5 Lessons In Love & Self That Rihanna’s Taught Us Through Her Relationships


Not many moons ago, society would've deemed Rihanna a maneater.

Hell, I'm willing to bet there are probably some people who would say the same thing at this very moment as news has broken that Rihanna has allegedly broken the heart of another man, and a billionaire at that. The public will hang onto the words of Media Takeout's source who claimed:

"It was a good relationship, but now it's over. Of course Rihanna broke his heart. That's what she does: break[s] men's hearts. Rihanna just got tired of him. She gets tired of men sometimes."

With that, can we take a moment of silence just so that the people in the back can hear my sigh of disappointment at this sexist logic? Okay. Now that we've done this, let us carry on because I'm about to count all of the ways that Rihanna is one of the best role models on the scene right now and not just for black women, but for women of all ethnicities.

I've said on several occasions that I prefer Rihanna over Beyonce, simply because it's abundantly clear that she practices what she preaches via lyricism. She embodies her art and the message that it sends, which if we're being frank can be summarized in four small words: eff you, pay me.

Rihanna is about her coin and while she's in the zone, men are secondary to that.

She has learned the lesson many of us are still trying to master and it's that we should be content with focusing on our goals, happiness, and financial security. The men and love? That stuff will follow effortlessly once we put more energy into wholly filling our own cups. Furthermore, being single is not something to be ashamed of but something to celebrate and a time to enjoy, regardless of what your end goal is.

Through thick and thin, Rihanna has taught us so damn much about love and is goals for our inner girl bosses dying to break free of the f*ckery of social conditioning. So, let's get into it with these 5 things that we can learn about love from the Queen Rih.

1. Men Come and Go. Independence is Forever.

Being a modern woman is met with the conundrum of being told to have our own in one breath, but then having the world and the media criticize women for taking the necessary steps to secure their own. We suddenly become "too" independent, right? Which is why the fact that Rihanna has a bag and a half all by her damn self is not enough, the media is fixated on the fact that she had the audacity to end things with her wealthy boyfriend.

Apparently women should find the company of men desirable in the presence of a big bank. Ever since her futile relationship with Chris Brown back in the day, Rihanna has spent a great amount of time denouncing love (remember the "Eff love" interview?) for the time being and working to build an empire of her own, through entertainment and fashion alike. She is, if nothing else, a role model and lesson in independence.

All too often the world we live in tells us that we should have a man to take care of us, back us, and love us. Rih has taught us that the only person you need for all of the above is your damn self.

2. Sensuality is Not a Sin.

Post-"Pon De Replay" Rihanna is all sex, unapologetic, and has no f*cks to give any hater. Black women are historically condemned for the way they choose to be sexual -- you're a hoe or you're a prude. And, unlike our white counterparts, we can never simply just be and live in the sexual truth of our desires. Everything about Rihanna helps to silence the shame surrounding black women's sexuality. She's got each of us chanting how amazing sex with us is and she's created an equally saucy lingerie line that helps to reinforce the sexiness of black women by catering to all shapes and sizes. I could go on all day here, but really, her sexual empowerment speaks for itself.

3. You're More Than Any One Man. You're the (Wom)Man.

With a very public and messy parting with Chris, we got a glimpse of how Rihanna rebuilt herself after the on-again-off-again relationship. And then, we rooted on an annual basis for her and Drake to make things official because bigger than finding a man with deep pockets is the emphasis on asking women to choose a good man. We spun the "good guy" storyline super hard when she curved Drake upon professing his love to her on national TV, without considering how embarrassing that was for Rihanna, until she copped to it her Vogue interview. We often guilt trip women when they admit to the disconnect they feel with men because they might be the one. We insist that they force an attraction because they're being "too picky" all in the name of keeping a proclaimed "good guy." We chose to ignore that all of the signs pointed to a greater disinterest in Drake, rather than interest (as she's been curving him for years).

However, she has seemingly never let her choices in men or men's choices in her to put a value on her worth. She's realized early on that her worth is not tied up into any one man or the perception of that man. This makes it easier for her to walk away when her gut speaks to her, like it does for so many of us. Bringing me to this next point:

4. Settle for Nothing or No One

Call it breaking hearts or whatever, but Rihanna has the balls (and rightfully so) to do what so many people refuse to do, and that's let someone go instead of feigning interest that's just not there. Even as we see Rih dating, it's clear that she still has one focus and one priority: her happiness. You can't achieve happiness by staying in relationships that no longer serve you whether that be socially, romantically, spiritually, or any other way you deem necessary. Stop settling for men when you see red flags. Stop settling for men just because they feed you (and that's literally the only thing you enjoy about them). Stop settling for unhappiness, in hopes of garnering it through men. Stop settling, period.

5. Single and Shame Are Not Synonymous

Last but not least, stop being ashamed of your single status. Whether you hope to attain a relationship or not, your singledom does not need to be explained to a soul. Our ancestors fought too damn hard for us to not enjoy the perks of being a working woman, so really let's take this time to do so. Like Rihanna, we can have the pick of the litter when we're genuinely ready for it.

But, what we're not going to do is allow the shame of being single force us into relationships that just don't fit. Rih has always been an advocate for singledom. In fact, during a 2015 interview with Elle, Rihanna said she'd wait forever before she settles for some hot ass mess of a man and I feel that those words were genuine. She's always seemed comfortable and unbothered by being single. That's something that feels very difficult for women at times, myself included.

Nonetheless, we too must learn to trust the process.

Featured image by Giphy

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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