Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Why I Love Rihanna

Part 1: The Concert
Last week it was finally time for my January birthday gift from Shana: Rihanna! This is one of the best surprises/gifts I've ever received. I didn't even know she was coming so to have Shana tell me way back in January that we'd be seeing her, in our city, in person, was just wonderful.

We had nosebleed seats but I didn't care. (Obviously.) She sang and danced her heart out for 90 minutes, and Shana and I danced and sang (and sweated) our hearts out with her. I knew every song, almost every word, and so did everyone else.

She didn't talk between songs, which was criticized in a review I read, but that's not what I came to see. I came to see her perform. Which she did. While she had about seven wardrobe changes, the stage set was pretty simple, not too distracting, which I appreciated. 

It was a Monday night and I had a client meeting the next morning, but I was just so happy and hyper I didn't fall asleep until after one. I'd do it again and again.

Part 2: The Performer
A lot of people find my love of Rihanna almost antithetical to who I am and what I stand for. I don't feel the need to defend this, but I will anyway.

A lot is said* about her as a performer, generally criticizing her clothes, song content, and dance moves. I can’t say I like everything she wears, says, or does, but I like the vast majority of it. Yet I do struggle sometimes with the fact that being a Feminist is such a huge part of who I am and how I choose to present myself, and I do not believe in women using sexuality alone to define themselves.

But, I also believe very strongly in women having the freedom and confidence to discuss and portray sexuality without judgment. I admire Rihanna for embracing her sexuality without shame.** I appreciate that she is authentic in her actions and doesn't say one thing and do another. She knows what she likes and she owns it.

Beyonce was taken to task for wearing a skimpy leather negligee at the Super Bowl, which took the focus off her talent and to her body. I both agree and disagree. Powerhouse-vocalist Adele’s body is talked about quite frequently, and she’s generally covered head to toe. But how is that different, it’s still all about the appearance? Both are talented vocalists and complicated women either way.

I think society is still very uncomfortable with a woman telling us exactly what she wants. Many are more comfortable with the Taylor Swift-brand of faux innocence that continues to exalt purity and base a woman's worth on her virginity. Which is unbelievably wrong. I’d rather be watching a performer confident in who she is, how she looks, how she performs, than both hiding behind and perpetuating arcane societal pressures. If the point needs to be hammered home while wearing a short skirt, than let's try it.

It’s a delicate balance to be able to embrace sexuality and not be defined by it. I don’t have a solid answer. It’s complex. Just like a woman. Just like most people. And I just love Rihanna for trying.

*A lot is also said about her personal life and this is all I will say: I despise Chris Brown and will never forgive him. I believe that outsiders rarely, if ever, understand the intricacies of another couple’s relationship. There is psychological proof that women often go back to their abusers. If I ever saw Rihanna, I’d hug her and tell her she could do better.
**In a way, by the way, that men in hip hop have always done, and in a much more crass manner. Tell me one rapper who has never grabbed his groin on stage and then we can criticize Rihanna for doing the same thing.

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