By Keir Bristol
The premiere of Rihanna’s “Man Down” video left audiences divided, much like the “S&M” video. The stunning songstress finds herself in Jamaica, shooting a man who earlier had sexually assaulted her after a night of dancing. Rihanna’s Bajan drawl laments over her decision to kill a man, even though he has hurt her. The concern of some is that the video normalizes violence as a way of dealing with a situation such as rape.
Rihanna has defended her music video both on her Twitter account, as well as a on a call in to 106&Park, noting on the latter that “Rape is, unfortunately, happening all over the world and in our own homes, and we continue to cover it up and pretend it doesn’t happen…that only continues to empower the abusers.”
How is it that audiences are appalled at Rihanna’s getting revenge on her abuser, when sex, violence and rape has been a fairly normal component of music for so long? I am not saying that violence is the answer to this situation, of course. Neither is Rihanna, if you listen to the song. She feels horrible for what she has done. But it is concerning that people are not concerned about the rape, but they are concerned about how she reacted to it. Especially since if she had cut out the shooting of her rapist at the beginning of the video, there’s a good chance no one would have said anything.
This is not the first time there was controversy over Rihanna’s songs or music videos. There was also a controversy over her duet with Eminem, “Love The Way You Lie” romanticizing domestic violence, and as aforementioned, her “S&M” video showing her participating in BDSM sexual acts. The concern for the S&M video was that Rihanna was not acting as a good influence for her young, female fans. Rihanna addresses this on her Twitter account as well, saying, “I’m a 23 year old rock star with no kids! What’s up with everyone wanting me to be a parent?” A good point, since we don’t see people bringing this point up with male musicians at all.
Regardless, many Rihanna fans praised the video, saying that “Man Down” brought to light a common issue that many women face. According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network a woman in the United States is raped every two minutes, 60 percent of these cases are never reported, and 15 out of 16 rapists walk free.