Rihanna's Anger at CBS For Pulling Her Song Misses the Larger Point & It's Really Disappointing
It has been over a week and I still don't know how to feel about the fact that CBS was going to have Rihanna perform before a Baltimore Ravens game. For those who missed it, the Ravens are currently catching heat for condoning Ray Rice's domestic violence for as long as they could before finally dismissing him and the controversy of having Rihanna perform prior to the Ravens game comes from the fact that Rihanna herself is a survivor of highly publicized domestic abuse. CBS Sports eventually made the wise decision to pull her song and replace it with a speech by James Brown about ending domestic violence, but apparently Rihanna doesn't think that decision was very wise. In fact, Rihanna blasted CBS for pulling her song and, quite honestly, I don't think she should have.
Let me preface this by saying that I personally have never been in a domestic violence situation thus far and don't presume to tell anyone how they "should" handle it. That's not up to me and, as the now-famous #WhyIStayed Twitter campaign showed, there are a variety of different ways to deal with that situation that wouldn't necessarily make sense to those of us who have never experienced it. It's not my intention to belittle Rihanna's emotions or dictate her actions for her. I just disagree with her completely.
I'm sorry, but the real audacity here for me is that Rihanna is getting angry with CBS for pulling her song to begin with. In the first place, it's not as though she doesn't know why her song got pulled and it's not as though they did it without justification. If her song had been pulled and then just the game had been shown, I would understand why she would be frustrated. However, they pulled her song and replaced it with a segment devoted to continuing the discourse swirling about domestic violence and I honestly can't understand why Rihanna would want to disparage them for that.
There are so many domestic violence survivors who feel like they don't have a voice or that horrific amounts of victim blaming will prevent them from getting any actual help even if they didn't stay — and nine times out of ten they're right. To belittle CBS Sports' efforts to make up for enabling an atmosphere like that with their fumbling of the Ray Rice incident was out of line for Rihanna to do. In the second place, CBS Sports is trying to do right by Rihanna by playing her pre-taped performance as agreed — just not right before a match by a team that's now famous for harboring a domestic abuser — and she's refusing that olive branch?
Honestly, I understand why Rihanna is angry. I do. I understand why she would feel penalized by CBS pulling her performance because (a) she has gone on record many times as saying she's not a role model and she refuses to try to be and (b) it is unfair for her victimization to still be affecting her and her career even five years after the incident. However, what Rihanna's ire fails to understand is that this isn't just about her.
This is about the women all over the United States who feel empowered by this controversy to finally speak up and speak out about domestic violence. This about tiggers for those women, who don't really need to see a domestic abuse survivor proudly perform before a team that condones domestic violence. This about the open discourse that's not just about domestic violence and what a huge issue it s, but also about the more thorny side of domestic violence, the #WhyIStayed's. This is about the greater good and for Rihanna to belittle this entire movement by being upset that her song was pulled when it's going to be played during this week's match anyway is truly disappointing to me.
I know, I know, I know that Rihanna doesn't try to be a role model, but I would at least like it if she considered consequences before she made statements like this. As I said, it is her right to feel however she wants about her own history and to react to things in any way that she wants, but I really would have liked to see a little more foresight and care given to the people who reacted negatively to the announcement of her performance before the Ravens game. I would like to see a little more care and solidarity shown to the #WhyIStayed movement and to the voice so many survivors feel they don't have. I just would have liked to see more.
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