Rihanna, Jackie And Our Responsibility

Video model cast of E!'s "Candy Girls"

Video model cast of E!’s “Candy Girls”

Since Monday morning, the Parlour crew on both sides of the Atlantic have been mutually shocked, angry and busy breaking and translating the news surrounding Dutch women’s magazine Jackie and their use of the term “Niggabitch” to refer to Rihanna, plus colorful language such as “ghetto ass” in describing her style and incorrectly labeling her Jamaican (she’s Bajan). A poor apology from the magazine was issued, Rihanna fired back in her own way and now the magazine’s editor has resignedfrom her position.

While reporting and updating our readers on the entire debacle, I spent some time looking at the comments our posts have generated, in addition to the various media attention this website has received. Overall most readers, especially women of color, have shared similar outrage — but there have also been a fair share of opinions that attempt to explain how it was “just a joke,” “American rap music is to blame,” or most shockingly “Rihanna got what she deserves … she dresses like a slut.” I don’t personally agree with any of the aforementioned opinions (Jokes are transparent, Rihanna is not a hip-hop artist, and a no woman whether in a bikini or a burka should ever be referred to as a “Niggabitch.”) however the larger issue that very few have addressed is one of responsibility —and the lack thereof when it comes to us creating content as editors, directors, image makers, etc.

It would be unrealistic to think that we will eventually live in a world where the terms “nigga/nigger,” “bitch” or “ghetto” aren’t used, or when the ubiquitous video vixen, loud-mouthed “round the way girl” or angry black woman stereotypes aren’t present in global culture.

Let’s collectively let go of that utopian dream.

Instead, focus on the responsibility to creative positive, realistic and complex images of black women that are multidimensional in character, that are sexy and attainable. When creating Parlour, we knew that we had the chance to represent all sides of the spectrum of modern women of color, from sex workers to R&B and reality tv  divas to  international executives — women like us. This gives a context of reference to those obviously unfamiliar with the diaspora when talking about black women. Remember that we are less than one lifetime away from maids, mammies, prostitutes, drug addicts, criminals, over-sexed hot-bodies and savages as the only images of us and these weren’t restricted to the United States. Take that, plus a language barrier and see what happens.

Had Jackie editors really been concerned with integrity and accuracy in their discussion about an international pop star like Rihanna, they would’ve done a little bit of research and added some global perspective and we wouldn’t be where we are today. To reference “American rap music” as a justification of the use of poor words by any journalist is right up there with relying on Twitter for accuracy in reporting the death of notable people – word to Bon Jovi. It just doesn’t cut it and only amplifies the obvious — you just didn’t give a shit.

There are power in words and images, but let’s not rely on others to treat us with respect and display us in all of our forms, it starts with us. Don’t be afraid to make your own image and speak your own voice to the masses.

With Love & Good Whiskey,

Shannon Washington (@shannboogie)

Founder, Publisher & Creative Director, ParlourMagazine.com

  • Shelley – Ann Huggins

    What truly amazes me is just as you’ve written in the article: Whether Hoeke (or the magazine) meant it to be malicious or not is not the point.  The point is that it’s unacceptable to call someone a “niggabitch”, particularly when that someone is black and a woman. 
    The word ‘bitch’ alone carries negative connotations. Add the offensive N word and its a double whammy. It’s unbelievable that people supposedly intelligent enough to publish a magazine for mass public consumption didn’t realize this. Hoeke did the right thing stepping down because her judgment is most certainly impaired if it never occurred to her that such a word may be highly offensive to blacks AND women, regardless of whatever colour they are. 

    Furthermore, that a grown woman allows what she presumes is popular culture in the United States to dictate what is acceptable to print is unbelievable and idiotic. She had absolutely no excuse. 

  • S.

    using the term “burka” to refer to the extreme of that equation is equally stereotypical and ridiculous. not only is it often misused to refer to the act of hijab or dressing modestly (within reason), which applies to both men and women in Islam, but in the Western mind it has become something that although resulting from violence and war and struggles for political power in Central Asia (which the US has been heavily involved with since the Cold War), it is associated with the supposed extremism of some billion people. imagine branding a billion other people, and tell me if that isnt a form of racism?

    hopefully one day anti-muslim sentiment and ignorance about Islam in general will be as equally in appropriate as using such racial slurs. in the end, it is all about fear, misinformation and the degradation of others based on perceived differences. how easy we use such terms without even thinking of their meaning or loaded nature. 

  • Zenayonce

    This is ridiculous…now they blaming on the rappers, video vixen and Rihanna outfits??? Lady Gaga, Madonna and other white and latino girls perform in bikinis who should we blame the rock and rolls stars???? There’s mothing to deal with it. Her niggabitch comments and the entire article is just stupid

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=697691578 Tarana Burke

    this deserves a slow clap and a standing ovation….

  • Anonymous

    I read your comment. I read my post. I read your comment again in efforts to be as objective as possible, and yet I can’t agree with you. My use of the term “burka” was solely to describe that exact garment, since hijab comes in many forms of style and dress. In no way did I refer to the religion associated with it, and frankly, Islam has nothing to do with this piece. 

    Please re-read this post and understand that I am challenging myself and our readers to create better depictions of ALL women, including Muslim women as they are intimately intertwined within the diaspora.  - Shannon

  • Miki-lee

    Well THAT came out of left field! LOL

  • Alicia

    I am glad to hear that you took this Rihanna matter seriously. This was a racist statement made by a racist. If that’s what passes for a joke, I’m not laughing. Rihanna’s Twitter response was excellent, intelligent and direct to the point. Way to go Rihanna!!

  • Anonymous

    Eva Hoeke is Rosa parks. Not allowed to use the word nigga, while Rihanna in her latest popular song says the following: “And end a nigga end a niggas life so soon”. This video has been watched 123 MILLION times on youtube. 246 million times the word nigga. Rihanna and all the black rappers playing innocent. FYI, nigga has no racist meaning in Holland. Yes we know Americans think it’s a racist word, because white Americans actually use it to be racist against black americans, but the word nigga especially compared to nigger comes solely from black hiphop culture. The word was never used until black rappers and stuff started getting popular in the Netherlands. Black people introduced the word nigga into the netherlands, then forbid white people from using it. If Eva Hoeke was black there would be no problem at all! Black people are so hypocrite nowadays.

    As a Dutch person, I’m very unhappy with the racist americans calling the dutch racist. For God sakes, you guys haven’t even got legalized gay marriage. Who’s the real racist here?

  • Gab

    you idiot. first of all. the difference in nigger and nigga don’t exist. its just a different way to say the same word. Second of all. its usage DID NOT arise from ‘black rappers’. the word nigger in all of its forms is a word that has been used to terrify, demean and dehumanize millions of black people around the world for hundreds of years. The popularization if it being used between blacks as a word of friendship comes from a movement meant to TAKE BACK the word. to RECLAIM the hate word, take the hate out of it, to take the power away from those who would use it to hurt. This caught on and in many black communities and cultures it became a part of many black people’s everyday language. THAT DOES NOT MEAN that EVERY SINGLE black person participates in the reclamation of the hate word nigger. That doesn’t not mean that every black person who uses the word is ACTIVE CONSCIOUS of  where the origins of using it positively comes from. That does not mean that EVERY black person on the planet earth believes it is acceptable for ANYONE to use the term. THAT DOES NOT MEAN that some idiot can PUBLISH IT in a magazine, coupled with a word whose sole purpose it to demean and dehumanize an entire gender. If Eva Hoake was black it would DEFINITELY STILL be a problem. It was used in a phrase which demeans the entire black race, and demeans ALL women. black or otherwise. The fact is, the only PURPOSE of the word nigger is to make whoever is being called that word feel weak and worthless and inhuman. If you use the word, and you are not a person of color using it with the intention of positiveness and carrying on the movement of reclaiming the hate word nigger. THEN YOU ARE PARTICIPATING IN A RACIST ACT. Noone who is so obtuse as to participate in a racist act and then go “MY BAD, IT WAS A JOKE” should keep the job that a perfectly capable person who does not participate in racist act could hold. Noone is saying that the entire Dutch culture is racist. We are saying that SHE SPECIFICALLY participated in a racist act and should be held accountable for it. also homosexuality is not a race it is a sexual orientation, many MANY Americans, like myself,  believe that gay marriage should be legalized, and we’re working on that. but YOU. YOU WHO LIVE ALL THE WAY ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORLD AND KNOW NOTHING OF THE HISTORY OR THE PAIN BEHIND THAT WORD. How dare you say such things. Nigger is a racist word EVERYWHERE IN THE ENTIRE WORLD. NOT just in the US. EVA HOEKE is no goddamn Rosa Parks. Eva Hoake is a shitty journalist and editor, who is ignorant to anything but the tiny corner of the world she lives in. and Rosa parks was a WARRIOR.

  • gab

    and also. what she did was against the LAW in the Netherlands. specifically 
    Article 137c and 
    Article 137d of the Dutch Penal Code which states ”
    He who publicly, orally, in writing or graphically, intentionally expresses himself insultingly regarding a group of people because of their race, their religion or their life philosophy, their heterosexual or homosexual orientation or their physical, psychological or mental disability, shall be punished by imprisonment of no more than a year or a monetary penalty of the third category “

  • Anonymous

    Nope. Eva Hoeke is not racist and did not participate in a racist act. First of all she used the word nigga, which is from black hiphop culture, and not the word nigger. Nigga is used to refer to black people in hiphop culture, and the article was written for people familiar with hiphop culture, it was not written for white american supremacists. You can even test if the word nigga was racist in this article. Make Eva Hoeke black. Suddenly the article is not anymore racist, because you’ve got a black person refering to another black person as nigga, which is totally acceptable, even in a printed magazine article. Conclusion: nigga was not racist in this article, Eva Hoeke is not racist, Jackie is not racist, but Rihanna is racist.

  • Anonymous

    Please, do not think that nigga means the same in every country, that is arrogant American stereotype. Nigga is not the worst thing you can call a black person in the Netherlands. In fact, in this article it was a compliment and not demeaning at all. The reason this happened is because of the hypocrisy in the United States. Whereas there
    you have segregated communities where one part of the population can say
    a word, and another part cannot, in Holland you have multiculturalism.
    Everybody can say what others can say. So if Rihanna can say nigga to
    refer to a black person, a Dutch person can do the same. Basically
    because USA is more racist than Holland this controversy happened. What
    happens if you have a mixed marriage? The white person isn’t allowed to
    say a word but the black person is? The segregation in the USA is a huge
    problem, that’s for sure. P.S. staying segregated but adhering to rules like not saying nigga is still indirect racism.

  • Aka Cap

    How sad! Why are people playing into this racial discrimination going on every sector of the civilized world? We are all a people of the EARTH and all this insulting over clothing, style, rock n’ roll ethics is just disenpowering! We should all sit down and meditate on what is important in this life.

  • Savannah

    Thank you Zenayonce, this is true…..I can’t help but say that the envy, and jealous card was played, most are wantabes… Most rock star women show way more than Rihanna, and by the way who is always in the PLAYBOY centerfold?

  • Angie

    imao if Eva Hoeke was a black woman she would have more common sense than to endorse an article calling another black woman a “niggabitch”  i don’t live in the USA and i find the N word very offensive and don’t think anyone should use it. black or white. for the same reason that all this confusion has come about. why can blacks use it and not whites. its offensive and NO ONE should use it. the article offended Rihanna 3 times “niggabitch” “ghetto ass” and “Jamacian”  how can u write an article about someone and not do the proper research to know that she is BAJAN!
    PS Jamacia is a BEAUTIFUL country and so is BARBADOS. you should visit sometime.

  • Alon Goldstein

    Dutch Cartoonist attacks muslims == claimed to be free speech
    Dutch magazine attacks black singer == cliamed to be racism (which it is)

    strange how when it suits people it is ‘free speech’. When it doesn’t it is racism or anti-semetism or whatever…

  • WritergurlAsh

    I can appreciate this and other articles on your site for actually starting a discussion around global race relations, etc. The disrespectful and inconsiderate use of the term in Jackie magazine as well as the comments on this post from Jontrader make it quite apparent that there is a disconnect and a lack of respect when it comes to global race relations. The use of the term “niggabitch” in Jackie magazine was universally disrespectful to all black women and Rihanna handled that situation well. However, this further points to the need for global media outlets such as ParlourMagazine and others that can help people correct themselves before making drastic statements/actions that offend others.

    Thank you for the post.

  • Sio_walker1984

    Personally I hate the word nigga, whether it be used by a black person or a white person to humiliate them. Same as I hate the word chalky used in a derogatory way against white people. What you have to realise is where all the confusion starts and lines get blurred. Black people call each other nigga regularly and it gets used in hip hop a lot. This is where it all starts to go haywire. White people also listen to hip hop and start to emulate their idol and take on the slang that comes with it. This is where confusion about the word nigga comes in. If he’s saying it it must be ok for me to say it too thinks the person who is listening and emulating the hip hop culture. I’m not condoning the words use. I hate it. Maybe it’s time for EVERYONE to stop using it. Black and white. The same as the word slut should be obliterated out of the English language.