By MIA FREEDMAN
A few months ago, I saw this image that Rihanna posted on her Instagram account and I was overcome with a deep sense of despair:
‘Badgalriri’ is Rihanna’s official Instagram feed where she posts pictures of herself. And for those who don’t speak gangsta, what Rihanna is saying in the caption above is that she’s grateful to Prada designer Miuccia Prada who sent her the crotch-high boots as a gift. The photo was taken in the popstar’s bathroom.
Understand? Instead of a handwritten card or even a quick text to say thank you for the boots, Rihanna sent Miucca a photo of her bare arse, via the world.
It’s really, really hard to write this post without sounding like a nana. A wowser. A killjoy. A prude. Or even a hypocrite. It’s really hard to avoid accusations of slut-shaming or moral panic or hysteria over a ‘harmless’ photo. Look, it’s Rihanna’s bum, therefore it’s her absolute right as a woman….as a FEMINIST to Instagram it, bare, clothed or bejazzled, yeah?
Well sure but this isn’t actually about Rihanna’s bum. Not for me. For me, it just felt like the final straw, one of those moments where you say “stop the world, I want to get off.” Because do you know where my mind instantly went when I saw this photo? To my daughter. She’s 7.
She doesn’t yet have Instagram or internet access and I’ve become one of those parents who don’t allow magazines in the house but I know it’s only a temporary reprieve. I know it’s only a matter of time before images like this will become the visual wallpaper of her life, just like it already is for my nieces and my god-daughters.
It’s inevitable. In fact, the onslaught has already begun because my daughter can read and she watches TV and she walks around in the world.
And I know that she’s taking it all in.
More and more often, I actually visualise myself standing in front of my little girl like a human shield, intercepting an endless, explicit and aggressive stream of imagery hurtling at her from media, music videos, movies, mags and TV shows. All of these images
scream the same message: to be valued as a woman or a girl, you must look sexy. Pretty. Hot. Alluring. All the time. At every age.
And as the mother of a vulnerable little girl who is soaking up the world around her, it’s making me feel sick. And powerless to stop it.
And, yes, panicked.
For how long can I feasibly shield her from this ugly message? The protective walls I’ve built around her are already porous. Our house is full of Princess paraphernalia; wall to wall busty babes with hand-span waists and flowing hair.
Even the fabulously feisty Merida from Brave had a compulsory sexy make-over (smaller waist, bigger boobs, lower cut top, lots of eyeliner, lose the bow and arrows) before being allowed to join her fellow Disney Princesses.