I watched it at last. I kept being asked what I thought so I thought I'd better start thinking.
I was stunned. It's not easy to watch.
I did some of my watching whilst biting my fingers and scrunching up my face until I could hardly see the screen. That is a natural reaction to watching any woman being tortured on screen surely?
My first thought was that it reeked of internalised misogyny and of the very worst kind. I sort of walked away from it for a good while. I came back. I walked away from it again. Then I read a couple of opposing views. I read the piece in the Guardian by @rebel19 first and it is really good and provokes more thought. http://www.theguardian.com/music/2015/jul/06/rihannas-bitch-better-have-my-money-feminism-misogyny-race
I also read Meghan Murphy and it's great... http://feministcurrent.com/12511/a-list-of-things-i-think-about-rihannas-bbhmmvideo/
I didn't read Sarah vine. Cos she's a dick. She married Gove. That'll do.
I've got more questions than answers - I'll be up front about that. Some of the questions aren't mine. I did find my answer in the end.
Firstly... I wondered about double deviancy. Is she being criticised more for this video because she is a woman and because the woman in the video is not punished for her criminality or not enough? Is she being criticised because she is a woman of colour?
A woman just said to me ... if white women can't criticise anything a WOC does because it may be seen as racist isn't that just patronising WOC? Well isn't it?
I was wondering also... is the angle just stylised violence in the model of Tarantino and therefore it can be excused as art? It is a creative piece undoubtedly but can we allow women to be portrayed being tortured and call it art? Aren't feminists critical of art any more? Or just not allowed to be critical of art produced by WOC? But... by the same token.... Tarantino built his career on very similar territory and whilst appropriating black culture and yet when a WOC does this she's wrong even though there is no appropriation? Is that sexist and racist?
I couldn't help but shudder though. The gaze .. to me.... still remains male. They way Rihanna behaves may be quite masculine... but it is still appealing to the male gaze. The naked breasts, the bare legs and open-legged poses etc. This is still objectifying women, even if you co-direct it and objectify them yourself. Objectify yourself even.
And surely torturing a woman, any woman, is always wrong if you are a feminist? Yes it is. I can answer that one for myself.
Now I don't see any evidence that Rihanna declared herself a feminist so I'm not criticising her for her feminism as I'm not sure she's declared herself one. Has she?
It's been defended as being vengeance on a male who has wronged her. Well, at the expense of a woman... any woman? Again... nope. I don't sit easily with that.
The other question is - how can I understand the anger of a WOC at her white oppressors and do I actually have a right to comment on how she achieves that? Maybe I should be uncomfortable with that anger because I'm part of the class oppressing WOC?
But the actual violence. The ACTUAL VIOLENCE. It's just horrific. I don't care that the white woman has been presented as pampered and rich and dripping in privilege and privileged dog and therefore "asking for it". Are we really suddenly defending that kind of attitude when we normally jump all over it - just because it's a WOC directing us to look at it and think it? The violence is what it is. A woman is swung by her ankles, hit with a bottle, drowned, force fed booze, sexually assaulted, stripped naked etc etc. Who for? Who wants to see this? Who will see this?
Young men and women will see it mainly. Oh and feminists now.
Who will enjoy it?
That would probably just be the men then. Or women with internalised misogyny. Or those that just aren't thinking about what they are watching too hard because they've become desensitised to the abuse of women on their screens.
I also wondered... since there are vile misogynistic videos which objectify women all day long on MTV and YOUTUBE and all over the bloody place. Where women - white women and WOC - are made to gyrate and grind around men who chant misogynistic things about them and to them and set it to music... why are we suddenly getting loads and loads of Guardian columns - but not about them? About a woman instead. Because if a woman crosses those boundaries it is news but men can quietly get on with doing it for now because we've already objected to that shit and it's old?
And I kept asking myself questions..... I kept fishing around inside myself to see if my reactions were actually racist as the accusations have been heading towards as this has moved on....
And then I remembered a friend phrasing it like this... a drowning body goes past you in a stream.. you pull it out. Then another and another and you keep pulling them out. It's time to stop rescuing the individual bodies and look at who is throwing them in. So I thought it was time to look upstream on this video issue. Was it just Rihanna throwing the body in?
Sure enough. Upstream are the 4 white men who "co-directed".
Here are 2 of them telling us how this happened.... how they were commissioned by Rihanna...
And as it turns out... she only had the initial idea.... I'm assuming that's the loose narrative of a bastard man who was her accountant who ripped her off? The "treatment" is the work of the 4 dudes then. As they tell us.... "From that, we had to write the treatment, coming up with how we could change the story and keep her vision. We had to find what was in the middle, and how to finish on the same page".
So it is these men who took Rihanna's "vision"and decided to torture a woman with it? They don't like the response apparently. They aren't happy that women aren't happy. No. They wouldn't be would they?
You can find these men pretty easily with a Google. Clement Gallet, Leo Berne, Raphael Rodriguez and Charles Brisgrand of the company MEGAFORCE. They all appear to be white. Someone correct me if I'm wrong. They are all men though. I'm not wrong there am I?
Incidentally Monsieur Berne takes rather worrying photos of women as "art". Really rather worrying. Have a look at them here http://www.leoberne.com/home
So I stopped asking myself questions.
This guy just answered them all. He and his buddies are upstream throwing bodies in.
The patriarchy usually is.