Another week, another Rihanna “naked” controversy. (I’ve almost forgotten that she is famous for her singing, I am so used to the press discussing her clothing or rather, the lack there of.) So on to the latest:
Does the ad above offend you? It’s another star peddling her latest fragrance, wearing skimpy clothing. There’s nothing new here — especially when that star is Ri-Ri, who is known for often wearing next to nothing. But in the UK, the ASA (Advertising Standards Agency) — an independent agency which oversees advertising in the UK — deemed it not suitable in places where children might see it. Their report stated, “While we did not consider the image to be overtly sexual, we considered that Rihanna’s pose, with her legs raised in the air, was provocative. Because of this, and the fact that Rihanna appeared to be naked except for high heels, we concluded that the ad was sexually suggestive and should have been given a placement restriction to reduce the possibility of it being seen by children … ”
This censorship comes during the same week that Rihanna won the 2014 CFDA Fashion Icon Award, wearing what can be best described as a piece of net with crystals on it. Being entirely see-through, Ri-Ri chose not to wear nipple covers, instead opting only for a teeny tiny thong to protect her modesty. Some papers championed this outfit, stating that it was a bold “feminist statement.” Personally, I found it bizarre that such press were applauding a woman who is famed for returning to a relationship with a man who was charged with assaulting her, which is about as far from a feminist statement as one could get.
Some feared for Vogue editor Anna Wintour, who would have had to avert her eyes when she presented Rihanna with her award. Others simply wondered why such a talented woman had to gain column inches by going practically naked to an awards bas rather than focusing on her vocal talents alone. You don’t see Prince arriving naked to collect his latest award, or Bono with his nether regions on display. No, men don’t have to show the world their naked bodies because they rely on their talent, their charisma, and their fan base instead.
Rihanna is famed for uploading Instagram pics of herself in bikinis, thongs, tiny shorts, etc. Part of me feels that she should be allowed to dress and wear what she wants, to celebrate her amazing body in any way she sees fit. But … there is a but. Rihanna’s fan base is largely made up of young, impressionable girls — and what is this telling them? That by putting your naked body at the forefront of everybody’s attention rather than your music or creative ideas is how you should get attention. She is objectifying and sexualizing herself in a way that I, and many other feminists, object to.
In her book How to be a Woman, feminist and author Caitlin Moran instates of her teen daughters, “Every time we see Rihanna, my girls will shake their heads, sadly, and say, ‘It is a great song – but we feel sorry for Rihanna. If she was really one of the biggest pop stars in the world, she’d be allowed to wear a nice cardigan once in a while. Poor Rihanna. Poor, cardigan-less Rihanna.’”
It isn’t just feminists wishing Ri-Ri would keep warm. Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins and Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas of the popular ’90s group TLC, made an appearance on Australia’s Sunrise 7 and slammed the singer. “Every time I see you, you don’t have to be naked,” T-Boz quipped. “It’s hard for us to say anything because anytime we do, they say, ‘Oh TLC must be jealous,’ but I call a spade a spade. We became the biggest girl selling group of all time with our clothes on and that says a lot,” she added.
How did Ri-Ri respond? She found an old photo of TLC, wearing less than normal clothing and set it as her Twitter background. Clearly Rihanna doesn’t take criticism lying down.
As a fan of her music and a celebrator of women, my only wish is that Rihanna would embrace the phrase, “Less is more.” Some of the classiest women in history — Audrey Hepburn, Princess Grace, Jennifer Aniston, Anne Hathaway, Cate Blanchett — let their work speak for itself without having to wear see-through ensembles to gain attention. R-Ri is a fantastic talent with an incredible voice and body, but it is time she kept it for herself and regained a little mystery, which we all know is the sexiest accessory of all.