Tuesday, 5 January 2010

CRITIQUE OF RIHANNA's NEW 'HARD' VIDEO

Rihanna -
as if empowerment wasn't 'Hard' enough already.


Tanzle Town blog

If you haven't already seen the music video for Rihanna's
new single 'Hard' you can view it here:



My problems with this video are threefold. Firstly, this
video is pure old fashioned misogyny masquerading as
empowerment. The second is that the position of female
soldiers has been completely distorted – US State
Department figures report that one in three women in the US
military will be raped or sexually assaulted by her male
counterparts. And the third is that riding around on a
colonialist expedition with America’s army does not make
you ‘hard’ and that war is not something to be glamorised.

It saddens me to see the route that Rihanna has taken with
this video, particularly since she has herself recently
been the victim of domestic violence by her former partner.
It appears that this video is in part a reaction to that
period of her life or at least a reaction to the media
circus that sprung up around her since. The fact remains
that we live in a world where one in six women are raped
and even greater numbers suffer abuse – stopping this
should be a priority in the world today but it isn’t. It is
no wonder therefore that there is still a market for the
false empowerment in this video, that the music industry
can tell women that sex is the real way to be respected by
men. Unless things change more young women will remain both
lost, exploited and unempowered.

“Its not for her specific feminine virtue that gives women
a place of honour in human society, but the worth of her
useful work accomplished for society, the worth of her
personality as a human being, as a creative worker, as
citizen, thinker or fighter.” So wrote Alexandra Kollantai
almost a hundred years ago. Sadly not much has changed in
this respect. Women are still valued primarily for how they
look. This is not to say that women can not be fighters.
They are. Across the world they play their part in
conflicts, fighting and dying along side men. And at the
other end of the spectrum they take their place on the
sporting field, becoming known for their strength, courage
and endurance.

But Rihanna is not here in a boxing ring or on the track,
what we get in this video is a distortion of physical
achievement. Rihanna just has sex as her achievement.
Whilst the male soldiers stay fully clothed, Rihanna pole
dances in an ammo-dump and rolls around on sandbags
smearing her body with mud. How is this going to help any
women – soldiers or otherwise – be taken seriously as
something other than a sex object? I am not condemning
women being overtly sexual, what I take issue with is the
way Rihanna is conforming to the idea that the way to
express success as a woman is to turn your body into a
sexual object and learn sexual techniques to service men.
Her only physical achievement in this video is walking
through sand in high heels, coupled with parodies of
violent male sexual behaviour. Rather than challenge the
worst aspects of aggressive masculinity she has taken the
stance of ‘if you can’t beat them, join them.”

Many women at the peak of human physical fitness are in the
US military. Currently 206,000 women have served the US in
the Middle East since March 2003, most of them in Iraq.
Some 600 have been wounded, and 104 have died. Their untold
story is that one in three of them will suffer either rape
or serious sexual assault by her male colleagues and 90% of
female soldiers will face sexual harassment. The only thing
that could and does make this worse is the miniscule number
of attackers that are prosecuted. In 2007 out of 2,200
servicemen investigated for sexual assault, only 181 were
prosecuted. More often than not it is the women themselves
that are humiliated, blamed, or punished. Female soldiers
report their male counterparts in the Middle East stating
that they’ve been put there to replace the prostitutes that
were freely available in Vietnam. It is this climate that
allows rape to be treated like a misdemeanour rather that a
major crime.

This music video echoes that assertion. While women in the
military continue to be portrayed in such a sexualised way
there will be no progress on this front. In addition,
Rihanna is damaging women she has nothing in common with.
She made $10 million this year, she is not a minimum wage
soldier, doing her three years to get to college.

My third complaint comes from the fact that this video
glamorises the ‘war on terror’ and portrays it as a ‘hard’
thing to do. Rihanna walks through desert explosions, there
is Arabic graffiti on the walls and sandbags stacked up
against mountain scenes. Lets be clear, what the US has
done in Iraq or Afghanistan is not hard or tough. When
histories most powerful super power, in possession of the
world largest nuclear arsenal, attacks one of the poorest
countries in the world its not being ‘hard’. Far tougher
than the generals in the Pentagon are the Afghan fighters
in the hills of Tora Bora or the Iraqi resistance in
Fallujah.

At one point, whilst standing on a tank Rihanna is shown
wearing Mickey Mouse ears. Firstly this makes the idea that
Rihanna is a tough soldier look like a joke, how can you be
a tough soldier whilst wearing Mickey Mouse ears? Secondly
the Mickey Mouse ears are a symbol of US imperialism.
Rihanna’s ‘empowerment’ is being a tool of US imperialism,
bringing her Mickey Mouse pop music to the desert on the
back of a tank.

Being exploited by a government, be it Bush’s or Obama’s is
not empowering. Having your humanity and your sanity
smashed to pieces because you were made to watch Afghan
children have their heads blown apart is not empowerment.
Having your legs blown off or losing your best friend
because you were forced to walk over landmines is not
empowerment. To sexualise this exploitation of both
soldiers and the people they kill and to pretend that is
empowerment is a disservice to those that have suffered and
to everyone fighting for change.

5 comments:

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The Imam Fainted said...

I can't agree more with what you are saying. The only thig that the video seems to be accurate about is that Rhiannah's crowning achievemnet and the key to her success has been flaunting her own sexuality. Coz she plays no instruments, writes no songs and can't sing to save her life.

Anonymous said...

So true. The video is shit and she's a bloody stupid ignorant puppet.

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