Rihanna gets it right with Man Down

After commenting unfavourably on Rihanna in an article in The Guardian as well as in this post some months ago I didn’t think I would be praising her any time soon.
But I am feeling her new song ‘Man Down’ and the accompanying video.

The actual song makes me feel like dirty dancing with a pleasant male specimen with the wind and sunshine cocooning us from the rest of the world. YUP!

The video is not similarly inciting. Rihanna acts the role of a woman who follows up a rape by chasing her rapist down and killing him. Of course two wrongs don’t make a right, it would not occur to me to justify murder. But the video is metaphorical, and as such, I think it’s raising an important topic, namely how frustrated many women feel that rape is often not judged as the vicious crime that it is.
We still hear bizarre arguments when it comes to rape; that if a man refuses to use a condom it is not really rape, that there are different categories of rape, that there is a biological factor that prevents men from controlling their ‘natural urges’ and that if a woman wears certain clothes she is asking to get raped and so on.

Here’s an example of the invalidity of the last argument. Last week, was on my way home from yoga wearing a very casual outfit. Not a hijab exactly but by far not the sexiest thing I own. There I am, walking home, minding my own business when a guy stops his car to ask me how much it would cost. To sleep with me, that is. And as if that was not enough, he received semi-encouraging winks from a group of men standing in the corner of the road where this all happened. I wasn’t raped this time, but I definitely felt violated. This is just one example of many, I have more, my friends have more, there are countless examples that prove that what you wear has absolutely nothing to do with sexual assault.

Men who violate women do so primarily because it makes them feel powerful. The guy who stopped the car was after a power trip more so than anything else. He actually knew that I wasn’t a prostitute but he wanted to feel like a Don.

Rape is a power battle, and hence it’s no coincidence that as women demand more power in society, the rape stats are shooting up. In Rhianna’s video the protagonist gets even the only way she can, winning the fight with another weapon and in that fantasy world, buoy, vengeance feels good.

  • http://www.ibeela.com Nabila (beela)

    I support this video too and wish all her videos sent out a powerful message as this one!
    I cant believe people are trying to ban the video.
    Surely people should be smart enough not to take it at face value (the shooting I mean)!

    I also see it as a warning to such barbaric men!!
    You never know which innocent girl has a Peggy Sue!

    Rum bum bum bum Rum bum bum bum Rum bum bum bum Man down!!

    I worry …

  • Sel

    Hmmm…have not seen the video or heard the song.
    And from the fuss that’s out there on the net about it, I would not be pressing play anytime soon.

    Exploitation of women is undoubtedly on of the worst ills of this world.
    However, let’s not add up two wrongs and magic up a right. Violence is never the answer. We have to believe in a better way. Otherwise I think we’re lost.

    – Sel (female)

    • MsAfropolitan

      Hi Sel, did you get a chance to watch it yet? Will be good to hear your thoughts.
      I didn’t take it as advocating violence. In fact, she regrets the act in the vid. But of course young people can misinterpret these things
      The question I ponder – for so long now rape has not been punished the way it should be. Women’s activists have been on this for ages. Nothing has changed, whilst rape has increased. I welcome pop stars bringing up the topic because it seems that’s the best way to get attention nowadays…

      • Sel

        I hear you.
        I feel like we’re saying the same thing here.
        I haven’t seen the video and probably won’t hear the song until I walk into a shop/market and have the tune forced upon my eardrums.

        I agree with you, the results that one would hope that the awareness programmes and convictions of rape crimes would achieve have not met satisfactorily with expectations.

        My worry, and you expressed similar, is that pop stars lately have proven to be quite terrible role models for young, impressionable minds.

        I’m just not convinced that we should be sending any message that says, “comitting premeditated murder is pardonable as long as you show some remorse after the fact”.

        Perhaps, I am being much too staunch in this but let’s not preach a contradiction. We can’t hope to rise above if we join the party in the gutter. We can’t claim that we are so sensitive to rape that we inadvertently condone murder.

        That’s just what I think.

        Now, I guess someone would ask me to come up with a better solution. …well I’m working on it. We should all be too, with the emphasis on ‘better’.

  • http://www.waikisays.com Waiki

    The only reason I initially didn’t like the message behind the song was because of the “two wrongs don’t make a right” stance that you’ve mentioned. I wish that Rihanna had encouraged her audience (in particular women) to adopt a different kind of mentality when it comes to rape and sexual abuse of any kind. How do we as a society prevent/overcome/punish sexual abuse? By creating awareness, speaking out, educating people, supporting the victims, and, in cases where the crime has been committed, by trusting the justice system to give appropriate sentences (which unfortunately does not always happen, I know). My point is, I don’t think murder is the ultimate solution.

    THAT SAID, I’m willing to take into account the fact that the video IS metaphorical and in a way I suppose it is just a way of showing the anger a woman would feel after she’s been raped. I suppose with music and art in general you have to have an open mind and not take things too literally. Thanks for writing this post because it’s made me a bit more open minded about the video and I’ve adjusted my views.

  • http://ibousthlm.blogspot.com/ Ibou

    I’m sorry to hear that you been violated like that out in the streets. I feel disgusted when I hear about those things. Rape and sexual abuse are serious crimes. But much to often people blame the victim. “What did you wear when you were raped?” etc etc.

    Unfortunately I seldom see us men discuss topics like this. Our gender values. How we treat women etc.


  • http://vickii-ibakethereforeiam.blogspot.com/ Vickii

    I love this song and I cannot understand all the controversy over the video. Music videos aren’t snippets of lesson in morality nor are they real life. Like the music the accompany, they are expressions of an artists creativity. Nobody actually thinks the Black Eyed Peas have created real life robots that appear in their music videos (I can’t think which one) so I don’t know why this video has been banned.

    Anyway, only Rihanna knows if she was making a statement about rape but I like your write up and you’re totally right, rape is about power. I’m sorry for your experience – it’s deeply disappointing that men like that are everywhere but they are. And I won’t even entertain the argument (when I’ve heard it mentioned) that what a woman is wearing might be to blame for her being raped. I don’t care if a woman lives in little more than a bikini, it does not mean she is asking to be violated! I really liked the ‘Slut Walks’ that took place to argue the point.

    Great post Minna!

  • http://selfra.blogspot.com dantresomi

    there are so many reasons why i love this song and video. the writing is just great. she really digs deep into her soul. she discusses that thin line between morality and justice.

    i think she took a big risk with this video and it paid off. we are discussing it and bringing in the topics of sexism, patriarchy and misogyny into the discussion.

  • http://www.elephantchronicles-nell.blogspot.com Nell

    i love the song and the video. i’m not a fan of Rihanna or her music, but i felt this song and the video were on point.
    i’m so over the negativity that has come towards this video. mainly from men, but particularly men of color that seemed to be more upset at the fact that the perpetrator was dark-skinned more than they were at the fact that she was raped (which, i believe, actually happened to her in real life). i understand where they’re coming from, and they’re right that it is sustaining the issues of colorism in which only dark people are portrayed in negative lights, however, that does not override the validity of the video.
    and i’m not one to say that “two wrongs don’t make a right”. morality is something i believe is relevant for the most part, and if i were ever raped, and i knew the attacker, there wouldn’t be a question of IF i would kill him-it would be WHEN. when these people feel as though they can walk around and violate others without any repercussions, then they will continue to do it. there is only so much deterrence jail-time and protests will do. i’m not an advocate of violence, but in the words of Malcolm X – “be courteous, be civil, but if someone puts their hands on you, send them to the grave.”
    and i think it is very interesting when the media tries to ban videos like these. when two women are ripping one another’s hair out over some man – it’s fine, when a man is slapping around a woman in front of her children (or vice versa)- it’s cool, even when a woman or man is being raped – it’s fine, but when a woman tries to take justice into her own hands BECAUSE of violence done to her, then there’s a problem? something is wrong.

    • Nak

      Right on Nell

  • olamide

    Don’t really care much for the message or the message. You shoot someone in your video, the world will complain!!

  • olamide

    *..the video, nor the message….

  • Nak

    I do not think she got it totally right. The video is another expression of white supremacy – colorism. Light skinned victim, dark skinned perpetrator.