Rihanna is getting beaten up — again. This time, it's by women.
Recently, Lena Dunham, creator of the HBO hit series Girls, took aim, criticizing Rihanna on a WNYC show for not serving as a better role model to girls. Rihanna, in returning to her abuser, Chris Brown, was not the kind of feminist that Dunham thought she should be.
"I used to be really into Rihanna, that pop star, and then it's like — again, I don't want to ever throw stones from my glass house — but I follow her on Instagram and I just think about how many little girls beyond what I could even comprehend are obsessed with Rihanna," she said. "Like, you know, she left Barbados, she's had this amazing career, she's won a Grammy…She's talented. And then she gets back together with Chris Brown and posts a million pictures of them smoking marijuana together on a bed. And it cracks my heart in half in a way that makes me feel like I'm 95 years old."
The rant, from last month, wasn't Dunham's first. Early last year, when Rihanna and Brown released two songs together, Dunham tweeted, "Rihanna and Chris Brown's new duets make me want to go hide under Gloria Steinem's bed for 72 hours."
It might not be the best place for Dunham to hide. "Here's the view from under my bed," Gloria Steinem wrote to me in a recent email exchange. "Most women leaving violent relationships return at least once because their self-authority has been eviscerated and replaced with a partner's authority. Think Stockholm Syndrome. Rihanna probably needs support, not criticism, and her return could be a cause for teaching, not despair."
I certainly understand people's inclination to think that they know better, indeed, to feel like they are better than someone who is in an abusive relationship. Who in their right mind subjects themselves to repeated violence? But that is a short-sighted and actually not very smart response to what is actually going on with domestic abuse, and precisely the mentality that makes the survivor feel judged rather than understood.