In praise of, Beyoncé.

38 Flares 38 Flares ×

 In praise of, Beyoncé.I can’t believe I fell for your schemes, I’m smarter than that/So dumb and naive to believe that with me you’re a changed man/Foolish of me to compete when you cheat with those women
/It took me some time, but now I moved on/Cause I realized I got/Me, myself and I/That’s all I got in the end/That’s what I found out/And it ain’t no need to cry/I took a vow that from now on/I’ma be my own best friend

The lyrics above once saw me through a break-up. Whenever I listened to Me, Myself and I (which was often at that point) I felt empowered and even excited to be single again after a relationship breaking me to pieces. The song spoke to my inner feminist.

Feminism is a journey rather than a destination, it is a tool that we use to unpatriarchalise our lives. And it’s a damn good one at that, the best I’d say. But more about that another time, suffice to say for now that feminism “in a way” a la Beyoncé is simply one feministic journey. It isn’t perfect nor is it my personal ideal. For one, it’s terribly class centred with its focus on how a woman can buy empowerment. (More of my Beyoncé-related analyses here, here and here.) Sometimes she gets it incredibly wrong and other times, homegirl’s on to something.

Now Beyoncé’s GQ feature photos are hot. They are also objectifying in a reductive way. But they’re a ferociously smart move within the main currency that she trades with, namely desire.

While I don’t entirely disagree with Hadley Freeman that Beyoncé being photographed in her underwear doesn’t help feminism, what is more important than how sexualised a woman is willing to be portrayed as, is to raise consciousness to a level where women understand that desire, and glamour, are not the only, let alone the most rewarding currencies to “trade with” for they are indexed in the tempestuous male-gaze-stock-exchange.

However, to the extent that we all have some femme fatale in us – and if not, this archetype is one to engage with (even if critically), for she dares to be creative, powerful, serious, troublesome, seductive and sexy at the same time and say “Fuck you” to anyone who questions her – there are few world-famous icons who embody her better than ‘Queen Bey’.

Or?

 

 

38 Flares Facebook 25 Twitter 8 LinkedIn 3 Pin It Share 0 Google+ 2 Email -- Reddit 0 StumbleUpon 0 Buffer 0 38 Flares ×

2 Pingbacks/Trackbacks

  • Ego

    She is trying too hard! Don’t understand what she is trying to prove, but then again every female celeb these days feels the need to strip after having a kid. She’s hot anyway,but don’t see what’s so empowering about the shoot. She is just being a narcissistic exhibitionist. Not feminist! That aside, i don’t buy into all this feminist claptrap, i am human who happens to be female. Hate these bloody feminist labels. Serves no real purpose apart from deluding a small group of women that they are indeed powerful. Well aren’t we all?

    • MsAfropolitan

      Ego, we aren’t all powerful, at all.. not until we claim our power, and for many feminism helps do that.

  • Beyonce Lover

    First let me start by saying that I’m a *huge* Beyonce fan. I love how strong and independent she portrays herself out to be.

    For me, feminism is about having a choice to be who you want to be without being denied access because of the fact that you’re a woman. Rationally, I respect the fact that she’s chosen to have herself portrayed in whatever sexualised fashion she wants. The question is why did she do it? Did she do it to shock and push boundaries (like perhaps Madonna did in the 80s and early 90s)? I highly doubt it. She did it to be seen as a sexual, desired object. Through this cover/ spread she’s feeding and reinforcing patriarchal stereotypes and this is why it doesn’t sit well with me.

    I respect her choice, but I certainty do not agree with it.

    • MsAfropolitan

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

      “She did it to be seen as a sexual, desired object.” – Absolutely, however, my point is that this is what she has always done and to write a piece (as the one in the Guardian) about that is becoming futile.
      Let her trade in sex/desire, and let’s discuss it by all means critically, but let’s identify that the more important conversation is why we see “to sell desire or not to sell desire” as such a fundamental question of womanhood. I think the grey zone is more interesting and less repetitive, after all the selling of desire is not about to end anytime soon so we need to ask how we will teach future generations about alternative, rounded, even messy ideas of being a woman?

  • MsAfropolitan

    I saw a comment on Clutch website who have just published a similar piece asking if Bey is helping or hurting the women’s mvmt.
    It said “feminism is the choice to be whatever woman you wanna be. so she is helping the movement, the end.”
    I liked that comment. I think like Madonna she’s an entertainer who has both “hurt” and “helped” the women’s movement and we should be able to both criticise and give her props where due.
    Then there are two elements still;1.race – in between the bell hooks’ and Beys, black feminism in all its variety is influential to global female narrative in unprecedented ways and 2. motherhood, seeing that Bey has always enjoyed selling desire I appreciate she is making a point to do it even after becoming a mother, it sends a msg to suggestions that she should now exhibit “proper” motherly behaviour.

    • Ego

      You speak as though anyone has ever stopped her from doing what she wants anyway. You write as though she is being oppressed. She can spread her legs wide and show the whole world what’s between them to show how powerful and in control she is , i really don’t give a toss. Beyonce has never been oppressed. Criticised, yes like most celebrities male or female. There is nothing empowering or beneficial to the womenfolk at large because a music icon wants to go nude. Who cares whether she’s a mother, wife or singleton? Society will always criticise those in the public eye. Heck! So called feminists criticised Madonna. If Beyonce’s latest bout of exhibitionism is the path she wants to take, then be my guest. But please let us stop reading anything deeper into it other than the simple fact that she wants more publicity and more money. Money is empowering, it empowers many – male or female. Let us stop this feminist crap as though there are laws telling her not to strip. By all means this is what sells the most, and to be frank, it is so easy to do and as cheap as they come. Nothing empowering or promoting feminism, especially regarding one who cannot claim to be oppressed. Now if we are talking about the real issues women face in society that denigrates and subjugates them… stripping naked of your own volition isn’t one of them, but getting stripped by force or groped is… Still don’t understand how this semi- nude pics translate to feminism or what not. She is simply showing off her hot goods, if anything, it serves to ‘oppress’ us who are less hot! Lol! The feminist bandwagon has long hit the tree, we need to stop this crap, and focus on serious matters. She is not the first successful woman in the world. I am tired of all this silly, vacuous talk packaged as being deep. It is as shallow as they come. What is the world turning to? Have we become so blinded by the superficiality of beauty and material wealth that we now listen to crap about taking half naked pictures which, have been done from way before Beyonce’s mother was even born, and then claiming it is female empowerment. In my opinion, covering up and being mysterious is more empowering. But each to their own. Beyonce is simply another vacuous, attention seeking celebrity who doesn’t begin to understand the real plight of women around the world. Not a problem for me if she just shuts up about being in control and powerful as though she was in shackles. Her trajectory is no different in any measure than that of her husband’s or millions of successful people. I like her music, I believe she’s beautiful and she is loaded, and perhaps a pretty decent humanbeing but that’s as far as she goes in shaping world affairs. She overestimates her influence, she really does. Especially in this fickle world of showbiz. She needs to chill and make quality music and understand that there’s nothing superbly unique about her current achievements. She is massive, yes but not as impactful in wider areas as she thinks. Definitely not a one I will look up to, but I will not deny her talent and beauty.

      Apologies for my disjointed rants. Typed in a hurry and with much annoyance. Love your blog. Your heart is in the right place, but are women just claiming feminism for feminism sake? I see more charitable groups doing more for women than these vacuous money making feminists that are being churned out by the second. Gosh! the whole thing is alarming. I am humanist! Let’s quit all these unnecessary labels as it is reductive.

      • Verite

        Well said Ego! Its reassuring to read your comment – it shows that amongst the hype, shallowness, hypocrisy and the meaningless labels there still exists people with common sense- bravo!

        Beyonce is a pretty black woman. Who also happens to have a lot of money, and who also happens to have fame. But I refuse to see how her stripping off for a lads magazine empowers anybody.

        She did, however achieve what I assume she was after – attention and a healthier bank balance. Good for her. Beyonce can strip or not strip, its her choice, but let’s not pretend that this is anything more than a call for attention and money.

        • Ego

          Thanks Verite! I am glad we reason alike. My voice is hoarse from trying to make this new wave of feminists understand that their amorphous movement is just a passing phase where many think it is cool to label themselves such, without actually doing anything remotely positive to justify this label apart from the fact that they were born female.

          • MsAfropolitan

            You’ll pardon my butting in, but “this ‘new wave’ feminist” right here churns out original material and information about feminism week in week out as well as independent research and speaking on the topic. You might well be the next Mary Wollstonecraft for all I know but leaving anonymous comments does not quite cut it as “justifying” the label if we must even do so in the first place.
            Listen, is it too much to ask to not be two-dimensional, seeing this as a question of right or wrong. As I state in the post, Beyonce’s idea of feminism is not necessarily my idea of feminism, however, all this anger towards her needs to be put into something useful because trust me, once Beyonce is gone, someone else will be there to replace her. Don’t you think anything she has ever done is a worthy contribution to black female narrative?

  • Simi

    I don’t think feminism is (or should be) the choice to be whatever woman you want to be. This very quickly has the potential to become a consumerist and individualistic and anything-goes notion. I think feminism as a politics and even moral position necessarily includes responsibility to others and recognition of them. The fact is that being certain kinds of women is/may be disempowering to or on the backs of other people – women AND men, and typically the least privileged – which black feminists have long recognised in terms of race/white feminism. I also personally don’t see how feminism can be reconciled with rampant consumerism and neoliberal capitalism, of which I think Beyonce (the image/musician, not the person) is a poster child.

    • MsAfropolitan

      Thanks for the great comment Simi! Responding to each point below.

      “I don’t think feminism is (or should be) the choice to be whatever woman you want to be. This very quickly has the potential to become a consumerist and individualistic and anything-goes notion.”

      – People must have the right to exercise free choice, whether its to be a megalomaniac consumer or a sanctimonious monk, we can only encourage approaches towards thinking consciously but it should not be forced.

      “I think feminism as a politics and even moral position necessarily includes responsibility to others and recognition of them.”

      -I don’t see feminism as a moral position. I reject all moral positions in fact whether religious or political etc. This is b/c each person’s idea of responsibility is bound to vary. Therefore, for me choice and respect towards others choices is vital. However, the important thing is that choice should be informed so my approach is to inform rather than impose.

      “The fact is that being certain kinds of women is/may be disempowering to or on the backs of other people – women AND men, and typically the least privileged – which black feminists have long recognised in terms of race/white feminism.”

      – If women have information with which to make their own personal choices, it is not the responsibility of anyone to empower anyone else. We can advise and assist or impede as you point out, but ultimately it is not Bey or anyone else’s fault that a woman is disempowered, it is lack of information on the patriarchal machinery and its harms.

      “I also personally don’t see how feminism can be reconciled with rampant consumerism and neoliberal capitalism, of which I think Beyonce (the image/musician, not the person) is a poster child.”

      – As I stated in the post Beyonce’s feminism is not my ideal particularly for this reason, but again we must recognise that these are opinions that cannot be imposed. Therefore, I have a practical question that I think we should start engaging with more – what is “rampant” consumerism as opposed to moderate consumerism? I mean I understand it in concept but since many of us are consumers after all, how should we reconcile our participation in capitalist networks while critiquing them simultanesouly? And what kind of systems can we construct that will monitor the effects of neoliberal capitalism? I think this is a big question to tackle moving forward.

  • Pingback: 25 Questions That Are Wrecking My Brain « From Ashy to Classy

  • Chi

    I’m sorry but I disagree with this post on so many levels I don’t even know where to begin.

    I feel sad that such unoriginal run of the mill lyrics found in the music of a multitude of factory-line manufactured RnB artists is being held up as something profound and empowering.

    There are many far more poetically and artistically gifted black female artists out there whose lyrics can help you to feel empowered and inspired as woman when you are feeling emotionally, spiritually and politically drained or decimated.

    What this says to me is that it might serve you well to broaden your music tastes and not become the predictable conformist consumer that the intellectually unchallenging commercial American RnB music industry wants you to be.

    I don’t want to sound like a troll, but I find Beyonce so desperately mind-numbing in every way that I feel I would do myself and my existence a deep injustice by passing any of my sacred living moments listening to something so shallow, formulaic and contrived trying to deceptively pass itself off as some sort of art form.

    Secondly, there is no class issue here. There is more to class than simply having money. Her bad taste and crass image is a result of a highly uncultured background and the fact that she is really nothing more than a commodity for the industry. She’s making something for herself along the way but also huge profits for all the others engaged in packaging her into a saleable commodity.

    If she had class she would definitely not have allowed herself to photographed in such a distasteful and semi-pornographic manner.
    In my opinion she did not appear ‘hot’ as you say or sensual in those photos, she just seemed cheap and a bad role model for all young black women. Just like her counterpart Rihanna.

    This is not feminism at all. All it does is dumb down and homogenise feminism and femininity. It belies the true struggles of the great African feminists out there who selflessly and courageously risk their lives for what they believe in and fight for the human rights of all people.

    Not this now corrupted simplistic and narcissistic idea of feminism which tries to pedal the myth that you are somehow empowered because you can pose for a tacky photo-shoot in skimpy undies which will be featured in an equally tacky, misogynist men’s magazine that uses sex to sell.

    In my view she is simply not that beautiful. I have met natural African and black women in real life who are not plastic, contrived, decked out in blonde hair extensions and hyper sexualised in order to make a living or be accepted by an equally brainwashed audience who are just cogs in the wheel of mass consumer capitalist culture.

    I have recently attended an extremely inspiring conference about women human right defenders from Zimbabwe, Kenya, Nepal, Iran, Libya, Afghanistan, Mexico and Colombia who are persecuted for being women activists and persecuted for defending women’s rights and trying to empower those who are weaker than themselves. And despite all the threats of death they continue with their struggles.

    There were two amazing African activists you might want to look up. The first was Betty Makoni who has been stalked and threatened by Mugabe’s regime for speaking out against sexual violence and rape of under-age girls in Zimbabwe and has set up women’s empowerment villages.

    Second Naomi Barrasa who is an equally inspiring Kenyan activist campaigning against sexual violence in the slums of Nairobi and who has successfully campaigned for the enactment of a Sexual Offences Act ,because before then sexual harassment and violence against women were not even recognised as crimes.

    That’s all I have to say. I am a British born African woman who considers herself to be a feminist, but it appears to me that there are many different African feminisms on many different levels, which makes me a little sad.

  • lalibela1

    I’m sorry but I disagree with this post on so many levels I don’t even know where to begin.

    I feel sad that such unoriginal run of the mill lyrics found in the music of a multitude of factory-line manufactured RnB artists is being held up as something profound and empowering.

    There are many far more poetically and artistically gifted black female artists out there whose lyrics can help you to feel empowered and inspired as woman when you are feeling emotionally, spiritually and politically drained or decimated.

    What this says to me is that it might serve you well to broaden your music tastes and not become the predictable conformist consumer that the intellectually unchallenging commercial American RnB music industry wants you to be.

    I don’t want to sound like a troll, but I find Beyonce so desperately mind-numbing in every way that I feel I would do myself and my existence a deep injustice by passing any of my sacred living moments listening to something so shallow, formulaic and contrived trying to deceptively pass itself off as some sort of art form.

    Secondly, there is no class issue here. There is more to class than simply having money. Her bad taste and crass image is a result of a highly uncultured background and the fact that she is really nothing more than a commodity for the industry. She’s making something for herself along the way but also huge profits for all the others engaged in packaging her into a saleable commodity.

    If she had class she would definitely not have allowed herself to photographed in such a distasteful and semi-pornographic manner.
    In my opinion she did not appear ‘hot’ as you say or sensual in those photos, she just seemed cheap and a bad role model for all young black women. Just like her counterpart Rihanna.

    This is not feminism at all. All it does is dumb down and homogenise feminism and femininity. It belies the true struggles of the great African feminists out there who selflessly and courageously risk their lives for what they believe in and fight for the human rights of all people.

    Not this now corrupted simplistic and narcissistic idea of feminism which tries to pedal the myth that you are somehow empowered because you can pose for a tacky photo-shoot in skimpy undies which will be featured in an equally tacky, misogynist men’s magazine that uses sex to sell.

    In my view she is simply not that beautiful. I have met natural African and black women in real life who are not plastic, contrived, decked out in blonde hair extensions and hyper sexualised in order to make a living or be accepted by an equally brainwashed audience who are just cogs in the wheel of mass consumer capitalist culture.

    I have recently attended an extremely inspiring conference about women human right defenders from Zimbabwe, Kenya, Nepal, Iran, Libya, Afghanistan, Mexico and Colombia who are persecuted for being women activists and persecuted for defending women’s rights and trying to empower those who are weaker than themselves. And despite all the threats of death they continue with their struggles.

    There were two amazing African activists you might want to look up. The first was Betty Makoni who has been stalked and threatened by Mugabe’s regime for speaking out against sexual violence and rape of under-age girls in Zimbabwe and has set up women’s empowerment villages.

    Second Naomi Barrasa who is an equally inspiring Kenyan activist campaigning against sexual violence in the slums of Nairobi and who has successfully campaigned for the enactment of a Sexual Offences Act ,because before then sexual harassment and violence against women were not even recognised as crimes.

    That’s all I have to say. I am a British born African woman who considers herself to be a feminist, but it appears to me that there are many different African feminisms on many different levels, which makes me a little sad.

  • Anne

    While I see Beyoncé as pretty and certainly talented, I also see her selling herself as a commodity in the guise of being a feminist. The songs on her album are a mixed bag, with some encouraging female empowerment while others are simply vulgar like “Partition.” She has always had sex appeal, but she also used to carry herself with class. There are aspects to her life that feminists and traditionalists can admire, like marrying and having a child in wedlock well into her adult life, as well as being financially stable. However, there is nothing original about stooping to sleaze as a way of “showing her comfort with her sexuality.” There are others who have done it before her and there will be others continuing to do it long after she becomes history. Besides, she has aligned herself in marriage to a man who is well-known for his blatant misogyny. The crude exhibitionism they engaged in at the Grammys was extremely off-putting and completely unnecessary. The song “Drunk In Love” is problematic because it trivializes the misery that Tina Turner underwent in her extremely abusive marriage to Ike Turner. I get that Beyonce and Jay Z love each other and that they are doting parents to Blue Ivy. Just the same, it trivializes feminism to pretend that it’s about using sexuality in order to succeed in the world of entertainment. IMHO, she is an entertainer and a businesswoman but not much of a feminist. Like someone else said, the patriarchy she reinforces with the image she projects on stage doesn’t mix with feminism.

  • Pingback: best Jay Z remixes