Perhaps in some simplistic context, such violence might seem unnecessary, yet in a culture that consistently diminishes the violence associated with rape, often employing user friendly euphemisms like sexual violence—as was the case in the initial New York Times coverage of a recent Texas gang rape case—rather than call a rape a rape. As an artistic statement, intended to disturb the public square, Rihanna’s deployment of the gun is an appropriate response to the relative silence associated with acts of rape, let alone the residual violence that women accusers are subject to in the denial and dismissal of their victimization with terms like “she deserved it,” or “she was asking for it” because of her style of dress.
One wishes that as much energy that was expended criticizing Rihanna’s video for its gun violence was expended to address the ravages of the rape culture that we live in. One man may be down, but rape culture is still standing."
I have to admit I’m not a big fan of Rihanna’s pipes, but regarding the pseudo-concern about her video promoting gun violence, all I can say is, bullshit. Guns and violence are central fixtures of US culture (see: Palin), but only certain, very specific expressions of violence get the frowny stick-wavy treatment of mainstream media critics; in this instance, of course, a Black woman defending herself. Sorry but in my book, a victim of rape has the right to send her attacker to the cemetery. Period. Yeah I’m also a hopeful student of restorative justice and I’d love to see a world which transcends retribution, but we’re not there yet and until we are, I will believe in the right of oppressed, erased, trapped, unsupported people to defend themselves by any means necessary.
From another angle: are Rihanna’s critics seriously against retributive violence? Because if I recall correctly, last month the President of the United States stood before the country and the world and basically held up the severed head of Osama Bin Laden to much national rejoicing. That was as unambiguous an illustration of the national belief in violent retribution as you could possibly muster. The “message to the children” from that momentous event was: When you’re pretty sure someone has gravely wronged you, the noble thing to do is, hunt them down and kill them. Nothing Rihanna could ever do in her career will come close to teaching a generation the patriotic value of retributive violence.