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Rihanna says "Man Down" video empowers women

Singer Rihanna performs on NBC's "Today" show in New York
Singer Rihanna performs on NBC's "Today" show in New York

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - R&B singer Rihanna has defended a controversial music video that shows her gunning down a man, saying it is a message of empowerment for girls.

"Man Down" features Rihanna shooting to death a man who appears in the music video to have sexually assaulted her a day earlier.

The Parents Television Council, the Enough is Enough campaign and think tank Industry Ears, have attacked the video as an act of calculated murder that will encourage young women to turn to violence.

Rihanna told Black Entertainment Television (BET) on Thursday that "Man Down" addresses the topic of rape. The 23 year-old singer was the victim of a violent 2009 physical attack by then boyfriend singer Chris Brown.

"Rape is happening all over the world and we continue to cover it up and pretend it doesn't happen," Rihanna told BET in an interview.

"Girls are empowered by this ... I'm just really impressed that my fans get it," she said. "That was really important to me. This is a story for them."

She also told BET, which itself drew criticism for airing the video, that the girl she depicts is "not a cold-blooded killer" and she shows remorse about the killing.

"I didn't do it to make a controversial video," Rihanna said. "I wanted to make a mini-movie, something raw and artistic."

Rihanna has also defended the video on Twitter.

"The music industry isn't exactly Parents R Us! We have the freedom to make art, LET US! Its your job to make sure they don't turn out like US," Rihanna said in one Twitter posting.

The Barbados native also spoke of double standards that allow depictions of women being exploited in music videos. "Now a woman flips the coin & look!" she wrote.

"Man Down", the latest single from Rihanna's album "Loud", was released last week.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis: Editing by Jill Serjeant)

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