Queen Bey. Mrs. Carter. The love of my life. Are you, or are you not a feminist? In the past many critics have doubted the performer’s identification. From decrying her choice of costumes/clothing to her concert titles, critics have declared Beyoncé ‘not feminist enough’.
Real Colored Girls yesterday wrote for Huffington Post that Beyoncé is not a feminist, but rather a "bottom bitch" feminist. A ‘bottom bitch’ is someone within a hierarchy of sex trade workers “who rides hardest for her man. She is the rock of every hustler economy and her primary occupation is keeping other ho's in check and gettin' that money.” This woman portrays a false control; an allotted symbolic power used to advance the position of the privileged while conforming to her own commodification.
The authors argued that Beyoncé promotes a “simplistic, pro-capitalist, structurally violent sampling of feminism”, because her version of feminism is constrained by the ropes of capitalism.
While I agree that Beyoncé’s message is hindered by its vehicle, we must remember that she operates under a problematic context. Her position within the music industry makes labeling Beyoncé a feminist or not more complicated.
Is she only a ‘true’ feminist if she rejects everything wrong with today’s music industry? If she did, would she still be allowed to share her thoughts, let alone be a part of the industry? To borrow some wisdom from Gloria Steinem, “We shouldn’t blame the girl for playing the only game there is”.
And Beyoncé is playing it pretty damn well.
Why is Beyoncé so scrutinized? Why do her critics make such harsh declarations of her social positioning? She sings about her relationship with Jay-Z, she embraces her sexuality, and she is a proud mother. These are things to celebrate, not denigrate.
Her new album, self-titled Beyoncé, explores a myriad of societal issues and obstacles facing women today. It is not perfect (songs like Drunk In Love leave me a little confused), but it does make large strides for the feminist movement within pop culture.
Her song “Pretty Hurts” is a critique of the very industry to which she belongs. She declares, “perfection is the disease of a nation”, condemning the unattainable standards for women created by the mass media.
The track “Flawless” features beautiful spoken word from the Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who proclaims, “we teach girls to shrink themselves”. She explains that society tells young women “You can have ambition, but not too much / you should aim to be successful, but not too successful / Otherwise, you will threaten the man". An articulate critique of the corrosive paradigm that plagues us today.
Her album, aside from being so freaking fabulous, is honest and realistic. It is one woman’s embodiment of what it means to be a feminist. It is not an amassing of practiced rhetoric and it is not the simplified ‘strong woman’ typically portrayed in popular culture.
Beyoncé embraces her feminism; the one she lives every day. And we are fortunate enough to have her share it with us.
To say that this is wrong perhaps puts us at odds with ourselves.
At its core, feminism is about equality. It is about giving women freedom to express themselves however they please. If a female wants to be a stay-at-home mom there is nothing wrong with that, as long as she feels no obligation to do this. Conversely, if a woman makes a conscious decision to strut her stuff and embrace her sexuality, kudos to her.
Instead of condemning Beyoncé for not being the ‘right’ kind of feminist, we should celebrate that someone with such clout is embracing the term.
If more celebrities like Beyoncé, Jennifer Lawrence and John Legend proudly claimed this identification, there is no doubt that they would play a part in transforming the deeply dissent public perspective.
The feminist movement is an upward battle. It is a discussion, where critique and question are welcome and important, but let’s not forget its need for inclusivity. Just because the specificities of Beyoncé’s feminism does not align with another’s doesn’t mean it is necessarily wrong, or that it is fully evolved. Perhaps her next album will be even more politically oriented. Maybe in 2016 Rihanna will put out an album titled “Phuck Patriarchy”!
So let’s celebrate the victories, big and small.
Werk it Queen Bey.