I have been relentless in my defense of Rihanna and her right to make her own choices. Partly because I’m in love with her (it’s the accent), but also because I believe she has a right to live her life as she sees fit. To me, the attacks on Rihanna always reeked of judgment and victim-blaming. Last week, Girls creator and self-identified feminist, Lena Dunham, engaged in such victim-blaming.
While being interviewed by Alec Baldwin on his Here's the Thing podcast, Dunham called Rihanna out for being a bad role model for “little girls.” Dunham used to be a fan, but says she’s reconsidered in light of Rihanna’s recent poor relationship choices:
"[Fame is] an amazing thing and it's a platform that you have to take seriously. Which is why sometimes, it's like ... I used to be really into Rihanna, that pop star, and then it's like - again, I don't want to ever throw stones from my glass house - but I follow her on Instagram and I just think about how many little girls beyond what I could even comprehend are obsessed with Rihanna," Dunham said.
"You know, she left Barbados, she's had this amazing career, she's won a Grammy ... She's talented. And then she gets back together with Chris Brown and posts a million pictures of them smoking marijuana together on a bed. And it cracks my heart in half in a way that makes me feel like I'm 95 years old."
It’s not the first time the Girls star complained about the Rihanna’s lack of good judgment:
"Rihanna and Chris Brown's new duets make me want to go hide under (American feminist) Gloria Steinem's bed for 72 hours," she tweeted in February of last year.
If Dunham had a clearer understanding of feminism, perhaps she would realize that it’s not anti-feminist to make one’s own sexual/relationship choices – even poor ones. What is anti-feminist is to blame and shame women who may or may not be victims.
In a recent TEDTalk titled, "Why domestic violence victims don't leave," author of Crazy Love Leslie Morgan Steiner spoke out about her own experience in an abusive relationship. Like Rihanna, she too faced the fear and shame of having been a victim of domestic abuse:
“The question, ‘Why does she stay?’ is code for some people for, ‘It's her fault for staying,’ as if [domestic violence] victims intentionally choose to fall in love with men intent upon destroying us.”
If we are truly concerned about Rihanna, why are we attacking her and not Chris Brown? Why are we so concerned about whether or not she’s a good role model for young girls when Chris Brown is the one who attacked her? What about him? I’d say he’s a pretty poor excuse for a male role model.
Rihanna, perhaps more than any other female artist today, is under the constant scrutiny of puritanical patriarchy. She’s too sexual; too in-charge of her sexuality; too unapologetic. And, more importantly, she was abused and chose to go back to her abuser. If Rihanna is asking for it, “it,” sadly, is the slut shaming, victim-blaming our society so loves to dole out.