The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing women that making his dick hard was the path to our salvation. -Sass, Independence Day 2015
This is my hot take on Rihanna's Bitch Better Have My Money video: if black women are finding catharsis from it, that's great, but black women deserve a whole lot better.
Maybe it's because I grew up in the American South, maybe it's because I studied abroad in a formerly colonized sub-Saharan African country, maybe it's because my undergraduate major was cultural anthropology, but I have no problem accepting black women's anger at white women as agents of racism. I also empathize with the act of finding catharsis where you can, even in "problematic" media, because most media provides no catharsis at all, only ever more frustrated anger.
But let's be clear about Rihanna's video: it is a complete capitulation to white supremacist capitalist patriarchy. Rihanna does not envision herself reacting against the money-obsessed, misogynistic murderers who have oppressed black women for centuries, she envisions herself becoming one of them. One could try to frame this as a sly reversal, but for the incompleteness of that reversal - rich white men have never felt the need to objectify themselves - to make sure they sexually titillate the people they subjugate - while conducting their crimes. For all the talk about what this video says to or about black women and white women, we've heard very little about what it says to rich white men: Rihanna wants to be just like you, with the extra added bonus of showing you all the tits and ass -hers and other women's- you could ever want. Rich white men get their egos stroked, check. Rich white men get their dicks stroked, check. Rich white dudes get to watch a (hot) rich white woman being (sexually) tortured and call it "edgy" or "progressive" because a black woman is doing it for them, check. Rihanna's bank account grows, check.
If the video for BBHMM was about black women's revenge against white women, the only adjustments needed to avoid kowtowing to rich white male egos and dicks would be: 1) make the white woman culpable for something other than a relationship with a rich white man; 2) don't make the white woman a sex doll; 3) don't make her punishment sexual. But of course that's not what the video is about. The video is about Rihanna getting her money. And catering to rich white men's egos and dicks gets the money.
Of course, current #twitterfeminist orthodoxy holds that as long as a woman is making money off men's fragile egos and (even more fragile) dicks, that's empowering and therefore feminist.
So how does this square with any analysis of white women's racism, given white women's enforced dependence on white men? White women gain financial security via racist, sexist rich white men: bad; black women gain financial security via racist, sexist rich white men, good? Who is winning here? Could it possibly be rich white men?
Rihanna's video even ends with her naked in the same box used to kidnap her white victim. Naked, covered in blood, voluntarily boxed in, but it's all OK, because money.
Black women deserve better.