone. She won a multimillion settlement.
The video as it is skirts any libel issues. Depicting the accountant’s vicious murder, however, could open Rihanna up for a lawsuit. It makes legal sense for her not to depict it.
It could also be that Rihanna had no interest in doing so. She came up with the idea for the video. She came up with the depictions of violence. She decided to have the fictional accountant’s trophy wife hang naked from a ceiling by her feet while Rihanna called to get the ransom.
More so, Rachel Roberts, the actress who portrayed said wife, called the part “irresistible” and stated:
“The video was Rihanna’s concept,” Roberts said last week. “She co-directed it, so she personally cast me. Despite her out-there public image, she’s very professional and hands-on. The whole thing was an insane thrill ride. Helicopters, boats, gunfire, stunts, holding my breath underwater, a dozen locations, and a Pomeranian toy dog.” She praised Rihanna as “an undeniable talent”.
The very person who should feel victimized jumped at the chance to play the role after being told what it would entail. At this point, it is ridiculous to argue that there is some latent or overt misogyny behind the video.
Granted, Lewis will not let any facts get in the way of her moronic feminist argument. She continues:
This video uses one of the most tired tropes — using a woman’s pain to hurt a man. […] From the way the video narrative progresses, it’s implied that the ultimate object of Rihanna’s ire is the man, but she uses his woman to get to him. This is pretty much “fridging”, and there is a big body of work about what a tired trope it is, particularly since it implies that only men have feelings worth bothering about, and women’s pain is only interesting insofar as it makes men’s lower lips go wobbly to think about their delicate little flowers being hurt.
That would be true in this video if the focus were on the man’s reaction. It is not. We do not even see his face until the end of the video. We then see a montage of scenes showing him partying while his wife suffers. At no point in that short series of clips is the audience compelled to care about the man or his suffering. To the contrary, we are shown these scenes of pure indifference specifically to make us support his eventual murder.
Lewis rails against a straw man BDSM counterpoint and then goes on to state:
I’ve written several times about my problem with the use of rape as entertainment in video games and series like Game of Thrones: sexual violence for the purposes of titillation is really creepy.
Except that is not how sexual violence is used in Game of Thrones. That is a feminist claim of the same sort as “women never lie about rape” and “males cannot be rape victims”. It is a thing feminists say in order to mask their ignorance and bias, nothing more.
Ditto sadism: I nearly gave up Grand Theft Auto V because there was no way to skip scenes where you had to torture someone. (Eagle-eyed readers will also note that this is a CYAP, or “cover your ass paragraph”, to fend off the inevitable accusation that I have given lots of other problematic media a pass and am being unfairly hard on Rihanna as a relatively rare successful black woman in the music industry. Believe me, I bore people constantly about problematic media. I don’t get invited to parties because I hang out by the snacks and bore people about problematic media.)
One could imagine that the reason Lewis does not get invited to parties is because she would suck the fun out of them and then claim she was sexually assaulted because someone said she “sucked”.
Setting that aside, the “cover your ass paragraph” comes off as hollow. After all, she still played GTA V, presumably going along with the torture and all the other acts of violence, humiliation, and murder one must commit to beat the game. So clearly sadism is not the problem, at least when it is directed at men.
No, the problem seems to be this slippery slope argument Lewis could not help but make:
Let’s put this bluntly: a lot of men who get off on images of women being tortured are going to be turned on by this video. It’s a sexy video. Rihanna is an astonishingly good-looking woman, with a well-documented allergy to clothes. This is all meant to be a turn-on. And then the anguished face of a woman in pain, swings into view . . . how’s that erection working out for you now?
That is a great deal of projection in a handful of words. If the video is meant to be titillating, so what? Rihanna decided that was her vision. What difference does it make if an artist chooses to sexualize herself and her subject matter? You have the choice not to watch the video. The notion that Rihanna has done something wrong by acting out a sexualized revenge fantasy is idiotic.
Again, it is clear the issue is more that the sexualized victim is a woman, in this case a rich white woman, and not the acts depicted themselves. Lewis eventually admits this:
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.
This is the problem with the progressive mentality. Lewis, like most progressives, operates from a set of ideological absolutes. Everything must conform and be filtered through these absolutes. When presented with something that does not fit, like this video, rather than factor in the difference, the progressives try to force-fit the issue to conform to their theories. This is how Lewis ends up quoting Catharine MacKinnon’s rather bizarre claim that “[…] the majority of the poor are white women and their children (at least half of whom are female); that white women are systematically battered in their homes, murdered by intimates and serial killers alike, molested as children, actually raped (mostly by white men), and that even Black men, on average, make more than they do.”
Lewis ends by claiming:
[…]I’m going to reiterate: a music video doesn’t have to be feminist to be a worthwhile artistic expression. But […] trying to be more intersectional – to explore the way that different oppressions overlap and modify each other – should not mean we end up arguing that sexism does not exist as a force in its own right.
Nor does it mean we should we read more into something than what is there. Perhaps the video was not an attempt on social commentary. Perhaps it was simply Rihanna’s revenge fantasy played out as only she could do it.