Wednesday 16 October 2019

For and Against: Is RiRi too raunchy for our kids?

Yvonne Hogan and Gillian Fitzpatrick discuss why they will and won't let their children watch modern music videos.

Revealing Rihanna.
Revealing Rihanna.
Spice Girl Mel C.
Gillian Fitzptrick.

Yvonne Hogan and Gillian Fitzpatrick

She found fame as a Spice Girl, who championed 'girl power' above all else, but Mel C has now banned her daughter Scarlett from watching Rihanna videos. Speaking to the Radio Times, the former Sporty Spice said that female artists should 'have more dignity' and stop flaunting their flesh and featuring explicit content in their music videos and live performances.

"My five-year-old loves Rihanna. But she has no idea what her idol looks like because there's little footage that I'm happy for her to see. It's a shame that a talented, successful woman expresses herself in such an overtly sexual way."

Revealing Rihanna.
Revealing Rihanna.

Her comments come after a backlash against artists such as Nicki Minaj, who features explicit content in her 'Anaconda' video as well as Jennifer Lopez and Iggy Azaelea who were criticised for their recent 'Booty' video. But the former Sporty Spice pointed out that the problem did not 'boil down' to one female singer and a bigger conversation was needed.

"It's vulgar and narcissistic and I worry about how it affects girls," she said, adding that the Spice Girls weren't interested in 'pleasing men'.

But is Mel C right? Should we ban young girls from watching raunchy videos in case it harms their development? Or is this yet another example of parental paranoia?

Mother-of-one Gillian Fitzpatrick explains why she has no problem letting her daughter watch Rihanna, while another mum-of-one Yvonne Hogan says that the singer is banned in her house too.

"There is something very wrong when young girls want to act, behave and look like porn stars"

Yvonne Hogan

I couldn't agree more with Mel C. There is no way I would let my daughter watch anything put out by the likes of Miley Cyrus and Rihanna.

It's not that I am a prude. I don't believe there is anything wrong with a bit of healthy, confident sexuality in a music video or performance. I wouldn't have a problem with her seeing a Katy Perry video, or anything from Britney Spears's back catalogue for example.

But there is something very dark and insidious about the type of sexuality that is permeating popular culture today. It is not extrovert, playful, cheeky and confident, a la Spice Girls. There is nothing fun or empowering about it. It is humiliating and submissive and demeaning. It is depressing.

Spice Girl Mel C.
Spice Girl Mel C.

Every year, the videos and performances get more and more explicit, more pornographic. You have Miley, naked, swinging backwards and forwards on a wrecking ball. Pictures of Rihanna in explicit poses. Jennifer Lawrence's naked pictures.

While I laud Lawrence's lack of shame in response to the leaking of the pictures, I find her rationale for taking them - that she was in a long-distance relationship and he either looked at her or he looked at porn - depressing. Porn is supposed to be fantasy, and now young girls feel they have to compete with it.

And this is at the nub of the problem. Sexuality is wonderful. Feeling and looking sexually attractive is, whether we like it or not, important to most girls and women. And there is nothing at all wrong with that. It is healthy to allow all parts of the human experience to flourish, and sexuality is a very important part of that. And we all know in this country how horrific and twisted things can get when you suppress and make sexuality shameful.

But we have gone too far. The pendulum released with the sexual revolution has swung too far and into very dangerous territory. Female sexuality is being debased and packaged for commercial gain and sold back to our little girls as empowerment. And I stress little girls. If you go to a Rihanna or a Miley Cyrus concert and you will find plenty of preteens and young teenagers.

There is something very wrong when young girls - and, young girls emulate the stars of the day so chances are, if Jennifer Lawrence is doing it, your daughters are thinking about it - want to act, behave and look like porn stars.

Our daughters are sending naked pics of themselves to boys. They are performing sex acts in public when they are drunk. They are dressing in an extremely provocative manner - coming home from a night out recently, I came across a large group of teenage girls, very affluent, well-spoken girls, dressed in what looked like underwear - and they are putting themselves in very dangerous situations.

And the pace at which the bar is being lowered is frightening. I wrote about this topic in this paper in 2010 and just four years later, the things I was highlighting as frightening are now pretty run of the mill.

Someone has to call stop. And as parents, I believe we have to speak out. So I join Mel C in saying that enough is enough. It's time that female entertainers took their dignity back.

"My daughter may dance to whatever music she likes"

Gillian Fitzpatrick


It's an argument that has become all too predictable: young pop star horrifies concerned parents with supposed raunchy antics.

"Disgusting"; "damaging"; "dangerous" - the reaction usually follows the same pattern. If we dug up commentary on Frank Sinatra, Elvis and The Beatles, we'd probably find much of the same panic. Indeed, in the 18th Century, Mozart caused a significant stir with the likes of Don Giovanni and The Marriage Of Figaro. Because music has always been about rebellion.

This week, it is the turn of Mel C to bemoan the awfulness of pop culture - singling out 26-year-old Barbadian singer Rihanna for particular mention. Using words such as "vulgar" and "narcissistic", the former Spice Girl said her daughter aged five "has no idea what her idol looks like because there's little footage that I'm happy for her to see".

Like Mel C, I also have a daughter. Although the singer's child Scarlet is older than my Giulia's 18 months, I nevertheless recognise already the particular challenges that come with raising a daughter while sex is being used to sell just about everything. It's there, as it always has been, in advertising. It exists in bucket-loads on TV and film screens - even those with child-friendly ratings or daytime broadcast slots. Toys don't escape either: dolls for girls, with their oversized eyes and lashes, long luscious hair, tiny clothing and high heels, project and promote an image that I admit is hardly ideal.

But truly, if any parent believes that allowing their child to watch a music video featuring Rihanna - or indeed Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry or pretty much any other young, female pop star - is ultimately going to transform innocence into corruption, then they've probably got bigger parental issues to consider.

Raising a child is hard. Very hard, in fact. There's no rule-book and certainly no magic answers. You learn on the job, do your best and just hope that you're not getting it horribly wrong. But it's all too easy to simply turn off the television or disable wifi access when the going gets tough. I've heard dads bemoan the internet - lamenting the catastrophes that lurk in a virtual world. I've heard mums call on the Government to ban great swathes of content online lest their little ones stumble upon it.

But instead of looking for someone or something to blame, let's instead embrace hands-on parenting that involves supervised access to electronic devices. Let's champion reasonable discussion with our children about what is acceptable. Let's embrace calm words of warning that aim to education without hysteria. In short, we - the adults in society - should take greater responsibility because, just as I'm not going to pat, say, Kate Middleton on the back if Giulia gets into a good university (circa 2031), I'm certainly not going to place the weight of my child's failures at the feet of Rihanna.

I'm happy to therefore report that my daughter may dance to whatever music she likes - and thankfully my husband and I have a few years yet before she could even begin to understand the true meaning behind the lyrics. Of course, Mel C has fought her own demons - speaking openly about her eating disorders, depression and ADHD. Indeed, while Victoria, Mel B and Geri always seemed so confident and comfortable in the spotlight (and Emma rather indifferent), Mel C never wholly embraced the trappings of her Spice Girls fame and fortune.

That she would want to protect her daughter from the same struggles she faced is only natural.

But let's not confuse those protective impulses with blind desire to shield our children at all costs. Not least because that's not a battle any of us can win.

Irish Independent

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