Victim? Vixen? In control or out-of-control? The debate over Pisces singer Rihanna has been a hot one for the last few years. And fuel has just been heaped onto that fire with a leaked copy of her new song “Birthday Cake,” an unlikely duet between her and Taurus ex Chris Brown, who was charged with beating her three years ago.
This week, four planets are visiting Pisces, the zodiac’s hazy, confusing and oft-contradictory 12th sign. The Sun, messenger Mercury, boundary-blurring Neptune and yesterday’s new moon all gathered in Pisces, the sign of secrets, soulfulness, suffering and the subconscious. What’s real? What’s an illusion? What makes sense? The Pisces pileup has us questioning everything. That can make for a heady and head-spinning week.
I (Ophira) certainly felt that way when I heard “Birthday Cake” yesterday. I was at a North Carolina university giving a speech on body image and women’s empowerment (my other longtime passion — seewww.loveyourbody.org) when I heard the song. Feeling especially sensitized to the subject matter, I was taken aback by Brown’s X-rated opener: “Girl I wanna **** you right now/Been a long time/I’ve been missing your body.”
Pisces is the sign of karma. It brings the past back around for examination, healing and recovery. Under Pisces’ influence, secrets spill out into the open. Issues we’ve swept under the rug always resurface.
Like this one: In 2009, shocking and gruesome police photos of Rihanna surfaced after Chris Brown had beaten her repeatedly, leaving her face bloodied, scratched and bruised. Swiftly, Rihanna changed her image and music from doe-eyed “Umbrella” girl to a tough, S&M-influenced vibe, and Chris Brown became persona non grata in the music industry. He’s slowly made a comeback, winning a Grammy this year. Surprising … yet not, as pop culture is famous for having short-term memory.
But the collaboration came without any acknowledgment of the obvious: How did Chris Brown and Rihanna get from there … to HERE? How could they record a duet while the world assumed they had no contact, and had polarized them into good and evil? How did she feel safe around him — or did she?
With Neptune in Pisces (Rihanna’s sign) since February 3 and bold Jupiter in Taurus (Chris Brown’s sign), the two have been pulled into the cosmic spotlight. Jupiter can make us arrogant, cocky and prone to playing with fire. Chris Brown’s behavior seems fueled by Jupiter, as he seems to thumb his nose at any critics rather than humbly taking responsibility. If he’s reformed his bullheaded Taurus ways or addressed his battering issues, it ain’t showing. The two are also rumored to have been secretly dating for a while now (Pisces and Taurus is a common coupling that can be beset by troubles).
There’s an air of shock, disgust and disappointment around this release, which seems at once defiant and delusional on Rihanna’s behalf. Many fans looked up to her as an anti-violence role model, but perhaps that was a responsibility she wasn’t mature or inwardly strong enough to carry. Pisces women can be troubled souls who are drawn to difficult and even dangerous situations, especially when they’re young (Drew Barrymore, Elizabeth Taylor, Sharon Stone, to name a few).
Maybe it’s not fair to saddle Rihanna with the task of ending violence — although we DO feel that celebrities wield huge influence, and this definitely sends a confusing message to her young fans. But maybe we need to step back and examine this sociologically. This off-key collaboration reveals the realities of dating violence, a fact of life our culture conveniently ignores until we can gawk at Rihanna’s shocking police photos…or gasp at Taylor Armstrong on “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.”
The truth? Statistics show that every 15 seconds, a woman is battered in America. Women ages 20-24 make up the highest-risk group for partner violence, and Rihanna falls into that group. A large percentage of battered women return to the men who abused them. And contrary to stereotype (one Rihanna’s tried hard to overturn with her videos), abused women aren’t “weak” — even when they go back.
Violence is subtle, usually beginning with small acts of control, possessiveness and jealousy — things that our movies and culture deem sexy, or signs of male attraction. Think about it: The “Twilight” film franchise is about a dangerous vampire who won’t leave his fragile heroine’s side even when she sleeps. His lust for her is literally lethal, and he can barely contain himself from ravishing her. THIS is what women are supposed to want.
So rather than a reason to blame or target Rihanna, this disturbing duet is a chance to talk openly about violence against women, a HUGE issue that pervades our culture. With four planets in Pisces this week — the Sun, Mercury, Neptune and yesterday’s new moon — it’s the perfect time to educate ourselves and help heal this broken society.
Is Rihanna sending out a subtle SOS with this song? NPR commentator Ann Powers thinks there may be more to it than we hear at first listen. Others are calling for radio stations to boycott the song.
But if we’re really going to say “Please don’t stop the music” to RiRi, we’d better start spinning out more support, information and resources to combat violence in our culture. We recommend checking out the work of another Pisces, Eve Ensler, whose global anti-violence organization V-Day is doing some of the best work on the planet. You can also check out V-Day’s collaborative anti-violence resource guide at http://www.feminist.com/antiviolence.
Music has a funny way of breaking the silence. But let’s hope this isn’t also just another broken record … one we’ve heard too many times before.