Rihanna’s Bare Pregnancy Belly… the Beginning of a New Matriarchal Era
By: Iman Amara
The number of likes for Rihanna’s photo on the cover of the British magazine Vogue exceeded eleven million likes.
Feminists’ voices in the Old and New Worlds were raised in celebration of the images of the fashion icon and maker of “fads” as she inaugurated the new era for mothers.
These voices reverberated in our region, amid the usual accusations of “audacity, nudity and scandalism.”
In his analysis of the phenomenon of stars in his book, which bears the same title, Edgar Morin touched on the fact that “this world is mythical. In it, reality is mixed with fantasy, and also with dreams.”
“The lives of the stars themselves are a product meant for consumption, just like their images,” he noted.
Are the stars ideal models?
50 years after its release, Morin’s analysis is still valid and has become even more realistic with the rise of social media.
These media now facilitate instant access to these products without an intermediary, except for phone screens.
Stars sell us their artistic and entertainment materials originally.
But also, more increasingly, they sell their namesake beauty and care products, fashion lines, and various versatile devices.
In addition to the lifestyle, and a lot of shiny pictures of them, their weddings, and pictures of their children.
This evokes in the viewers the lust for wealth and fame, and dreams of owning palaces, cars, clothes, the same valuables, and bodies as well.
The public also treats celebrities as ideals, or, as Morin puts it, as gods, with the mechanisms that govern religions, and this admiration reaches the point of reverence, only from one side.
This unique relationship feeds on the perception of stars as consumer products and gradually denies them the adjective of humanity.
It intrudes into all the details of their lives, including their physical appearance and personal convictions.
At the same time, celebrities, in turn, feed their fans by providing them with these details, whether real or just a pretense to gain additional consumption.
This relationship, then, is like “the snake that devours its tail.”
While recipients are influenced by celebrity lifestyles and their fads, celebrities themselves are also influenced by what the audience asks of them, or what suits them, depending on the context of the local culture.
For example, we cannot forget the defense of artists in our region for Saad Lmjarrad, even after a court ruling was issued against him.
It is also difficult to forget the “claims of honor” of some artists in particular, and their crying over customs and traditions, in an attempt to win the approval of a wide audience, who see in them everything they do not want in their women because of their way of life, which is far from “conservative and committed”.
Despite this highly negative and backward view of women’s work in art and their visibility in public life in the first place, the presence of celebrities is closely linked to the presence of an audience that consumes their programs, films, videos, and images.
Therefore, they must show loyalty and obedience for a little legitimacy.
Celebrities serving the capitalist system
Mutual power is most evident between celebrities and the capitalist system.
Stars in the world of art and entertainment, various shows, and applications, are purely consumer products.
They are produced, shaped, molded, and directed according to market requirements, accompanied by a massive propaganda, and spread across social networking sites and various screens.
The primary product contributes, in turn, to the creation of the phantom need for sub-products, the marketing of which depends on the names of celebrities.
Some of them may become active partners in the capitalist system, not just intermediaries.
While we witnessed the transformation of icons like Rihanna and Beyoncé, or famous reality and social media stars like the Jenner sisters, into businesswomen with entire product lines, and huge fortunes in the blink of an eye.
In this case, stars and celebrities are not only subject to the standards imposed by the system on women but also proactively contribute to exceeding them.
They also help create new standards, to market their personal products.
The existing economic giant quickly picks it up and pumps it back into the market to the receiving majority.
Any woman today can replicate the celebrity look she wants, depending on her financial means, whether from high-end fashion houses or SHEIN.
Feminists disagree about Rihanna’s pictures
Let’s get back to Rihanna’s photos on the cover of Vogue. After that photo, white feminists
celebrated the “empowerment of women,” and minorities in particular, and triumphing over the image of a pregnant woman in loose, comfortable clothes, which this singer defies by appearing in the trendiest fashion attire.
Some even went far as to declare that “for the first time in human history, the image of a mother is reconciled with the image of a prostitute in one woman.”
Rihanna occupies the front with her fetus inside her protruding belly, while her first child and his father are behind her, in the place where women usually hide.
Perhaps neither the international singer nor the photographer, nor even the cast, had any of these ideas in mind.
Perhaps their only goal was to get impressive photos to sell at the highest price, and to show fashion professionally.
It is often part of an advertising deal the artist holds with fashion houses and brands, in exchange for several zeros paycheck.
What exactly are we celebrating?
Maybe we don’t have to look for feminist meanings for all the actions and sayings of famous women, nor should we ignore the balance of power, and the laws of supply and demand, in the world of savage capitalism.
If we choose to appreciate and celebrate, and for a while, we abandon sabotaging patriarchal endeavors to deceive us, what exactly are we celebrating?
Do we celebrate, for example, that Rihanna is a woman at the head of a gigantic business while being at the same time the mother of a child, and expecting another?
Is this not what women have been doing since the beginning of humanity, bearing all its burdens?
Do bourgeois feminists expect that all women in the world get pregnancy and maternity leave?
How many women give birth at their workplace: on farms and factories that produce Fenty Beauty clothing and accessories, and then rush back to work so they don’t starve?
And let us ask ourselves: aren’t we fed up with having so many images of happy smiling mothers with their round bellies, while they pretend euphoria and exaltation?
In whose interest is the image of the superwoman promoted? What is required of us as ordinary women, living ordinary lives full of economic, environmental, and existential crises?
What “empowerment” do Rihanna’s photographs offer to us or to black women like her in America, where their mortality rates are 40 percent higher than white women?
If we assume that every pregnant woman on earth dreams of wearing Rihanna’s clothes and flaunting her pregnant belly, what about the cost of these clothes and jewelry?
And what is the cost of going out wearing them on most of the streets in the world?
Does feminist discourse on the rights of pregnant women boil down to talking about what a celebrity star wears while a woman dies every two minutes during pregnancy or childbirth in the world?
And why does everyone ignore that celebrities are not ordinary women and have a Napoleonic army, whose tasks are limited to showing them at their best, and the simplest example of this is Rihanna’s belly, which was the focus of everyone’s fascination, was modified in color by Photoshop. Has this helped them even open water bottles to drink?
In addition to the presence of crews that ensure the provision of all means of comfort, medical and non-medical care, proper nutrition, and the reassurance of the billionaire mother that the well-secured future of her children is in safe hands. This is very far from our complicated calculations to make ends meet till the end of the month and make the salary sufficient at about the same time, with a minimum of arrears, debits, and postponements.
Does color or ethnicity intercede or justify the use of methods against other women?
In fact, the naïve perception that women will be freed from the shackles of patriarchy, because a woman has succeeded in fully engaging in capitalism, identifying with its rules to the point of reproducing it, is no different from considering the Zionist occupation army as a moral army because it is “vegetarian, respectful of the right of animals to life,” while Palestinian women are shot.
Perhaps we need to be constantly reminded that feminism, at least our feminism, is about creating a fairer world for all.
It is not only about achieving equality between women and men, in a system based on despotism, oppression, and crushing humans.
In calling all women feminists and activists, especially those belonging to minorities, let us recall Rihanna’s cooperation with actor Johnny Depp, as part of his attempts to regain his glories after accusations of psychological manipulation and marital violence.
Some might object and tell us that black women also have the right to fame, to impose their own aesthetic standards, to make vast fortunes, and other things that for centuries were, and still are, exclusive to white men.
But does color or ethnicity justify the use of methods against other women?
Did Beyoncé really know nothing about the story of the diamond from the famous jewelry company Tiffany & Co., steeped in the blood of black miners, when she prided herself on being the first black woman to wear it?
Does it mean anything to her that the one who immediately preceded her to adorn herself with it was the former Israeli soldier Gal Gadot?
Is feminism only about the very white slogans of “empowerment” and “Girl power” and “Girl boss”?
Will we own our destiny and freedom only when we engage in work, as defined by capitalism, and “succeed”?
The criticism here is not directed at mothers or pregnant women, represented by the singer and businesswoman Rihanna, because of the quality of her clothes, nor because of her legitimate happiness in her pregnancy.
Rather, it is an attempt to deconstruct what is behind it, to establish new mental images of what we should be as women, and to capitalism taking over all our attempts at salvation, reproducing them, after distorting them and adapting them to its advantage.
Slogans such as the “Black Power” turn from the call for liberation from the domination of the white man over wealth, means of production, and power, to a consumer race for products destined for the black market, whose profits pour into a frightening continuity, even by the calculations of the white man himself.