How Today’s Female Stars are “Repackaging Toxic Masculinity” for a Female Audience

Some might say this is an example of girl power and feminist empowerment. Others may see something more disturbing. It’s a discussion worth having. Salon takes a look at what’s going on with a couple of female superstars.

Throughout her video for “Bitch Better Have My Money,” Rihanna’s new gleefully violent revenge anthem, Rihanna channels the motifs, images and iconography of directors ranging from Martin Scorsese to Quentin Tarantino. Rihanna’s video aims to shock and titillate viewers with scenes of sexualized violence. In one of the first scenes a kidnapped woman is hung upside down, topless. We see images of her incapacitated, forced to drink and vomit in a bucket, and hit over the head with a glass bottle when she tries to seek out help. In the end, the twist of the video is that the “bitch” refers not to the beautiful woman who has been kidnapped, but her husband, who refuses to dish out money, even after learning that his wife is being tortured.

What happens to the kidnapped woman is ambiguous; some viewers contend that she was drowned in a swimming pool: In one scene toward the end we see her lifeless facedown under the water next to Rihanna, who is buoyant and beautiful. Others claim, as a friend expanded on in detail over lunch, that she becomes a member of Rihanna’s girl gang: at times in the video she seems to really enjoy hanging out with the women who kidnapped her, smiling and laughing, even as she is tied up. In an essay for New Statesman, writer Margaret Corvid suggests that “BBHMM” is a BDSM fantasy. The video features a number of pieces of S&M gear, and plays with many taboos regarding gender, race, and class.

One of the intriguing aspects of “BBHMM” is just how divided women have been in their response to the seven-minute music video. Rihanna’s use of a female body as kidnapping victim has caused many feminists to express concern, just as Rihanna’s reclaiming of power from a white, wealthy couple who tried to victimize her has been seen by other feminists as brave and triumphant.

Keep reading.

And for no particular reason, here’s Miss Piggy who felt the need to channel Rihanna. This was posted yesterday.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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