Rihanna’s violent “Bitch Better Have My Money” music video is, if anything, a conversation starter. The seven-minute video shows the pop star seeking revenge against her wealthy accountant—by kidnapping his innocent blonde wife, stripping her naked, and abusing her in a graphic medley, before eventually giving the accountant what he deserves. Rihanna is assisted by her badass girl gang, but the torture of the wife that happens for the majority of the video made many call this project startingly anti-feminist. But Riri doesn’t see it that way.
In her interview with NME, the singer said that she appreciated the shock that the music video garnered: “I was very happy with the reaction.” But when asked directly about the gender dynamic of the clip—that Rihanna and her posse would torture a fully clothed man’s innocent, naked wife, the star defended her work. “Well, I mean, now we’re reaching,” she said. “I didn’t think about anything that had to do with that. Wow. And at the end of the day the women won. The bitch was the man. So I’m confused. Those are the people that didn’t get it. I’m not worried about those people. This was not a woman-empowerment video. I was making a piece of art.”
Granted, the act of holding one’s wife hostage, when done by men in action movies, is altogether something that isn’t questioned (though unrightfully so). Women in entertainment are more than frequently used as props to exact revenge or to evoke some kind of action from a male character. But still, it’s perplexing for Rihanna to continue this use of women as inanimate objects.
While music videos do not typically dole out moral lessons or make social commentary, they still are a major tool that can communicate change. So, while Rihanna may not have focused on gender divisions in her video, the inequalities are still communicated to her viewers. But intentions aside, the singer knows how to get our attention—and perhaps it is unfair to expect every video from a feminist pop star to be one that actively empowers women. “I just have a way of breaking the rules even when I don’t intend to,” she said. And that’s one thing that we can always expect from Rihanna.