Thursday, June 9, 2011

Double Standards: Rihanna and Me

I  have double standards, or, at least one. It’s this: I expect more from my favourite female musical artists than I do from male.

The issue reared its head at the Rihanna concert I went to last night at the Air Canada Centre.

Ever since my as-good-as-you’re-ever-gonna-get concert experience this winter seeing the Blackeyed Peas, I decided not to pass up other potential great concerts, even if at the cavernous Air Canada Centre.

So the second I saw Rihanna tickets go on sale in March, I grabbed two.  Actually “grab” isn’t the right term. Sold the children and remortgaged the house is more like it. I was sure it would be worth it. Couldn’t wait to hear Only Girl, Rude Boy, What’s My Name, even Love The Way You Lie, though the lyrics do disturb.

I bought two tickets, convinced I could find at least one smart soul who had enough good sense to want one of them. Alas, ticket grabbers weren’t beating down my door, but as good fortune would have it, my dear friend Terry snapped up the other ticket in a heartbeat. What’s with everyone else, I wondered? As my mother would say, “Don’t they know what’s good?”

Then again, Rihanna was anything but GOOD. She was one SUPERBAD ASS chick. Tough, gritty, over-the-top raunch, as in how my times do you need to finger your crotch to let us know you really dig sex. In fact, there was so much simulated sex and S&M during the first half of the show, I leaned over to Terry and asked, “Why doesn’t she just fuck someone on stage already and get it over with.”

That’s when I started worrying about the double standard. I didn’t like Rihanna’a hardcore ‘tude. She’s beautiful. She’s sexy. She has the longest and greatest gams going, and yes, I can remember how much fun it can be showing all this off. I’m not that old.

But it was too much. There wasn’t an ounce of subtlety or class anywhere in sight. Not a single move made whose underlying purpose wasn’t meant to exude sex. She was a walking/singing pole dancer without a pole.

My double standard? I’m not sure I would have been so disturbed by the non-stop sexual play if the performer had been male. I would have laughed it all off. For some reason, I’ve let Eminem get away with (almost) murder in his lyrics and attitudes. I guess I need my female artists to be better role models.

Besides Terry and me, the audience was filled mainly with girls, between ages of let’s say 15 -25, and 25 is really stretching the top end. So, really, why the whips and chains and dominatrix rough stuff? For them? Even Madonna, who loved pushing the sex envelope, had something fun and playful going on onstage.

I guess it particularly bugs me because Rihanna comes with history. She was roughed up one night by then boyfriend Chris Brown on their way to the Grammy’s.  The cops got called in, and Brown was booked. Rihanna didn’t look so good with a black eye and facial bruises, so she went undercover for awhile, resurfacing with a message: hey girls, don’t take shit from no one.

I’d like to think, therefore, that one of Rihanna’s underlying messages to all those young Rihanna wannabes at her concerts is this:  I’ll have sex on my own terms, the way I choose, and I’ll be the one in control, not you.

Not a bad message, I suppose. Nothing wrong with sex. But I’m not sure that’s the message Rihanna’s sending. It feels more like: ‘rough is good, tough is good, and mean means mean.’ Bottom line? That’s the way I like it.

This can be problematic. As Mick Jagger sings in one of the Rolling Stones’ hits, “Don’t play with me cuz you’re playin’ with fire.’ And I think Rihanna’s doing just that. Playin’ with fire.

I understand that real artists follow their own inspirations, not the feminist line I happen to think is politically correct. Fair enough. You get to do as you please.

Nevertheless, I’m going to end this blog with a message to Rihanna and all her 15 – 25 year-old female followers. They’re again lyrics, this time from the Blackeyed Peas’ Where is the Love?

What's wrong with the world, mama
People livin' like they ain't got no mamas
I think the whole world addicted to the drama
Only attracted to things that'll bring you trauma.

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