Is Beyonce a Feminist?

Beyonce in superhero stance at the MTV VMAs. 
UPDATE: Since the Lemonade album,  I have since changed my opinion on Beyonce being a feminist. I still disagree with the "eat the cake" line from Drunk in Love, but support her feminism and I would even say womanism. I love Lemonade and that beautiful project did it for me. So go 'head Beyonce with your feminist self. 

There she stood in all of her pop goddess glory at the MTV Video Music Awards (VMA). Bootylicious, Independent Woman, Diva, Queen B, King Bey, Destiny’s Child, Flawless—all adjectives and nicknames we’ve called Beyonce over the years. And near the end of her MTV performance she stands like a superhero in front of a new word to add to the list, “Feminist.” 

I’ve watched MTV for a long time and I can’t recall a time where anyone mentioned or displayed the word “feminist” on the VMAs, let alone with such pride. I’m not saying it didn’t happen, but if it did, it’s been a long time. While so many women were excited about Beyonce once again proclaiming feminism, I’m still not sold entirely sold on Beyonce being a feminist.  

I’ve been following Beyonce’s career since she and Destiny’s Child did the “Jumpin’, Jumpin’” remix with Wyclef Jean back in 1999. I bought her new self-titled album Beyonce and  was hella excited to see her and Jay Z during their “On the Run” tour.  Beyonce has always been pro-woman and taken pride in her womanhood. I’ve thrown my hands up to “Independent Women.”“Survivorwas one of the songs that fueled me in college. I’ve shaken it to “Run the World (Girls).”  And if I ever dated a guy who was slow on getting on bended knee, I sure would tell him to “Put a Ring on It.”  Her sampling of author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’sWe Should All Be Feminists” Ted Talk  in “Flawless” is what really ignited this feminist discussion. That is why I was so, so, so disappointed with Beyonce when she allowed Jay Z to compare himself to woman beating, misogynist Ike Turner in her song Drunk In Love

I’m Ike Turner, turn up
Baby know I don’t play, now eat the cake, Anna Mae
Said eat the cake, Anna Mae  


The verse comes from a scene in What’s Love Got to Do With It?, the biopic about Tina Turner’s career and abusive, marriage from hell to Ike Turner. Watch the violent seen that Jay Z references here. I don’t understand how a woman can call herself a feminist and be okay with making light of this? How can she be so pro-woman, yet allow a man who devalued and beat women to be referenced in her song about love?  And how disrespectful to Tina Turner, a domestic violence survivor. Domestic violence is a HUGE issue when looking at feminism, the oppression of women and women’s right. Feminism or not, I was really disappointed Beyonce allowed this as woman. Especially in light of Rihanna, who’s on Jay Z’s record label and her Destiny’s Child mate Kelly Rowland—both women have been in abusive relationships. I don't think Bey and Jay Z were trying to endorse physical abuse, but I think they were insensitive. 
At the Rose Bowl in Pasadena for the On the Run concert 

The good news about Beyonce proclaiming to be a feminist is that she has people talking about it, especially young girls. My sister, a high school senior, and I had a long discussion about it. Her interest came from listening to “Flawless.” This allowed me to not only talk to her about Adichie, but bell hooks, Angela Davis, Sojourner Truth, Patricia Hill Collins, Gloria Steinem, Audre Lorde, etc. I’m giving  her a copy of bell hooks’ Sisters of the Yam. Also I’m happy for the attention  Adichie is receiving. 


This book is a MUST READ. It
changed my life when I was in college. 
There are some criticisms about Beyonce and feminism I don’t agree with. Some are saying she’s less of a feminist because she’s married with a kid and goes by Mrs. Carter. Being a mother and a wife shouldn’t equate to not being a feminist. You can be in love with a man, married and a mother but still believe in women’s equality. And women have the choice to take their husband’s last name.

I also think people have gone way overboard about her sensuality on this album. Beyonce has always played up her sexiness so I don’t understand the shock. She celebrates her voluptuousness in “Bootylicious.” She sang about being a guy’s “Naughty Girl.” She’s unashamedly a beautiful, sexy woman and that’s one of the reasons why we love her. And sometimes her music makes us feel sexy. Yes, she turned up the heat in this album, but she’s a grown woman. And I thought she turned up the heat passionately and artistically.  She’s married and enjoying intimacy with her husband. I’m not mad at her. Roll up that “Partition” Bey ( I love that video).  Women like sex and should be able to express themselves sexually without being labeled a whore. Lil’ Wayne’s lyrics are way worse but people call him a player. 

The different sides to Beyonce is what I love about the latest album. She sings about being a mother, a wife, a woman with sexual desires, an entertainer. She shows the many sides of being a woman and how we don’t fit one definition. 

 Some say people need to give Beyonce a break on the "eat the cake" line because she’s not perfect. Or her feminism isn’t perfect. True. But I think if you’re going to align yourself with a belief, theory, cause, etc. pay attention to the core values. Standing against the abuse of women is serious in feminism. And I’m not ready to jump on the “Beyonce is a feminist” bandwagon because she quoted Chimamanda Adichie and stood by the word on stage. I want to see more feminist action from Beyonce in her philanthropy, involvement with women’s causes, and music lyrics.  

Jay Z and Beyonce should at least issue a public apology to Tina Turner. Or maybe address domestic violence seriously in a future song. I don’t know if that's the feminist thing to do, but it’s certainly the right thing to do. 



Comments

  1. Yes, Beyonce is a feminist. There is not just one way to be a feminist.

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    Replies
    1. I understand there's no one way to be a feminist. But I also know how feminists are very passionate about stopping violence against women. That's why I'm surprised Beyonce would even have that "eat the cake" line in her song, yet say she's a feminist. Niesha, if you're a feminist, how do you justify her using that line yet calling herself a feminist?
      Beyonce aside, how's life in Korea for you?

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