Rihanna + The Real Island Girl

I generally write about my life so far, but after seeing my Bajan neighbor’s recent attempt at being an exotic dancer i had to put in my two cents, or maybe just a carefully worded view since money seems to egg her on. I know this is an inflammatory title, but it’s merely an opinion based on my experience as a Caribbean woman. The recent influx of Rihanna’s body parts and ganja penchant littering the social network makes me wince. I only think of the little girls throughout the Antilles looking at her as some kind of ambassador for our culture, turn away girls. I think in our best form, Caribbean women are stand outs, we have a unique feminine confidence and i wouldn’t mess with an island girl if i wasn’t one. Rihanna is taking this form to a point of vulgarity that separates her from it. She had the quality initially, bursting on the scene with a youthful, spicy earthiness. Over time this hasn’t developed it into any kind of mysterious exoticism which is way more appealing. Instead, she’s riding the wave of island stereotypes. Look at me, i smoke big blunts and party all the time.

To me, Caribbean culture has an underlying pulse that lends itself to the drums in our music and the frivolity of our people. We love being exuberant and free, dancing in the streets covered in glitter and soaked in rum. We live by soca, calypso and reggae and the rhythm it gives to our movement. But we own it enough to know when to pack up the feathers and big blunts for next year and get back to work; the freedom’s the thing, you see. It’s ritualistic, it’s there for the purpose of letting go. This concept is something Rihanna has lost sight of, she doesn’t seem free at all or in touch with her culture, but merely a young woman who has sold out for the attention she desperately seeks. She’s bought into the vacant American concept of “sex sells.” Listen, you can possess your sexuality and also be self-possessed, it can be done. My girl Ri Ri just seems possessed, namely by a hooker.

Surely, we both grew up in Caribbean households, with families that would rag on us for wearing a sleeveless top to church? Cussing? Forget about it, I’m a grown woman and i still get the evil eye if i drop an f bomb. But I’m thankful for that in a way, because it’s given me a sense of propriety but also the kind of graceful restraint that made Eliza a lady. Now, i swear, drink, dance provocatively and follow no religious denomination with the best of them but i know my limits, i hold back because reputation is everything. Reputation is important to us, how we are perceived is vital because it reflects status yes, but also allows room for our voice to be heard and respected. A respect that is vital in the development of Caribbean familial structures where there is an epidemic of fatherless offspring and domestic violence, especially within the majority populous. We need to impart to these women that they are more than their bodies, they are more than objects, they have a voice and it doesn’t have to be crass or even despondent to send a message.  I don’t respect Rihanna mostly because I’m not sure what her message is, I’m not saying shatter the patriarchy with one word but fuck, wear a bra for a minute. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe her message is hidden behind all the excess and bullshit. But who wants to wade through that? She certainly doesn’t have to be a role model but if you take it too far, there is that point of descent where you fall into; indifference.

Don’t even get me started on Nicki Minaj. I cringe.

Alternatively, Tessanne Chin, (a Jamaican artist who was recently won The Voice), is amazing and exactly what a Caribbean woman is to me. She doesn’t need antics and only heightened sexuality to display her talent and island attitude. It gives me a great sense of relief to know she’s out there on the world stage for our culture. Oh and don’t forget Beryl McBurnie, Jean Rhys and Calypso Rose, past examples of positive ambassadors.

There’s a calypso by The Mighty Sparrow called Jean and Dinah where he speaks of the increase in prostitution while the American faction had a military base in Trinidad, post-WWII. The chorus in particular is a throwback that accurately reflects how i see Rihanna right now, because she is what she is choosing to be; “workin for de yankee dollar”. That’s fine but please know she does not represent a Caribbean woman’s sensibility, at least not one the best of us possess;

Jean and Dinah
Rosita and Clementina
Round the corner posing
Bet your life is something they selling
And if you catch them broken
You can get em all for nothing – See more at: http://islandlyrics.com/lyrics-mighty_sparrow-jean_and_dinah_1956.htm#sthash.sw9bNze1.dpuf
Jean and Dinah
Rosita and Clementina
Round the corner posing
Bet your life is something they selling
And if you catch them broken
You can get em all for nothing – See more at: http://islandlyrics.com/lyrics-mighty_sparrow-jean_and_dinah_1956.htm#sthash.sw9bNze1.dpuf

So when you bounce up Jean and Dinah
Rosita and Clementina, round the corner posing
Bet your life is something they selling
And if you catch them broken
You can get em all for nothin…

https://soundcloud.com/djvincegbenga/the-mighty-sparrow-medley-jean#t=0:07

Boom.

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