Tuesday 27 September 2016

Brendan O'Connor: They all wanted to be Rihanna, in all her half-dressed glory

Published 27/06/2016 | 02:30

Role model: Girls want to copy Rihanna in all her half-dressed glory.
Role model: Girls want to copy Rihanna in all her half-dressed glory.

I first saw them as I left the office on Talbot Street. They were an odd sight. It wasn't an incredibly sunny day, but yet there they were, swarms of them, what I can only describe as young ones in their knickers. As I walked home, I was assailed at all turns by arse cheeks, many of them unsightly. Indeed, when you're walking around a city, any arse cheeks are unsightly. In context, you can ignore an arse cheek. At the beach, you become immune to them. But in town, it's different. They are just wrong. Arse cheeks in town just don't sit right.

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At this point I remembered that Rihanna, a former singer who now acts largely like a porn star, was playing at the Aviva. Exactly in the direction I was headed. I was walking into arse cheek ground zero. And instead of enjoying the festive air, I found myself tut-tutting. What kind of a role model was this Rihanna tramp? And here was proof positive that the continuing sexualisation of popular culture was having a direct affect on our young women. They were all emulating Rihanna. They wanted to be her, in all her half-dressed glory. Now I know that some feminists would accuse me of slut-shaming right now. And would argue that these young women are empowered, that they are owning their erotic capital. To which I would respond by questioning the erotic capital of a 12-year-old with badly applied streaks of fake tan, walking around town dressed like a sex worker. And I would argue that by the looks of them, many of these young ones would have been better off going for a run or playing a game of football or something. (Go on so, add fat-shaming to my list of crimes).

As I got closer to the epicentre of it, I realised that there was a competitiveness to the slutty dressing. It was a peer pressure thing. They were all trying to outdo each other by being more Ri-Ri than the next one. And I saw all the boys too, delighted boys, who possibly wouldn't be able to believe, if indeed they thought about it, that this was the gift feminism had bequeathed them. These young ones had the freedom to parade their booties down the road. It was female empowerment.

I was on the phone to my mother as I walked, giving her a running commentary on it all. I may have used the phrase, "It's like a junior prostitutes' convention". My mother, always delighted to hear me getting my own back for the torment I inflicted on everyone as a youth, laughed as she told me how mine would be there in just a few short years. I assured her mine would not be let out the door dressed like that. She laughed knowingly.

A short while later at home, out the window, I saw a girl and her mum park up and head off for Rihanna. It was sweet, her heading off to Rihanna with her mum. Glimpses of innocence have always killed me. I have this thing burnt on my brain that I saw on a tube near Golders Green in London once. It was a grandad, a Hassidic Jew, and his grandson. And as the train went along the grandson kept asking his grandad questions about things, about the world, and everything around them. And the grandad told the kid how it was, gently and with such love. And the boy believed everything the grandad told him. He looked at him with such adoration, such hero-worship, such dependence and such innocence. It kills me now even to recount it.

And this girl, dressed in her smartest gear, with her handbag over her shoulder, killed me too, her and mum heading off, just the girls. And a little part of me was sad that she wasn't with all her pals, half naked and drinking alcopops. And I hoped that at the Aviva, none of them would stare, or comment about her, and I hoped that she wouldn't feel self-conscious, or left out.

But you know what? I like to hope that she didn't. Because walking through the crowds, there was no nastiness in the air, and all shapes and sizes and types were rubbing along together. So, hopefully no one was mean to that girl just because she had Down syndrome.

I suppose mine will be there soon enough. And part of me wants them to be there having a sneaky drink with their pals half naked, and part of me wants them to be with me or Sarah, dressed in their smartest gear, and not caring what anyone thinks, innocent. Life's funny isn't it? And you never know what to wish for really.

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