Rihanna! She's the shit, right? We all love her. Shit man, here's your boy Justin Fenton of The Baltimore Sun driving around listening to 'Bitch Better Have My Money,' a steely trap-pop track and, if you ask us, an unofficial anthem for reparations. And there's this great book from earlier this year by Robin James titled "Resilience and Melancholy: Pop Music, Feminism, and Neoliberalism" that talks quite a bit about how Rihanna's pop music (and public persona) affront the feminist-capitalist agreement we have with our female pop stars that they must overcome their tragedies to be taken seriously, that they cannot wallow in them or embrace them ("Rihanna capitalizes on damage, just not in the 'right' way, i.e., in a way that amplifies listeners' experience of privilege," James writes). Point is, Rihanna is great and there is a great deal to unpack about her and project onto her. That's the topic of "Becoming Rihanna," a cover story in the next issue of the FADER by Mary H.K. Choi that you should go read immediately because it's online now and on stands late next month. We're "spoiling" the end here, but go read it anyway, but it's a hell of a kicker: "We feel like we're given a vision of her that is real because she chooses not to portray herself as perfect, which only makes us believe that she is," Choi writes. "And maybe there's no way to explain it. Rihanna just has to be it. God knows we'll take it." (Brandon Soderberg)
Last week, we wrote about trusting the choices that sexual assault or domestic-violence victims make, and why it's a bad idea to require victims on college campuses to report crimes to the police. In case you needed more proof that police don't always handle sexual assault cases well, there's this harrowing story by reporter Katie J.M. Baker for BuzzFeed about Lara McLeod. After her older sister's fiance raped her, the police compelled McLeod to file a report—then decided she was lying and arrested her and her older sister Hera. "Lara's charges were eventually expunged, but not before her reputation was destroyed. She says she still has severe panic attacks whenever she sees a police officer," Baker writes. "But the worst was yet to come.
"In the ensuing battle for custody over Prince, Hera and [her fiance] Joaquin's infant son, it emerged that not only had Joaquin lied about his name, employment history, and age — he was a decade older than he had claimed — but he had also once been a suspect in his ex-girlfriend's shooting death and a person of interest in his mother's death, too, although he was never successfully charged in either case. He had been accused of child abuse by his other son, although never convicted, and ran an amateur porn site. But thanks to the charges against Hera and Lara, Joaquin was able to portray himself as a comparatively fit parent — and the victim of a smear job. The judge granted Joaquin unsupervised visits. Three months later, EMTs found Prince unconscious on the floor of Joaquin's house. The 15-month-old died the next day. Months later, Joaquin was charged with murder." Baker goes into detail about the egregious ways the police department mishandled Lara's case, with devastating consequences. I took a college writing class with Lara, and while I'm glad she was able to work with Baker, who frequently writes well-reported, empathetic stories about sexual assault, it's infuriating that this sort of reporting even needs to happen in the first place. (Anna Walsh)