by Mia McKenzie
The innanetz are all abuzz over Rihanna’s new #BBHMM video. White Feminists™ are especially upset, many of them calling the video “misogynist”. It’s been called “torture porn” and “incredibly violent”. I watched the video and…well…I see why White Feminists™ are so upset.
Yes, there is violence (not nearly as much as an R-rated movie, tho. Almost all of the violence is implied). Yes, there are images of a woman being kidnapped, held hostage, and even hung upside down from the ceiling while topless. These are the kinds of images we see a lot in violent revenge films. They can be upsetting and harmful. I didn’t like seeing them here. But they’re also not the entire story.
Let me tell you what I see when I watch this video: I see a black woman putting her own well-being above the well-being of a white woman.
Let’s be clear: white women put their own needs and well-being above those of black women every day and call it “feminism”.
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Here, Rihanna flips the script: if a white woman has to suffer some so that she, a black woman, can survive, so be it. After all, white women have been surviving on our suffering for hundreds of years.
Black women are always expected to put our needs last on our list of priorities. Behind everybody else’s. A black woman saying “my well-being (which is what money is—the ability to pay rent, feed ourselves, stay alive, etc.) is more important to me than the well-being of this random white woman” is what white feminists are really losing their shit over.
Imagine if instead of kidnapping the accountant’s wife, Rihanna and her crew kidnapped his brother? Would White Feminists™ be so upset? I doubt it. Because they understand that revenge fantasies wherein women hurt men are pushing back against the harm men do to us. But here’s what white feminists don’t get (and what has them fucked up): black women often see white women as the same as white men. The harm done to us by white men and white women isn’t vastly different to many of us. White women have been unapologetically violent towards black women for centuries. They’ve used the power of the state, of the police, of the courts, of the media, and of individual white men to harm black people, including black women, time and time again. They are as harmful to us as white men are. So, for many of us, kidnapping the white brother or the white wife is all the same.
In this video, Rihanna is unconcerned with the well-being of a white person (who is a woman), when her own well-being is at stake. In fact, she’s willing to do harm to her in order to survive. That’s the thing about this video that makes white feminists so very, very uncomfortable.
I’m not saying it’s okay for black women to harm white women. I’m saying that most of the time, we don’t. I’m saying we are harmed by white women much, much more often and this is a revenge fantasy video that understands that, even if white feminists don’t.
(Sidenote: if you believe that Rihanna meant everything in the video literally, and nothing metaphorically or allegorically, examine why you believe this black woman isn’t capable of creative and socio-political vision. Did you think every aspect of Madonna’s videos were literal? How about Lady Gaga?)
White women have been taught that black women are supposed to treat them as “our sisters” and even “ourselves” despite the fact that white women throw us under the bus, and much worse, on the daily. White women’s brand of feminism always devalues and degrades black women, but black women are supposed to always prioritize them in our feminism and, frankly, our lives.
Cue eleventy thousand white women accusing me of being “divisive” for even pointing this out. (Save it. You’re only proving my point.)
What I see in this video is a black woman whose priority for survival is herself. Not a white woman.
I’m here for that.
Mia McKenzie is an award-winning writer, a speaker, and the creator of Black Girl Dangerous.
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