So it would seem as though Ms. Rihanna is in the centre of a shitstorm (but I warn you here - when you read the above linked article, the comments section may just make you lose all faith in humanity and any gains feminism may have made for women. Consider yourself warned). Anyways, Rihanna
just released a song/video (viewable in above link) in which her character is sexually assaulted, and the proceeds to shoot (and kill) her attacker. This has been met with, well, furor. As in, How could Rihanna encourage violence in this way? Shocking!, sort of furor. It is, if memory serves, the same sort of bull-shitty crappola that occured when the Dixie Chicks came out with their anthem "Goodbye Earl," which I have, on occassion, been known to belt out. We don't like it when women talk about fighting back. So what's that all about? (I'm pretty sure no one yelled and screamed when Aerosmith came out with "Janie's Got Gun". So apparently men can sing about it. Curious, no?).
While I remain pretty opposed to things like gun violence of all kinds, it begs mentioning (as many of my lovely friends have) that we live in a media culture which is literally saturated in imagery containing violence and brutality toward women. (Moreover, our culture at large is filled with real instances of violence against women that we grow increasingly desensitized to). No one bats an eyelash when high end shoe designers sell their shoes with the image of a murdered woman's lower half (and saucy shoes, natch) hanging out of a dumpster. That's cool, cause like, they're really nice shoes. It's not at all unusual for models to be depicted as dead to advertise all sorts of merchandise. In another vein, it somehow makes sense to us to market video games in which sexually assaulting or beating up sex workers, as though this should be, you know, entertaining. No biggie. Similarly, in the music world, there are many, many (did I mention many?!) songs about murdering women. Classics. Think Neil Young's "Down By The River"... This link: http://blogcritics.org/music/article/music-playlist-killing-women/, will in fact take you to a playlist of thirty songs (note that it's a highly incomplete list, I can think of lots more) where you can listen to a bunch of them all at once, if you have the stomach for it.
I've heard a number of statistics for what percentage of incarcerated women (for violence related offenses) are there for hurting or killing their abuser. I'm just going to go out on a limb here and say that it's, you know, a lot. As a friend pointed out on facecrack (she also posted the playlist of woman killin' tunes - thanks Heather!), I don't think anyone can say that this video isn't relevant to women's realities.
Whether you believe that Rihanna's video is empowering for women, or a problematic encouragement of violence (or something else entirely), I think we are all very, very remiss if we allow this discussion to take place with blinders to the aforementioned culture we live in, which is clearly extremely tolerant of violence against women. And if this media shitstorm is any indication, clearly much less tolerant of the idea of women fighting back.