Media Overplays Rihanna Concert Coverup

Rihanna is covering up for a concert in Malaysia. Aside from all the eye-rolling “bad girl being good” comments that the media is putting forth about her appearance, you’d think that this was the biggest thing to happen to either Rihanna or Malaysia by the way the media presents the issue.

Outlets get themselves in a tizzy whenever a performer is asked to cover up. It always seems to be in Muslim countries that this happens, and it’s always gets tied to Islam: “How odd those Muslims are, asking a performer to wear more clothes!” Despite the fact that this has happened to several big-name female Western performers before (Mariah Carey, Beyoncé, Gwen Stefani, etc.), the coverage would have you believe it’s just as huge of a deal this time around. But it just isn’t: a performer has to play for his/her audience.

That doesn’t mean I’m in favor of the rule, however. First, assuming that there are no similar requirements for male performers, it’s sexist. Asking a woman to cover up (however much) because she is “sexier and more dangerous” not only implies that she’s a malignant and evil creature (I think most women would find that offensive), but that there is something shameful about her when she is not clothed to someone else’s comfort level. I’ve never been a fan of assumptions, and the ones presented by the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party seem especially alarming: “unclothed” = immodest = dangerous. That’s more of an article than Rihanna putting on a longer skirt.

Second, it seems hypocritical: you’ll host a concern for and buy tickets to see a female performer sing songs about things that are totally haram (according to different opinions), but not if she’s wearing clothing you find inappropriate?

From the artist’s point of view, it also seems like a seems like an affront. It compromises the artists’ “package deal” of music, image, and stage presence, the latter two of which sometimes include scanty clothing. People can hear performers like Rihanna or Gwen Stefani sing any time if they buy her CD or mp3s, but they pay to see her wear crazy getups and do complicated dance numbers.

Whatever. Rihanna will cover up, and if Britney Spears or Christina Aguilera wants to perform in Malaysia, they’ll cover up, too. While I don’t care for the rule, the media attention on it seems misguided and sensational.