MusicSex & Gender

rihanna: trans people shouldn’t be used as “a convenient marketing tool”

December 1, 2017
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There’s a pervasive trope that pop stars, particularly female ones, aren’t well versed in social issues. It’s a belief that’s rooted in misogyny, and, particularly in the case of Black starlets, it works to strip them of their agency and intelligence.

Rihanna has always defied this flattening idea. From her strong opinions on being Black in the world to the purposeful diversity in her Fenty Beauty campaigns, the singer has always had something important to say, and she has rarely been afraid to say it.

Her latest example of this is an insightful response to a fan who assumed her casting practices were exclusive of transgender people. “Next time you record something should invite a trans girl to the group,” the fan suggested. But Rihanna explained that you don’t always have to know a person is transgender for them to be included:

“Too often do I see companies doing this to trans and black women alike! There’s always that one spot in the campaign for the token ‘we look mad diverse’ girl/guy! It’s sad!” she explained.

When many popular feminists have demonstrated problems including transgender women in their ideas of womanhood, it’s great to see that Rihanna has been thinking more deeply about these issues, especially when the epidemic of violence against trans people remains unabated. And while it should be noted that one should not weaponize the fact that “trans women are women” to ignore the specific challenges facing that community (including the challenge of being overlooked in castings), it is an all too overlooked fact that, as Rihanna noted, often leads to tokenism that is just as violent as being exclusionary completely. That she embraces it so wholeheartedly is encouraging!