Sisterhood Blog

Rihanna in Israel

By Elana Sztokman

  • Print
  • Share Share
Getty Images
Rihanna performs in Tel Aviv on May 30. (click to enlarge)

Some great music artists have been performing in Israel. Madonna’s 2009 concert and Elton John’s concert in two weeks are definite highlights, although I suppose this admission reveals that I am in fact just a teeny-bopper at heart.

Given the political context, I feel like I should probably be grateful for any artist willing to stand up firm against those who advocate for a boycott boldly take the stage in Ramat Gan. But, as much as I’m loathe to admit this, I’m less excited about some artists than about others.

Rihanna, for example, who is in Israel at the moment, makes me bristle. She is a walking advertisement for how to become a battered woman. It’s not just that she reportedly went back to the man who beat her so badly that he reportedly gave her a black eye and broken teeth. It’s not just that she reportedly “forgave him” before he began serving his sentence for assault. After all, he wrote a song for her, so how could she not forgive, right? At least that’s what throngs of talkbackers said. It’s not just her real life but also her music that truly turns me off. Rihanna’s hit “Russian Roulette” is one of the most chilling, anti-women songs I have ever heard.

I cannot believe that it continues to be played on the radio. In a slow, dramatic, agonizingly kvetchy melody, the song describes a woman standing before a man who is holding a gun to her.

You can see my heart beating
You can see it through my chest
I’m terrified, but I’m not leaving
I know that I must pass this test
So just pull the trigger…

As my life flashes before my eyes
I’m wondering if I will ever see another sunrise
…I’m terrified, but I’m not leaving
I know that I must pass this test
So just pull the trigger…

At the end of the song, there is the sound of a gunshot.

What is the message here? That a woman’s “test” is in her ability to stand still while a man holds a gun to her? That the goal in life is to take deep breaths and meditate while a man takes her life? This is so twisted, and absolutely the worst message girls and women can hear about life, relationships, strength and self.

It makes me pine for the days of Gloria Gaynor and her tough, fast-paced, take-no-crap, “I will survive.” She, too, had a scary boyfriend. “At first I was afraid, I was petrified.” But then she stands up for herself.

I should have changed that stupid lock
I should have made you leave your key
If I’d’ve known for just one second you’d back to bother me
Go on now, go, walk out the door
Just turn around now
‘Cause you’re not welcome anymore
Weren’t you the one who tried to hurt me with goodbye
Did you think I’d crumble?
Did you think I’d lay down and die?
Oh no, not I. I will survive.

Now there’s a message for women. If he hurts you, kick him out — and don’t forget to change the locks!

It’s interesting because there are some really great feminist artists out there: Mary J. Blige, Indigo Girls, Suzanne Vega, Carly Simon, The Bangles, Ani DiFranco, for example, plus Margalit “Margol” Tzanani, Gali Atari, Yehudit Ravitz, in Israel, to name a few. Yet, alongside our feminist progress there exists also a regressive misogynistic backlash. Troubling lyrics like those in “Russian Roulette” are just one example. Images of women in music videos — portrayed as “walking bling” — are another expression of the misogyny. And research continues to point out that music lyrics and images have a direct influence on teenage behavior and ideas about gender and sexuality.

So pardon me if I don’t celebrate Rihanna’s music, even if I’m glad for the extra visitors to Israel. But let me tell you, if Mary J. Blige decides to make her way here, I will be the first in line to buy a concert ticket, because she, like so many great feminist women, truly is “Fine.” Now that would be a celebration for women!


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Rihanna, Musicians, Israel, Gloria Gaynor, Cultural Boycott, Chris Brown

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Move over Dr. Ruth — there’s a (not-so) new sassy Jewish sex-therapist in town. Her name is Shirley Zussman — and just turned 100 years old.
  • From kosher wine to Ecstasy, presenting some of our best bootlegs:
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.