As any consumer of pop culture, I watched the Grammys a few weeks ago. Besides nearing tears of excitement when Justin Timberlake performed for the first time in what felt like millennia, I noticed that there was a controversial pair at the awards show: Rihanna and Chris Brown.
My initial reaction was that of horror. Rihanna, girl! Why?!? Do you not remember four fond years ago when this man hit you in the face? I still can’t get the image of bruised and battered Riri out of my mind. Why the hell would somebody ever return to a relationship that physically harmed them? How can you sit next to someone, much less cuddle up to them, after you’ve seen their fist come toward your face?
Clearly, it was safe to say that my initial reaction wasn’t too accepting of the situation.
Usually, when I see a celebrity couple together that I don’t agree with, I just ignore it. Whatevs. They’re not a part of my daily life, and I don’t have to mull over it; but for obvious reasons, this pairing really made an impact on my mind.
After intense reflection about this rekindling of romance, I’ve come to the conclusion that feminism is what can give these types of relationships life. Let me explain.
Put yourself in Rihanna’s position: a man that you love hits you, you’re quite traumatized, and you get out of the relationship. You know that the scandal has become incredibly publicized, tarnishing Brown’s name irreparably, and you’ve become known as this helpless woman who was thrown around by a man. That’s a pretty powerless place to be in.
Though the public scrutiny directed at Brown was (arguably) well-deserved, there was also a lot of disgusting backlash towards Rihanna from Brown’s fans, and sometimes just average teenagers. Not only was this woman physically abused, but people who had never met her began to say that she deserved it. At one point, a website actually created t-shirts that read “Rihanna deserved it.” I can even remember back when it happened that people I went to high school with updated their Facebook statuses with things like, “If I was dating Chris Brown, I’d let him hit me too.”
Back to Rihanna’s position: you’re now stuck with the aftermath of trying to collect yourself and move on for the sake of your career and reputation—which she did, releasing four albums since the event.
Fast forward to 2013—Rihanna has gotten over the scandal, clearly, because she is seen at the Grammys with Brown looking cozy as ever.
This is where the power of feminism comes into play. I realized something very crucial in the understanding of women: even though I personally don’t agree with the choice Rihanna made in regards to getting back together with Brown, I realize that it’s not my position to agree.
Feminism means that I understand that Rihanna is a grown woman, and is capable of making her own decisions.
In an interview with Rolling Stone, Rihanna basically said just that: if it’s a mistake, it’s her mistake to make. As somebody who believes in feminism, I realize that while I’m absolutely allowed to have an opinion on what Rihanna does, it’s just that: an opinion. Accepting and embracing the fact that Rihanna is doing what she feels will make her happy is all that matters. You can stop buying her music, watching her videos, hanging her posters on your wall—but at the end of the day, she’s making her own choices.
It’s kind of empowering (in an arguably twisted way) when you realize that Rihanna is demonstrating what it means to be an independent woman. Despite what fans, media, and traditional feminist groups are telling her she should do, she’s doing what makes her happy. She’s making her own choices. She’s exercising her right to choose—and in the interview with Rolling Stone, she even takes responsibility beforehand for what those choices might entail.
Merriam-Webster defines feminism as the theory of political, economic, and social equality of the sexes. The keyword is equality. If the situation were to be reversed to an equivalent, and a woman did something to tarnish a man’s reputation (and face), the same argument would be valid. It’s the observation that though the majority might not agree with the decision being made, the decision is still made of the individual’s own free will.
I’ve never understood the appeal of Chris Brown, especially after the Rihanna altercation. I will never buy his music, and I distinctly remember yelping when Frank Ocean beat Chris Brown (pun kind of intended) for ‘Best Urban Contemporary Album.’ All that said, I still respect Rihanna’s self-governing attitude, and I respect that her choices are her own.
Ultimately, the foundation of feminism needs to be based on objectivity. We cannot judge what the decision being made entails: we can only appreciate that a decision can be made.
In the midst of a celebrity world filled with lackluster ambitions, Rihanna chooses to shine bright like a diamond. And no amount of conflicting opinions can take that away.