Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Only the Bad Gyal could do this’: Rihanna, rape-revenge narratives and the cultural politics of white feminism

Debra Ferreday First Published July 28, 2017 Research Article Article has an altmetric score of 3 Abstract In July 2015, Rihanna released a seven-minute long video for her new single, entitled ‘Bitch Better Have My Money’ (more widely known as ‘BBHMM’), the violent imagery in which would divide feminist media commentators for its representation of graphic and sexualised violence against a white couple. The resulting commentary would become the focus of much popular and academic feminist debate over the intersectional gendered and racialised politics of popular culture, in particular coming to define what has been termed ‘white feminism’. ‘BBHMM’ is not the first time Rihanna’s work has been considered in relation to these debates: not only has she herself been very publicly outed as a survivor of male violence, but she has previously dealt with themes of rape and revenge in an earlier video, 2010’s ‘Man Down’, and in her lyrics. In this article I explore the multiple and layered ways in which Rihanna, and by extension other female artists of colour, are produced by white feminism as both responsible for perpetrating gender-based violence, and as victims in need of rescue. The effect of such liberal feminist critique, I argue, is to hold black female artists responsible for a rape culture that continually subjects women of colour to symbolic and actual violence. In this context, the fantasy violence of ‘Man Down’ and to a greater extent ‘BBHMM’ dramatises the impossibility of ‘being paid what one is owed’ in a culture that produces women of colour’s bodies, morality and personal trauma as abjected objects of consumption. 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