June 28, 2011

Category: Grooves, Real Talk

Beyonce & The F-Word

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Yes, Beyonce is fly, fierce, fabulous and famous, but is she a feminist? Last night on Piers Morgan Tonight, Beyonce chatted with the CNN talk show host about her new album, motherhood, marriage, turning 30 and being a diva. Wearing a lovely tangerine shift dress Beyonce did not utter the F-word, but she did edge close when she stated, “It is my job to empower women.” Hmmph, sounds a bit like feminist rhetoric to me.

On Sunday, the 29-year old Texan became the first African-American woman, actually the first WOMAN, period, to headline England’s supa dupa Glastonbury Festival. Ever since her Destiny’s Child days Bey has been bout it-bout it when it comes to empowering women. From Bootylicious to Independent Woman to Single Ladies, Ms. Tina’s daughter has offered up some serious you-go-girl grooves. So say what you want about her blond-ambition weaves, her regrettable blackface magazine cover and her (high)lightened Loreal ads, but you can’t deny that B makes music that inspires us ladies.

Her most recent song, Run The World (Girls), however, has some women (and men) up in arms. Beyonce is being accused of taking her grrrl power songs too far—like over the cute pink boundaries of Spice Girl rah-rah and into the more serious, political, and academic terrain of bell hooks and Gloria Steinem. It’s one thing to be proud of your booty and also of not having a ring put on it, but it’s an entirely different Prada bag when you declare girls are running things, particularly the world and particularly if you are doing so while wearing stilettos:
“Beyonce suggests that women, just on the strength of their hyper-femininity, will rise again under her glamorous leadership and create a New World Order. Such a message, when reduced to sexual spectacle and performed before a threatening-yet-objectifying male audience, is hard to take seriously.”

If you agree with Ms. Magazine, then it seems when it comes to revolution and creating New World Orders, the chick in the video wearing lingerie and doing the stanky-leg needs to step aside and let Mona Eltahawy and Michelle Obama figure things out. Clearly for them, there’s no way you can (simultaneously) be a feminist, be sexy and salute men. Feminists burn bras, they don’t flaunt them in music videos and God forbid that they like men, right? I find this kind of thinking small, narrow and boring. It’s like Women’s Studies for Dummies circa 1976.

Beyonce said something else that I loved when she admitted: “It’s an appropriate time to be a diva.” I so wish that Piers would have followed-up with a question about why now, but alas the bloke was too busy drooling. Well today as she releases her fourth studio album, 4, I can’t help but be happy that Beyonce is embracing her inner diva and saying it’s okay to be Sasha Fierce even off stage. With women still getting the shaft when it come to fair pay, when women are still being blamed for causing their own rape (even when they are intoxicated) and domestic abuse (Rihanna) and when AIDS is still a top killer of Black women and ad agencies are still creating ads like this, I have no problem being a diva myself and embracing Beyonce as a feminist. Now run that!

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12 Responses to “Beyonce & The F-WordComment RSS feed

  • Sweetilocks
    June 29th, 2011 5:53 pm
    #1

    Very nice piece! I am glad she’s finally speaking on it. I wrote about her brand of what I deem commercial feminism not too long ago. I just feel like if you talk the feminism game, you may as well cop to it. But I guess it’s like pressuring someone to come out of the closet, since there’s so much adversity to feminism and feminist thought, mostly caused by the mass consumption of anti-feminist stereotypes. That said, I’m excited to watch the interview now!

  • skelly
    June 29th, 2011 7:45 pm
    #2

    i just wish that with all the advantages that she has had, that she were more worldly.

    she happily admits to carrying bbq sauce around in her purse – this isn’t counter-feminist, but…

    ya. & her lyrics go way back – ‘i got it’ w/ amil, an anthem of self sufficiency, ‘bug-a-boo’, a young girls lament that she owes her suga daddy nada whether he pays her rent/buys her shoes or not – this kind of thinking i actually love to be honest, as real feminists know that our beauty is one of our most potent tools…

  • Joan
    June 29th, 2011 9:17 pm
    #3
  • GREG TATE
    June 29th, 2011 9:40 pm
    #4

    Yeah its yr boy. once again adding two cents where angels and demons fear to tread. But Academic Feminist Thought like Black Consciousness and Gay Identity operates on a lot of contentious ideological turf.No one size fits all where radical feminist politics is concerned. So I don’t know if those Feminists who support prostitution and pornography as Sex Work would see a contradiction between B’s hypersexual, self-objectifying performance style–a zietgeist compendium/extension of her blues, jazz and rock foremothers erotic costuming choreography and vocal techniques–and her entrepreneurially driven notions of girl power and self-determination.

  • trini
    June 30th, 2011 12:26 am
    #5

    The only one that gets to define Beyonce is Beyonce. She is not subject to any human’s judgment. That’s true empowerment and feminine power.

  • Ms Q
    June 30th, 2011 4:34 am
    #6

    I am def a proponent of “you gotta use whatchu got to get what you want”. Not disputing that sex appeal, beauty, alongside intelligence, persistence & talent are all weapons in a woman’s arsenal.

    Having said that, I still find this hyper/over-sexualisation and objectification of women’s bodies personally distasteful – whether the images are created by a woman or a man.

    btw, love when @greg tate passes by and drops science…

  • Monica
    June 30th, 2011 10:34 am
    #7

    I love B….on her videos, watching her work it out, and some of her songs even. I see her as a fiercely ambitious young woman who is working her ancestral gifts and guidance to build her own legacy. I appreciate the fact that the feminist agenda can be served in many ways. like the Yoruba deity Oshun, with her golden glow, her love of dance and song and everything sensual and beautiful, the seemingly smallest becomes the largest…and people scratch their heads and wonder what happened….That’s what happened….you got a taste of honey chile’! And once you get it, you don’t never forget it!

    PS. Hey Greg! Always good to hear what’s light on your side;-)

  • theHotness
    June 30th, 2011 3:59 pm
    #8
    Author's Reply

    It seems like the more Black folk achieve the more folk wanna limit them by saying they are hypersexualized and objectifying themselves. Bey draws from line of strong, fiercely feminine, “hypersexualized” women who I easily considering empowering and yes feminists– Eartha Kitt, Tina Turner, and Chaka Khan to name just a few. It’s okay to be sexy or as Vanity said to be a Nasty Girl. Talk about powering up. I’m not sure when or where bootyshaking became self-objectification and not self-pleasing. Yep Pleasure. Remember that? Monica you took it all the way back to Oshun which I love. I guess if Beyonce is weak and a faux-feminist that objectifies, Yemaya and Oya must be skrate chicken heads to these same critics. Well I ain’t buying that jive.

  • Akissi B.
    June 30th, 2011 11:35 pm
    #9

    honestly in 2011 can we really say that to be feminist means denying one’s sexuality? i don’t think anyone is arguing that, per se. from where i’m standing i don’t really see Beyonce doing anything all that challenging to any status quo. Her numbers may be bigger but I’m betting that’s a product of a growing market and not necessarily her changing the game that much. Beyonce is succeeding in all the ways that feed into mainstream male fantasies: a strong sexy independent woman with her own loot and ideas but who knows to fall back and let her man play the lead. how is this challenging anything?

    this is not to take away from her ability to make folks feel good when they are singing her songs at home or in the club. this also does not take away from her strong work ethic and power to shot call. but she isn’t the first to make being a diva fashionable or desired. she’s only the most recent and highest paid. maybe we should leave it at that and not make her more than she is. she’s a wonderful entertainer but i’m not really sure how she’s effecting change for your average woman who has her in constant rotation on her ipod.

  • mr. jones
    July 1st, 2011 3:17 pm
    #10

    Beyonce is to feminism what Obama, the great negro president, is to liberalism…. let us all hope that she is not the force behind 4th wave feminism…….

  • 4coloredgirls
    July 1st, 2011 3:45 pm
    #11

    Yes! Women can definitely be sex-positive, man loving, and feminist. That said, B totally inspires many girls and women, but I’m not sure how she “empowers” us. Would love to hear more thoughts about that.

  • Akissi B.
    July 2nd, 2011 12:37 am
    #12

    @4coloredgirls: love the distinction between inspiring and empowering. exactly!