Rihanna’s “Man Down”

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Pass it on.

By Alexandra Huss, JWI Intern

In a CNN opinion piece, Leslie Morgan Steiner explains why she believes Rihanna’s video for the song “Man Down” sends a positive and important message. The video begins with Rihanna shooting a man on the street, and ultimately flashes back to show that this was a man who had raped her the previous night. Despite the backlash from those who believe the film was too violent, Steiner goes so far as to thank Rihanna for depicting “the rage and vengeance fantasies that often constitute a normal, healthy reaction to rape and domestic violence.” She also believes the video should become mandatory viewing as part of a real world sexual violence awareness campaign.

There are valid points on both sides of the argument. On the one hand, Rihanna’s bold act glorifies the shooting of her attacker, and conveys the message that violence breeds violence, a vicious cycle that domestic violence awareness hopes to end, not perpetuate. Perhaps a scene of Rihanna ultimately coping in a more constructive and realistic manner, such as seeking support and bringing the man to justice legally, could send a far more positive message.

Yet it is also true that so often, victims feel voiceless and helpless, leading them to fantasize about bringing their attacker to justice on their own terms. It is only natural that these emotions can come from such an intense violation of a woman. As Steiner suggests, perhaps what offends and disturbs some viewers is not the death of the rapist, but the portrayal of a victim with regained her inner strength, fighting back.

Rihanna is an artist who has also become a representative for domestic abuse victims because of her own experience. She is a signal of strength, and thus her messages have very far reaching consequences and reactions.

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