Man Down: On Rihanna, Rape, and Violence

2 Jun

Earlier this week, Rihanna released the video for her song “Man Down” in which her character struggles with the choice to kill her rapist. In Hip Hop and pop culture where rape is glorified and celebrated, this is a welcome intervention. The video reinforces a very basic point: the choice to be sexual and sensual on the dance floor should not be read in any way as consent for future sexual activity. For once, the critique of rape is unambiguous. It is wrong; it is not the woman’s fault; and it should be punished. 

Hat/tip to Rihanna for offering a complicated portrait of womanhood. On Twitter, in response to the video, she said in part, “Young girls/women all over the world…we are a lot of things! We’re strong innocent fun flirtatious vulnerable, and sometimes our innocence can cause us to be naïve! We always think it could NEVER be us, but in reality, it can happen to ANY of us! So ladies be careful and #listentoyomama! I love you and I care!”

That is good, accessible advice for young women who are bombarded with mixed messages about the value of their bodies and lives.

Yet, controversy has ensued, with a range of parent-led media watchdog groups including Mothers Against Violence and the Parents Television Council calling the video violent and asking for it to be banned. These critics say that Rihanna perpetuates violence rather than urging young women to get help. The most ignorant and illegitimate of these critics argued that ‘If Chris Brown shot a woman in his new video, the world would stop. Rihanna should not get a pass. The video is far from broadcast worthy.’ That statement is what one would call “an exercise in missing the point.” Porter needs to Go.Sit.Down and rethink his position. Period. There is no need to dignify such inanity with a further response.

As a child survivor of domestic violence, I believe in non-violence as a way of life. In American culture more generally and in Black communities in particular, we have to commit to non-violent ways of loving, disciplining our children, and addressing conflict. At the same time, this video shows a young Black female rape victim, vulnerable and hurt, struggling with how to make sense of the act of violence perpetrated on her. She makes a choice that many would and have made, and rather than banning this video, we need access to grapple with its moral and political implications as a community.

Somehow, I do not believe the outrage would be comparable if this were a white woman, although this rampant rape culture shows its white victims no love either. Yes, Rihanna may simply be a good celebrity target, but it is utterly disturbing the manner in which any portraits that offer complicated, three dimensional representations of Black women are now unceremoniously banned from the air. These days, Black women and our experiences of rape and sexual violence are forced into invisibility when they don’t fit mainstream, pristine narratives of how to cope. Whether it be Rihanna’s teenaged fans, immigrants working as hotel maids all over this country, eleven year old Latina girls in Texas, or the Black girl next door to you,  women of color are deemed deviant even for voicing our narratives of rape and sexual assault, especially when our stories insinuate that we are morally complex human beings. That is unfortunate, dangerous, and frankly infuriating.

Rihanna is apparently considering re-shooting the offending scenes: namely the rape and the shooting. That’s unfortunate, because it makes more sense to me that we would be interested as a society in pursuing actual alternative endings for young women that don’t involve rape and brutalization in the first place, rather than creating “nicer,” “more palatable” endings in video land.

Please share your thoughts about the video with us. Does this video open up the space in Hip Hop and (Black) popular culture to have a conversation about rape and consent?  Is retaliatory violence a legitimate and effective response to rape? Since Rihanna is considering re-shooting the most violent scenes in the video, can you offer some alternate endings? We’d love to hear from you.

A Cause You Can Support:

If you are interested in helping to equip young women to deal with the realities of sexual violence, please consider supporting the Girl/Friends Summer Leadership Institute sponsored by A Long Walk Home, Inc. and “sponsor a girl”for the program. Your contribution will help support our girls as they become leaders in the movement to end sexual and dating violence against girls and women and become role models to their peers. 

126 Responses to “Man Down: On Rihanna, Rape, and Violence”

  1. W. Russell Robinson June 2, 2011 at 8:08 AM #

    The only edits I would make to the video would be to include white acts of sexual violence as well. The way the video is, it really portrays Black sexual deviance. Rape, is not an act of sex, but power and domination. Rape as you point out cuts across racial and class lines even gender. Even more compelling, if the shooting were to take place after a court trial were the person were aquited after a technicality, the point has more saliency Closing, I don’t think this is singularly about rape but violence against women as a whole.

    • Trudy June 2, 2011 at 8:34 AM #

      I disagree. The video does not have to portray anything in regards to a White experience as people are aware of its existence and if we are statistically speaking now, yes 150 years ago White men were the primary ones to engage in forced sexual acts with Black women. Now? Today? That is NOT the case. Black people need to CONFRONT the fact that Black men DO RAPE Black women. Period. There is not reason to throw in a “White smoke screen” to cloud the issue. She can address one specific issue in rape without having to show every single race, ethnicity, nationality and social class in this specific video.

      Sometimes this binary thinking/”inclusion theatre” clouds and erases issues instead of pointing them out and changing them. If every time a woman is raped someone immediately throws in her face that “well men get raped too” or every time a woman experiences domestic violence someone immediate throws in her face (or people discussing it) “well women hit men too” absolutely nothing changes. These statements occur to shut conversations down, not rectify anything. Women simply experience both of these things at a statistical level that surpasses the male experience in almost a gross manner. This is not to devalue or diminish male victimhood. This is simply to address that YES we CAN address one part of an issue without the silencing that occurs by immediately presenting the “reverse” scenario that occurs much less often.

      If Black people feel offended when someone white immediately mentions their oppression via “reverse discrimination” if the systematic discrimination of Black people is mentioned, then men (and some women) need to realize that same offense can occur when the victimization of women or Black women cannot be discussed without immediate inclusion theatre.

      • Amina June 2, 2011 at 10:40 AM #


        You bring up excellent points. When I first watched the video, I loved it. It brought up issues of sexualized violence, issues of “good” girl vs. “bad” girl etc.


        Then it hit me. This music video is released on a racist/sexist global market. Some will see stereotypes of black men (very dark aggressor in the video) and in black environment (I can only think of one other video she’s done in the “islands”).

        At the same time, we need to deal with these issues what worrying about how they might be used for a racist agenda. But still, I cant drop the feeling. I takes me back to an interview with Madonna, where she was discussing black manhood ( After 2.5 minutes.

        What are your thoughts? Am I wrong to say that this video sells mainly because of it’s portrayal of(a) black men?



      • adrian June 2, 2011 at 12:12 PM #

        You are so very right… I agree completely

      • Anna B. June 2, 2011 at 8:21 PM #

        You said: These critics say that Rihanna perpetuates violence rather than urging young women to get help. The most ignorant and illegitimate of these critics argued that ’If Chris Brown shot a woman in his new video, the world would stop. Rihanna should not get a pass.

        I say: That comment couldn’t be taken seriously. Chris brown has already been accused and verified as a woman beater. Yes the world would be up in arms if he shot a woman in the head. Like other celebrity offenders, he has to work hard to maintain and improve his reputation if he wants to be taken seriously as a singer. Esp since most of his fans are female.

        Of course Rihanna is perpetuating violence. She has used her gun to kill a man. Personally, I do not think that that’s the right approach to solving her problem, but she does somewhat address the complexity of the situation in her lyrics. O mama mama I just shot a man down…blah blah I am a criminal. Perhaps it makes her feel better, perhaps it makes her feel worse. She is not saying that this is the right response. It is merely a narrative. This is certainly not grounds for banning her video

        You said: She makes a choice that many would and have made, and rather than banning this video, we need access to grapple with its moral and political implications as a community.

        I said: WORD

        You said: the Black girl next door to you,  women of color are deemed deviant even for voicing our narratives of rape and sexual assault, especially when our stories insinuate that we are morally complex human beings. That is unfortunate, dangerous, and frankly infuriating.

        I said : I wouldn’t go so far as to say are deemed DEVIANT. That’s a bit radical. I think issues of rape and justice become more apparent when we compare the perceived “whore” with the perceivd “virgin”. Raping a virgin is a mortal sin, while raping a whore is bad behavior. Of course, rape is rape. In this case, Rihanna has been portrayed as a good-looking, good natured young girl. Flirtatious on the dance floor but far from a whore. I am going out on a limb here, but I think that if Katy Perry made the same video, the response would be the same.

        In the famous words of Rhi’s ex boy-friend, ex-convict and apparent ex-woman-beater – deuces

      • Trudy June 3, 2011 at 9:02 AM #

        Amina, I don’t care why some Whites may choose to like the video. (I will admit that some stereotypical media/films do bother me when they typecast Black people as certain caricatures, not addressing critical issues like this video.) Whites (as a culture in US…not saying every individual) have always glorified Black pathology and ignored Black progression (except for in cases of “racial transcendence” of some celebrities through enlightened exceptionalism.) Thus, I do not think she should have chosen to not make the video like this because of what Whites may think. Black life has to move beyond seeking White approval at some point. It has to, even if they remain a statistical or financial majority. A bigger issue is at stake here, the well-being of Black people. If we still have to ignore issues between Black women and men so that White people will think we are “good enough” then we’ll only continue to destroy each other. Black women and men have to work through the issues versus trying to pretend all is well or destroy each other based on White prompts. This is not easy…I get that. I also get that those who ALREADY want to see Black people poorly will do so with or without Rihanna. But even with that knowledge, I still do not want this video remade, it brings up legitimate issues–while not covering all rape issues (but she has NO obligation to cover every single form of rape based on every demographic in only 1 song), but something important to consider.

        People (including many of these women who protest yet I bet they watch Lifetime channel) have to accept that revenge ideation is a part of what a victim experiences. (Also, it brings up a legitimate criminal justice issue….many women who are incarcerated are incarcerated for revenage against an assailant OR committing a crime with/for a man. Men are often incarcerated for crimes not related to women at all. The reverse is not true though. Women defending themselves or responding to male desire is often the source of their crime.)

        No one wants to think of Black women as rape victims—as humams capable of being victims who suffer the emotional repercussions of this violation just as women of other races do. Why? It removes the ideal that Black women invite or like rape….and many people believe this, including some Black men. I like that she showed that she danced with the assailant prior to the attack. Why? Because the idea that rape is deserved if a woman does not immediately curse out a guy (which ironically can lead to rape as well—immediate rejection, delayed rejection or nothing at all can lead to rape) and even has a great time dancing or flirting with him, he now has the right to rape. He doesn’t. It’s sad that we live in a world where if a woman is raped, people want to know what “she did” to cause it. In 2005 when my house was burglarized, no one asked me did I leave my door open or was expensive things showing through my window. How nice to know that property garners more respect than a woman’s body. Sigh.

        I feel what you are saying Amina but in this case the worry of White perception or approval is trumped to me by the story in this video and the need for discussion about this story.

      • Amina June 3, 2011 at 3:23 PM #


        Thank you for your reply. I have thought about this intensively all day at work, and I completely agree with you.


    • White Bajan Woman June 3, 2011 at 11:55 PM #

      You go, Rihanna! Black, white, yellow, it don’t matter. RAPE IS RAPE, a violent crime against women. & this is showing how you would feel if you are raped, the deep rage & anguish. Respect women!!

  2. Nike June 2, 2011 at 8:24 AM #

    I love the lyrics, great song. But coming from the women I have met in Texas prisons violent retaliation in this form ends 2 lives not just his. So, I think that scene should be changed. It reinforces violence within our communities and doesn’t give the law a chance to bring him to justice. Show a scene of her going to the cops immediately, not taking a shower, demanding respect when cops look at you like you deserved it, and going through the rape kit process with a health professional. I think her scene could have been more thought provoking if she somehow related it back to killing Chris Brown’s career. While their altercation was real and valid seems like she is saying in her lyrics that she’s sorry for killing his career. I love it when artists try and tackle tough issues, but I wish they would give their fans positive resources for resolving their problems.

  3. Trudy June 2, 2011 at 8:36 AM #

    I hope she does NOT reshoot the scenes since as an artist that changes that original work and its message. Also most importantly as a woman, the video needs to stay as is.

    I find it UTTERLY RIDICULOUS that people suggest the video not be shown in a world already slammed packed with hypersexualized violent music and films, when this one has an important message to consider. Why must this specific video be banned?

    While I am not a big Rhi fan (only her voice itself I don’t enjoy, but I love her beauty style and vision), this video is powerful and should stay as is. Her critics COMPLETELY miss the point and truthfully I expect that. It seems that often no one understands Black women except other Black women, and how can they ever if our full presence is denied by media? And just as you mention, portrayals of 3 dimensional emotional and intellectually complex Black women are heavily discouraged from the screen. It’s to the point that it’s becoming really obvious to people even of other races that I talk to.

    • lirpa June 2, 2011 at 7:19 PM #

      Trudy i agree wid u 100%. I cannot count the number of violent music videos and songs that i have heard that are “ok” by mainstream standards…Eminem had a song about killing the mother of his child and driving her off a cliff int he trunk of a car….all they did was put a explicit content advisory on the cd and his stuff still played world wide!!! c’mon!! cut the crap ppl. just because it is rhianna?! the scene should NOT be reshot!! it is passing on a message that we as a society can explain and interpret to our kids…banning it from public consumption is definitely not the answer….parents depend too much on society to parent for them…PARENT YOUR OWN KIDS URSELVES!!.. if it was anyone else who shot this video it would be playing on MTV all ppl cut the crap take it for what it is and deal.
      further more…i noticed some one mentioned that women need to take a more rational approach to rape….clearly it had to be a man…if a man was raped noone would probably even know because he would kill the man who did it and move on in silence…but we women have to be rational…what a piece of crap. The police dont ever catch these perpetrtors…and they run free to do it again and again…so while i do not necessarily think we should be publishing a message that retaliatory killings are ok…in a case like this where one’s mental stability, personal safety and peace of mind are violated, it is completely justifiable.

  4. moyazb June 2, 2011 at 8:47 AM #

    Thanks Crunktastic for once again getting to the heart of it! The controversy immediately made me think about the Dixie Chicks and their song/video “Earl” where folks similarly wanted them to apologize for the violence they discussed. What’s so interesting to me is that both of these videos have a clear cause and effect message whereas the generalized omnipresent violence against women in song lyrics and videos never elicits this kind of reaction. Even Eminem’s Love The Way You Lie was criticized because it portrayed intimate partner violence in a way that made people uncomfortable i.e. she can’t be a battered woman if she “started” it or fights back and because RiRi participated post being attacked by Chris Brown. As far as I saw, the mainstream media wasn’t interested in discussing the violence and abuse in Eminem’s words but wanted to hold the women involved accountable for his lyrics.

    Lastly, I have heard that folks from the Caribbean are pissed because Rihanna has risen to international prominence by mostly downplaying her island roots (post initial introduction to music) but uses this particularly charged topic to return both visually and sonically home. I have to say I feel them on that.

    • crunktastic June 2, 2011 at 9:10 AM #

      You’ve given much to think about here, Moya. Didn’t know about the Dixie Chicks, although I think part of the reason they get so much flack is that they are seen as liberal political traitors among country music’s generally conservative audiences. That is of course still about race and gender politics, but narratively it plays out differently. And yes, it seems that many folks only understand things in Black and white. “True victims” don’t initiate fights or fight back or in this case act sexual. And that’s ridiculous since plenty of women are up in the club grinding it out like this every weekend! And I hadn’t heard about the critiques coming from Rihanna’s home folk and that seems to be complicated. “Returning home” is not always an idyllic situation and sometimes I think that discourse gets trotted out as a way to silence the narrative. At the same time, I hear them on the idea that she’s pathologizing her home space, but it seems that any time Black women talk about sexual abuse, we are accused of pathologizing our home spaces. Alice Walker/ Color Purple comes to mind here.

      • moyazb June 2, 2011 at 11:35 AM #

        Word Word! You are absolutely right re: returning home. Thanks Lex for also speaking to this in the comments. I had “heard” this through Danny but I just saw it posted on Tumblr here:

      • DARREN HUTCHINSON June 2, 2011 at 6:07 PM #

        Shug Avery told Celie not to kill Mister: “it’s not worth it.” I’m just saying….

      • alex June 5, 2011 at 2:19 PM #

        Re: Your point about the Dixie Chicks being seen as “political traitors”

        I think that it’s worth noting that Miranda Lambert has been on every music award show this year performing “Gunpowder and Lead,” a song about gunning down an abusive spouse, without criticism. American Idol even had some of their female contestants singing it as a duet this season.

        Apparently, if you are a conservative white woman, you are allowed to respond to violence against your person with deadly force… but if you happen to be a woman of color… well… not so much.

    • Jamerican June 3, 2011 at 7:28 PM #

      Absolutely correct. This song sounds West Indian. It’s set in the West Indies — looks to be filmed in Jamaica — and sounds West Indian. In Jamaica, and in many countries in West Indies, the police do not function the way they do here. Much of the criticism overlooks the setting. That’s not to say that rapists should be shot and killed there, but rather that all of the advice given should be mediated in the context of being in a country with different attitudes towards rape. In that context, for her to use her fame to bring attention to this issue for West Indian audiences can only be lauded. Too many critiques overlook that setting by essentializing the American experience; implying that is the only “proper” setting for her work.

  5. Chiccola June 2, 2011 at 9:01 AM #

    Know matter how or who brings the message across as long as a girl/woman is able to feel comfortable enough to open up to receive the help that is truly needed after such a violent act should be the focus. Society always makes it seem as though it’s a bad thing to get help, or makes yu feel as though it is your fault somehow. The video I strongly believe should be left as is, and not made nicer, or easier or the eye or for what have you. The REALITY is this world is very violent, and can be brutal, so show the world, and people in it the reality, and then maybe CHANGE will come, until then nothing will happen, if nothing is said. No I don’t believe shooting someone is the answer, but the reality is after a violent act as such,girls/women feel
    or become numb or just outside of oneself. So when our minds are clear, of course we know right from wrong. But again the focus should be on making girls/women feel comfortable speaking on the violent act against them, so if it’s through a hip/hop singer, the lady next door, an aunt whomever, as long as it’s expressed, and we can do all we can to direct our focus on the next step of helping young women in coping with the violent act.

  6. carrieleilamlove June 2, 2011 at 9:16 AM #

    Sweet, white, country star Miranda Lambert’s “Gunpowder and Lead” is a recent top-ten hit that has been covered by sweet, white contestants on the latest season of American Idol. It talks about a woman waiting by the door with a shotgun for her husband who is coming home from jail because he “shook her like a ragdoll.” The same album has a track called “Kerosene” where she commits revenge arson on an ex boyfriend. But, as you suspect, no parent watchdog groups are up in arms about sweet Miranda Lambert!

  7. alexis June 2, 2011 at 9:20 AM #

    Yet one more music video I never would have seen if it wasn’t for the CFC. I think this message should be out there although I believe that retributive violence is not going to end rape…a complete cultural transformation is what it will take to stop rape from being such a normalized form of violence in all of our communities.

    But as a survivor of sexual violence (and who knows…maybe even if I wasn’t) I don’t think it is fair to censor the sometimes violent fantasies of revenge that the experience of sexual violence might bring into the mind of a survivor when to be real our society still has not developed effective alternatives or forms of recourse that truly support survivors and transform people who enact sexual violence.

    Moya B. can you post a link(s) to the critiques coming from folks in the Caribbean/from the Caribbean? To me it seems appropriate that if an artist decides to address a topic that is close to home they might choose to place in the setting where they grew up to be sure that the message is received by the folks (young women growing up in the Caribbean like she did?) who she is most accountable to….I don’t see why that would make people upset. It’s refreshing to me to see her in that setting…especially since the video seems to portray it in a beautiful and complicated way that transcends most of the simplistic presentations of the Caribbean in US media…

    • so_treu June 2, 2011 at 11:49 AM #

      Hey Alexis! There’s a organization i’ve come across called CodeRed for Gender. They’re a collective of Caribbean woman, and on their facebook page there’s some excellent discussion of ppl’s reaction to the video:

      I so so agree with this post, and i love the video. but as some of the CodeRed commentators have noted, Rihanna is from Barbados. But the video is set and shot in Jamaica, and the music is reggae influenced – a Jamaican form of music. I’m not from the Caribbean, so there may be nuances of this that escape me, but considering the tense relationship between Jamaica and Barbados (this being one example, since we are talking about rape:, and considering, as Moya mentioned, the fact that her Caribbean background and identity has been kind of a non-issue up till this point, I do question the politics of setting it in Jamaica instead of her native Barbados or even in the US. esp considered how Jamaica is portrayed and politicized as the “badman” of the Caribbean. Esp as she’s not from there, so it def seems to be a case of Jamaica being used as a stand-in for the whole region. i completely agree with you that these images should be censored – rape DOES happen in Jamaica, after all. but i wonder what’s being reinforced in this particular representation of the Caribbean, and if there’s a transformative opportunity that she missed there.

    • so_treu June 2, 2011 at 11:56 AM #

      but at the same time, considering how the hypersexualization of black women’s bodies in dancehall/represetation of Jamaican/Caribbean popular culture in general, to make it clear that *even in this setting* the woman retains full subjectivity and bodily autonomy, i.e. just cause i’m dancing like this doesn’t mean i’m going to sleep with whomever i’m dancing with or even for, i do think that this video functions as an intervention in that discourse. but i wonder if the intervention is directed at the West or if it expands to include Jamaica/Barbados/folks in the Caribbean who live with the possibility/actuality of sexual violence, as it occurs and is perpetuated in that part of the world?

      • susiemaye June 2, 2011 at 12:13 PM #

        “but i wonder if the intervention is directed at the West or if it expands to include Jamaica/Barbados/folks in the Caribbean who live with the possibility/actuality of sexual violence, as it occurs and is perpetuated in that part of the world?”

        Good question. That’s one of the things that hit me when I watching the video. I was like, “that looks like Jamaica” and “Rihanna generally doesn’t really big up her Caribbean heritage.” Interesting. And there is certainly cultural beef between Jamaica and Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad, D.R. and Haiti, etc., despite the fact that we are generally more alike than different, but that’s another thought for another day. (Full disclosure: my mom’s Jamaican, my father’s Dominican, and I was born in P.R.)

        Ultimately, I’m not sure that these questions undermine the efficacy of what this video does or can potentially do, but I do think it’s interesting that she returns to the Caribbean (and Jamaica standing in, as it often does, for the metaphorical “West Indian” Caribbean) in this instance.

      • lirpa June 2, 2011 at 7:27 PM #

        I will say this, i am barbadian grew up there all my life…also lived in jamaica for 5 yrs of my life…and the only time i felt personally teh threat of someone attempting to sexually assult me was here in NYC…for the first time in my life…my personal space was invaded…and by a white man no less….not the spanish ppl who live where i live, not the black men that it is portrayed in the video…a white man, who tried to follow me home. I am not racist but the mere fact that she did it in jamaica, or that she was attacked by a black man is no slight on the caribbean…yes she couldve done it in the us but she chose not to. It can happen anywhere.

      • Slawrence June 2, 2011 at 7:43 PM #

        Just adding this link to legal academic (Dean) Camille Nelson’s article Lyrical Assault; Dancehall Versus the Cultural Imperialism of the North-West, which might be a good place to go for more ideas to try to take up some of this great comment…

  8. B-girl Apostle June 2, 2011 at 9:30 AM #

    The ONLY reshoot that I would be somewhat ok with would be if it shows her considering shooting the rapist, but doesn’t show her actually doing it.

    The rape scene is already implied. It disgusts me that people would want to tone it down. It needs to be brought out into the open, hiding the reality of rape helps no one (except rapists).

    It also just bothers me as a survivor that people would act like this is black and white and devoid of politics… like Rihanna’s character shooting her rapist is analogous to Chris Brown shooting a woman in his video. I’m sure they’d be fine with depicting a rape survivor crying and breaking down, but god forbid she respond with anger or with an instinct to protect herself.

  9. La-Shanta June 2, 2011 at 9:59 AM #

    That video looked alright to me. The rap videos with the chicks shaking their butts was more graphic than this one. My thought is that this blog makes it seem like the victim is “fighting” with the idea of violently getting back at her assailant, there isn’t that msg in the video. That was a made up mind there. Even the song is more about how sorry she might be that she did shoot him, instead if what might happen if she did. I don’t have a problem with either the video or the song, but I don’t know that a positive message of any kind can be reached by this video. The SONG maybe, but not this video. It’s just a good image to go with the song.

    • crunktastic June 2, 2011 at 10:10 AM #

      Her mind was definitely made up. But it did seem like she felt some-type-of-way about it afterward. Maybe she didn’t regret the choice but regretted that she felt she had to make it, which is slightly different. I’m not sure the goal of the video is to have a positive message; it seems to me that she just wanted to raise awareness about rape. But if there is a positive message to be taken, it is that women are not at fault when they are raped and violated. I think that’s a powerful and important message that young women in particular need to hear.

  10. sasha June 2, 2011 at 10:20 AM #

    I just watched the video and I found it to be very brave and powerful. I hope Rihanna doesn’t reshoot the scenes; I really don’t think they were that violent. I think a message to get from this video is that no woman deserves to get raped, period; regardless of the way she dresses, or how she dances or whether she was drinking, the victim is never at fault.

  11. Amy June 2, 2011 at 11:06 AM #

    I think to ban this video would do a great disservice to anyone who might watch it. She did an excellent job with this. The rape scene wasn’t gratuitously graphic but I could feel it in my gut. I think if people would watch that video and really Listen to the lyrics, try to empathize with that battle and the realization that she’s now made herself a criminal because of the way she chose to deal with her rape. All too often retaliatory violence seems to be the only way to get justice for sexual assault as women (and men) from all groups within our culture (and I would guess aroundthe world as well) are failed by the criminal justice system more often than not. Particularly in situations like the one in the video. I do think retaliatory violence works, in that if you kill the person they certainly aren’t around to rape anyone else, but as an effective means or social control, not even vaguely. I wish I could say that ending with him going to jail would be a better ending but quite frankly I don’t think it would be as believable. I also appreciate in her lyrics she’s trying to come to grips with the fact that she has just taken someones life. All too often in the media the emotional consequences of the are downplayed or completely ignored if the act was “justified”.

  12. Cat June 2, 2011 at 11:27 AM #

    Fine, shoot a video in which a woman does ask for help, only to find that the system of justice isn’t on her side– She gets scrutinized for perhaps “asking for it,” he gets let go with a slap on the wrist. That story is alas all too common, and perhaps one that those media watchdogs should acknowledge rather than pick a petty fight over this video. It’s not as if Rihanna’s singing about shooting a man in Reno just to watch him die.

    • lirpa June 2, 2011 at 7:29 PM #


  13. sheridf June 2, 2011 at 11:45 AM #

    @Moya. I have to say my first impression when I watched the video, and I rarely watch them, was hmmmm so now she is amplifying her heritage/hometown in her work, but I don’t remember that being part of her image before. I’m certain that many things have changed for her in the past few years, but it did raise an eyebrow.

  14. Qortni June 2, 2011 at 12:11 PM #

    As art and as a message, this video isn’t offensive at all. In fact, it reminds me of Sublime’s song and video “Date Rape” from years ago (tho they took a “lighter” approach).

    Complaints about this video, will, I’m sure, be from The Christian Coalition Mothers Against Cool Stuff – and all the other groups who don’t realize how many times justice has NOT come thru for victims of rape. And what recourse do they have when justice fails them? I’d contemplate murder, too. Let’s be honest. Not talking about something, or not showing something, doesn’t make situations and emotions not happen.

  15. TaKeshia Brooks/Inda Lauryn June 2, 2011 at 12:15 PM #

    Think about this: would you ask Garth Brooks to change his video for “Thunder Rolls”?

    • C June 5, 2011 at 4:14 AM #

      Interestingly, Thunder Rolls was removed from TV almost immediately and wasn’t re-aired until VH1 decided to allow it much later. The stations that banned it told him to add a disclaimer to the end, which he refused.

      I hope Rhianna doesn’t change her video at all and it does not get banned.

  16. DARREN HUTCHINSON June 2, 2011 at 1:42 PM #

    I do not see this as a positive feminist intervention. Although I agree that misogyny is a problem in pop culture — not just with hip hop — young women need to see viable and rational responses to rape. Murder is not among those choices. The legal system will not excuse a woman for killing a rapist — so why glamorize more violence in the name of sending a message. Rape victims need to call the police; call medical authorities; preserve any evidence; seek help from rape crisis centers and from friends and family. These are healthy options for women. Murder is not. To make this about feminism and antiracism is a bit silly.

    • crunktastic June 2, 2011 at 1:47 PM #

      To suggest that because her choice of murder is inexcusable, that this video has no value as a feminist intervention seems myopic. Anytime a woman asserts with confidence that she is in fact not to blame for her rape, that is feminist. Murder is not feminist, but this video doesn’t glorify murder, since the entirety of the song is her struggling with the emotional consequences of her choice. In fact, it becomes just one more trauma on top of an already endured one. As such, it offers a powerful opportunity to talk about rape without blaming the victim and about why revenge will not solve the problem.

      • DARREN HUTCHINSON June 2, 2011 at 5:13 PM #

        Resisting a “blaming the victim” rhetoric is one thing; retaliatory violence is another. Let me separate the “art” (if you can call pop music videos art) from feminist politics. Rhianna should have the freedom to do whatever she likes; she can even call it feminist. But if we want to deal with the REALITY of how the law treats rapists and rape victims, we need a real conversation about the best ways to make the process easier for victims. I guess having a conservation about rape crisis centers, rape kits, counseling, etc. are too dense for a music video. So let’s just shoot the offender. Great — and then the law can put her in prison for life. But we don’t get to see that in the video, right?

    • lirpa June 2, 2011 at 7:34 PM #

      Clearly u have never been raped. I wonder how u would respond had u been raped by a man, one who lives next door to u and who u see every night walking home. would u find a “rational” solution? or would u do what you had to do to preserve and protect your personal space and your mental stability? Men always advise that we women seek help centres etc, when the reality of it is that even though you go to the help centre, the rapist is still loose…because the police either cant find him or he got off with a slap on the wrist…and now he is looking to victimise you again….how would you react if you were made to feel so helpless and vulnerable….we all know how men react…by killing…its in the history books…its not right…the video isnt saying it is right BUT it is a reality…so please cut the crap and take the video for what it is.

      • DARREN HUTCHINSON June 3, 2011 at 10:53 AM #

        First of all – you do not know anything about to make that conclusion. Second – women who have been raped or who counsel victims would not advise them to kill their offenders. Third – regardless of whether I have been raped or not, I can clearly say that murder is not going to help the victim. It is not a longterm solution.

  17. adrian June 2, 2011 at 1:43 PM #

    Drake’s video Find your love was also shot in Jamaica and also featured violence as well as video gurls… where is the outrage

  18. DARREN HUTCHINSON June 2, 2011 at 1:47 PM #

    And to your specific question: “Is retaliatory violence a legitimate and effective response to rape?” Absolutely not. That’s just more death penalty rhetoric. Retaliatory violence is among one of the factors that makes homocide the leading cause of death among young black men: “You killed my homie; I will kill you; lather, rinse, repeat…..” Of course, society does not care about these crimes either. Rape is not the only violent crime that fails to receive necessary attention and justice.

    • crunktastic June 2, 2011 at 2:05 PM #

      Yes, I agree retaliatory violence is not an effective or morally right response to rape. But you are not so subtly recentering this narrative on Black men. The top killer of young Black women is domestic violence (at the hands of young Black men). The top killer of young Black men is …homicide (mostly at the hands of other young Black men). So lumping women in as part of the massive internecine fighting that’s happening among Black men is unfair and in fact, inaccurate. I hate the ways in which Black male privilege always operates to magnify the violence against young Black men as if this discussion is not at the center of most race-based political organizing already. And then to claim that a female rape victim trying to get justice (albeit in a completely wrong manner) is further participating in the systemic victimization of Black men is particularly egregious.

      • DARREN HUTCHINSON June 2, 2011 at 5:08 PM #

        I am absolutely not recentering the analysis. I am using an analogy. Rape, sex trafficking, homophobia, etc., are problems in the black community — and in the world at large. Unlike the tone in your post (and in a lot of feminist discourse), I do not see women and men as isolated and unconnected points. The intersectionality literature has a lot to say about efforts to separate feminism from racism. Why aren’t the murders and retaliation among young black men a site of feminist discourse as well? Under a narrow traditionalist approach they are not. Under a theory that sees racism and patriarchy as intertwined, they are. A lot of that retaliation is about masculinity and problematic assumptions about “manhood” — just as rape itself. The connections are very easy to see.

        Finally, I never said that a woman seeking justice is oppressing black men. If so, please provide a specific quote that does so. Instead, I said that retaliatory violence is a large enough problem among blacks, that we should not encourage it under the guise of feminism. I stand by that analysis.

      • crunktastic June 2, 2011 at 6:23 PM #

        No, you have not used an analogy. You are attempting to both use and to school me on “the intersectionality literature.” Thanks for that, by the way. I thought I had grasped it upon completing a Ph.D. with a focus in Black feminist theory, but perhaps not. Second, the field of Black masculinity studies, which does not exist without Black feminism, heavily engages in asking the very kinds of questions you ask here, specifically re: murders and retaliation among Black men. But forgive me, Brother, for choosing not to focus on that particular issue in a blog post about the female rape victim being portrayed in the video. Surely you understand that one post cannot and should not do everything. I do, however, agree that racism and patriarchy are wholly intertwined. Black feminists have been saying that for years. In recent years, Patricia Hill Collins is one of my faves on the topic. I also think Black men matter in that analysis. Aaronette White, Rudolph Byrd, Nathan McCall and others are useful on the discussions of Black masculinity. But to ask me to focus on the brother being killed here is, I re-assert, an attempt to recenter the discourse on Black masculinity. But your failure (or refusal) to recognize that simply demonstrates the ways in which your Black male privilege is operating. You want me to analyze Black masculinity more; I’m looking for you to be outraged at the rape of this young woman and the misguided thinking/actions of this young brother. But we don’t always get what we want. . I also reject your assertion that my tone in any way argues for disconnection between women and men. In fact, the logical implication of what I’m talking about is that we need to seriously re-imagine Black masculinity and issues with violence, etc, if Black women and men are ever going to have safe productive relationships. But If by that critique, you mean that I don’t focus on what it means for the male character in the video to choose to become a rapist and the implications of that choice for larger issues in Black masculinity, well so be it. But surely, we can talk about female rape victims without having to focus in this one post on what it means for her perpetrator. So yes, I believe your original comments do attempt to recenter Black masculinity. Because if we follow your critiques to their logical conclusion, the only way to rectify the problems in the video (and apparently in my blog post) is to bring more nuance to the discussion around Black men and violence. And while that is an important discussion, it absolutely constitutes an attempt to recenter. You’re a lawyer and I’m a Ph.D. so let’s grant that we are dealing at the level of the implications of your arguments here, specifically since I’m attempting to take the interventions you are attempting to make seriously.

      • DARREN HUTCHINSON June 3, 2011 at 11:02 AM #

        Yes – it was only an analogy. For someone who is so engaged in the literature of feminists of color (which is also my academic specialty), I find it odd that you perceive the use of a analogy involving retaliatory violence among men of color as an attempt to steal this thread and focus on “male” issues. I also reject the universal notion of “male” privilege. Modify male with gay, poor, disabled, etc., and you end up with some interesting outcomes. Modify black woman with wealthy, heterosexual, etc., and you also get a more complicated portrait of power (see my work on “multidimensionality” — as opposed to intersectionality).

        There are other analogies as well. Although domestic and intimate partner violence do not receive sufficient attention among antiracist theorists, I would not advocate premediated murder as a response — no matter how good the emotional release. People need help dealing with their emotions — however valid — rather than engaging in behavior that will only serve to harm them in the end.

        Finally, you have repeated — without any textual support — the “straw” argument that I am lumping black, women with the systematic victimization of black men. Although I would agree that this argument is foolish, I have not made it (and you have not pointed out where I supposedly made it). I enjoy engaging in debate — but I rather debate actual claims I have made rather than fabrications.

  19. DARREN HUTCHINSON June 2, 2011 at 1:49 PM #

    PS: Despite my criticism, I do not believe they should remake or edit the video. Art has a message. This is about free expression.

    • Nike June 2, 2011 at 9:57 PM #

      @Darren. I agree with you in regards to the violent response. I don’t have a whole lot of big words but I have stories of women whom I have met rotting in prison because of retaliation. Some have even been put to death in Texas. I think it takes more courage and strength for a rape victim to go the police and for many that do and get ill treatment it makes it even more impossible for the next woman to trust the justice system. Having said that, two wrongs don’t make a right. The treatment of rape victims will only improve when rape victims start speaking up and fight to change the system. Killing a brother, cutting him, beating him, or cheating on him because he hurt me(physically/emotionally) ain’t gonna make me feel better, feel whole, or give me the justice I truly deserve.

      • B-girl Apostle June 4, 2011 at 9:26 AM #

        Rape survivors ARE speaking up and fighting for change, and have been for a long time. It is completely unacceptable to place all the responsibility for change upon the most burdened shoulders. It is extremely difficult to survive the aftermath of the rape, even without being revictimized by the legal system.

        The treatment of rape victims will only improve when those who are not victims start taking responsibility for listening to us and supporting us. We’ve been telling people how to do so for decades, but most people don’t listen.

  20. Piper June 2, 2011 at 2:08 PM #

    Why all the controversy? Censorship is wrong. Let me explain, first.

    I may not agree with many lyrics over many genres (rap, hip-hop, rock are the first to come to mind) that glorify theft, abuse, gang activity, and other criminial activity. I tolerate the existence of this music, because I believe it gives me a choice of what to listen to–and, someday, I’ll have the choice to be an active parent who can discuss her child’s music tastes with the child.

    I don’t believe in banning material (books, newspapers, music, art, online media) simply because some of the population finds it objectionable. The exceptions, of course, being those that were created with direct harm to others (child pornography being one example).

    My views, then, are irrelevant. (Although, I’m quite supportive of the idea of keeping the original video as-is and of airing it.)

    • Kaye June 4, 2011 at 6:22 AM #

      hear! hear!

  21. Marquita June 2, 2011 at 2:16 PM #

    The video is inappropriate.

    It opens with a shooting and blood splatter. In a music video? In the middle of the afternoon? With children watching? Really?

    I think the commentary presented above over-exaggerates what really happened in the video. There was no “young woman contemplating what to do next” in the video – it went immediately from an implied rape to her running home and getting a gun – and while I find it a fitting punishment for the crime – how can we support vigilante justice with recent reports of a 9 year old girl being shot by a Palin supporter, a 22 month old baby getting shot by a stray bullet from a drive-by and the current bullying trend?

    And let’s be honest, if Chris Brown had so much as a water gun in a video, everyone would flip out but because Rihanna’s video is being justified as ‘female empowerment’ it’s okay. No, it’s not.

    There are a zillion ways Rihanna could have addressed the issue of rape and domestic violence in her video (and more direct ways as well – I had to watch the video twice to even get that a rape occurred) and more responsible ways as well – a woman who kills her rapist would go to jail for Murder 2 at least and prison is not empowering.

    The video should have never aired but now that it has, it needs to be re-shot immediately.

    • DARREN HUTCHINSON June 2, 2011 at 5:39 PM #

      Although I do not believe it needs to be re-shot, I agree with everything else you said.

  22. porschia June 2, 2011 at 2:29 PM #

    As far as retaliatory violence, I can’t call it. The fact is that a large percentage of imprisoned women are imprisoned because she defended herself against forced prostitution, against continuous sexual abuse, against domestic violence etc. And if she’s imprisoned that same violence continues within prison walls. Imprisonment is controversial within a system that already denigrates women while simultaneously viewing us silent bodies garnishing byproducts for sale with or without consent. The ending to Rhiana’s video shouldn’t be changed. The lyrics with the video is the most on point storyline I’ve seen in pop music culture in a while. The fact that she retaliates is strength; it’s her having her say, taking ownership of herself as a whole being and not simply a body, it’s her reclaiming her right to herself. I do feel the video opens up a space in popular culture for conversations about rape and consent. Parts of the video is emotionally heavy and parts are uplifting in those same emotionally heavy spaces. I wish she never changes its ending and that she reads some of these posts. The alternative ending exists in the strength she offers us by her taking a stand on her behalf.

    • DARREN HUTCHINSON June 2, 2011 at 5:42 PM #

      As a lawyer — who spends a hell of a lot of time advocating gender, racial, sexual and economic empowerment — I strongly disagree with the notion that retaliatory killings are empowering. Go ahead and do it. The victim will get a longer sentence than the offender. Why — because the criminal justice system (rightfully) imposes longer sentences for intentional homicides than for sex offenses. Murdering someone is justifiable as self-defense — not to feel powerful.

      • lady e June 10, 2011 at 1:40 AM #

        I think you’re misguided in your assumption that anything that leads to a prison sentence cannot be empowering. Yes, retaliatory violence is punished under the law, but does that mean that the act is always less empowering because of it? Not necessarily. There are some who commit violence and never regret despite the consequences due to whatever emotional/symbolic meaning it may have to them.

      • Nightingale June 12, 2011 at 7:45 PM #

        I’m just going to say what I feel because I have the right and I think it needs to be said.

        There are things far worse than death. Being raped is one of them. My justification for this sentence? Most victims of rape express the wish to die. Why would they wish for this? Because it’s preferable to dealing with their experience. At least in their minds.

        I’m not saying murder is right. But the fact is that once you are dead, your pain is over. The pain of your loved ones continues to endure, but you are free to whatever afterlife there is. (DON’T start a religious debate here, this is not about religion, hence my statement of “whatever afterlife there is”)

        Logically, if we accept there are things worse than death, like rape, we can conclude that the rapist got off easy. At least he’s dead. She will continue to have the pain of rape and death on her. AND it was retalitory. It also follows that he would repeat his ofense, and that by his death she prevented his future offenses on herself and other women.

        Women who are raped often have a feeling of loss of power in her lfie, and loss of control. When you feel that, you feel cornered, and desperate. Cornered animals are VERY dangerous. And as humans, we are still animals. Taking back power can be done in many ways. Retalitory murder is punishable by law, but nonetheless, it is valid. The odds of this man coming to justice are minimal. Even when the police are notified, Justice is not often served. What else is left for a woman but to exact her own justice? If the laws do not protect her, she feels even more unimportant and unworthy, compounding her pain. Women have souls, and we know it. Which is why we hurt so much when we are treated as objects, and not served justice, leaving us open to repeat offenses and providing no solace. No wonder some women take justice in their own hands. For many rape victims, it’s less about revenge than taking back power and justice that any person deserves. This allpies to male rape victims as well.

        As for how killing him makes her feel, it depends on the woman. This woman obviously feels guilt. Others would not. Either way, rapists rarely feel guilt. I believe this to be evidence of character. Her remorse shows she recognised he was a human being, “somebody’s son’. He did not recognise her humanity, and showed to remorse, only entitelment.

        Ultimatly, I feel that much harsher sentances for rapists are needed. It is virtually the biggest crime a person can commit against another. If rapists knew they’d get their balls or dick cut off for these offenses, multiple offenses leading to death, I believe the rates would drop dramatically. They certainly seem to when it’s commonly known someone is armed. But I’m sure some people would object to such a punishment as ‘cruel and unusual’. Well, rape is cruel and unusual, and it is the violation of a person using sex. Therefore, a rapists members should be punished. He violated her vagina with his penis. Literally. What better punishment or deterrent than to take away the offending member? If he used his fist, cut it off. Women rape too, hence this can be applied to the 8-1% of women who rape. As it is, even if he does serve time, he rarely learns a lesson. Which USED to be the point of punishment.

        Even if harsher punishments for rapists were implemented, it doesn’t solve the issue of WHY people rape, nor the issue of people blaming the victim. But that’s the point of this video. Rape is a HUGE problem. Think about it. Most statistics say that anywhere from 1/6 to 1/4 of women will be victims of domestic violence or rape in their life. Think about what that does to the psychology of women all together as a whole. A HUGE portion of women are suffering from the effects of rape, or live in fear of it. Let me say that again: LIVE IN FEAR OF IT. And men suffer to. The men who don’t and would never rape get a bad name because of the men who do, because even though it’s not their fault, the fear of rape is very strong and no woman owes a man any ounce of trust that isn’t earned. Giving a man the benifit of the doubt can cost her her life and/or dignity, innocence, confidence, ect.

        So why does our society still have this probelm? It benifits no one except the ones who commit this vile act. It looses our country roughly $71 billion a year. it costs us healthy, happy, fearless women who otherwise could live their lives without fear and pain and shame from society. It costs many good men the chance to earn trust and have a healthy, happy, competent partner.

        Instead the cycle of violence continues. It’s ultimatly not even about men and women. It’s about feeling insecure and not dealing with your problems in a healthy way. Perhaps the husband in a standard family feels a certain way, perhaps angry, because his boss has power over him that he uses unfairly. He beats his wife to deal with it, because she’s (usually) physically weaker and can (usually) offer little effective resistance. After a while, the mother in this standard family feels angry and resentful, and beats the children to deal with it, since she’s probably been isolated from friends and family and so has few ways to chanel her feelings. The children and near the bottom: all adults are bigger than them and have the power. The only ones they can beat is the animals, so they abuse the animals. Eventually the animals probably act out and bite a human in response, not willing to take any more crap, and often get euthenised because of it. Meanwhile the children grow up with what they learned as kids: the daugher probably gets into abusive relationships like her mother, knowing this as the norm, and the son probably follows his father’s example and is on the abusive end of a relationship. The cycle comes full circle. The wife may fight back sometimes, and if unsuccesful, the pain may be worse, just as the children fighting back may get beaten and grounded, the animals may die, and the father demanding his well deserved promotion may instead get fired.

        Obviously this is a simplified view of a far more complex issue, but I believe it has merit. There IS a cycle of violence, domination, insecurity, and bad coping skills that effect us all, men, women, children, and even animals. Humans are animals, ultimatly. But we have come a long way. We’ve gone from caves to skyscrapers, from gazing at the stars to standing on the moon, from enslaving others to demonising the idea, from hunter gatherer to farmer. We have EVOLVED over the millenia, over the centuries. We are not who we once were ages ago. We won’t be the same in the future, and considering how fast the world is changing these days, we probably won’t be very similar in the next 50 years. We need to evolve some more. I mean evolve socially. Women have been trying to become equal for a long time now. I personnaly think it will take all of us, not just women. Men have to want equality too. Equality encompases a huge range of subjects, one of which is rape. We CANNOT be equal while ALL women live in fear of rape, and 1/6 to 1/4 of women actually experience it. We cannot be equal if we are set against each other. I think if men don’t want equality because they don’t want to loose power, then they are afraid of losing something negligable. Women don’t want total power. we want the same amount as men. We want the freedom to live without a constant fear like men do. This is not to say men don’t fear things, but most of them don’t have to fear rape. Not like women do. If men can’t stand up with women, and break down the walls of “men” and “women” and instead be humans, people, society, CIVILIZATION, then I am beyond dissapointed.

        “All that takes for evil to continue in the world is for good men to do nothing”

        While men stand by and do virtually nothing but lip sevice to stop rape, rape continues. Evil continues. Women are harmed and killed. And the fact that few seems to care adds insult to injury.

        I often hear men’s response to women’s complaints about men. When women complain about men, we wish they’d be more sensitive, more caring, more kind, more loyal, more responsible and accountable, more humble, less arrogant and insecure, ect. then men fire back and say we’re too whiny and bitchy and mistrustful, too clingy, not enough sex, not enough varied sex, ect.

        Do you suppose it’s easy to want sex when you’ve been raped? Sex has been used to humiliate rape victims. Do you suppose it’s easy to even want sex, let alone varied sex, or feel good about it, when society both makes women sex object, the turns around and calls us whores, sluts, and hoes when we have too much sex? And if we have sex with more than a few men, we’re called whores, but men who have sex with as many women are studs. Women are told to be sexual, and then vilified for being sexual. If we aren’t sexual enough, we’re a bitch, or a prude, and no longer desireable since we don’t put out enough. How does this conflict for women sound to you? Besides that, what about what WE want? What about how much sex WE want to have, and what kind, and WHO WITH??? How can a woman be trustful while living in a rape society? Women have every right to be, as men often call it “whiney’. We have the right to complain about something that makes us unhappy. Men like to say we’re over emotional. Funny: men seem to have minimal emotional range. They usually only express anger. Why? Because that’s all society allows a man to express, without comprimising his ‘masculinity’. I’d personaly prefer a man to express himself with more depth, going beyond the secondary emotion of anger to a more primary emotion of sadness, or fear, or ANY vulnerability. It takes more BALLS to be vulnerable than to hide behind a society approved mask of anger. I express myself to the fullest honesty I can every day.

        I surely don’t have all the answers. I curently have 2 big questions: WHY is there so much rape, (i.e. why do people do it) and WHAT must be done to stop it?

        There doesn’t seem to be any answeres, there’s theories.. Mine is that men are severely suppressed in our society. Women are allowed to express all the ‘submissive, womanly, feminine’ emotions, but men are only allowed to express the ‘assertive, manly, maculine’ emotions. This must stop. Men feel sorrow, and fear, and uncertainty. Women feel angry, and vengeful, and certainty. People must be allowed to feel what they feel. This doesn’t extend to acting on them, but we must cease to vilify any person regardless of sex for fully expressing what they feel.

        I think we need to utterly break down the walls that for so long have seperated men and women. I think some men fear women (insecurity) who have opinions, who reject them, who make more money than them. If things like these are enough to offend or endanger a man’s masculinity, his masculinity is fragile indeed. We’re not out to get you. That’s called paranoia. We’re just living our lives and seeing how high we can reach. But it’s not paranoia that there are predators out there looking for women to harm. These predators do not encompass all men. But they are out there.

        Please. All the good men out there: stand up with women. Stand up for true equality, true freedom. Stand up against evil, injustice, and lies. What else are we evolving towards? We will not be civilization until ALL peoples are equal: ALL so called ‘races’, BOTH sexes, All sexual orientations. Judge people for who they are, not who you want them to be.

        This is the point of the video. There is a problem in the world: rape. It’s up to ALL of us in the world to fix it. We need to figure out why it happens and what to do to stop it, or better yet, neutralise it. Putting up with it is NO LONGER ACCEPTABLE. I’ll say that again: PUTTING UP WITH RAPE IS NO LONGER ACCEPTABLE. it was never acceptable before. We have to stop it. This is why Rihanna made this video. So this matter is brought to our attention. It’s in our face and some people are still trying not to see it, either by clouding the issue with politics, or rapist pity, or Rihanna’s past, or how inapropriate it is, and so on. This also has to stop. If we’re going to talk about this video, let’s look at it’s purpose. Let’s really do something about rape. Stop blaming the victim. Stop failing to catch the criminals. Stop failing to arrest and persecute them. If you want good women, stop failing them by doing nothing. Stand up with women. Stop making us feel uncomfortable or guilty or dirty or cheap when we talk about rape. Talk with us. Listen. Tell your OWN stories. SPEAK UP! SPEAK UP!!! Do something real and life changing to stop this, and start with yourself. Stop looking the other way. Stare rape strait in the face. Stop laughing at jokes that belittle women, or theri capabilities, or their sexuality. Stop laughing and demonise those jokes. Demonise them and say WHY they aren’t funny. This issue effects us all. if it only effected women, only women would be here talking and commenting. But we’re ALL here talking. So let’s talk. Let’s stop rape.

        Do it for your mother, so she never has to be raped. Do it for your sister, so she never has to be raped. Do it for your wife, so she never has to be raped. Do it for your daughter, so she never has to be raped. Do it for your gay son, so he never has to be raped. Do it for your young son, so he never has to be raped. Do it for your friends, so they never have to be raped. Do it for the people who have already suffered, so it never has to happen to them again. Do it for a degree of peace in the world that none of us can really imagine, so we never have to repeat the mistakes of the past. But whoever you do it for, don’t forget to do it for yourself, so it never happens to you.

  23. Cecilia R. Real June 2, 2011 at 2:47 PM #

    If there must be a change to the scenes, I’d only change the part where he gets shot to somehow represent negative consequences of his actions following a scene where she reports him to the police. Therefore the “man is down” in life.

  24. Ladypolitik June 2, 2011 at 4:47 PM #

    Can I just weep for joy over the fact that this blog exists EXACTLY because the deconstruction of this very kind of story is so sorely needed?

    Because, wow. ♥

    • Kaye June 4, 2011 at 6:28 AM #

      love that it started and engendered all this discussion – the video may not be entirely positive in its message but this discussion of the issues it raises certainly is and if this discussion (and other like it) goes viral than she has achieved something that years of advocacy positive or negative hasn’t – thats a damn powerful thing

  25. Julie June 2, 2011 at 4:47 PM #

    I think all the hoopla over this video is ridiculous. BET on a daily basis show videos that objectify women and show violence. But, when someone puts out a video to deliver an important message, it should be censored? Like, WTF? I have seen far worse on Law & Order and I watch that show religiously. I really hope Rihanna doesn’t change a thing about this video.

    • DARREN HUTCHINSON June 3, 2011 at 11:03 AM #

      Those videos are wrong as well. For that reason, I don’t watch Law and Order or BET.

    • lala June 6, 2011 at 6:31 AM #

      I heard people arguing about the video on tv last night, I think it is stunningly ridiculous.

  26. Tai June 2, 2011 at 4:52 PM #

    I do not think that Rihanna should re-shoot her video. I doubt that people would react so negatively if it were a man singing about shooting another man down because he was raped by that man. He would probably be lauded for bringing light to the issue, as Rihanna should be.

  27. kim clarke June 2, 2011 at 5:51 PM #

    I’m not sure why there must be a debate on a video that represents real life situations. Far too many times women are protrayed as victims of circumstances from beginning to end with no form of satisfactory justice being served in the long run. I’m not saying that violence/murder is the answer, but sometimes the mind of the wounded may see that as the only alternative. No one outside of a situation can say what they would or would not do if,GOD forbid, they are met with the ill-will of others. I cannot personally say that as a rape victim that I would report the matter to the Police, because, based on my knowledge of Court hearings, the rape victim seems to be portrayed as the perpetrator,as though she forced the man to rape her based on her actions, dress, or lack thereof. Murder may not be the solution, but crying and retreating sure as hell is not either. It’s time women take a stand. As a Barbadian I dont see anything wrong with the video being shot in JA and I strongly doubt that that was done as a means of portraying Jamaican men in any negative light. People need to stop using race and cultural issues as a means of stirring up controversy.

  28. Jay June 2, 2011 at 6:46 PM #

    I would simply leave out the intro scene. We don’t see him get shot. The video starts out with her riding her bike and ends the same – with her pulling the gun out of the drawer. What she does next is already the premise of the song. I think its more effective and poignant that way.

  29. Nicole June 2, 2011 at 7:25 PM #

    I think the concept of the video is an accurate portrayal of women in our rape culture. Rihanna is seen dancing and being flirtatious which attracts male attention, a man whom she refuses to sleep with. Because of this he rapes her in, what I’m assuming, an attempt to regain the control he lost when she refused his advances.
    This is so common in rape culture where the victim is seen as partly if not completely to blame for what has occurred. “If she didn’t dance that way she would not have been raped.” Like Rihanna says in her tweet girls are complex beings who have the right to dance, act, basically live for themselves without having to justify, or explain it to anyone.
    Anyway, the video leads to what is deemed as controversial material when she shoots her rapist. What many of the criticizers fail to understand is her over abundance of remorse in the lyrics and video. She is not happy about her part in his death.
    Now I myself have never been through something as traumatizing as a sexual assault, but I’ve spoken with women/girls who have and along with anxiety and fear there is an immediate feeling of revenge. Yes, in the video she actually commits the murder. Many suggest that maybe the scene of his death should’ve been replaced with a positive ending such as him being sent to jail for his crime; the murder of a rapist is unlikely. Yes it is, so is a rapist going to prison. As sad as it is 15 out of 16 rapists never go to jail. But this is a music video presented in a medium that has the ability to alter reality if it chooses. Rihanna is an artist, she makes music and accompanying videos. They don’t NEED to be musical PSA’s. Regardless I think this video in itself does a great job in creating a discussion about sexual deviance, rape and the treatment thereafter. Maybe this will raise awareness about the topic, maybe it will lead to more attention being paid to how we treat victims. Either way I think the overall storyline is simply that, a storyline. It’s a fictitious plot dealing with an all too familiar situation that afflicts many victims and it normalizes the feeling of vengeful retribution.

  30. Valerie White June 2, 2011 at 7:45 PM #

    I believe the video should stay as is. It is a portrayal of real life occurrences and if our society continues to censor/shield the world from barbarian acts then nothing will be resolved. I am not a rape victim and I cannot put myself in the shoes or mind of a victim. As an outsider, it’s easy for people to say that it’s wrong to take the life of an offender, but what if the victim saw no other alternative? As far as I know society says that a woman dressing scantily clad is an invitation for men to harass or rape. Society says that a victim of domestic abuse is not a victim if they instigated or encouraged a fight. All of these different views are expressed and most importantly discourage victims to SPEAK OUT! At the end of the day you can’t please everyone, and besides it’s great to watch/hear something that doesn’t encourage people to shake their behinds and get racks on racks on racks.

  31. Chantel L June 2, 2011 at 8:53 PM #

    Let me first say: thanks. For the article and so many wonderful comments, too 🙂

    Here are my thoughts on Rihanna’s Man Down video -mainly in defense of Rihanna/ a feminist reading.

    The Parent’s Television Council points out that the explicit violence is “a clear violation of BET’s own programming guidelines,” which it is. But BET is breaking the rules in order to give voice to a pressing social issue: violence against women, rape, and questions of justice.

    “If Chris Brown shot a woman in his new video and BET premiered it, the world would stop. Rihanna should not get a pass and BET should know better. The video is far from broadcast worthy,” Paul Porter stated on the Council’s website. Double standards are dangerous, no doubt. But we aren’t equal, we aren’t the same, and sometimes its not good to pretend we are and sweep things under the table. It’s a matter of weighing the positives versus the negatives. [Also- Eminem abused a woman in their collab “Love The Way You Lie” video… it aired on MTV]

    In my opinion, the video shows a counter story to the usual woman-as-helpless-victim, or vengeance-seeking crazy. Her rightful “how dare he have the audacity” attitude leads her to kill him, a decision she regrets afterwards, but one born of the anger and emotional distress. The truth is that men’s physical and social power is a real, and often unchecked, threat to women. Is murder the answer? No. But the video shows a possible consequence of societal systems wherein women are often blamed for attacks against them. Think about the things we hear in the street, news, and even/especially in the courtroom: she arrived at the club scantily clad, she walked down the alley alone, she was dancing suggestively with him.. etc, etc. And we all have a vague sense of how often rapes are not prosecuted. Rihanna airs the unfortunate and regrettable actions of a woman choosing (or pushed) to take up for herself where others historically have not.

    She says of women: “We’re strong, innocent, fun, flirtatious, vulnerable, and sometimes our innocence can cause us to be naive! We always think it could NEVER be us, but in reality, it can happen to ANY of us!” she wrote. ‘And then what do you do?’ the video addresses. A violent and viscerally angry reaction is actually not outlandish.

    Why isn’t anyone in the media frenzy over this video able to empathize with the sexual assault survivor?

    She launched a series of tweets again after the controversy spread in media reports Thursday: “I’m a 23 year old rockstar with NO KIDS! What’s up with everybody wantin me to be a parent?”

    “Cuz we all know how difficult/embarrassing it is to communicate touchy subject matters to anyone especially our parents!”…. “And this is why! Cuz we turn the other cheek! U can’t hide your kids from society, or they’ll never learn how to adapt! This is the REAL WORLD!”


    The discussion on parenting/parents responsibility in engaging their children/her viewers is interesting given her lyric: “Makes me want to cry, because I didn’t mean to hurt him, could’ve been somebody’s son… Oh, mama, I just shot a man down.” She explicitly implicates parents in the song! Her victim could have been someone’s son… what did they do to instill in him that his actions were not OK? How did society raise him? And also, the cry to her own mother, which brings up questions about having strong and positive women role models to guide us in how to survive and productively address the violence we face, as well as the question of who we feel we can turn to after facing assault or rape without being judged. Even our mothers are not always safe havens…

  32. Dominique Millette June 2, 2011 at 9:28 PM #

    I find it really, really weird that a whole series of groups has sprung up for this ONE video and song but NO ONE has bothered to protest pro-rape and pro-murder pages on Facebook, or even really unite against similar video games. Just Rihanna. Why? I think the answer is clear.

    If society gave us REAL justice instead of making US feel like the criminals every time something happened TO us, we wouldn’t have revenge fantasies – cuz they would not be necessary.

    Vigilante and eye-for-eye justice only happen when true justice is not there.

  33. Ekua June 3, 2011 at 12:07 AM #

    Well, I may be a lone voice here, but I don’t believe in the criminal justice system, so in my mind, killing one’s rapist is a logical response to being raped. Though she isn’t glorifying this type of action, portraying it can be providing a cathartic experience for survivors of sexual violence would would never actually kill their rapists. AND (though I never would have imagined myself typing these words) I totally honor and respect Rhianna for having the guts to make this song/video. I hope she doesn’t negate that by re-shooting it. Revenge fantasies are as old as slavery and patriarchy. (Things black folks talk about when white folks aren’t around.) This is an important piece of our history/herstory as a generation. Period. If you are uncomfortable, then she did her job.

    • D-Ray June 3, 2011 at 8:03 AM #

      Definitely not a lone voice, Ekua. I am 100% with you. And I disagree with the statement that was made earlier that rape victims “need to call the police.” Let’s not be so naive as to universalize and generalize all rape victims. The truth of that statement depends on the particular situation and the people involved.

      I love this video and song. Never thought I would dig anything by Rhianna, either.

      • D-Ray June 3, 2011 at 8:12 AM #

        One more thing – Why is it that she needs to struggle withe the idea of retaliation? What is wrong with the idea of a woman *immediately* retaliating violently against her aggressor, without contemplating it first? Why is it only okay if she struggles with the decision first?

  34. lizz June 3, 2011 at 12:59 AM #

    sorry but I think I’m going to capslock for a minute: WHY ARE WE DISCUSSING THIS VIDEO WHEN THERE ARE A MILLION OTHER ‘PRO-VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN’ OR ‘PRO-OBJECTIFICATION OF WOMEN’ MUSIC VIDEOS OUT THERE? *phew* – but seriously? Google will show a bunch of music vids that would be from the other point of view and they weren’t made to change it! CSI, Law and Order etc show the effects of violent crime against women with no discussion about why, and yet they too are given a free pass to re-appropriate those images of violence and sexual practices and are able to monetarily gain from it. Rihanna is a brave woman for a) having to live publicly with her history and b) with owning that history and trying to create discussions publicly about it. GOOD FOR HER. If she reshoots this video, I’ll be very disappointed…

  35. Sam June 3, 2011 at 1:28 AM #

    I saw a lot of comments about the setting used, but I got the impression that she did it to go with the sound of the song, not to give the idea that rape or other violence is more prevalent. She doesn’t usually rely heavily on her connection to Barbados, yes, and she also doesn’t usually go for such a reggae type sound. I really don’t think it was meant to suggest anything negative about the region.
    Also, I don’t know how much of a race issue this is. There is definitely still a lot of racial tension nowadays, but I feel that any young popular stars would have had the same reaction. Plus, Rihanna was already under a bit of scrutiny because of S&M. I think it’s just a bunch of crazy PC moms, the same kind that want violent video games banned and more censorship on tv.

  36. HooDatIS? June 3, 2011 at 3:23 AM #

    i love rihana
    she is a strong woman

  37. Margaret June 3, 2011 at 12:42 PM #

    I think this video is very powerful and an artistic triumph for Rihanna. I don’t think it glorifies retaliatory violence, and I hope she does not re-shoot it. It is always worrisome for me to see violence against women in entertainment but as many have already said, the depiction of the rape here is implied more than anything and incredibly TAME compared to other sources. The nuanced depiction of the rape is refreshing, and as someone mentioned, hiding the reality of violence is not going to help us as a culture change anything. That isn’t to say that any depiction of rape is helpful: the fetishized, glamorized depictions of rape shown in television and movies are not, but I feel this depiction rings true. Side note: I dig the reggae influence of this song. I would totes listen to more of her stuff if she embraced that more.

  38. lala June 3, 2011 at 1:06 PM #

    I don’t ‘like’ the video but I don’t have a problem with it either. Rhianna is a great hook singer though.

  39. Sonya June 3, 2011 at 1:46 PM #

    Isn’t it funny how these same people who are calling this video violent are the same ones who don’t bat an eye seeing a woman on a video being battered by a pimp or significant other, raped, you name it. Violence against women isn’t seen as violence at all but IF that woman has the audacity to meet violence with violence and gives a male what he so desperately deserves for raping her, it’s all of a sudden too violent for a video. I am herewith praying for a day when women will be seen as human instead of just baby incubators for men…

  40. joe June 3, 2011 at 4:52 PM #

    ” the choice to be sexual and sensual on the dance floor should not be read in any way as consent for future sexual activity”

    maybe not but it’s mean. Getting some guy all worked up for nothing. it’s way easier to be mean back than it is to be mean to someone who didn’t ask for it.

    • Joan June 3, 2011 at 7:01 PM #

      Considering that Jamaica is the birthplace of reggae and we are talking about an indisputably reggae/rockers track the debate about the appropriateness of doing the track in Jamdown seems utterly absurd to me… And yes, I’m speaking as a Jamaican.

  41. lala June 4, 2011 at 7:35 AM #

    We live in an unfortunate era where everyone seeks something to act offended about. Especially when it comes to monitoring Black artists.

  42. damidwif June 4, 2011 at 8:14 AM #

    Women are supposed to go for counseling, to talk about their feelings and talk away their problems…until the problem is no longer a problem…and they move past “the issue”…

    victims get services, perpetrators get punishment, sometimes.

    don’t wash after your rape, yeah, keep that dirty cum in your body, go to the hospital all dirty to preserve the evidence, so you can get fucked again by the examiner. then wait for the police so you can retell the story for the 3rd time, and get fucked again, and go to court, where you can get fucked again by a female jury, and on top of that fucked by your community.

    but it is the services that the victim gets which fuels the system…the endless procedures, therapy, medications…it can last a life time…and it affects generations of children…someone is getting paid…some psychologist, some agency…but never the victim.

    all of this serves to protect the perpetrator.

    he is protected by a system which restrains “him,” locks “him” up, and then attempts to psychofuck the victim by changing her frame of reference.

    when a woman shoots a man down, the perp no longer exists. an maybe the woman can now leave her victim status behind.

    even the NRA wants women to “refuse to be a victim”

    anyway, please don’t reshoot the video.

  43. Nyorai June 4, 2011 at 8:55 AM #

    I have to say that I am so annoyed by the Caribbean conversation about Rihanna’s allegedly sudden appropriation of Jamaican/Caribbean culture. To me, Rihanna’s allegiance to Caribbean culture has been indisputable. First, her entire first album has some reference either visually or sonically to her Caribbean heritage. Since the image change, she has released at least one song from subsequent albums that feature Caribbean influences, be it dialect/intonation, reggae or steelpan (Rude Bwoy, What’s my Name, Te Amo etc.). Rihanna is fascinating in that in order to achieve the level of success she has, she has had to embrace a particularly packaging, but yet she is still unapologetically Caribbean. (e.g. In order to penetrate the US market, lesser known West Indian aspirants readily jettison their accents in order to be understood and accepted. She has not). Second, I think the “Caribbean outrage” has more to do with internalized colonialism, an issue that is never discussed in the West Indies. The two primary negative vestiges of colonialism are shame and inter-island competition and as such we are particularly invested in issues of portrayal. Shame, portrayal and competition seem to be the main themes that seem to be coming up in the discussions that I have read thus far – “why she didn’t go on she own island and make Bajans look bad; it have zinc house in Barbados, why she didn’t film dey!” etc. These protests seem to far outnumber discussions about sexual violence. It’s a pity that our (as in West Indian) collective valence toward shame makes some people feel that this video was some sort of referendum on Jamaican goodness.

  44. schock June 4, 2011 at 10:23 PM #

    First, crunkfeministcollective is freaking amazing. Thank you so much for creating this space. Second, thanks to Rihanna for making this video, which so powerfully nails home the key points already laid out in this thread re: embrace of sensuality/sexuality on the dance floor doesn’t provide ‘license to rape,’ (decided not to repeat points here), just in general for enabling the whole conversation. As for the boycotts, it’s really pitiful that these groups are spending time, energy, and money advocating censorship; how beautiful would it be if they spent that same time, energy, and resources on supporting organizers, educators, and other efforts around antirape activism and support for survivors. The only thing I would add to the conversation, and the only thing I think Rihanna should even consider modifying about the video, is that in the networked attention economy this video provides a powerful opportunity to do more than just create conversation: it can help direct flows of eyes/energy/time/resources. So Rihanna, if she so chose, might add a final statement/credits/embedded video linklove to organizations and networks that are active in antirape activism, training, counseling, aid, organizing, etc. Online and in the social media space, and even in the version of the video that airs on TV channels, there are lots of ways to immediately connect the viewer to more resources / actions / steps to take / campaigns / local organizers. In the web version, it can happen through links at the end of (or during) the video; in the televised version, also through links or for example a number to text (text STOPRAPE to 55555, or whatever). In general cultural workers, musicians, and artists need to further develop ways to more effectively and immediately connect audiences to organizers, this vid provides a great example. So thanks FCC, thanks Rihanna, don’t change this much needed message, just keep organizing.

  45. amita June 5, 2011 at 4:41 AM #

    kudos to rihanna for creating a video that i definitely think can (and already has) inspired dialogue about sexual assault in communities of color, and specifically in Black Caribbean communities. i teach a class on young women’s leadership (and barriers to it) for high school girls in NYC, all youth of color, and know we’ll be using this as a discussion tool in class this summer. there is so much dialogue one can draw out of this video, as the comments above highlight: the violent fantasies a survivor of violence may engage in as part of their healing (my own healing from 8 years of rape has definitely included this fantasy work), the fact that some survivors *do* kill their perpetrators – an easy link to a dialogue about the prison industrial complex, what constitutes consent, the epidemic rate of sexual violence in our world, and more.

    many have already responded to why the idea of censoring this video is preposterous. let me add that in the 90’s when the all-white-male band aerosmith released the video for “janie’s got a gun,” ( a song about a young white woman who is raped by her father, who she subsequently fatally shoots, no one blinked an eye. in interviews, lead singer steven tyler talked about being inspired to write the song after reading a news story. certainly we did not see a “rash” of young girls who had been raped by their fathers killing these men in real life simply because the video was released. what i can say for sure is that when i saw the video as a teen (having survived years of rape by my own father), i knew i was not alone. however, it was also clear that “janie’s” fictionalized story did not in any way resemble my reality – i remember wanting representations of violence that mirrored my truth as a young woman of color, as a daughter of immigrants, as a real-life survivor.

    today, we have rihanna, a young Black Caribbean woman who publicly survived relationship violence. she’s also an artist, who has chosen to use *art* to break down some of the taboo around discussing the epidemic of sexual violence against women. and even in this *fictional art*, she’s not painting retributive murder as an easy solution. the protagonist in the video seems quite distraught over her action, and clearly did not found peace or healing when she took her perpetrator’s life. moreover, it’s not like rihanna in real life is hunting chris brown down with a gun. she’s not even talking about her own story in this song.

    that the would-be censors want to silence rihanna’s attempt to bring light to a taboo epidemic is clearly about racism, sexism, ageism. if we censor rihanna, the message we are reinforcing for young women of color who have survived violence is that we’d rather hear/see fictionalized representations of this violence from the mouths/brains of straight white men than deal with even a hint of reality from the mouth/brain of a young woman of color survivor. what a giant step backwards that would be.

  46. Lynx June 5, 2011 at 8:06 AM #

    I really like the song and the video……but the song seems much more about the criminalization of the victim and the humanization of the rapist.

    “He was somebody’s son.”

    Um, she’s someone’s daughter.

    “Man down.”

    Um, there’s a woman down. The rapist isn’t a soldier in war.

    “I’m a criminal.”

    Well, yeah, but your rapist is criminal too.

    I dunno….maybe the song/video highlights the absurdity of the situation–how we really do punish the victim and continually try to humanize rapists and give them every excuse.

    • damidwif June 5, 2011 at 9:22 PM #

      hmmm, very interesting point. i thought something similar but you’re making me think about this more.

      the message that we can get from those who want it to be censored could be: it was only rape, a man didn’t deserve to die! hell, he could’ve been somebody’s son

      and without the video, all we have is what you stated, that the crime, the subject was about her own actions. what happened TO her was irrelevant.

    • Nightingale June 12, 2011 at 7:58 PM #

      I agree with every single thing you just said, Lynx.

  47. Matarij June 5, 2011 at 11:24 AM #

    Whilst not condoning the action Rihanna took in the video, I am sure very woman – of whatever colour – can identify with the action itself, as it epitomises the rage women feel when we are systematically harassed, hit, abused, raped, ignored, put down, sexually assaulted etc etc by men EVERY DAY of our lives.

    Re the colour issue – there is a good point there – witness Steve Tyler’s ‘Janie’s got a Gun’ – – where a white girl shoots down her father abuser – do not remember any particular controversy over that one.

    In summary – i think the footage should stay as it is and the debate should continue, because it is the debate that is important.

  48. auditorydamage June 5, 2011 at 2:47 PM #

    Re: Chris Brown… forget a hypothetical video where he shoots a woman, he severely beat a flesh-and-blood woman, and is back to releasing hit tracks and appearing on national TV. Whoever tried to make that argument needs to look at reality, where serial abusers and assaulters can get away with it, never taking responsibility or showing genuine remorse for their behaviour, while the women they leave behind are treated with suspicion or ignorance. See: Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Roman Polanski.

    Maybe instead of telling women to “get help”, youn men should be encouraged to not rape.

    • Nightingale June 12, 2011 at 8:00 PM #

      I agree. Rape is not the responsibility of the victims. It’s the responsibility if the rapists.

  49. Suzanne Crawford June 5, 2011 at 10:51 PM #

    I wouldn’t change a thing.

    • Britannica July 14, 2011 at 7:53 PM #

      I agree completely….its more realistic this way.

  50. lala June 6, 2011 at 6:29 AM #

    I think the very last thing Rhihanna wants is to be seen as a victim and have everything she does in life viewed through a Chris Brown lens. I think people can agree or disagree with something but I see people trying to edit her (or Kanye for that matter) video choices like folks who feel they can tell writers what to write.

  51. Phoenix June 6, 2011 at 4:35 PM #

    First off, I commend Rihanna for not only releasing a song about this but making a video for it as well. It is common that victims of sexual assault feel fear and begin to feel powerless because they may face scrutiny for something we all should be open about. Rihanna took a risk with releasing this and it’s refreshing to see a music video that shows a reality.
    As far as this video making a message that rape only happens in the Black community (when I say Black I mean African, African-American, Jamaican, Haitian, etc.) and that Black men are the main perpetrators was something I didn’t think about until just now. If there was another perspective to put into this video I would agree that two people who come from privileged backgrounds should be in the video in order to show that rape is an act of power that has no boundaries. But I think Rihanna may have wanted to make this video personal in order to show that this can happen to anyone including her.
    The violence in the video should not be taken out, and the original video shouldn’t be banned, in my opinion. A victim/survivor has internal turmoil about what they should do in order to move on. There are so many emotions bottled up that a possible action could be to kill the perpetrator, it’s not common for people to feel this way. Instead of making arguments that the video promotes violence, let’s also talk about why banning this video is another way to silence the victim.
    Silence is giving power to those who abuse it. It’s time to stop treating these real issues as taboo and bring them to light so there can be open conversations, safe spaces, and peaceful action.

    • bandaloopdeloop June 7, 2011 at 1:05 PM #

      Whenever violence, whether real or fictional, flows up the social hierarchy instead of down, people get outraged. The kerfuffle around ‘Man Down’ is related in that way to the furor around such singles as ‘Fuck the Police’ and ‘Cop Killer.’ All three songs turn the tables, making the oppressed party victorious, with the difference being that in ‘Man Down,’ the bulk of the lyrics reflect not righteous anger or victorious posturing but remorse, something one seldom hears in gangsta rap. This is an interesting dimension. I think the video leaves us wondering what Rhianna’s narrator should have done to get justice, and that is what makes the violence worth keeping – you know, besides that little ‘freedom of speech’ detail.

      tl;dr: all violence ought to shock us, but only when it’s directed against those in power is it really shocking, and Rhianna’s remorse is a refreshing attitude towards violence.

  52. Maria June 8, 2011 at 9:36 PM #

    I hope she doesn’t change it. My sister is a rape survivor, she went to the police and went to court, but they didn’t have enough ‘hard’ evidence to convict, so he got off and is free to harass her and that is exactly what he is doing. She ended up pregnant from the rape but she chose to have the baby and keep it, but he is fighting her for ‘joint’ custody. For the past 18 months he has been taking her to court fighting for this. He makes up things, just so she has to pay more money and he gets to see her and force her to see him, in person. (even though there was a protection order against him for most of the last 18 months, this was his way around it). He has no plans to stop. The issue is, he’s had history of sexual misconduct in the past, so it shows he’s a repeat offender, but this is the first time he’s had someone get pregnant that he couldn’t force to get an abortion. The previous women whom had reported him ended up dropping the charges. My sister didn’t and pretty much was ‘raped’ all over again by his defense, and is now facing the same issues in family court. It’s disgusting, so yeah, I can see why some women would harbor the idea of retaliation.
    I am someone that is against the death penalty, but if I had to choose what types of people would be best served for that type of penalty.. I’d say rapists and child molesters, mainly because it’s a sickness that has no cure. ( Well, supposedly, a lobotomy would cure it, but it’s considered inhuman, so they won’t allow it.) Why not put those people out of their misery, there are quite a few perpetrators that hate themselves and struggle with it and would rather be locked away, so wouldn’t it be fair to let their misery come to an end? Also, then it wouldn’t be a worry that they’d ever commit the same acts against another innocent victim, ever again.

  53. danielledasilva June 10, 2011 at 7:17 AM #

    I would change absolutely nothing. Music and videos are about expression. When was the last time you saw a video by a mainstream artist portraying such a sensitive subject? When was the last time you saw ANY artist portray such a sensitive subject/issue? Especially a woman? The only person I can think of is Eternia! As someone who can unfortunately relate to this story, I am REFRESHED when I see anyone with her guts making the points she does in this video. I don’t think any situation warrants murder or violence, but the murder scene is expressive of the feelings that go along with having such an act performed. “There should be scenes of white violence?!” Wow, that is fucking ridiculous. Is Rihanna white? What the fuck does that even mean? This isn’t about race, it’s about someone’s truth–one that appeals to millions of women across the world who unfortunately can relate to this. Why should she portray anyone but herself and her story? This isn’t Mr. Roger’s neighbourhood! These mothers need to get day jobs, or at least target the artists that really are fucking up kids’ heads. I mean, what’s really offensive is Chris Brown’s “Deuces” track, and the fact he’s even played on radio stations anymore. Anyways, on to the next. Mad love for Rihanna on this one.

  54. annehoffman June 10, 2011 at 6:03 PM #

    I love this post. Thanks for writing it.

  55. Britannica July 14, 2011 at 7:59 PM #

    I think people need to leave the Rihanna/Chris situation alone. The world WOULD NOT stop if Chris was shown shooting a woman in a video because it’s totally irrelevant to the situation with Rihanna! Chris didnt rape Rihanna, therefore he has nothing to do with the video and it was ment for girls/women to show that she saw their pain and she knows what they’re going through. Tabloids find every reason to throw Chris and Rihanna in each others business or projects and it needs to stop. It’s an old issue and Rihanna (and Chris) has obviously moved from that situation.


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    […] it in the comments. The other angle to this I’d like to put out there for discussion is that Rihanna’s character in the video embraces the sensual human being she is rather than covering … (as the Crunk Feminist Collective discusses at the […]

  9. Wonk’s Saturday Reads: Rihanna, MAC, and Hillary (Fighting Sexual Violence) « Liberal Rapture - June 4, 2011

    […] it in the comments. The other angle to this I’d like to put out there for discussion is that Rihanna’s character in the video embraces the sensual human being she is rather than covering … (as the Crunk Feminist Collective discusses at the […]

  10. The Weekly Feminist Reader is back! - June 5, 2011

    […] killing a man who had sexually assaulted her, sparks controversy. She defends it. More from the Crunk Feminist Collective and Ms. […]

  11. Rihanna ampuu raiskaajan « Vasen käsi - June 5, 2011

    […] Tässä jotakuinkin omia ajatuksianikin valoittava bloggaus aiheesta: Man Down: On Rihanna, Rape, and Violence. […]

  12. Welcome to Monday ~ 6th June 2011 | - June 5, 2011

    […] Rhianna on rape and violence. Man Down […]

  13. Blogging Blogger Blog − The Weekly Feminist Reader is back! - June 5, 2011

    […] killing a man who had sexually assaulted her, sparks controversy. She defends it. More from the Crunk Feminist Collective and Ms. […]

  14. Rihanna – ‘Man Down’ « Peaceful Paths Violence Prevention Program - June 6, 2011

    […] (6/6/11): Commentary – Crunk Feminist Collective, New York Times, and Ms. […]

  15. The Weekly Feminist Reader via Feministing « Under the same sky - June 7, 2011

    […] killing a man who had sexually assaulted her, sparks controversy. She defends it. More from the Crunk Feminist Collective and Ms. […]

  16. Rihanna: Man Down | Feminist Memory - June 7, 2011

    […] music video, Man Down. Wow. For feminist commentary on the vid, check out this post on The Feminist Crunk Collective […]

  17. Running the World with No Agreement: Feminist thinkers on the New Pop Products of Beyonce and Rihanna « hap·stance dep·art - June 8, 2011

    […]  Upset, concern, and controversy are aroused, but Rihanna is not persuaded by the arguments.  Crunk Feminist Collective, Change Happens: The Safer Blog, and Ms. […]

  18. In the Future, We Kill Our Attackers: Rihanna’s “Man Down” as Afrofuturistic Text | Nuñez Daughter - June 9, 2011

    […] video–and the non-sensical responses to it–have already been outlined by better writers than […]

  19. Music Videos: What I’ve been watching lately « Feminist Music Geek - June 13, 2011

    […] the excellent commentary on Beyoncé and Rihanna’s new videos from Racialicious, the Crunk Feminist Collective, and Womanist Musings, I thought I’d just provide the links and say “preach!” […]

  20. “Man Down” – Rihanna Uncovers the Anguish of Rape Victims and Calls the Community to Accountability « INCITE! Blog - June 16, 2011

    […] response.  Many writers have reflected on the video including Akiba Solomon at Colorlines,  Crunk Feminist Collective, Mark Anthony Neal, and this interview with black lesbian feminist filmmaker, Aishah Shahidah […]

  21. where is your line? » Blog Archive » Friend or Foe: Rihanna’s “Man Down” - June 21, 2011

    […] Television Council calls it excessively violent and is clamoring for a ban, blogs such as the Crunk Feminist Collective are applauding Rihanna for being frank about the severity of sexual […]

  22. Seven (or more) Links in Sunny June « The Fivefold Path - June 27, 2011

    […] with your fingers on the pulse of today (what the hell is a radio?), Crunk Feminist Collective has a discussion going about Rihanna’s “Man Down” video, in which a woman shoots her rapist and ponders on that course of […]

  23. Like I’m the only one who’s in command: Xiu Xiu/Rihanna, “Daphny,” & The Path - Montevidayo - July 8, 2011

    […] The Crunk Feminist Collective on Rihanna’s “Man Down” Video […]

  24. In Defence of Rihanna’s ‘Man Down’. « Velvet Coalmine - July 18, 2011

    […] post, but ‘Man Down’ has sparked plenty of engaged and informative discussion online – at Crunk Feminist, The Beautiful Struggler, and Red for Gender for starters. This is a naive and non-industry view, […]

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