Leave Beyonce, Lena, and Rihanna Alone Already

In the past several months, Beyonce, Lena Dunham, and Rihanna have taken intense heat for the following ills of society:

1. Sexism overall, specifically their own capitulation to sexism by refusing to wear pants, or clothes, at given times in their performing lives. Other problems apparently include their sexiness, their sexuality, and, in the case of Lena, the sexiness of others on screen with her.

2. The fraught history of women taking their husbands’ last names upon marriage.

3. Racism.

4. Violence against women.

5. Promiscuity.

6. General lack of morals and possibly the decline of civilization.

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Links for Sexy Feminists: Rihanna’s Sexual Exploits, Political Slut-Shaming, and more …

We cannot improve upon this Jezebel headline: Rihanna Does Whatever She Wants With Her Vagina and for Some Reason That’s a Problem: We’ll just add that we are always in defense of Rihanna, as we said back when she was taking crap for her song “S&M.”

We’re always for better body image: YourTango gives us some ideas about how to get there.

What giving up shopping for clothes does for your budget and psyche: Blogger Lyz Lenz realizes the power of not binging on cheap, trendy items whenever the urge hits.

Down with the “Mommy Wars” already: Finally, someone says something smart about them: Amy Allen writes in The New York Times that the conflict isn’t woman vs. woman; it’s women vs. inadequate family leave policies and childcare support in this country.

Down with slut-shaming women in political debates, too: Katha Politt urges us all to stand with conservative pundit S.E. Cupp, who argued in favor of defunding Planned Parenthood and thus found herself depicted in Hustler magazine with a penis in her mouth. Women should be allowed to express their beliefs, whatever they are, without being subjected to degrading sexual images.

 


Rihanna: Taking Sexy Feminism to the Extreme

Rihanna’s turning out to be quite the complicated figure, isn’t she? The gorgeous girl who gave us one of the greatest pop gifts ever in “Umbrella” once seemed headed for pretty-woman-who-sings-dance-hits-with-little-meaning territory; then, she became national news in the most unfortunate of ways, by being beaten by then-boyfriend Chris Brown at a pre-Grammy event two years ago. Now she’s emerged as a fascinating presence in pop: Yes, she still dabbles in those fluffy dance tunes (see her duet with Drake, “What’s My Name,” performed quite sexily at last night’s Grammys), but she’s made going pantsless into an act of empowerment (with a strong assist from Gaga and Beyonce, of course). And, more than anything, she also packs the occasional single with an unexpected truckload of meaning.

Case in point, her newest single, “S&M.” Though she certainly pushed some buttons last year with her Eminem collaboration “Love the Way You Lie” — in which she sings, “Just gonna stand there and watch me burn/But that’s alright because I like the way it hurts” — her latest challenges listeners to process her personal life and artistic expressions at a whole different level. First, there’s the (extremely singable) refrain, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but whips and chains excite me.” Then, there’s the video, which plays as both a critique on the media coverage of her troubles (reporters are shown gagged at a press conference while she’s trapped under cellophane against a wall, and she walks gossip blogger Perez Hilton on a leash) and, more provocatively, her penchant for S&M (she’s shown tied up, in latex, and wearing a Playboy Bunny costume, among other scenarios). There’s no actual sex, and everything is art-directed to the hilt, giving it a heightened, pop-art vibe — it’s hardly realistic. And yet it’s been banned in 11 countries and protected by an 18-plus filter on YouTube. The song itself has been relegated to evening-play-only on many radio stations, and she wasn’t allowed to perform it at the recent Brit Awards. All this hysteria seems a bit overblown, to the point where it’s hard not to suspect a bit of sexism. Women are objectified constantly in rap and rock videos by male artists, yet apparently aren’t allowed to express specific desires themselves. Remember Justin Timberlake’s once-omnipresent “SexyBack,” in which he sings, “You see these shackles/Baby, I’m your slave”? That, it seems, was just fine. As Charlsie at College Candy points out, it’s likely no one would have trouble handling JT in such an oversexed video. And it must be noted that “Love the Way You Lie” — in which Eminem raps about tying a girlfriend to the bed and setting it afire — was praised widely, played without restrictions, and featured at the Grammys. I support this — I see it as a nuanced look behind the cycle of domestic violence, and a discussion-provoker. But why can’t Rihanna express her kinkier side as well?

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