“Rihanna’s personal story and status as a celebrity superstar provided a golden opportunity for the singer to send an important message to female victims of rape and domestic violence. Instead of telling victims they should seek help, Rihanna released a music video that gives retaliation in the form of premeditated murder the imprimatur of acceptability. The message of the disturbing video could not be more off base…We call on Viacom to immediately stop airing the video.”-Melissa Henson, PTC’s director of communications and public education
“‘Man Down’ is an inexcusable, shock-only, shoot-and-kill theme song. In my 30 years of viewing BET, I have never witnessed such a cold, calculated execution of murder in primetime. Viacom’s standards and practices department has reached another new low”-Paul Porter, co-founder of Industry Ears and a former voice of BET.
“…Today’s youth need more positive strategies for dealing with conflict than those portrayed in the Rihanna video. This video is one among several frequently played on Viacom music video networks that lyrically or graphically glorifies violence…” -Pastor Delman Coates, founder of the Enough Is Enough Campaign.
My issue with these statements is that they seem to underscore the significance of the sexual assault, advocate for the perpetrator and wrongfully propose that Rihanna is promoting violence (The entire song lyrically expresses remorse, ex. “I didn't mean to end his life, I know it wasn't right, I can't even sleep at night, can't get it off my mind…”). Two of the three organizations failed to even mention that Rihanna’s character was victimized, nor did they take the time to advocate or express remorse for those in peril after an assault. Violence on television is one issue, but the organizations neglected to acknowledge or give value to another massive problem: rape. This negligence is an indicator of how our society ignores and/or rationalizes abuse, and the second time that Rihanna is at the center of a publicized instance. When she was battered by her then-boyfriend, singer Chris Brown, in 2009, blog readers and some media suggested that Rihanna incited the attack; “she shouldn’t have been checking his phone and accusing him of anything,” “she was equally violent towards him; island people have tempers,” “she’s using this to sell records and get publicity.” One blog reader commented about “Man Down”: “she shouldn’t have been dancing so sexy with the guy; maybe he wouldn’t be so horny and rape her.”
Now, not only is Rihanna someone that manipulated or deserved a physical beating, but she’s a promoter of violence and her video character is a cold-blooded killer.
Why do we ignore and/or rationalize abuse?
Men and women are societally-trained to believe that males are superior and women are inferior. The belief system is that women exist solely to be at men’s disposal. Men are such higher-form beings that they wouldn’t beat a woman without a good reason. In relation to sexual abuse, sex is an “essential need” for a man that must not ever be denied. And if women are sexy or alluring, it’s all to arouse men and they want to have sex. Our poor reaction to MALE VICTIMS is also a result of the belief that men are superior to women. It’s believed that if a male is abused physically or sexually by a woman, it’s because they allowed it to happen and you’re not a man if a woman can overpower you. In cases of same-sex abuse, biases about homosexuality come into play, exacerbating the situation. These attitudes and ideas prevent us from making efficient strides against abuse and providing useful supports for victims. Also, victims often don’t come forth because of our negative reactions. WAKE UP!