I’ve only just watched Rihanna’s Bitch Better Have My Money. I’m in a house with 5 children under the age of 10 – none of whom sleep at the same time. It’s taken this long to get them all out of the house/ asleep so I can watch it on the computer. There’s only one in a house with no wifi so that the children’s internet usage can be monitored – or, as the children point out, Nanna can’t actually work out how to set up the wifi. Either way, there are difficulties in responding to events in a timely manner – particularly since 3 of the 5 are literate.
I wasn’t going to write about the video since everything that I would have wanted to say has already been written. I changed my mind when I read this piece of drivel in the Guardian:
the themes of sexualised violence, seemingly gratuitous nudity and non-consensual BDSM sent segments of the world’s media into a state of apoplexy
There is no such thing as “non-consensual” sexual anything. It is sexual violence. In this context, the sexual violence is accompanied by physical violence. Women who are sexually assaulted are not responsible nor do they ‘deserve’ it.
I have to be honest, though, had I not read Sunny Singh’s article in Media Diversified, I would not have recognised the opening scene as an
acknowledgement of the historical erasure of women of colour by white women who – as a group – have benefitted from both white supremacy and colonialism.
I watched the video with Singh’s comments in mind and I suspect she is right in stating that the
individualised subversion (and reversal) of historical structural racialized and gendered violence is why BBHMM has upset so many (primarily white) commentators?
The criticism directed at Rihanna reflects our racist, misogynistic media. Charlie Sheen, who actively engages in violence against women in both in his real life as well as in his career as an actor, is rarely held accountable for his behaviour. Quentin Tarantino has a houseful of accolades from his peers (and money from fans) for glorifying and excusing male violence. Roman Polanski got a standing ovation at the Oscars despite raping a child. The media rarely mention Sean Penn’s history of domestic violence.
If Eminem had made this video, the media would be talking about Grammy awards and platinum album sales. It would win video of the year at the American Music Awards and secure him a place in the Hip Hop equivalent of the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame.
Much of the media criticism is because Rihanna is a Black woman, but it doesn’t mean feminists should refrain from criticizing the video. It means we need to ensure that we do not hold Rihanna to a higher standard than other musicians – that we recognize the ways in which racism and misogyny play a part in how Rihanna’s video is represented in the media.
It also means calling bullshit when a commentator claims that “non-consensual BDSM” exists. Because it doesn’t. No consent is sexual violence. It is that simple.