You are on page 1of 7


Article Is Rihanna a Complicated Woman or is it Complicated to be a Black Woman in the Rap Industry: Rihanna is a victim and Perpetuator of this Cycle By: Mike Norman (Hope for Brighter Days Social Media Contributor) This is the final article in our series discussing Rihanna, Rap Music and how she is a victim and perpetuation to the hypersexual and male-dominated cultural cycle that results from the rap music industry. She is now a 25-year old woman, who has been inundated in a male dominated culture and has love and passion for a male dominated and hyper-sexualized music genre. She has, with good intentions, sadly become part of the urban music machine and system, by not only protecting her own popularity by becoming a sexual icon and putting her body all over magazines and videos, but she is also verbally adding to the messages through her lyrics by singing about strip clubs, men having money and power, sex with men and every other message that the male rapper personifies. It is sadly a never-ending cycle all in the name of entertainment. Rihanna on Magazines

This magazine cover is especially intriguing to me. This image conveys a few messages. 1. She is grabbing her crotch, which is interesting in two ways. a. Males in rap music often grab their crotch to assert their sexuality and masculinity. [Complex Music, 2013)

b. This is an example of what researchers in a recent study out of the University at Buffalo (NY) call: Hypersexualized imagery. The research reviews Rolling Stone Magazine from 1967 to 2009 to study the difference in sexualized portrayal of men and women on the covers of pop culture magazines. What the study found is that since, 2000, the rate of hypersexualized women on magazine covers increased 10 times (Nauert, 2011)

The above image would likely be considered Hypersexualized because of her grabbing herself, her skin exposure, her mostly uncovered breasts and her facial express, such as her mouth partly open, licking her lips and the look of sexual desire in her eyes. If you are interested in reading the entire study entitled, Equal Opportunity Objectification? The Sexualization of Men and Women on the Cover of Rolling Stone you can find it here: Does she knowingly encourage strip club culture? My answer is yes. In her interview with Soo-Young Kim of Complex Magazine (2013) Kim, in reference to Rihannas 2012 album Unapologetic, asks:

As I have reference in past articles. Pour it Up has been referred to as a strip club anthem and has been re-mixed by multiple strip club DJs and artists who are showin love for the club.

Young Jeezy, Rick Ross, Juicy J and T.I. Remixed and released it March, 2013

That last interesting thing to point out as far as Rihannas participation in the messages and culture she is a victim of his her music video for We Found Love (Def Jam, 2011). The video actually romanticizes domestic violence as well as the idea that women are sexual objects to be possessed and had. Watch the video here and judge for yourself:

To remain focusing on lyrics, Rihannas representation in the media, and strip club culture would fall on the verge of redundancy. We have focused thus far in this article about how Rihanna contributes to these hypersexualized, objectifying and degrading messages towards women. But besides being pressured to participate in these messages for the same of fame and money, how else is Rihanna a victim of the male-dominated industry she thrives in? The Presentation of Women in Media and How it Affects Men According to Jean Kilbourne (1999), Most of us know by now that advertising often turns people into objects. Womens bodies, and mens bodies too these days, are dismembered, packaged, and used to sell everything from chain saws to chewing gum. But many people do not fully realize that there are terrible consequences when people become things. Self-image is deeply affected. The self-esteem of girls plummets as they reach adolescence partly because they cannot possibly escape the message that their bodies are objects, and imperfect objects at that (26-27). Kilbourne points out the dominating image of the painfully thin and flawlessly beautiful woman in advertising remains the ideal for American women. The bottom line is, to a great extent, the media tells men and women who they are and who they should be. And, if the cumulative effect of some

of these messages, for example, is to degrade or objectify women, surely that is not the intent of the all the creators it is simply an unfortunate side effect (Kilbourne, 1999). In the same way that the media tells women who they are, what is expected of them in society and what their value is. Media tells males the same thing. Women are often lowered, degraded and objectified by the media, rap music and cultural messages, but what are men told by these messages? Both Kilbourne and Wolf argued that the pressure to conform to an idealized concept of femininity damaged women. On the other hand, Jackson Katz (2003) stated that representations of men in advertising consistently featured violent white male icons, such as uniformed football players, big-fisted boxers, and leather-clad bikers. Sports magazines aimed at men, and televised sporting events, carried millions of dollars of military ads. Additionally, there were constantly ads for products designed to help men develop muscular physiques, such as supplements and weight training machines (Katz, 2003). Meganck (2010) continues: These hegemonic constructions of masculinity that are emphasized in mainstream advertising directly lead to males increased belief that they should be strong, ambitious, sex-oriented and competitive, as well as normalize negative hegemonic qualities, such as violence. And, although these qualities portrayed in advertising are not necessarily intentionally created to degrade women, increase eating disorders or sexualize violence, its unfortunately a side effect, according to a number of researchers. (Meganck, 2010) After analyzing media and cultural messages, we realize a few things. One, is that media is often very uniform and collusion-like in that it universally spreads the same messages across companies, people and society. Two is that these messages that lower womens status and raise mens status are born from system structures that ensure continued patriarchy in our society. Thirdly, because these messages work together to create an extreme power and status differential between men and women, it can lead to severe damage to women on levels of self-esteem, identity and even physical pain, whether inflicted on by themselves (eating disorders) or by relationship partners (abusive significant others). One of the first and most important assumptions of the study of mass communication has been the presumption that media and their content have significant and substantial effects. This presumption of media effects is easy to understand. It makes common sense that anything that consumes so much money and time must have some impact on our lives. It has been proven that the portrayals created in vehicles, such as advertising and pornography, directly lead to

unhappiness with our bodies (Kilbourne, 1999; Wolf, 2002), uncertainty surrounding our roles (Friedan, 1963; Douglas, 1984) and even gender violence. (Meganck, 2010) We will conclude this discussion of womens portrayal in media and how it affects men with a closing passage from the Meganck (2010) article. Please read the entire article to read the entire discussion Meganck presents here: Advertising.pdf Covell and Lanis (1995) stated that there has been a lot of research conducted on gender role portayals in advertisements; however, there has been comparatively little attention paid to the portrayal of sexuality in advertisements. Covell et al. worked to correct this discrepancy by examining the effects of advertisements in which women were presented in either a sexually provocative or a non- traditional manner, on sexual attitudes supportive of sexual aggression. The authors hypothesized that if advertisement portrayals of women influenced beliefs, then scores on the Sexual Attitude Survey would be higher following exposure to advertisements in which women were portrayed as sex objects compared to those showing women in progressive roles. The authors concluded that the findings supported the hypothesis, stating that, media portrayals of women can influence sexual attitudes and beliefs (646). Males who saw ads where women were presented as sex objects were more likely to be more accepting of interpersonal violence than were males exposed to other types of advertisements. Additionally, Malamuth and colleagues previously looked at the effects on sexual violence in the media in two different studies. Malamuth and Check (1981) conducted an experiment on the effects of exposure to films that portrayed sexual violence having positive consequences. The results indicated that exposure to films portraying violent sexuality increased males acceptance of interpersonal violence against women. Malamuth and Briere (1986) presented a model hypothesizing indirect effects of media sexual violence against women. It suggested that various cultural factors, including the mass media, and individual variables interact and possibly led to antisocial behavior, including aggression. The authors hypothesis was based not only on the frequency of sexually aggressive portrayals in media, but also on their positivity and potential for increasing womens victimization. After a review of relevant data, the authors concluded that exposure to media sexual aggression may adversely affect some mens thought patterns, but not their sexual arousal patterns. The argument here is that devaluing women and sex, as we have in advertising and pornography, is extremely unhealthy for a society that

is unfortunately prone to gender inequality and sexual violence. It is not proven that ads or any other form of media directly cause violence; however, turning a human being into a thing, an object, is almost always the first step towards justifying violence against that person. It is very difficult, perhaps impossible, to be violent to someone we think of as an equal, someone we have empathy with, but it is very easy to abuse a thing (Kilbourne, 1999, 278). There is no excuse for what Chris Brown did to Rihanna in 2009. There is no excuse for domestic violence or violence between any human being. However, the point is that these are the messages that are in our culture today. These are the messages that are putting women in their assigned rolls as passive, weak, sex- objects, who are supposed to find all of their purpose in relationship to their membership to a family, a household or a man. Likewise, men are taught to be violent, competitive, sex-driven, power-driven individuals who are to force sexual pleasure to happen, even if that means by way of rape or abuse. Rihanna is a victim of this media culture that conveys itself in rap music, advertisements, culture and within the interpersonal relationships she has around her. She also is a strong participant in these messages with her own self- objectification, support of strip club culture and male dominance. Every time she sells her body on a page, drops bills at a strip club she encourages the male dominated hypersexualized culture we live in. As this series of articles is titled, it is true that Rihanna is not a complicated woman, but that it is complicated to be a Black Woman in the Rap Industry. I hope you enjoyed reading this series of articles as much as I did researching and composing them. I do not profess to be an expert, but I profess to be a person with passion about these issues and a person who knows how to back up discussion with research. I am seeking all of those in the Hope for Brighter Days community on Twitter and Facebook to share in this conversation with me, and start looking for solutions. Thank you for all that you do in our community to end abuse. References Covell, K. & Lanis, K. (1995). Images of Women in Advertisements: Effects on Attitudes Related to Sexual Aggression. Sex Roles, 32(9/10), 639-649. Douglas, S. (1984). Where the Girls Are: Growing Up Female with the Mass Media. New York: Random House. Friedan, B. (1963). The Feminine Mystique. New York: W.W. Norton & Company. Hatton, E., & Trotner, M. N. (2011). Equal opportunity objectification?: The sexualization of men and women on the cover of rolling stone. Sexuality & Culture, 15(3), 256-278. doi: 10.1007/s12119-011-9093-2

Katz, J. (2003). Advertising and the Construction of Violent White Masculinity: From Eminem to Clinique for Men. Gender, Race and Class in Media: A Text- Reader (349-352). Dines, G. & McMahon Humez, J. (Eds.), Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications. Kilbourne, Jean (1999). Cant Buy My Love: How Advertising Changes the Way We Think and Feel. New York: Touchstone. Kilbourne, J. (1999). Killing Us Softly 3. Retrieved from Kim, S. (2013, January 17). Rihanna talks eminem, future, and strip club records. Complex, Retrieved from and-strip-club-records/page/2 Malamuth, N & Briere, J. (1986). Sexual Violence in the Media: Indirect Effect on Aggression Against Women. Journal of Social Issues, 42(3), 75-92. Malamuth, N. & Check, J. (1981). The Effects of Mass Media Exposure on Acceptance of Violence against Women: A Field Experiment. Journal of Research in Personality, 15, 436-446. Meganck, S. (2010). Sex and violence in advertising: How commodifying and sexualizing women leads to gender violence. Retrieved from and Violence in Advertising.pdf Nauert, R. (2011, August 11). Media's growing sexualization of women. Retrieved from sexualization-of-women/28539.html Wolf, N. (2002). The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women. New York: Harper. Music References Talk That Talk Def Jam Records, 2011, We Found Love, Rihanna ft. Calvin Harris Unapologetic Def Jam Records, 2012, Unapologetic, Rihanna