real life

Boycott Chris Brown's music? What about Rihanna's?

Rihanna after Chris Brown assaulted her


I boycotted Chris Brown a long time ago. It was an easy option, really – I dislike his music, and I don’t often listen to the radio. So the only effect this has in practice is that if I’m out and on the dance floor, and one of his songs begins to play, it means it’s time to go and get a drink. Win/win.

More recently though, I’ve decided to cut Rihanna’s music out of my life as well. Personally, I feel that her ongoing public affection for and forgiveness of Brown is irresponsible and unhealthy. Brown brutally beat her, refused to apologise, rapped about it, and then had the image of her bruised and bloodied face tattooed on his neck – because, you know, he’s a subtle dude. Then he claimed the tattoo is actually a Día de los Muertos reference.

No. Just… no. I’m planning a sugar skull tattoo which actually is a sugar skull; I know they are beautiful, intricate symbols – not raw women’s faces that look peeled and pulped.

My decision to boycott Rihanna’s music has had very little impact on my life, for the most part. I can get by just fine without her songs. Do I make an exception for Run This Town, given that my love of Jay-Z is undimmed, and Rihanna makes only a guest appearance? No, because this isn’t a game where I look for loopholes. The only censure I’d be evading would be my own.

The other song of hers which I loved was her collaboration with Calvin Harris, We Found Love. It’s incredibly catchy, and has a gorgeously fun poseur indie film-clip. The video features Rihanna and a Chris Brown lookalike running amok and generally being the ennui-stricken, asymmetrically-haired yoof of today: making out fully-clothed in bathtubs, riding in shopping trolleys, taking prescription drugs, making out on amusement park rides, tattooing “MINE” on each other’s bums, and making out in front of fireworks. But as much as I enjoy all the flashing lights and making out I cannot and will not watch the video, or listen to the song anymore. And I refuse to feel any sadness over this lack.

Veronica’s sister.

I am boycotting Rihanna because I don’t want my younger sisters, particularly the ten year old pictured – who is wildly celebrity-obsessed – to think that she is someone to be interested in. For years, I’ve humoured my sister’s various obsessions with Disney channel personalities, bubble gum pop and reality TV show contestants. I took her to a Miley Cyrus concert which caused temporary deafness from the intensity of the crowd’s squealing.

We visited Hollywood last year, and the entire time we were in LA I thought she might pop from the constant expectation that we could bump into the stars of High School Musical, in character, at any moment. As her Christmas present, I’m taking her to see Pink. But I have been and will continue to keep her far from Rihanna’s influence to the best of my ability.

As Rihanna herself is the first to admit, she’s not a role model.

“No, no, no,” Rihanna told Oprah, on the topic of being a role model. “Because of what society has made that title. It’s become a title of perfection, and that’s something nobody can achieve.”

But in reality, she is so far beyond being able to renounce the influence she wields over her thousands of fans, many of them young girls. I believe that not only is she not a role model, but is a negative model of womanhood. She is savvy enough that, if she actually is unaware of her huge, unquantifiable impact on girls and women around the world, this can only be a deliberate and self-inflicted ignorance.


Her ongoing relationship with Chris Brown demonstrates passivity, self-abasement, and an unquestioning acceptance of his half-hearted apology for physical violence. This kind of behaviour is extremely irresponsible and potentially damaging to her fans. I’ve seen how a little girl takes on board the things celebrities say or do, often unconsciously. My sister imitates their style, mimics verbal and behavioural tics, and can recite not only song lyrics but spoken quotes of her favourite singers and actors.

Rihanna and Chris Brown

I understand (do I ever understand!) that Rihanna is young, and that she wants to live wildly and independently and get drunk and take drugs and have sex with whomever she chooses. She doesn’t want to feel that these choices have been dictated to her. But going back to Brown as though nothing happened won’t go under the radar, because THEY’RE BOTH MASSIVE CELEBRITIES.

This isn’t a secret, furtive, private abusive relationship: it has played out in the public sphere and is an openly acknowledged, thoroughly documented abusive relationship. Is she being deliberately obtuse to the repercussions of forgiving her abuser? Or is her worldview skewed by the surreality of having attained dizzying levels of success, wealth and celebrity from such a young age?

I’m wary of going down the path of Freudian analysis; it’s too reductive an explanation and too slippery a slope. But it does appear that Rihanna’s estranged father is a man of questionable moral and personal beliefs. This interview, and similar interviews he has given to numerous media outlets, demonstrate several distressing elements in his attitude to women in general and his daughter in particular. His comments on her weight (“I actually thought she was a little fat the last time I saw her”) are inappropriate, cruel and unnecessary.

His description of Brown as a “nice guy” who is “entitled to make mistakes” is even more disturbing. What values and strength of self is he imparting to his daughter? Though I continue to distance myself from Rihanna’s music, my heart is aching for her. She’s a strong, financially independent, genetically blessed, immensely talented woman, who at only 24 has already achieved incredible success. However, her career and private life are dogged by men who ought to have her best interests at heart, yet seem determined to tear her down via physical and emotional abuse.

While Chris Brown sickens me, Rihanna saddens me. There is no place in my life for the music these two create, whether on individually or together. I will make sure there is no place for it in my younger sisters’ lives either. My fix of bathing fully-clothed and kissing in front of fireworks will have to come the old-fashioned way: from real life.

Veronica Sullivan is a writer and bookseller from Melbourne. You can find her blog here and her Twitter here.

This post has been republished from with full permission.