Beyonce and Feminism

August 9, 2011  |  

Well, well, well, it has been rather quiet lately so I figured I might stir things up with the stans and talk about Beyonce.

It has been reported that in the September issue of Harper’s Bazaar UK, Bey will be opening up to reveal a rare private side.  Besides her musical influences, her new album and all that jazz, Beyonce is said to be speaking  about the importance of female friendships and her admiration for her BFF Gwyneth Paltrow – a woman she says she aspires to be like.

However it is what she had to say about feminism that has raised some eyebrows.  Beyonce, whose first single off “4” is aptly titled Run The World (Girls), may be one of the most successful women in the entertainment industry but that doesn’t mean you should call her a feminist.  “I don’t really fell that it’s necessary to define it. It’s just something that’s kind of natural for me, and I feel like… you know… it’s like, what I live for,” she said in the article. ” I need to find a catchy new word for ‘feminism’, right?

So what word would Bey prefer to label her girl power movement?  Her suggestion was “Bootylicious.”

Before I completely eye roll myself to death over Beyonce’s alleged feminism/bootylicious wordplay, let’s just remember who we are talking about here. At best, Beyonce’s girl power movement is just a highly constructed façade based upon the most simplistic topics of politics and social realities of womankind.  If you’re sitting around, waiting for the image to say something profound about feminism, than you will always be disappointed.  When it comes to Beyonce, it is best to do what I do with 89 percent of people in the entertainment biz and that is to appreciate them for their talent and ignore the rest.

With that said, I do sort of understand her resistance to being called a feminist.  It is a label that I have continued to struggle with since the concept of feminism had been first introduced to me.  Not to say that I don’t believe in feminism being the movement to free women from sexism and to grant us equal rights with our male peers. However, I don’t always agree with every statement by every self-proclaimed feminist or every proposal that has been floated in the name of feminism.  I have seen some very disgraceful attacks by self-proclaimed feminists, who label any woman that doesn’t agree with their brand of feminism as sister mule, a derogatory termed coined from Toni Morrison “Their Eyes Were Watching God” to describe a woman, who empathizes with the plight of men, particularly black men, as much as they do there own.  This has led me to believe that beneath that ‘I Am Woman’ pretense is a deep-seated resentment of women by women.

While having a career is the ultimate source of fulfillment for some women, stay-at-home moms, who sacrificed a career for the love of their children and family are subjected to ridicule in some feminist circles.   And while some feminists will fight for the sexual freedoms of women,  strippers and video vixens are routinely stigmatized.

Not saying that all self-proclaimed feminists hate women but the rather loud and vocal sentiment of some, who truly appear to, is enough to sour the taste buds of an equality seeking woman, who has ever considered wearing the feminist label.   And let us not forget how historically, the feminist movement has been and continues to be divided among feminists of various racial and sexual-identity (i.e. Lesbian and Transgendered) lines because of the overall movements inability to address how homophobia and racism interact with sexism.

Overall, I think as feminists we sometimes need to spend more time listening and valuing the experiences of all women, not drown-out the voices of women, who may not walk step-tow in line with every single ideology of the so-called modern day feminist movement.  This includes Beyonce, who even through her glitters, glam and occasional shallowness, still represents the very core foundation of feminism and this equality.

During the interview, Bey talks about a concert she held a few month ago in Egypt, when she looked out into the crowd and saw a sea of women in the audience in burqas, singing along to Irreplaceable, at the dismay of their male companions. I can imagine that it must have been a very powerful thing to watch a bunch of burqa-clad women singing, “to the left, to the left.”

Charing Ball is the author of the blog People, Places & Things.

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