between the ma’at tattoo under her breasts, countless instagram pics and the recent lui magazine cover, rihanna’s breasts receive lots of attention.  therefore, we shouldn’t be shocked that her nipples played a starring role when she received the cfda fashion icon award last night.  rihanna’s dress was covered in swarovski crystals — and not much else.

rihanna_cfda_a_pshe looked ethereal, almost other worldly with the sparkling dress, gloves and head wrap.  with the dress and her nipples earning a spot in media outlets around the world, i’m wondering what it means for a woman to bare her breasts and disregard norms that typically make such an action taboo.

first, rihanna’s pixie dust dress demands a conversation about double standards.  in a society where the way a woman dresses invites judgments about her purity and sexual mores, women are held to much stricter rules about acceptable styles of dress than our male counterparts.  for example, why is it appropriate for a man to show his chest, but not a woman? pondering this very question, scout willis (demi moore and bruce willis’s daughter) recently started the #freethenipple campaign to protest instagram’s rules that ban women’s bare breasts, including those of breast cancer survivors and breastfeeding mothers, but allows bare chested pictures of men.   in fact, rihanna’s lui magazine cover was initially removed from her instagram account by the social media empire for this reason.



rihanna’s doobie

rihanna-amas-hairat sunday’s american music awards rihanna rocked a hairstyle many black women have donned since the advent of relaxers — the doobie wrap.  usually worn under a scarf and secured with bobby pins, it’s a protective hairstyle used to maintain our hair’s shape without having to use heat the next day.  most black women wouldn’t run to the convenience store, let alone attend a major event rocking a doobie.  wearing a doobie in public is like leaving your home in your pjs — it’s just inappropriate.

i often interrogate the varied meanings of appropriateness, examining their relationship to respectability politics and the dominant white culture.  i’m keenly aware that black folks often use similar language to refer to or reinforce white supremacy.  however, in the case of doobiegate, white people were enamored, not put off, by rihanna’s hair and miley cyrus has probably fired her hairstylist for not hipping her to this trend sooner.   (more…)