The recent release of “Love the Way You Lie,” Eminem’s new collaboration with Rihanna, has generated a heated debate over whether Rihanna is sending the wrong message to victims of domestic violence. The song’s graphic music video, which stars Megan Fox and Dominic Monaghan, has garnered nearly 20 million hits on you-tube and depicts a couple caught in a vicious, abusive relationship. The song has been both criticized and praised: for glamorizing domestic violence, and for shedding light on the issue.
Both Rihanna and Eminem have personal experience with abusive relationships, although from radically different perspectives. Eminem has been investigated for domestic violence and criticized for songs that glorify violence against women. Rihanna, on the other hand, was the victim of a high-profile assault in 2009 by then-boyfriend Chris Brown, and has since become an unwitting spokesperson for domestic abuse victims.
Rihanna sings the refrain “Just gonna stand there and watch me burn/that’s alright because I like the way it hurts.” Many people feel that these lyrics endorse the cycle of domestic abuse, rather than condemn it, sending a disempowering message to victims of abuse. Others feel that the song is attempting to convey the psychological difficulties faced by those trying to leave abusive relationships.
Rihanna justified her decision to participate in this song by saying, “It’s something that [Eminem and I have] both experienced on different sides, different ends of the table…It was authentic. It was real. He [Eminem] pretty much just broke down the cycle of domestic violence and it’s something that a lot of people don’t have a lot of insight on, so this song is really powerful.”
If you or someone you know is trying to leave an abusive relationship, visit WomensLaw.org for information on how to stay safe.