In light of recent Twitter events involving Chris Brown’s avenging verbal assault on comedian Jenny Johnson,there have been oodles of responses based on Brown’s “anger problem,” his misogynistic online comebacks at Johnson, and his grinning face which does not bear the guiltiness of a repentant offender. Judging by his slew of impassioned fans and their collective willingness to come to Chris Brown’s defense, we can only assume that their prophet does not spread a message of peace.
While we can single out Brown's version of self-expression for criticism, we should also pay mind to the fact that he isn’t the only celebrity to buy into a misogynist culture. Interestingly enough, we also have Rihanna to thank for providing examples of far from feminist-friendly speech.
In addition to "Men of the Year" Ben Affleck and Channing Tatum, Rihanna herself can found on newsstands as GQ's "Obsession of the Year." While her svelte physique and stylish crop-do she sports on the cover are to be admired, and rightfully so, the content of her interview is not as sharp as the leather jacket that’s draped around her shoulders. In fact, when it comes to describing gender without sounding sexist, she comes across as downright ignorant. And while she may believe she is a front-runner for sexual expression in pop culture, it is safe to say she is worlds away from being as empowered as Gaga.
It’s not the first interview where I have cringed at Rihanna's choice of language when describing gender roles. In the article, Rihanna speaks about her proclivity for dominant men. This preference is not a problem; it’s how she chooses to describe her preference for being submissive in her relationships.
“I like to feel like a woman. I have to be in control in every other aspect of my life, so I feel like in a relationship, I wanted to be able to take a step back and have somebody else take the lead.”
Okay, first of all what does that mean? I don’t know how to “feel” like a woman, because being a woman is not some strange sensation that I tap into sometimes. I am a woman. It’s a noun. There’s no such thing as “feeling like a woman.” (Sorry, Shania Twain.) You can feel “feminine” and you can feel “sexy.” But there is no unwritten law the dictates what a woman feels and/or should feel like.
“I could absolutely be dominant, but in general, I’d rather … Love makes you go places you probably wouldn’t ever go, had it not been for love. But I think everybody still has their limits,” she states, divulging that her seat is in the back when it comes to relationships.
Rihanna wrongly uses her gender as a noun (woman) to describe an adjective (submissive). By saying “I like to feel like a woman” instead of saying she enjoys submission, she is placing limits on what women should choose or be expected to do/act. Last time I checked, “woman” is not an adjective synonymous with "passive." (I’m sure the dominatrixes of the world would agree.)
Rihanna has used gendered terms to characterize behaviors before. In a 2011 interview on the Ellen DeGeneres show, she stated, "I like men that are more aggressive, but mysterious, but I like a man to be very sure. (Here’s where I say “huh”?) I like them to be sure of themselves and know that (he's) the man. (Here’s where I say “duh”) I'm the lady and the only way for us to make this work is for us to play our roles. You know, I really can't be the man for you.(There’s surgery for that?) I don't want to be. I'm the man at work all the time."
Again, she demonstrates that she believes that social limits should be placed on gender roles, and that men and women should stay within these lines. What’s worse is that she uses gender to imply that women are weaker than men. She describes herself as being "the man at work." I mean, was it too hard to say that she is "in control" or "powerful" at work?
Newsflash: "Power" is not a synonym for "balls."