Pop Princesses As Perpetrators?

The twitter war between Taylor Swift and Nicki Minaj was another example of girl-on-girl takedowns we hate, but, it did bring to light the instinct to attack each other we all need to be aware of. We are impressionable in that we naturally take sides, jump on bandwagons and sometimes replicate bad behavior without realizing it.

This is our US Buzz piece because it questions what’s intentional behavior, what’s challenging norms and what do we make of the visual imagery we see everyday depicting women as victims and as perpetrators. Enjoy from Salon.com

Is “BBHMM” a power anthem, reclaiming troubling images of sexualized violence, with an empowered black woman at the helm, or is it simply feeding into a culture that habitually features beautiful, tortured women as a trope?

Throughout her video for “Bitch Better Have My Money,” Rihanna’s new gleefully violent revenge anthem, Rihanna channels the motifs, images and iconography of directors ranging from Martin Scorsese to Quentin Tarantino. Rihanna’s video aims to shock and titillate viewers with scenes of sexualized violence. In one of the first scenes a kidnapped woman is hung upside down, topless. We see images of her incapacitated, forced to drink and vomit in a bucket, and hit over the head with a glass bottle when she tries to seek out help. In the end, the twist of the video is that the “bitch” refers not to the beautiful woman who has been kidnapped, but her husband, who refuses to dish out money, even after learning that his wife is being tortured.

What happens to the kidnapped woman is ambiguous; some viewers contend that she was drowned in a swimming pool: In one scene toward the end we see her lifeless facedown under the water next to Rihanna, who is buoyant and beautiful. Others claim, as a friend expanded on in detail over lunch, that she becomes a member of Rihanna’s girl gang: at times in the video she seems to really enjoy hanging out with the women who kidnapped her, smiling and laughing, even as she is tied up. In an essay for New Statesman, writer Margaret Corvid suggests that “BBHMM” is a BDSM fantasy. The video features a number of pieces of S&M gear, and plays with many taboos regarding gender, race, and class.

In her essay “Dead Girls Sold Here,” writer Anna March argues that feminists should push back on images of women being brutalized for entertainment, rather than silently accept that the influx of these narratives is unchangeable. One of the reasons rejecting sexism is challenging for women is not simply because they feel powerless; it’s that women have also been seduced by these same images. Who wouldn’t be? We grew up on artists, musicians and directors who taught us that violence is sexy, that true power comes from calling the shots. For the past 10 years, we’ve watched male antiheroes dominate on-screen and become the most lauded shows on television. The iconography of these worlds always includes objectified women, who are frequently the victims of violence. Videos like “BBHMM” and “Bad Blood” show how the women who are watching these iconic films and TV shows are not necessarily identifying with female victims at all.rihanna_swift

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