Why must every move a female artist make be explicitly feminist? 

By Sarah Stubbs 


With the 2016 campaign in full-swing right now, politics and political theory is everywhere we look: it’s on social media, it’s on TV, and it pops up in our every day conversations.

When Kanye West (jokingly, hopefully) announced his 2020 campaign for presidency at the MTV Music Video awards a couple of weeks ago, hip-hop fans swooned and it wasm immediately a viral conversation, but no one started applying political lenses to any of his recent songs or music videos much like critics are constantly doing with any work produced by female artists.

With Beyonce’s latest works and the works of several other popular female artists, I’ve noticed that the media and feminist community is often scrutinizing whether or not that particular artist’s work is feminist enough.

The most recent claims I’ve seen being made about the level of feminism achieved in music is centered on Rihanna’s “BBHMM” music video – a graphic, 7-minute-long narrative in which a woman and her husband are tortured and assumingly murdered for owing Rihanna money.

Before you hop on YouTube to check out this vid, just know that the last scene features Rihanna naked, covered in blood, and smoking a joint inside a trunk full of money.

Complex Magazine asked Rihanna if her video was supposed to be a feminist statement, to which she replied that she was simply making art.

Mainstream feminists are claiming the video is extremely misogynistic, which I can gather from just seeing the first minute of it, and that it is portraying a message that belittles the fact that real women are tortured or abused everyday on the account of men.

In the case of “BBHMM,” Rihanna is the one doing the torturing. So she counters that assumption that at the end of the day, women are still winning. Eh? I don’t buy this, of course, but who’s to say that her video has to have any feminist implications at all? Can’t it just exist as an expression of her and the song itself?

Rihanna, much like Madonna, Lady Gaga, and even Miley Cyrus, is known for doing outlandish things with her art, presumably making statements about society; but that doesn’t mean that every move she makes has to be politically or socially earth-shattering.

Just a couple of months ago, there was huge controversy over MTV’s decision not to nominate Nicki Minaj for video of the year for “Anaconda.” Granted, it was controversy started by Minaj herself, but it made a big point about the types of women the media celebrate.

Taylor Swift, who was up for and won video of the year for “Bad Blood” thought that she was being called out by Minaj, since many claimed that her video only celebrated and empowered women with slender, tall body types since Swift featured mostly lanky, white women in her video.

Minaj let it be known that she wasn’t targeting Swift specifically, but still made a “well if the shoe fits,” type of comment.

The whole debacle was unnecessary. Both videos were different and both empowered women in different ways. Now Swift’s approach is a little more tasteful if you ask me, but that doesn’t make Nicki’s art have any less merit.

Art is a way for humanity to express itself. A lot of the time, there are underlying political statements and agendas that are being pushed, but not always.

Can’t we just enjoy art for what it is and how we respond to it personally? Does it always have to turn into a political debate?

I think that we as a culture need to stop criticizing so closely. It’s ironic and counter productive to me that the feminist community is the one that is often spearheading this constant criticizing of female artists., and I truly hope that it stops or at least slows down in the near future.

Often times, the music we enjoy isn’t as deep or thoughtful as we think it is or we think it should be and that is OK. It is, after all, supposed to be for our entertainment.

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