Rihanna has done nothing wrong. Think about it. Should she be ashamed that her man hit her? Is there something wrong with being sexual? Something abnormal about taking nude pictures and sharing them privately with her boyfriend? Is it her fault that someone stole and/or leaked them?
And yet, Rihanna seems embarrassed.
I think I know some of the reasons she is. Being a West Indian like Rihanna, our culture is one of pride. In the Islands, you’re not supposed to do anything that gives the outside world something to talk about. Your business should be kept under wraps. Most of all, you’re not supposed to bring any shame on your family.
Of course, this precept is kind of hard to follow when you’re a celebrity, like Rihanna. By allowing her business to be in the street, according to West Indian culture, not only did she embarrass herself, she also embarrassed her family.
When it comes to domestic violence, most women in the Islands keep it to themselves. Abuse isn’t something that is discussed openly like it is here in the States. According to the Women of Color Network, 23.4% of Latinas in the U.S. report being the victims of intimate partner violence. The numbers jump to 29.1% for Black women, 37.5% for Native American women and 44% for Asian and Pacific Islander women. In the Islands, the true numbers are harder to come by.
Rihanna is probably the most high profile celebrity from the Islands. She may feel that she let her people down by attracting all the “negative” publicity. Bajans pride themselves on being the most low-key of all the Islands.
As a West Indian who grew up in the United States, things are drastically different for our women here. Americans lay everything out on the table. Now Rihanna is like every other American girl: Laid out on the table.
Still, even in America, women are made to feel ashamed of their sexuality. Women are blamed, even as victims, for being beaten and raped. It must be that revealing outfit she was wearing, they say. She was asking for it.
Black women get it doubly, because society has always portrayed us as seductive, alluring, worldly, and lewd. When music videos came along we saw nothing but scantily clad black women shaking their hips to lyrics depicting us as b**ches and h**s. Believe me, if Madonna leaks some naked pictures, it’s boosting her career. You won’t see her running out of town, trying to escape the media.
The irony is that the Islands are a very sexual culture. I experience America as a much more repressed place. In Barbados, it is said, girls come out of the womb knowing how to “whine” (meaning move their hips sensually). There, it’s no big deal. Sex is a part of life.
I know that Bajans were proud of their “girl” who came to the States and made it big. But with her sex life made public, Rihanna committed the ultimate taboo: Bringing shame on her family, and by extension, her people. You can hear it in her lyrics, this obsession with being a “good girl.”
Forget about upholding that image, Rihanna, either for the folks back home, or the media here.
You are a young, beautiful girl who did nothing less human than trust the wrong man and, perhaps, be a little careless with your digital files.
Don’t suffer for outdated, chauvinistic cultural ideals. Don’t hide. Fight back.
Rihanna was spotted shopping at Intermix in the West Village of Manhattan on Wednesday, May 6. Check out her revealing outfit and watch Rhi Rhi work!