Nine Ways to Prepare for the Upcoming Semester

I’m a week away from heading back to work and two from the start of classes for the fall semester, so I thought I’d share some of what I’ve learned about how to prepare for the academic year:

  1. Stock up on non-perishable goods, everything from kitty litter to spaghetti noodles. If you have a plan to eat healthier by cooking on Sunday and freezing the meals ahead of time (for instance), make sure you have a few relatively healthy “cheat” foods so that you don’t end up eating pints of ice cream every night during the week before midterm grades are due.
  2. Sleep a lot, but don’t sleep later than the time you’re going to need to be getting up during the semester. Nap if you can.
  3. Get a haircut.
    i am beautiful boys will love me
  4. Make all the photocopies you can now, before one of your colleagues breaks the machine or the toner runs out.
  5. Practice your meeting face.
    Buffy and Willow looking confused and slightly alarmed.
  6. Get your madwoman in the attic used to being fed only twice a day. You won’t be coming home from campus to give her lunch, let alone a guilty second breakfast or linner.
  7. Make peace with the reality that you are not going to meet your summer writing goals. Decide that not meeting them shows how lofty your ambitions are. This way, you can feel superior to any colleagues who claim to have met theirs.
  8. It’s not too late to add zombies to your syllabus, especially if you have a section that might not run due to low enrollment.
    Killing zombies, from Shaun of the Dead
  9. Make a rubric for your performance during the semester. Include use of sarcasm as a category.

Considering The Dynamics of Rihanna’s “Bitch Better Have My Money”

In discussing Rihanna’s “Bitch Better Have My Money,” Mia McKenzie of Black Girl Dangerous is correct to ask readers, if they only see Rihanna’s “BBHMM” video as a literal depiction of violence to question why they don’t believe that she is “capable of creative and socio-political vision. Did you think every aspect of Madonna’s videos were literal? How about Lady Gaga?”

Rihanna points a gun at a cloudy sky while the kidnapped blonde woman lies in a kiddie pool, wearing periwinkle waterwings.

Not What Kidnapping Usually Looks Like

When Lady Gaga, with Beyoncé, poisoned a whole diner, in her  “Telephone” video, nobody accused her of glamorizing mass murder. The cartoonish aspects of “Telephone” helped it to be recognized as social commentary, but Rihanna’s video also contains cartoonish elements; putting water wings on a kidnapping victim and keeping her inside a plastic kiddie pool on a yacht hardly strikes me as a realistic depiction. The repeated appearance of a sheriff who is too busy exercising his male gaze to notice that Rihanna and her co-conspirators are kidnappers, invites us to question how we decide what is a real crime and what merely simulates one.

So what is Rihanna’s vision here? McKenzie sees her depicting a “a black woman putting her own well-being above the well-being of a white woman” and, in the process, reversing centuries of white women profiting off the oppression of black women. Spencer Kornhaber at The Atlantic argues that Rihanna has created an artful revenge fantasy in which she seeks to get her money back in a world in which women are constantly constructed as victims.

Here are the dynamics I see: a rich white woman who has benefited from a white man’s exploitation of a black woman is kidnapped and brutalized by the exploited black woman. We don’t know if the white woman knew about the exploitation or not, but does that matter? It is the nature of privilege that you don’t have to know how others have been damaged so that you might benefit. Eventually, the white man is murdered but only because, as it turns out, he doesn’t value the white woman enough to give up some of his wealth for her.

The wealthy white woman in “BBHMM” isn’t brutalized because she is a woman. She is brutalized for her complicity in the racist and sexist exploitation of Rihanna and because of her presumed value to the white man. Rihanna has two other women on her team, one of whom is the other blonde woman in the video.

As Roisin O’Connor notes at The Independent, this video “is fuelled by real rage.” The anger, however, goes beyond the merely personal and beyond those who have directly exploited black women to target and expose those who merely, passively benefit and have accepted the advantage.