Rihanna's response to a fan accusing her of not hiring trans models goes viral
Society's become much more aware of gender identity issues. All across pop culture, transgender men and women have taken the spotlight. We've seen inspiring activists like author Janet Mock, actress Laverne Cox, and Virginia state legislator Danica Roam. We've even had the first transgender Playboy Playmate, Inea Rau.
It's awesome that transgender people are becoming more visible, and they should certainly play a bigger role in marketing. However, there's a difference between being genuinely inclusive, and resorting to tokenism - when the effort to include is purely symbolic. They pick someone from an underrepresented group just to give the appearance of equality.
Rihanna's taken a huge stand for inclusivity with her groundbreaking Fenty Beauty campaign. There are 40 shades of the creamy foundations, covering every skin tone on the spectrum. The products have been a smash success, with the rest of the beauty industry playing catch-up. What's more, the marketing is a celebration of diversity, making sure every identity is represented - or is it?
One fan sent Rihanna a direct message on Twitter, encouraging her to cast some trans women for the next video. Riri wrote a lengthy response, explaining that she's worked with many gifted trans women, but doesn't think it's fair they be used as "convenient marketing tools":
"I've had the pleasure of working with many gifted trans women over the years, but I don't go around doing trans castings! Just like I don't do straight non trans women castings! I respect all women, and whether they're trans or not is none of my business! It's personal and some trans women are more comfortable being open about it than others so I have to respect that as a woman myself! I don't think it's fair that a trans woman, or man, be used as a convenient marketing tool! Too often I see companies doing this to trans and black women alike! There's always just that one spot in the campaign for the token 'we look mad diverse' girl/guy! It's sad!"
The fan thanked Rihanna for explaining, adding "Sorry if I sounded critical." "You absolutely didn't babe!," replied Riri. "Just don't think I would intentionally leave anyone out!"
The reactions to Rihanna's thoughtful response were mostly positive. One fan commented, “Exactly. trans women ARE WOMEN. When there is casting for women all WOMEN, trans, black, Asian, white, Hispanic, Latina, curvy, and skinny should be welcomed with WIDE arms!"
However, some people, like glam pop duo Sateen, disagreed. They stressed the importance of visibility for underrepresented people, regardless of perceived tokenism.
"We respect Rihanna and agree that Trans bodies are used as an easy way to make brands appear "inclusive". But at this point visibility is integral for trans ppl. More brands need to be hiring trans/gnc ppl and poc in GENERAL."
What do you think? Does Rihanna have a point about tokenism? Would there be value to holding an exclusive transgender casting call? And why didn't she cast any straight white guys in her Fenty Beauty campaign? When will advertising campaigns finally start appealing to straight white guys?