There have been some pretty serious discussions lately on whether or not Rihanna’s lyrics and songs are actually empowering for women or disgustingly degrading. When I first heard the song, “Take a Bow,” I remember thinking to myself, “Finally! Someone calls out all the losers for being surprised when we don’t take them back after they’ve successfully treated us like shit!” I even enjoyed “Rockstar.” The lyrics were empowering and bad ass: “I never play the victim, I’d rather be the stalker.” I mean, come on! Talk about Head Bitch In Charge! Right?
Lately though I’ve been truly disappointed with the songs that Rihanna has been coming out with. For me, things started to go sour when the song “Love The Way You Lie” came out. I didn’t appreciate the masochistic lyrics:
“Just gonna stand there and watch me burn.
Well that’s alright because I like the way it hurts.
Just gonna stand there and hear me cry.
Well, that’s alright because I love the way you lie.”
In reality, I accepted the song as exploring an artistic scope of the pain and real life feelings people in relationships experience. I even understood this song to be a reflection of an abusive relationship and the way an abused partner thinks.
However, what I refuse to ignore are songs such as, “Pour it Up.” With lyrics like, “Strip clubs and dolla’ bills, Still got mo’ money, Patron shots, can I get a refill, Still got mo’ money, Strippers going up and down that pole, Still got mo’ money,” I don’t see what Rihanna is trying to accomplish or what important message she is sending, or even what audience she is trying to attract. Being rich and famous should not be at the expense of women. We have enough rappers singing about strip clubs and abusing women. Why does a female singer need to join the bandwagon?
Let’s look at some one-liners from a conglomeration of Rihanna songs that I, personally, found offensive:
- “So I surrender to every word you whisper
Every door you enter, I will let you in”
- “Never have I ever been a size 10 in my whole life”
- “And it’s not even my birthday,
and he tryna put his name on it”
It is important to note that when Rihanna made the conscious decision to break up with her abuser and boyfriend, singer Chris Brown, she was embraced by women all over the country, and beyond, over her bravery and independence. However, when Rihanna chose to get back together with Chris Brown, some of the public reacted to the sadness in her songs and feminists everywhere were quick to chastise Rihanna for her forgiveness. Studies have shown that it is common for an abuse victim to get back together with their abuser, and in some cases, it empowers them to either build up the courage to finally leave, or to get closure. Rihanna is allowed to exercise her right to chose and empower herself.
Women are constantly degraded in the music industry through lyrics, images, music videos etc. If Rihanna is going to portray herself as a strong, independent, and empowering woman, then I believe it is crucial for her, as an artist and especially as a woman, to make it a point to not succumb to singing lyrics that enforce the rape culture, the self hate culture, and the hegemonic heterosexual masculinity of our society.
Why is Rihanna stating that she has never in her life been a size ten in the song, “Stupid in Love”? Especially when those lyrics had nothing to do with the rest of the song, or even being ‘stupid in love’? I would have much more respect for Rihanna as an artist if she either sang lyrics that were significantly more empowering to women, or stopped advertising herself as a strong and independent female icon. Everyone knows, Rihanna, you’re either a feminist or a masochist. Choose wisely.