Rihanna | Pop Queen and the ‘Ultimate N***abitch’

Posted by Kait Bolongaro & filed under Fashion, Music.

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Rihanna is one of the greatest superstars of the last decade and has an undisputable influence on the latest fashion. Yet even one of the most powerful black women of this generation can’t escape racist and sexist stereotyping. On December 19 2011, Dutch fashion magazine Jackie published an article about how to dress young girls like the singer. The opening line? “She has street cred, she has a ghetto ass and she has a golden throat.” If these words make you cringe, consider the article’s title crowning Rihanna: “The N***abitch”.

This is the excerpt from Jackie, translated by Parlour, a magazine based out of New York City:

She has street cred, she has a ghetto ass and she has a golden throat. Rihanna, the good girl gone bad, is the ultimate n***abitch and displays that gladly, and for her that means: what’s on can come off. If that means she’ll be on stage half naked, then so be it. But Dutch winters aren’t like Jamaican ones so pick a clothing style in which your daughter can resist minus ten. No to the big sunglasses and the pornheels, and yes to the tiger print, pink shizzle and everything that glitters. Now let’s hope she won’t beat anybody up at daycare.

Since the original piece is in Dutch, perhaps the term may have a different meaning in English. However, it doesn’t. One of TheYBF‘s Dutch readers confirmed that the term’s meaning is identical to the English one. “This is not a ‘fashionista’ term,” stated the reader. “We say bitch here as well and it means exactly the same as in English, as well as ‘n***a.'” So the translation is correct and the term creates the same derogatory image as in English for both people of colour and women. So why was this ridiculous story published in the first place?

According to former Jackie Editor-in-Chief Eva Hoeke’s ‘apology’ letter, posted on the magazine’s Facebook page, it was meant to be a joke.

First: thanks for all your responses. We are of course very fed up over this and especially very shocked. ….Other than that I can be brief about this: this should have never happened. Period. While the author meant no harm—the title of the article was intended as a joke—it was a bad joke, to say the least. And that slipped through my, the editor-in-chief’s, fingers….Furthermore I hope that you all believe there was absolutely no racist motive behind the choice of words. It was stupid, it was naive to think that this was an acceptable form of slang—you hear it all the time on tv and radio, then your idea of what is normal apparently shifts—but it was especially misguided: there was no malice behind it.

From the bottom of my heart I say it again: we never intended to offend anyone. And I mean that.

While Hoeke apologized, it doesn’t seem genuine. I have the feeling if there hadn’t been a public outcry this article would have been an acceptable ‘joke’. She also seems to be blaming the author of the article instead of herself even though both are to blame. The day after this article was published, Hoeke resigned from her position as Editor-in-Chief after an intense social media backlash that included a tweet from Rihanna herself who was justly infuriated by the term ‘n***abitch’ and even ended her message with ‘Fuck you Eva’. Jackie magazine has now invited Rihanna to discuss her feelings about the article in their upcoming issue. To be honest, this almost sounds like a publicity stunt.

This article is wrong on so many levels. Rihanna is stereotyped as the ‘typical’ violent, hypersexual and musical black woman portrayed by the media. The author clearly lacks research skills: Rihanna is from Barbados, not Jamaica. Additionally, this article was intended as advice for mothers to dress their daughters. Since when do pornheels and daycare belong in the same story?

What I find most disturbing about the term “n***abitch” is how particularly derogatory this word combination is towards black women. While all women and black men are insulted, the two histories of these words are intertwined within a black woman’s identity and it can’t be divided. So, Rihanna is being insulted for being both black and being a woman. These are terms that hurt and don’t have a place in our society in 2012.

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