I despair. Rihanna has made it clear, yet again, that she is Unapologetic, particularly with regards to the company she keeps. On Saturday, 1 December, Rihanna attended the launch of her new perfume, wearing a large gold necklace that was reportedly a gift from Chris Brown.
The necklace, one being described (rather tragically, in this case) as a choker, isn’t necessarily the cause of my constant temple-rubbing today. It’s more what this ‘dainty’ accessory seems to signal that troubles me.
A few weeks ago, a casual poll was conducted amongst the BitchBuzz team as to whether we thought Rihanna was hot, or not. An impressive majority of us proclaimed ourselves to be fans of her music. In fact, I find that amongst my fellow clanswomen, there are few who have not spun around their living rooms with their arms spread wide, the ends of their bathrobes splayed out, singing at the top of their lungs, ‘I want you to make me feel, like I’m the only girl in the world!’ So, it’s no surprise really that for quite a lot of women, RiRi is someone we want to see more of.
Unfortunately, any amount of Rihanna fandom recently has included an alarming dose of Chris ‘Respect is Not a Word I’m Familiar With’ Brown. After the horrific assault Rihanna endured at the hands of Brown in 2009, it seemed for a while that Rihanna would never again associate with her former boyfriend. We saw myriad headlines illuminating Chris Brown’s own abusive childhood. Rihanna’s feelings of humiliation and loss became fodder for misguided debates about the appropriateness of her status as a ‘feminist’ icon. As we emerged on the other side of the shit-storm, it became apparent that Rihanna’s relationship to Chris Brown was far from over, and that it was far from simple.
To the chagrin of many, many women, Rihanna showed a reluctance to condemn Chris Brown, and to distance herself from him. There were questions about what Rihanna’s actions would signal to other women in similarly abusive situations. Even Oprah, who many expected to ‘set Rihanna straight’, seemed disarmed and incapable of unpicking the tangled mess woven between Rihanna and Chris Brown.
Despite my own feelings of sadness and disappointment every time another headline materialises detailing Rihanna’s fraternisation with Chris Brown, I feel strongly that flatly condemning her choices is, in effect, placing undue blame at her feet. Although we may struggle to understand women’s reasons for staying in abusive relationships, every time we tell them they are doing the ‘wrong thing’, we are silencing them and implying that they are responsible for their experiences of abuse. I don’t want to send that message to Rihanna or to any woman in an abusive relationship
Nevertheless, I’ve kind of reached a point where I’m wondering if it isn’t time for a friend to sit Rihanna down and say, ‘Sweetie, we are concerned for you. The man just put a solid gold shackle around your neck’. I realize this may be a thin line to tread, but it seems as though we, as women, have to have a way to tug on the back of each other’s shirts and say, ‘I’m afraid of your choices, I can’t stop you from making them, but because I love you, I’ll be honest and tell you that they are worrying me’.
I think it takes a lot of maturing, and a lot of awkward mistake-making, to bring a woman to the place where she realizes that telling her girl friend to break up with her butt-munch of a boyfriend, every time said girl friend complains about said boyfriend, is not the most diplomatic of strategies. Sure, we love our gal-pals, and we will fiercely protect them. And sure, there are certainly occasions where patting your snot-nosed sister on the back, whilst filling her wine glass again and listening to her wail about her horrible man-child of a partner, are logically concluded by agreeing vigorously that he is, in fact, a total knob. But most of us understand that we can’t stomp around demanding that our girl friends do an about-face. It not only implies that we think our friends are complete idiots, but also that we will not support them should they choose to act in a way not in accordance with our own advice.
We can however, tell our friends when we are alarmed by the choices they are making. If your girl friend was dating a guy who did this, this, this, and this, would you really sit by and tell her that her choices were unassailable? I hope not.
I don’t know if Rihanna has any friends who can do this for her. In my imagination, Beyoncé has already called her and said, ‘If you don’t get your butt over here so we can have a long talk and a glass of champagne, I’m gonna have to knock you down the charts with a new record’. OK, sorry, my music industry imaginings are a bit weak. I guess my point is, that something needs to change for Rihanna. Someone needs to express genuine concern for her in such a way that she does not feel criticized or blamed.
If Rihanna were my friend, the way that I imagine her to be when I’m howling along to ‘Please Don’t Stop the Music’ as I get ready on a Friday night, I would try to articulate to her that her continued insistence on dating Chris Brown (and making a spectacle of it) was worrying me. I would assure her that I would be her friend, no matter what, but that I wanted to try to help her get help. Because ultimately, RiRi, I think you need some help.
If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship and needs support, please call 0808 2000 247 or log onto www.refuge.org.uk .
Image via avrilllllla's Flickr