Rihanna’s dress and the ensuing media frenzy

Yes, it’s happened again.

Another woman has worn something which has made people lose their minds.

Let’s try to think of the last time a man wore something and the press drove themselves insane psychoanalysing why.

I’ve attached the article below, but first let me get down to what annoys me about it and the whole debate that’s whirling around it:

1. This would NEVER have happened if a man had turned up to an award ceremony wearing an outfit which “left little to the imagination”. Besides taking pictures, perhaps commenting on how ‘toned’ they’re looking, I doubt people would very much care.

We’re not even entering the maelstrom of why it’s all right for a man to go topless but not a woman.

2. And most importantly, why does something have to be a “feminist statement” or a fashion choice? Why do we really care so much? Can’t it just be about a woman going to an awards ceremony wearing a glittery dress?

Or just a dress?

Many of you will remember how the media lost their minds when Jennifer Lopez wore this outfit:

(Sidenote: does this take you guys back or what?!)

Seriously, I’d be interested to see what you come up with.

Try and think about the last time we went this crazy when a man wore something in public. Nobody cares if it’s a man.

Why are we losing our minds just because there are breasts involved?

It isn’t progress to view occasions like this as a feminist victory or statement.

We will have moved on as a society when our media thinks the way most of us do: that it is not news if a woman wears a dress. It isn’t news if she doesn’t. It just is. She is a human being, wearing things. Let’s calm down and move on, and just let them be. It isn’t a feminist statement, it just is.

I also have to share this link because this is what I’m talking about. Women aren’t allowed to just walk around, go shopping, go for a run, go out with their kids, without it being scrutinised.

It’s absurdly patronising to talk about a woman without make-up as somehow bold. Does that mean wearing make-up makes you weak? Seriously?

Just because someone is going through a divorce, doesn’t mean she is brave for going to a market with her children (Amy Poehler and Will Arnett). Where are the photos of how “brave” Will Arnett is being, going out in public? Going shopping?

Just let it be what it is.

I happen to think Rihanna looks amazing, because the colour of her dress makes her glow, and the turban is really beautiful too. J.Lo’s dress was gorgeous and I love those colours. Most people would say the same thing.

Why is our media suddenly taking it to extremes?

More headlines like “Woman wears dress to awards show” and less “Young artist, misunderstood by everyone, bears all in brave display of feminist bravado”, please.

Which of course isn’t to say she isn’t a feminist, she is. It just doesn’t make everything she does a show of her feminist strength.

She’s wearing a dress because she likes it. By saying it’s something more than it is, we’re actually reversing any steps we’re attributing to Rihanna’s ‘feminism’.

If all of these ‘headlines’ we’re talking about are really doing as much for feminism as the media says they are, then why do we need to keep making every action taken by a woman as a feminist act? Why can’t it just be a thing that a human being does, because surely that’s when we see progress – when your gender doesn’t matter, it’s what you do with your life?

Here’s an article published in ‘The Independent’, a British newspaper, yesterday. I’d recommend you read all the linked stories too, just in case you’re not familiar with all of these stories, like me:

Rihanna’s practically naked dress: Why it could be one of the most powerful feminist statements the pop world has made to date

Why society still isn’t ready for too bold a display of female sexuality by Ella Alexander Wednesday 04 June 2014

“The naughty outfit left nothing to the imagination,” wrote one publication, adding that “one wonders what Anna Wintour [another show guest and the editor of US Vogue] thought” of the attire. “Rude girl Rihanna is trend-setter, but let’s not copy this one girls,” bemoaned another. But few British newspapers and their online counterparts went as far as to boycott the image and not publish it at all, despite seemingly taking the ‘moral high ground’. Whether they agree with the shimmering statement or not, Rihanna succeeded in shocking everyone – which is probably exactly what she wanted. Rihanna in her Adam Selman dress, covered in 216,000 Swarovski crystals What she didn’t want to do is what the fashion world expected, which was to dress in an understated, innocuous, unthreateningly sexy way so popular with Victoria’s Secret models and Playboy bunnies. Instead, the singer attended the CFDA Awards on Monday 2 June – during which she collected the coveted Style Icon award  –  wearing a part Josephine Baker, part sphinx sheer dress, her modesty covered by a nude coloured thong. She accessorised with a white fur stole, smoking eyes, glittering gloves and a turban that referenced the style of glamorous Twenties flapper girls.

Rihanna at the CFDAs last night The fearless and brave move is largely characteristic of the star, who is unapologetically and refreshingly herself. She smokes cannabis publicly, dances like a serpent and doesn’t believe in the concept of layering clothing – it seems that excess fabric so often gets in the way for her. Unlike many of her peers (she is just 26), she truly appears not to care what anyone thinks. As anyone who travelled on the infamous 777 tour in November 2012 can attest, she is a woman completely in control of her ship. And she couldn’t care less how long you’ve been waiting on that plane for her or indeed whether or not her bare nipples cause offence. She’s too busy having fun. Even Patti Smith – a rock ‘n’ roll poet who paved the way for women in music – is a fan, describing her recent track Stay as “the 2013 song of the year”. “I love that song,“ she told The Independent in March. “I didn’t know much about it, but I found it so touching, so beautiful and it didn’t bother me that in her music video she sung it naked in the bathtub. I thought it was beautiful.” However, perhaps society is not quite ready for such an overt display of a woman’s sexuality. The evidence is clear: aside from the disapproving reactions that her CFDAs dress attracted in the media yesterday, this morning her Rogue fragrance advert was deemed “inappropriate for children” after the Advertising Standards Association deemed it too “sexually suggestive”.

The Rihanna Rogue advert that’s been deemed inappropriate by children The picture depicted her sitting on the floor topless (although her bare chest was not on display) with her legs raised up against a large bottle of her perfume. The ASA admitted that her facial expression was one “of defiance rather than vulnerability”, but gave the advert “a placement restriction” for being “provocative”. The issue of public censorship surrounding women’s nude bodies has been raging for the past few weeks. Rihanna recently deleted her Instagram account, after the social network censored a topless picture shot for a French magazine. Grace Coddington was next to bear the brunt of the network’s conservative nudity restrictions. The 73-year-old US Vogue creative director was temporarily banned after sharing a line drawing of herself topless. The most recent and arguably most documented ban was of Scout Willis’ account and her ensuing topless protest. The 22-year-old daughter of Demi Moore and Bruce Willis was prohibited from using the channel after posting a photograph of a jumper that featured an image of two topless women.

One of the images Scout Willis shared as part of topless protest She took action by strolling the streets bare-chested of New York to demonstrate how women are allowed to go nude in the city, but not on Instagram, also launching the hashtag #FreeTheNipple. Unsurprisingly, Rihanna tweeted her support. “I am not trying to argue for mandatory toplessness, or even bralessness,” Willis wrote in a blog post for XOJane. “What I am arguing for is a woman’s right to choose how she represents her body — and to make that choice based on personal desire and not a fear of how people will react to her or how society will judge her. No woman should be made to feel ashamed of her body.”

It seems that, in the eyes of the media, a woman can be too confident with her body. Too much of an audacious display of female sexuality is not yet a welcome occurrence; apparently, it makes many feel uncomfortable and intimidated. And it’s still too easily and patronisingly pinpointed as to “wanting to please the boys” – a condescending and simplistic approach to women who want to look “sexy” because it’s just one of the many things that can make them feel powerful and strong. So here’s to Rihanna and her audacious nearly-nude dress – a fearless, powerful and fantastically seductive feminist statement that the pop world should be proud of, not scared of.

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3 thoughts on “Rihanna’s dress and the ensuing media frenzy

    • That’s definitely the perception, you’re right. Which is sad. I don’t think it’s true though.

      This whole ideal of the female body as being something to admire and protect, which must not be flaunted, goes back centuries, present in every culture. It’s highly irritating and part of the reason so many crimes against women happen – their bodies were there to be protected; someone dropped the ball; or they were flaunting it and ‘deserved’ it. Total bullshit and just crass.

      That’s something which needs to be addressed properly everywhere

      Like

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