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Why I'm Boycotting Rihanna

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"Even if it's a mistake, it's my mistake," she says. "After being tormented for so many years, being angry and dark, I'd rather just live my truth and take the backlash. I can handle it." - Interview with Rolling Stone magazine, February 2013

No deal, Rihanna.

Last year, I went to the O2 to see American rapper, Nicki Minaj with a friend. We're both in our late twenties and got the tickets free, so we weren't surprised to find that the vast majority of the audience were from a different demographic - teenage girls. What did surprise me was the effect of hearing that many teenagers drop the 'n bomb' in unison because they are singing along to Minaj's lyrics.

It felt really weird. I'm not often taken out of my comfort zone, but this was a nasty wake-up call.

Now, one can over-think this kind of situation. After all, as a kid I would search out the singles with the 'Explicit Lyrics' warning - they seemed dangerous and grown-up. But essentially I'd take their message with a pinch of salt, and still do.

So while I find the values of Nicki Minaj fairly unpleasant, I've no problem in enjoying her music, and the same goes for Rihanna. Several of my favourite hip hop artists have done jail time, so it's wrong for me to dislike them for appearing superficial. Many pop stars are interesting because of their foibles, not despite them.

But you've got to draw the line somewhere, right?

Dropping Chris Brown was easy. Put frankly, his brand of R 'n' B / dance has never really spoken to me, and subsequent to him being charged in 2009 with beating up Rihanna, he was widely blacklisted by radio stations in the UK. His record company have managed to finagle him back into the public eye with a recent album, but guerilla campaigns like the one below pretty much sum up the public mood on Chris Brown {Upload 2}.

That girls went online to say that they would 'let Chris Brown hit' them is not really that alarming - there is a procession of willing idiots for every occasion, and there are generally twice the number of people outraged by said willing idiots {Upload 1}.

Despite this, it is undeniable that the continuing public love affair between Rihanna and Chris Brown effects the way young women feel about themselves, and understand relationships.

What I saw at the Nicki Minaj concert reminded me just how much these young women idolise pop singers, and how willing they are to directly mimic the values and standards portrayed. Rihanna's songs are relentlessly brilliant pop bangers. Every new tune seems to find a way to sound catchy and fresh. When they come on in nightclubs, I am rarely off the dance floor. Well - no longer.

Rihanna's songs are fairly amoral - they tend to depend more on story and romance than any kind of principle-based message, and while this does not devalue them, the reality is that much of her appeal comes from the fact that she's exotic, risqué and sexy.

...All of which are absolutely great! I'd also say that my choice to boycott Rihanna is not a personal attack on her. I'm sure that the love she feels for Chris Brown is very real to her. There are countless musicians who have done truly grotesque things, whereas Rihanna's only crime is to fall in love with the wrong guy.

So I'm boycotting Rihanna the brand because I am incandescent at any kind of acceptance of domestic violence. We are in a different environment to 30 or 40 years ago, when cigarette advertising, drink driving and bigoted comedians were accepted norms. I hope to drive this conversation forward.

I'm not arguing for watered-down plain vanilla pop stars. I'm also not arguing for pop stars who have a moral code similar to mine because many of my favourites (Dr. Dre, The Rolling Stones, Mozart) certainly do not. But I also refuse to accept that we should let Rihanna (the brand) off because it's her choice, her body etc.

She has clearly been surrounded by enough sycophantic scumbags so as to normalise domestic abuse - or at least to make allowances for it.

There are two narratives at play in the story of Rihanna and Chris Brown. One is the story of a couple in love despite the odds, and one is the story of a vulnerable girl who thinks that this is okay. It isn't.

We should demand higher standards from content publishers. Music concerts - in the UK in particular - are one of the few mass community experiences, and as such there is a very real risk that girls going home from a Rihanna concert share the story, and use it to excuse abusive partners in their own lives.

No deal.