Dear Russell Simmons:
Hi. My name is Sara Benincasa. We've never met. I do believe I applied for a position with your website, Global Grind, but I can't remember what the gig was and I'm sure you hired someone who is currently doing an awesome job. Speaking of awesome jobs -- you, sir, are doing an awesome job, at just about everything.
I was specifically moved to write to you because of your recent hilariously-named post "Get Off Rihanna's Dick." I hope you won't mind if I post a brief excerpt here in order to get some XOJane folks up to speed.
There have been a lot of artists recently talking about "good girl gone bad," Rihanna. As far as I'm concerned, I don't see why everyone has their panties up in a bunch. It's just that she is out there allegedly fuckin' the rockstars of her dreams and you out there fuckin' groupies. You can't be mad that she was seen walking out of Ashton Kutcher's house late one night, cause you know if you were seen walking out of Adriana Lima's house late one night, you would be in the studio the next day rapping about it. I mean, you all got like 50 girls in your videos drooling over you and you dissing Rihanna?
And you go on. It's a funny, smart, profane and weirdly feminist rant from an iconoclast (that would be you). And while the vocabulary is a little more colorful than I expected from such an apparently chilled-out dude, I salute you for it. I'm prone to colorful terminology myself.
Check it out: Chris Brown is a fucking douchebag and Drake can eat my asshole. See? We're not so different, you and I.
Anyway, Mr. Simmons, the reason this means a lot to me is that it's a rallying cry from a man (of all people) from the hip-hop world (of all places) affirming a woman's right to do as she wishes with her body. You mention later in the post that you are "certainly not condoning indiscriminate sex," but your point remains clear: Rihanna is a grown, single woman who can shtup whomever she wants, and men who do the exact same thing are crazy hypocrites for mocking her, criticizing her or shaming her.
Let's talk, for a moment, about the men who are doing just that thing.Here's noted role model Chris Brown on the subject (I mean, allegedly):
But let's get back to you, Mr. Simmons, a genuine genius, a business mogul, a real role model, a father, and an openly spiritual man. I admire you for plenty of reasons -- your veganism (even though I still eat meat and personally believe vegan farts are a deadly weapon); your support for one of my favorite nonprofits, Farm Sanctuary; your commitment to yoga (I wish I could summon that kind of dedication, not to mention flexibility); your willingness to challenge people's expectations; your devotion to the global community; the work you did in bringing poetry to the masses through Def Poetry; the fact that you continued to work with your ex-wife even after your divorce (good on both of you); your patronage of the Muslim-Jewish Conference; and your support for gay rights.
You're beautifully, blessedly, joyfully different. You're the best kind of weird. And your cutting, no-bullshit takedown of the men who criticize Rihanna was nothing short of revolutionary.
Because the truth is that women can't do this free-to-be-you-and-me thing on our own. We need male allies like you to lend your voice to the cause, and I'm not just talking about Rihanna's right to (allegedly) bone rockstars if she wants to. I'm talking about a young woman's right to do as she pleases with her own libido without worrying about recrimination from slut-shamers.
I don't know if you've seen these two other responses to your response, Mr. Simmons, but they're worth checking out: the first is from the always-excellent Lindy West over at Jezebel, and the other is from Michael Arceneaux in Ebony. Your 258 words of defense for Rihanna prompted hundreds more words from perfect strangers (and these are just a few of the responses that your post brought on.)
Mostly, I just wanted to thank you for using your platform and your power for good instead of to shame and blame women for behavior that's perfectly acceptable in a man. So thank you, from a fan. Believe me when I say I'm not the only woman who smiled with pride when she read your post.