Rebecca Carroll at the Guardian explains how feminist Rihanna’s video is.
Helen Lewis of the New Statesman wrote that the video is not feminist “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.” By those standards, I have a thing or two to say about a whole history of white women who abused black women both because they were black and because they were women, and yet, somehow, are still considered feminists – many regarded as pioneers. Women from Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who did not believe black women deserved any such rights as white women, to Miley Cyrus, who has used black women as stage props.
Then say it. Say what they did was very un-feminist. Say they weren’t feminists at all if you want to. That doesn’t make it feminist to torture women or to make videos about torturing women.
[W]hat really has white feminists upset is that in the video Rihanna, a black woman, puts her own needs before a white woman’s needs. And it’s clear that when those needs involve money, social class and privilege (say, lounging on a yacht), there is no room for perspective. White women will fight to obtain food stamps for black women, but don’t let us have a yacht, pretty clothes or – God forbid – payment of money we are owed.
Horse shit. Complete, unmitigated horse shit, and blatant deflection besides. It’s not about yachts and it’s not about getting money owed, it’s about torture of a bystander.
To be sure, the video is vividly violent – an unabashed revenge fantasy – but here’s what didn’t occur to me: is it anti-feminist? Feminist? Misogynistic? Why would it? Rihanna is a grown woman who makes life and career choices for herself with the expectation and understanding that she is as free to do that as her male peers are. How is that not feminist?
Wut? Grown women make life and career choices all the time, and some of them are bad, and we can and do say so. If a grown woman makes the career choice to murder someone, I don’t consider that a feminist act. Freedom to make the choice to torture and murder isn’t what feminism is about.
The obsession over what constitutes feminism in mainstream media and popular culture strikes me as resolutely anti-feminist. As for the misogyny – really? That’s just dumb, shortsighted and so deeply patronising. Because the assumption here is that Rihanna isn’t smart enough to anticipate the various interpretations of her work. She knows. She doesn’t care. I don’t either. What I care about is that Rihanna has the agency to create her music and direct her career on her own terms.
Agency shmagency. Mere “agency” is not enough. Agency is necessary for feminism but it is so very far from sufficient.