RihannaUnless you’re living under a rock, by now you would have seen Rihanna’s bold nearly nude look at the CFDA Awards where she picked up a Fashion Icon gong. Rihanna’s response was typically irreverent to to the furore her sartorial choice at the CFDA Awards, “My tits bother you? They are covered it Swarovski crystals, girl.”

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Sure the completely sheer crystal-covered dress designed by Adam Selman was covered with over 230,000 crystals but that did not stop us having an eyeful of the aforementioned tits and ass-ets. And queue the social media frenzy with the Bajan singer being called just about any name under the sun from “disgusting” to “desperate”.

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While there were some positive comments praising the sexy singer for her daring fashion choices, those who were pro-sheer were distinctly in the minority, with the “disgusted” majority pointing out that as a role model for young girls, Rihanna should opt for more demure looks.

This is of course not the first time the “role model debate” has raged on in relation to Rihanna and her life under the public gaze, from her red carpet looks to her social media shares displaying nudity and cannabis.

“See, people … they want me to be a role model just because of the life I lead. The things I say in my songs, they expect it of me, and [being a role model] became more of my job than I wanted it to be. But no, I just want to make music. That’s it,” Rihanna told the British Vogue back in 2011 regarding her controversial on-again off-again relationship with Chris Brown who had beaten her up on the eve of the 2009 Grammy Awards.

Her more recent response last June to Liz Jones’s article on Daily Mail accusing her of being “toxic” was far more vitriolic as Rihanna took to her now defunct Instagram to attack the journalist of “sloppy journalism.”

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Her Instagram quote from 2012 is just one of many examples of Rihanna very publicly refusing to wear the “role model” tiara and sash. In interviews and social media she has reminded us time and time again “role model” is a position she did not sign up for and she has no interest in and she just wants to live her life her own way, regardless of whom or how she may offend.

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If we are seeking a role model, why our insistence on Rihanna when there are so many young, successful pop stars to choose from? Take Beyonce, take Selena Gomez, Leah Michelle, up and coming Ariana Grande, take Demi Lovato who graciously admitted to an eating disorder, went into rehab and made a comeback stronger than ever. Why is our collective obsession with dressing her in borrowed garments? Is it because her nakedness titillates or scares us? Is it because even in the 21st century, the sight of a 26-year-old woman who is successful at the height of her fame, living life to the full, with “no fcuks to give”, wearing, drinking, smoking, indulging in what she likes still a little too much to handle for our conservative minds and blinkered vision?

One Facebook user accuses Rihanna of thinking she is a white woman implying in an ignorant and offensive, if not racist manner, that it is white women who are comfortable with public nudity, and that perhaps Rihanna should be ashamed of herself for emulating white women. Another Facebook commenter who also makes Rihanna’s race an issue suggests Rihanna is a property to be auctioned: “black woman for sale”

Screen Shot 2014-06-04 at 01.01.35    Screen Shot 2014-06-04 at 00.45.51Regardless of Rihanna’s race, both comments display blinkered thinking and racial stereotyping. One suggests a black woman should dress more demurely, so perhaps if Miley Cyrus was to show up on the red carpet in a similar look it may have been totally accepted bar a few raised eyebrows but a black woman “should know better” while the other suggests by dressing the way she wishes, and she is confident it, a black woman puts herself up for sale the very moment she puts her assets on display.

Interestingly another Facebook user shares an image of African woman in traditional wear baring their breast to weigh in on the matter posing that the singer is inspired by “our own culture” and adding, “We should be proud.”

Screen Shot 2014-06-04 at 01.01.23Whether we should be proud that a pop singer is drawing on African inspiration in her red carpet look is not clarified and frankly too deep an issue into ‘colonial mentality’ to even get into.

One quick scroll through social media feeds pertaining to Rihanna’s CFDA look, however, it is easy to see the most vitriolic comments from offended parties all reek of sexism in varying degrees of overtness, from those calling her a “slag” to those criticising her for “attention-seeking” to those who gloat that she will soon “lose her life” if she does not surround herself with “better friends.”

Having grown up in a predominantly patriarchal Turkey, where wearing a skirt outside on a Sunday when riff-raff were known to be out on the streets enjoying a day off was akin to inviting unwanted attention, or even harassment, where in order to avoid potential rape, a girl had to be careful with the length of her skirt, the droop of her blouse, the units of her drink, the volume of her laugh, the flutter of her eyelashes, I find such patriarchal attitudes, especially when it comes to world-famous star and her red carpet fashion choice, archaic. Going as far as to say she will lose her life if she does not find better friends is akin to telling a girl in India she will be gang-raped an killed if she takes a bus with her boyfriend in early evening, it is like telling a girl in urban Turkey to mind her friends who look like “good time girls”, it is like telling a girl in rural South Africa she was sexually harassed because she was “too free when talking to boys.”

Much like it is time to educate our boys rather than scare our girls into living life within patriarchal perimetres set for them centuries ago, it is perhaps time to educate ourselves and open our minds to the fact that pop princess or not, women have full ownership of their own bodies and however they may wish to use, mark or clad them, that areolas and nipples are just parts of the mammalian anatomy to fullfil the basic function of feeding a baby, bottocks are unisex, and when of the female form, they tend to be round, supple, juicy and there is nothing wrong with the sight of a bare buttom as long as the owner is not intoxicated mooning you from across a crowded bar in Tenerife after one too many drinks only to regret it come the morning.

It is perhaps time to accept that whether they go by the name of Cher, or Madonna, or Miley, or Rihanna, there will always be a woman proud of her sexuality and out to offend some’s sensibilities, but that it is okay because we live in a time where the sight of a bare bottom or naked nipples, when displayed willingly by the owner, should not be oh so scary.

 

 

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One Response

  1. Dee 1

    Whether Rihanna chooses to be a role model or not, she has become one and she should act as such. We give footballers, presidents, first ladies etc graft when they act in manners which are unbecoming of the roles as models and then hail musicians and pop-stars. Our generation has lost all morality in the name of freedom (FREE-DOOM). We need to maintain moral boundaries yo. Society has set these boundaries for a reason. Lets not disdain them in the name of civilization and personal liberty. Let’s us respect them

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