I’m not a cultural critic. My expertise lies not in culture as conceived by many cultural critics – pop culture – but in culture as conceived by sociologists and legal scholars. My expertise lies in how individuals live their culture in their every day lives.
More importantly to what I’m going to speak on here, however, is that I am a mother. Of a daughter. A black mother of a black daughter. That’s really all the expertise that matters.
But in case you’re wondering, I am a black feminist. A young, married, heterosexual, highly- and elitely-educated, black, middle-class mother feminist. I own all of that. Please do not get that twisted as you read what comes next.
This is about Beyonce and “Beyonce.” I’m not even going to talk about whether Beyonce is a feminist. I honestly don’t care. You virtual celebrities of the Twitter and blogosphere can hash all that out with the white feminists that y’all say don’t “get” black feminism.
But Ain’t I a Woman? If we can all agree to that, then let me tell you something.
This is about why I will not ever encourage my black daughter to listen to, emulate, or strive to be the Beyonce on “Beyonce.” “Beyonce” is not the feminist ideal I want pushed on my child.
This is about why I don’t think “Beyonce” should be held up as the feminist role model for ANY black girl.
And this is why I think all self-proclaimed new generation black feminists idolizing “Beyonce” as a positive manifesto should take SEVERAL proverbial seats. Because you’re messing with my baby. And that makes me angry.
I know what the new-generation black feminists are going to say: “Beyonce” is not an album for children. And you’re right. It’s not. But that’s really beside the point.
Because children will listen. Because children will emulate the adults that will listen. Because pop culture infuses every-day culture. Because the messages “Beyonce” is promoting are everything BUT powerful, pro-woman, pro-black messages. Because our girls, our beautiful, black girls deserve so much better.
As a social scientist, I kinda believe that your opinion without evidence is just that: an opinion without evidence. Good for you, but not rigorous analysis. Not the work of a true critic, which again, I’m not. But I did watch the videos and listened to the songs, and again, I’m a black mother.
Funny thing is – I’m not mad at Beyonce. She has every right to make the songs she wants. In this current culture where we recognize it takes a village to raise a generation of strong black people but we refuse to actually take on that responsibility or hold our “leaders” accountable – what can we expect? But if you are a so-called “public intellectual,” if you are at all influencing young people, if you are at all responsible for promoting what makes it into mainstream culture, then I expect more of you. And your insistence on being ride-or-die for this album is seriously problematic.
Here’s why, taking it song by song:
Pretty Hurts. This song is supposedly about the pain associated with the label “pretty.” It talks about how girls are taught to think of themselves only according to their looks. “Pretty” hurts the pretty and the not-so-pretty. I get that. I live that.
But coming from Beyonce? The woman who makes it very clear that her success is partly due to her own looks, her own pretty, her own body that follows a ridiculous dieting and fitness regime:
“Photos make you fatter, television adds pounds, and discipline is very important in this profession…. I am a natural fat person, just dying to get out. I go through agonies to keep my stomach as flat as possible – though it is never flat enough for me,” she has said.
I’m guilty of weighing myself every day, of agonizing over my after-three-babies-in-eight-years tummy, and of curbing my sweet tooth so I can fit into my size 2 jeans. But now that my daughter is getting older, I’m stopping the daily weigh-in. I’m stopping the complaining about the belly that shepherded three souls into the world. I talk about working out as stress relief, and for keeping healthy. I limit sweets because cavities hurt. I encourage my daughter to play sports and dance because she loves to do it and it keeps her healthy. I don’t need her seeing Beyonce say, “Pretty hurts” while showing it actually does. Some say the meaning of the song is “QUEEN BEY LESSON #1: You’re beautiful the way you are.” That’s bullshit. Kids see right through that wack-ass logic. She obviously does not find herself “beautiful as she is” with her fat-bashing and embrace of all that is wrong with mainstream media. Self-awareness without action is like no self-awareness at all.
Ghost. Honestly, I have no idea what this song is about. Without the video, it would have been skipped way before my usual 30-second appraisal of whether a song is worth my time. Sometimes I’m wrong, and songs get better after 30 seconds and so I miss out, but that’s rare. Not missing out here. For all I know, Bey is sending subliminal messages. Since I don’t know what those messages are (I mean, they’re subliminal) I can’t evaluate their value for my kid. So, no.
Haunted. See above. Used to be a time that wack songs were called wack. But the new generation black feminists must have missed that memo.
Drunk In Love. I’m drunk in love every day. The love I have for my husband grows every day. I have a partner in everything. He loves me, he loves his children, he loves black people. We have a great marriage full of all the things great partnerships are made of. Sex, love, laughter, and work. Again, I get it. And again, I get that many black women don’t have this and it’s great to celebrate this deep, deep, love.
But what I can’t understand is why y’all are making excuses for this gem:
Catch a charge I might, beat the box up like Mike / In ’97 I bite, I’m Ike Turner, turn up / Baby know I don’t play, now eat the cake, Annie Mae / Said, “Eat the cake, Annie Mae!”
Y’all know who Ike Turner is right? Y’all saw “What’s Love Got To Do With It,” right? The reference (for those who have not seen this classic black film) is to Ike yelling at Tina Turner in a restaurant to eat the cake that’s on the table. He’s calling her by her “Christian” name, Anna Mae. He’s mad because some kids ask for Tina’s autograph and say, “Ms.” Turner instead of “Mrs.” Turner. He’s a controlling violent man who smashes the cake in Tina’s face and then slaps the black off her friend who jumps up in Tina’s defense. “Eat the cake Anna Mae” is a reference to a husband who is jealous of his wife’s success and presence and fame and feels the need to humiliate her every chance he gets.
There is NO ONE who will convince me that these lyrics can EVER be a part of a song that is empowering to black women. This is not about willing submission. It is about violent submission premised on jealousy and hatred of successful black womanhood. The fact that this is even debatable…
Blow. Ok. This song is all about sexual pleasure. Part of the new-generation black feminist movement (?) is about regaining our sexual pleasure as black women. Once again, I get it. I do. But really?
Can you lick my skittles/That’s the sweetest in the middle/Pink that’s the flavor/Solve the riddle
As I’ve written before about black women’s genitalia being portrayed as candy that can be bought and sold, we need to come up with better ways:
Selling vaginas? Surely this cannot be. … Surely they know that selling part of a woman’s anatomy … commodifies women’s sexuality, holds it up as something that can be bought and sold on the open market, something to be consumed in the most vulgar of ways?
Furthermore, the man’s part is referred to as “wood” (strong, stable, enduring) but we get “skittles” (sweet but deadly)? Nope, don’t want my daughter associating her vagina, a legitimate site of sexual pleasure with sugary sweet candy that has little nutritional value that makes you feel good for a minute and then causes a crash. Now I know I’m probably breaking it down more than it needs to be broken down, but I’m competing for idea-space with fellow PhDs and masters of the internet.
No Angel. Nobody is an angel. True enough. That’s all I get from this song in terms of positive messages. Why, you ask? Because of this:
You’re not an angel either, but at least I’m trying / I know I drive you crazy, but would you rather that I be a machine / Who doesn’t notice when you late or when you’re lying / I love you even more than you I thought you worried for
If there’s candles near your bed, no need for a spell / Stop acting so scared, just do what I tell / First go through my legs, go back on your head / And whatever you want, yeah baby I’ll beg, it comes
Wait…what? He’s a liar and implicitly a cheat that you are driving crazy by calling him on his ish…but then you’re in control…but not really…because you begging to for him to tell you what to do and you’re down for whatever?
Not for my daughter. No. Stop. Please.
Again. The fact that this is even a legitimate source of debate…
Yonce. Pure bravado. But once’t’agin, it comes back to the booty: “Ya man ain’t never seen a booty like this.” But Pretty Hurts? Sigh. This one actually had promise.
Partition. The stans went crazy for this one. And I’ll admit – the beat is sick. But reminiscent of the Chris Rock joke “Slap Em With the Dick,” we seem to forgive any wack-ass message due to a sick-ass beat.
He Monica Lewinski all on my gown
Take all of me / I just wanna be the girl you like, girl you like / The kinda girl you like / Is right here with me
What in all that makes sense in this world is a reference to Monica Lewinsky empowering, sexually or not?? Monica Lewinsky was denied, debased, and sentenced to infamy for giving a powerful, married man a blow job and letting him cum on her dress. The moral of the story there?? NEVER be any man’s Monica Lewinsky. NEVER.
Jealous. A song that “keeps it real.” Many a woman can relate to this song. She can have a point for this one.
Rocket. There is a bit of feminist dribble in here:
Ooh my shit’s so good it ain’t even right / I know I’m right / Hell yeah you the shit / That’s why you’re my equivalent / So sexy
I feel that. We should all feel like we’re the ish and we should feel like our partner’s the ish. I dig that. (Not for my daughter, but a good message for grown women.)
But then she went here:
You ain’t right for doing that to me daddy / Even though I’ve been a bad bad bad bad bad bad bad bad bad bad bad girl / Tell me what you’re gonna do about that / Punish me / Please / Punish me please
Look, I know some women like to be submissive. Maybe every heterosexual woman at one point or another wants to be dominated by her man. It’s a fantasy. But what I don’t get, and likely never will, is calling your man “Daddy.” And for black girls/women, I have a HUGE problem with it. We don’t want our girls calling any man that ain’t her daddy “Daddy.” We don’t want to perpetuate the idea that a man who can satisfy your sexual needs deserves to be treated like a parental authority. ESPECIALLY when the next words are about punishment. And isn’t “Daddy” something that prostitutes call their pimp?
Grown women can call they boo anything they like. Whatever floats your damn boat. But you’re not going to teach that to my daughter. Nope.
Mine. I like Drake. (And no, I don’t let my children listen to him.) I like his voice. I like his sound. This song sounds just like Drake. He coulda sang the whole thing. And I’m not mad at this song. She even talked about getting married. [Gasp!]
XO. We’re good here. A song actually about hugs and kisses. Cute.
Flawless. Again, y’all can say she’s not talking to you as a bitch. Right. Tell yourself that lie. But because I’m not a fan, I’m quite sure she’s telling me to bow down, and she’s calling me a bitch. So.
And you know what else? I am CONFUSED by Adichie’s verse on this song. Not confused by the verse, which was sampled from the author’s recent TedX talk, but confused by why it’s even here. Do you forgive being called a bitch because now girls who you hope aren’t listening to the record but actually are listening to the record get exposure to one of the greatest writers of our generation?? (Americanah was my ish.) I don’t know. But I do know that I can’t let my daughter listen to Beyonce’s part in order to get to Adichie’s part. Because if I’m confused, what about her?
Superpower. This song is just boring. But not offensive to my sensibilities.
Heaven. My condolences over whomever she lost.
Blue. Any song that someone has their child on is a-okay in my eyes. I liked Egypt on New Day. And I think Blue Ivy is cute as a button looking just like her daddy. Not that’s he’s cute. But you know what I mean.
So six acceptable songs out of 17 songs is not bad in terms of current day pop. But the other 11 make this album a no go for my daughter, and I hope for every other black girl out there.. Given the atrocities some of these songs inflict on the listener, I am really surprised at the new generation black feminists who are riding HARD for ‘Yonce on this one. What about our daughters? No really: what about our daughters?? Can y’all not imagine that these images of women being debased, thought about only in terms of their “skittles,” and calling grown men “Daddy” are exactly what helped R. Kelly prey on DOZENS of teenage girls? Can y’all not see that these conflicting and confusing images are doing nothing to empower girls, but rather are confusing them about what constitutes their worth? Pretty hurts but sex sells?
You can say, “Well, don’t let your daughter listen to the album,” and I will not let her listen. But I can’t shelter her from the world, and this album is now a part of our WORLD. This album influences grown men and grown women who then influence children. Everything we put out there affects all of our children. Black girls are under ATTACK, and we, the folks who are supposed to be protecting them are turning out to be their worst enemies but cosigning foolishness masquerading as empowerment.
And I have the right to say this because I am a mother. A black mother. A black mother of a black daughter. And a feminist under the age of 35. And an intellectual. And a member of the hip-hop generation. And I’m telling y’all – this is NOT the message we, as black mothers, want you, as “professional” black feminists giving OUR babies. You are not our unified voice on this one. Your fight with the white feminists to recognize you is not our fight, not this time. THIS is not what we want y’all to be fighting about. So please – stop. Stop. STOP.
And, to give credit where credit is due, I’m not the only one that thinks this Bey worship has gone too far. Check these posts out:
On Defending Beyoncé: Black Feminists, White Feminists, and the Line In the Sand
The Problem with BeyHive Bottom Bitch Feminism
Black Internet Feminists Embrace Beyonce As One of Their Own: Bottom Power, Bread and Circuses.
If there are others, please mention them in the comments. And of course, say whatever you need to say in the comments too. Let’s dialogue 🙂
94 thoughts on “Why My Daughter Will Not Be Listening to “Beyonce.” Or Why I’m Going To Need the New Generation of Black Feminists Who Are Riding Hard for “Beyonce” to Have Several Seats”
Thanks for starting the conversation, Toya! The explosion on the intrawebnets over this album is a really interesting one. First my initial response to your analysis, then a few thoughts about the lyrics you excerpt, and then on to what I think are the bigger questions that Beyonce, and her latest album, present.
My initial response to your analysis of her album was to wonder whether you are similarly critical about all your albums, or is it this one in particular that’s got you fed up? There is a lot of problematic material out there (I think Drake produces some of it, no? I don’t really follow him…), and these problematic themes (and accompanying adoring fans, including self-proclaimed feminists) have been popping up in Beyonce’s music for a while now, although it is arguably the most aggressively presented in this album. So, is there something in particular about this go ’round, and this artist, that makes it different? I think the reactions to this album are telling in their intensity. But more on that at the end…
As for your song-by-song breakdown, I downloaded the album yesterday, but hadn’t yet listened to much of it. You are right to point out several areas that are problematic at best, and egregiously offensive at worst, although I disagree with some of your reads.
–I had a more generous read of “Pretty;” I heard it as a confession of sorts. Yes, she’s good at pretty. Yes, she’s made her success off of it. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have costs to her emotional and psychological health, and I heard the song as an admission of that. It’s contrary, but as you admit yourself, you are, too; we all are. Maybe she’ll get to the point of being able to say, “enough with working so hard to be pretty,” just as you have. But I do give her credit for admitting now that she is trading in a problematic exchange.
–Flawless doesn’t bother me, and it’s not because “I don’t think she’s talking to me!” It’s more because I understand, and appreciate, what she is suggesting through that phrase. I’ve had moments when I knew I was the baddest chick in the room; I know you have. One blogger writing about this song noted that she’s had moments when she had to say to other scholars, “you need to read some more before you can even step to me intellectually.” I understand that moment, and I read the words “bow down bitches” in that light. As for Adichie’s verse, I did not think they were in conflict. I understood Adichie to be saying that we ask women to be small; to compete only for men’s attentions; but to never be bold enough to say, “I did this; I am worthy of being called the best at this, or being recognized for my hard work here. And that doesn’t make me a bitch, or a ball buster, or unattractive, or un-feminine, or arrogant.” So, when you line that up with Beyonce’s assertion that she is the baddest B in the room, it’s not all that dissonant.
–I didn’t read the Monica Lewinsky reference so literally. I think I might have been more offended if it said “he Bill Clinton’d all on my gown,” as it would have been for me a more direct reference to how awfully he treated her. I read this as a reference to what went down during a particular sexual encounter, not also a reference to the entire context for that particular encounter between BC and ML. I suppose it’s possible that the 2 can’t be separated, although I’m sure everybody who heard that reference immediately knew exactly what happened to the gown.
–I never saw “What’s Love..” (yes, yes, I know; that’s grounds for getting my black card revoked), and so don’t really know about the scene to which you refer. Based on your description, however, you’re right that it’s problematic, but again–this is not the first time Jay-Z, or Beyonce, have traded in offensive images. So, what is it about this time that is so different?
–I got distracted by the video for No Angel; I liked the images of normal people from her hometown and other areas (although I’m open to arguments that it feels a bit like poverty porn?). I don’t even get the juxtaposition of the 2 sets of lyrics–are those really in the same song? Whatever…
–I’ve always thought references to your male partner as “Daddy” are creepy. I’ll give that to you.
–Loved the image of her playing with her baby’s toes; I do that everyday with my baby. 🙂
Ultimately, however, I think the album raises much larger questions. Yes, we won’t be letting our daughters listen to the album. But the question is, will WE be listening to it? And not just listening to the album, but to Beyonce’s assertions of her participation in this movement we call feminism. Beyonce presents a lot of hard questions for feminists, which is why I think the reaction has been so strong. Can you trade on your sexual identity so aggressively and still be a feminist? Is there such a thing as too much sex-positivity if you’re a feminist? If Beyonce has chosen a career in which success is defined almost exclusively by the male gaze, is she allowed to feel “empowered” if she has mastered that realm to the extent possible, if she’s controlled her image so well?
And can anything about Beyonce–her image, her performances, her lyrics–be empowering or inspiring for the feminists who listen to her? That what the heart of this debate is about. I don’t think black feminists are so much enamored with her lyrics or style of dress, as they are enamored with the power that Beyonce seems to wield. She’s embraced many aspects of herself (self-kitten, high-powered career woman, devoted mother), she’s taken bold risks in terms of her sound and look, and she’s a work-in-progress but has been brazen enough to suggest that she has a place in the feminist movement. That shit really pisses people off–but is she wrong? And can you both be a true black feminist and still love the confidence Beyonce has possessed while doing all of this? Because I sorta do love it. Beyonce is just daring people not to take her seriously, even as she insists on building her persona, her image, her career, on her sexual identity. People want to dismiss her as a floozy, a prostitute, a sell-out. But she won’t quite let them; she is a force to be reckoned with. And, as someone who would like to live in a world where my displays of my sexuality, whether private or public, aggressive or modest, in no way shape how people value my worth as an individual, I have to admit that something about what Beyonce is forcing us to do is attractive to me.
ORJ, I love what you had to say. I completely agree! I
consider myself a feminist and work with many powerful women, lots
in the boomer generation (I’m a Gen Xer myself) who are afraid to
even publicly share that we as women DO talk about sex. Being able
to express that shouldn’t prevent us from being taken seriously but
somehow it does. That is the convo I see coming from what Beyonce
Thank you for your comment! ORJ and I are ride-or-die friends, and I love how we can have a dialogue without putting each other down. Thanks for joining in that.
Yes. we. are. Toya. I saw your post and got so excited–I love dialoguing with you, and always have. 🙂
LOL. I’m like, “If you like ORJ, you should like me too! She does!” LOL.
First – I listened once and I won’t be listening again. I bought it so I could comment on it, lol 🙂
Second – I wrote this mostly for the second part — as soon as folks start holding her up as a feminist role model, rather than as an entertaining entertainer – that’s when I’m like hold up. If anyone wants me to present Beyonce as a feminist to my daughter as opposed to an entertainer – that’s when I put on the brakes. Do I break all her songs down? At least in my head I do. I think I do that with most music. I certainly do when my kids might hear the song, and I only allow them to hear things that conform to my values and what I want for them. And for the most part, especially as I get older, I do it for myself.
I guess that goes to your next point – no, I won’t be listening again.
I do think it empowering that she is able to craft her persona according to her terms…I guess. I’m not sure how true that is. Women have been open about their sexuality for decades – this idea is not anything new. And I’m not convinced that she is doing this of her own “power.” First, she built this brand based on being a sex symbol who not everyone even agrees if she can sing. She has gotten to where she is due to her hard work, yes, but also due to her looks and her body. That cannot be denied. So now she makes an album where she is showing her “true self” as a sexually liberated woman – but she only did it knowing it would sell. I would be much more impressed with an album that was not going to be instantly platinum no matter what she put on it. The Beyhive is deep and will buy anything she puts out. The link about about “bottom power not being powerful at all” is kinda speaking to me.
I don’t want to be judged by my sexuality either, just like I don’t want to be judged by any one part of who I am. I don’t think Beyonce is really forcing anyone who is really a feminist – not just an intellectual feminist, but one who is truly wondering about how we bring up this next generation of girls to be strong, intelligent and confident – are really dealing with any hard questions. But again – I don’t care about the labels of feminism. I do care about holding her up as a role model – feminist or otherwise – for anyone. Because the question becomes do you want to be like Beyonce? And I don’t. I think she is confusing and messy and the beats are dope but when we scratch beneath the surface, there isn’t very much there EXCEPT that she’s a great entertainer. And I do appreciate that. But it is just entertainment. I take her like I do all my entertainment. I recognize its a show, a performance – like any show I watch on TV. I recognize that there are not real people named Olivia and Fitz and so I do not “admire” Olivia for her badassedness but appreciate an interesting storyline. I think Kerry Washington is a good actress, but I actually find her as Olivia to be deeply flawed and I think the way Scandle portrays love between Fitz and Liv is a BIG problem. Likewise, in Beyonce, I appreciate an entertainer who is killing it in terms of influence and money making. But there is little in her that I truly admire that does not directly stem from her being an entertainer. If that makes me a hater…
Hi…I thought your review was fair. I also feel all the black feminists who find Beyonce’s new album problematic have been fair. Unlike the many of the pro-Beyonce black feminists/stans, who have been hostile/cruel to anyone that degrees with them.
It’s kind of sad (and disturbing) it’s become a battle between us.
The worst was Crunk Feminist Collective who resorted to calling other black women “basic bitches” if they weren’t stanning for Bey. LoL. As you noted, being sexual is nothing new for a female entertainer. I am the “X” Generation, so I grew up with Madonna. It was a little more interesting then, as it was the conservative 80’s and Madonna really was freaking out the status quo. Lol.
But with Beyonce’s generation, everyone and they mama naked, so it’s become cliché. And the status quo doesn’t care because their pockets are getting fat (fatter than Beyonce will ever make. These record companies/CEOs are raking in BILLIONS) and don’t feel threatened these days because they know these young pop stars will do anything to stay relevant/famous/rich.
I have nothing against Beyonce, but as you noted I find her image/messages confusing/contradictory. No one would be tripping (as hard), if she just said she was an entertainer and just having fun. The problem is she has positioned herself as a voice for women. So, it’s fair to critique her. I wish her well, I truly do. She has worked hard for her position and deserves it. But, we can’t gloss over her problematic stuff and just focus on her good/fun stuff l (as noted in the article you posted On Defending Beyoncé: Black Feminists, White Feminists, and the Line In the Sand).
Beyonce also needs to realize she’s the mother of her own black daughter. She needs to think long and hard about what kind of world she is going to leave for her daughter. Money protects you, but not from everything, especially when you are black.
Thank you. A friend of mine also wondered where are all these black girls who are afraid of their sexuality or shamed about their sexuality? It is cliche, and not very original. But like you say – I appreciate Bey as an entertainer. Just nothing more.
I disagree strongly with this post. But instead of rebutting it point by point, I will just say this: I have a serious problem with the way this whole critique is set up. It suggests that the author’s opinion is somehow more valid than those of Beyoncé’s supporters because she is of a certain age and has popped a baby out her womb (yes, I went there). If this author is in academia, I certainly hope she’s not telling her students that their opinions can hold only so much weight because of their age. The author should also note that there are many “public intellectuals” and fans her age and older who support this album, so setting up this post as “telling the ‘new’ generation of feminists to have a seat” is a straw man, at best.
Hmm. I’m not saying that as a young black mother of a girl that my opinion is more valid that someone else’s. I’m simply saying that I don’t want Beyoncé to be a role model for my child or any other black child. We can disagree about my opinion, but I think it is important to clearly state where we are coming from when we issue an opinion.
Of course there are other folks just like me who disagree and love the album. My friend that commented above is very much like me (young, a mother, and black) and supports the album. I still do believe that the new generation of black feminists (as they describe themselves) are wrong to hold up Beyoncé as a feminist role model.
Again, we can disagree. I write to inspire dialogue.
As to my students: I encourage them to consider how their experiences influence their thoughts. How their experiences shape the evidence they seek. Not that their opinion holds more weight due to who they are. Only that who they are is relevant to what they think. I was making my background crystal clear before I expressed my analysis.
And I don’t get why my stance on folks taking a seat is a straw man argument. The truth of the straw man argument would be that new generation black feminists don’t actually support Beyoncé and her album as a feminist manifesto. But they do. I am directly refuting that position, coming from he perspective that I don’t want my daughter to look up to Beyoncé because I disagree with the content that folks think is a feminist piece of work. So again, where’s the straw man?
I don’t think it’s fair to classify reactions to the album by age or generation. The reactions in my generation are similarly divided. I actually agree with some of your points (especially the Ike Turner allusion), but I think the framing was unnecessarily divisive. I also think that as flawed as Beyoncé’s interpretation of feminism may be to some, it is also instructive.
I hear you. I actually wasn’t trying to say reactions can be classified by age or generation. I was only trying to point out the vantage point from where from where I am speaking. If it came across as overly dismissive, that was not my intention.
Interesting read… We disagree on the analysis of some of
the lyrics. But one of my concerns is why does everyone go so hard
– at either side of the argument? Is there no muddle ground? I
mean, seems like some of us act like we’re prefect in our feminism.
And I doubt that’s true.
Thanks for your comment. I admit, I wrote this as a reaction to those going hard on the other side. I do think there is a middle ground, and to me that is appreciating Beyonce as an entertainer but not as a feminist role model. I don’t think anyone is asking for perfection because no one is perfect. But I don’t think acknowledging imperfections means that we cannot be critical. I also think that sometimes Beyonce is held up as beyond reproach. There was very little sympathy, compassion, or cries of “she’s complex” when Miley Cyrus was engaging in her foolishness.
Great point about Miley, Toya! The blog post to which you linked where the author discussed how protective black women feel about Beyonce definitely explains some of it, huh? I don’t feel protective about Beyonce, and agree with you that it’s important to be critical, even as we admit that nobody is perfect.
I think Miley is complex as well. She’s young and also trying to figure it out. As for Bey, I’m not saying she’s a ‘feminist role model’ but I do wonder about the vehement disdain for her attempting to embrace and understand what feminism means to/for her.
Interesting post. I think our interpretations of the lyrics
differ greatly. There’s no such thing as flawless feminism… And I
think some women who vehemently hate this album, the feminist
conversations and possibly Beyonce perpetuate a myth of feminist
perfectionism. She’s not perfect, but neither are we.
Thanks, I wouldn’t have wasted the time to dissect the
songs at all. Beyonce is toxic. She’s cotton candy flavored poison,
but it will kill you all the same.
Thanks for your comment.
Hello! I really don’t have much to add. You said IT ALL.
The only reason I’m commenting is to let you know the 10-20% of
black women my age (under 30) who still have common sense and
haven’t been completely brainwashed by black and mainstream media
DO EXIST. Most of us don’t waste time getting into these “debates”
because as you can tell from the previous comments, the zombies
among us come out to defend their messiahs time and time again.
People like Bouncy & Jiggaboo-Z and Koonye &
Kartrashian could care less who worships them or if their line of
work is having a negative impact on black folks as displayed by the
garbage they pump out year after year. I promise you there is a
tiny minority of bw & bgs who GET IT and are quietly making
moves. Please keep speaking the truth because there will always be
people like myself around to appreciate it. Your daughter is
BLESSED to gave such a great mom who wants to create a future where
she can thrive in 🙂 Merry Christmas!!
Just a reminder (or two): first, you WILL NOT call me a bitch on my own damn blog. GTFOHWTBS. And second, your attempt to hide behind anonymity doesn’t work when I, as the admin, can see your email address and can look you up. I’ll be kind here and not blast you for the troll you are. For future reference, create an email address that functions only as backup for your hateful, trolly comments.
LOL! I heard that!
Like some others, above, I strongly disagree with this post (and I am under 40, a mother, and a feminist). Not because I think Beyonce is a feminist role model (who is suggesting that she is? can’t she claim feminism for herself without being a “role model” for the movement?) I just think that there is an undercurrent of respectability politics here that I have little patience for–and I think the breakdown of the lyrics is 1. wrong and 2. way too literal.
But I am actually posting in hopes of getting a link to ORJ’s blog–I clicked on her name, above, but couldn’t find any link to the blog mentioned in the bio. Based on her excellent, nuanced, and thoughtful response to this post, I think hers is a blog I would enjoy reading. Can someone point me to it?
Thank you for your comment. Agreeing to disagree is fine with me. 🙂 Even strong disagreement. I would be interested in what you mean by “respectability politics” as I think it’s a term that is often thrown around but rarely theorized or operationalized.
ORJ used to write here, but she doesn’t have her own blog. And can I just say ORJ and I are really tight friends? I get where she is coming from, I just disagree. I promise we agree more than we disagree.
This is so true. I understand where Toya is coming from, and admire her rhetorical and analytical abilities. We are great friends, and we definitely agree more than we disagree! But the fun part is picking each others’ brains about the small areas of disagreement! 😉
Thanks, cityprof, for your kind words. 🙂
I am not sure whether “respectability politics” is the right word for it, but I think it’s strongly implied in this post that those who support this album are harming black women. That’s a rather strident moral judgment.
Sorry – all new commenters are screened. Way too many trolls out there. Your comment was approved.
As I see mine don’t quit do it for you. Ma’am I don’t mind your blasting me, not posting my comments. I see how I’ve offended YOU and I apologize. I don’t know YOU, I don’t like what YOU said. Nice blog and the best to the beautiful sister you are. Enjoy
Thank you for the apology. I’m good with disagreement, but I can’t tolerate name-calling. We’re good.
First off, I appreciate and agree with your analysis of this album and the Beyoncé brand. Full disclosure: I am not a huge Beyoncé fan and I have not heard the album. She has some songs that I like but I wouldn’t call myself die-hard. That being said, I have been EXTREMELY troubled by the commentary about this album in particular and about Beyoncé in general. But my troubles do not arise from the album itself (as I said, I haven’t heard it), it arises from the tone, tenor and content of support for her as feminist extraordinaire. Critique is met with vitriolic disdain as if Beyoncé is beyond reproach and we cannot question her assertions or her motivations. We are deemed haters, crabs in a barrel and ignorant to the true meaning of feminism, woman power, social justice and all of those things for which Beyoncé has (somehow) become the poster child. Are we not allowed to dissent without being labeled traitors? Feminist or not, role model or not, with this album Beyoncé has proven herself to be a marketing GENIUS. But that is not a testament to her politics. Rather it’s a testament to her business prowess and that is ok too. She is being talked about, listened to, debated, discussed and in the midst of all of that supporters and critics are buying the album (even if it’s only for one listen.) That is what she does. She is an entertainer marketing her brand and she does her job VERY WELL. You present a well reasoned and logical analysis and I thank you for that. There was something that was not sitting well with me but I couldn’t quite articulate it. You have and I wish I could give you a high five. When I saw the “Ike” reference, I knew for SURE that I would not be listening. I have struggled to find a way to wrap my mind around any references to Ike Turner’s violence being portrayed as empowering. What the what?!?!?!?!? I am still haunted by images from that movie (and that was just the movie). It pisses me off that black feminism (which I consider to be a set of theoretical principles as well as a way of life) could be twisted in that way. My heart weeps. I can’t . . . I am also troubled by the “bow down bitches” reference. I didn’t like that song when it was first released and I have a feeling I won’t like it now (feminisms notwithstanding). The premise bothers me and it seems decidedly anti-feminist. To suggest that you are better than someone and thus they need to “bow down” to you only reconstructs the hierarchy that has historically placed black women on the bottom. Should we celebrate Beyoncé’s symbolic rise to the top of that same hierarchy and claim it as some sort of victory? I doubt it. How about she celebrate her success without having to devalue someone else? You don’t have to stand on another’s neck to rise. And doesn’t that type of attitude detract from her success in her own right. Why do we believe that our value is determined only in comparison to someone us? If she meant to give herself the props that she is due, why not just do that? I don’t agree with the message. Beyonce is a human being, woman, wife, mother daughter, sister, friend, entertainer and businesswoman, I can only comment on the last two because I don’t personally know her and in those two areas, she is certainly a force to reckon with. Kudos and I love it!!! Do ya thang, lady!!!! But as for being an activist and/or feminist role model, I’m not so sure. But then I have to wonder, why do her supporters NEED for her to be this empowering feminist extraordinaire? Why do we have to project those labels onto her? Or even if she claims those labels for herself, do we have to buy into it? Does calling oneself a feminist powerhouse empowering to the masses mean that you are, even though your actions and words are to the contrary? To some these contradictions represent the complexity of being woman – of being human. To me, it seems as if it’s a marketing tool – a brilliant marketing tool – but a marketing tool nonetheless. Although, she will someday be added to somebody’s hall of fame, do we really want to make the argument that she should be added the cannons of black feminism? I hope not.
Thank you for your comment. I wish I could give YOU a high five too.
Your daughter sounds like an overly-smothered rebel in the making.
Thanks for your comment. I truly can only hope that she is a rebel. Just like her mama.
Excellent post LaToya and thank you for the shout out on our blog on BeyHive Bottom Bitch Feminism. These arguments are necessary. To the point about the ‘politics of respectability’. This is actually the language being used to describe the pro-Beyonce, ad hominem discourse and policing that has been going on in the twitterverse and the blogs. To operationalize the concept (from one social scientist to another – THANK YOU for going there!), I use it to refer to the long standing set of discourses tied to female chastity, the cult of true womanhood and Judeo-Christian principles around sex and procreation. This discourse was never afforded to Black women, who were characterized as lascivious temptresses whose racial lineage linked us to a savage womanhood that was sexualized and deemed immoral. Given this abridged historical backdrop, I think the current debate is centered on smashing these ideas of black respectability in favor of an image of black female empowerment in jezebel’s clothes, in the worse way. Moreover, the policing piece is the most damaging. We can all agree to disagree, but when ideological beefs turn into personal attacks on folks credentials, there’s a problem. The new call is for a “pleasure principle” that creates space in pop culture from black women to express empowered sexuality in healthy, safe ways. But inside of the music industrial complex, as Real Colored Girls argued, it’s hard to situate this safe empowered performance disconnected from legacies of black women as fetishized commodities used for profit (Saartje Baartman comes to mind here).
Thank you for your post. In solidarity!
In solidarity! Thank you sis.
I would love a fuller discussion of what’s wrong with Beyonce outside of these problematic, excerpted lyrics. Because I think it’s clear that even if these lyrics were cleaned up, we’d still be having this conversation about her and the image she presents. I think it’d also force us to be clearer about what. exactly. is. wrong. with. what she does/what she presents. Is it all wrong? Or just parts of it? Is it the clothing (or lack thereof)? Is it the dancing? Is is just that she is complicit in this system, instead of taking it down? Who, if anyone, is getting it “right”? What does right look like? Do other artists get it more right because they are less aggressively sex-positive, wear more clothing, are less focused on their external appearance, are less focused on catering to male desire, include less problematic song lyrics? Does right ever look anything like Beyonce?
I just can’t shake the feeling that at the end of the day, a large part of this is still about politics of respectability, as fleshed out for us above by Mako Fitts Ward. Although it’s quite possible I misunderstood the phrasing, I was a little put-off by the suggestion in Ward’s otherwise spot-on post that Beyonce is “black female empowerment in jezebel’s clothing. The fact that we are still focusing on that awful, shameless woman (the jezebel) confuses and disheartens me–at the end of all of this, there a woman always is, ready to be blamed for our failures.
Or is the argument really that there is NO WAY, within the “music industrial complex,” for pop music to open up safe spaces for black women to expressed empowered sexuality? And if that’s the case, then let’s have a conversation about envisioning and bringing to life “real utopias,” because we’re just wasting time deconstructing Beyonce if there is really no better alternative within the current system.
I understand that people are angry/frustrated/confused/concerned that some would hold Beyonce up as a “feminist role model.” I actually didn’t read the original posts backing up Beyonce as doing that, although maybe I was too generous. I read the posts about defending her right to call herself a feminist, and about defending our own right to call ourselves feminists while not only still enjoying her music, but maybe even concluding that there are feminists strands in Beyonce’s work worth celebrating (if not holding up as the ideal of feminism). I don’t want to be Beyonce; she’s not a role model for me. But I do recognize that aspects of her persona are powerful in ways that I don’t ask her to be apologetic for, or ask anyone else (myself included) to be apologetic for recognizing. And I’m sorta tired of talking about her, instead of talking about what we think empowered female sexuality looks like, and how we might instill it in our girls. I’m happy the album opened up this space for conversation; I’m eager for the dialogue to shift into a more concrete conversation of what we could aspire to be (and whether any part of what Beyonce does comes along with it).
I truly enjoy your rebuttals. You articulate my concerns so well.
“what’s wrong with Beyonce outside of these problematic, excerpted lyrics.” I don’t think there is anything *wrong* with Beyonce. AS AN ENTERTAINER. Listen – Get Me Bodied is my JAM.
“I read the posts about defending her right to call herself a feminist, and about defending our own right to call ourselves feminists while not only still enjoying her music.” I’m not one really for labels. If feminism is everything, however, then it’s nothing. She can CALL herself anything. I think the bigger point then really becomes what is feminism? How do we know it when we see it? How do we know it when we CAN’T see it? It’s like how do we know a racist when we see them. Or is the issue not a racist, but rather “racism.” I don’t know if Beyonce is a feminist. But I do not think that her music embodies “feminism.” I’ve tried to point out why, through the lyrics of the album, the message being sent is NOT one of female empowerment or breaking down patriarchy or racism, classism, ANY ism. That’s why feminism means to me. If my daughter aspires to be a world-class entertainer, I would want her to emulate some aspects of Beyonce’s work ethic and ability to put on a show. But that’s it.
I think right now we are not culturally able to really envision what empowered female sexuality looks like. Because we are hamstrung by our current cultural framework and it is near impossible to get outside of it. We can’t independently think about who we can be because it is always in relation to who we are. I do think we can think about what we DON’T want to be, and that’s where I think talking about Beyonce is valuable.
I like what you’re saying here, Toya, about being hamstrung by our cultural frameworks. I mostly agree with you, although I would suggest that if the frameworks impede our ability to think about what we could be with any degree of clarity, I think they also impede our ability to think about who we don’t want to be with any degree of clarity. Either way, we still have to try.
I really appreciate that you broke down those lyrics, and showed us why you think they’re not progressive at all. I totally agree with you. I also, however, want to encourage people to take it beyond that space, because it’s not just about her lyrics–it’s about her clothing, her hair, her dance, her videos. And once we start trying to articulate the problems there, we can see just how fuzzy, messy, contradictory, all of this becomes. We can also see the values that underline our assessments, and then interrogate those values.
Interrogating those values is important, because unfortunately, I do think so much of this is still about shaming women, and not so much concern about what safe, empowered, sexuality might look like. There is no other way for me to read comments like the one made below: “I’ve been thinking ever since I saw the video with Beyonce and the 4 models walking down the street looking like prostitutes. I just could not understand how a “feminist” could make a video like that.” Right, because prostitutes always have a look; because that look is inherently bad; and because no respectable woman would ever choose to look (or be) like a prostitute. By what values does one make that assessment??? (as an aside, choice is a funny word when we talk about sex workers–similar to your point about imagination, we can’t really conclude that women chose sex work if they don’t have equally accessible and as-fruitful alternatives. all the same, I have a real problem with the way people denigrate prostitutes and prostitution).
There’s also something ugly here going on about education and class, on both sides (for the album and anti-the album), and in both directions (more formally educated folks and less formally educated folks). “PhDs unite! Sociologists break it down!” “You use too many fancy words, and you’re not saying anything.” Instead of asking, and attempting to answer, the questions you, and I, and others, are trying to pose. Let’s talk about how other aspects of her persona do and don’t embody feminism. I know it’s hard to do, but let us try anyway to imagine empowered female sexuality. If people think they’ve seen it, or felt it, describe it! If people think they’re seeing the antithesis to that, describe that as well!
And to clarify, yes, she’s just an entertainer. But I don’t think people read her that way. Our musicians seem much more “real” to us than, to use your earlier example, Olitz on Scandal. Everybody knows those are fictional characters. But people feel like musicians are their friends; and that what they put into the world reflects their true selves, and should set the norms of engagement with others. And, as you also earlier said, pop music infuses everyday culture in significant ways. So, ultimately I do want to discuss what’s “wrong” or “right” with her image (not so much her as a person; I don’t know her, and people aren’t inherently right or wrong anyway) outside of the context of pure entertainment.
Reblogged this on Focsi Mama Speaks and commented:
Another perspective….glad I am not on an island, although I am not lending my own commentary to this topic.
I loved ever word of this post. Let me say that again…..
I. Loved. Every. Word.
I recently wrote a post regarding “Beyonce.” And it was like cricket central because I wasn’t talking about the so called manifesto that is this album. I dealt more with the genius of the marketing and how that really is the feminism in the album to me. The teamwork, that I think women miss as feminists because of it’s, I got this ish message. That’s where real feminism lies for me, knowing that I can if I have to, but I’d appreciate and welcome your help to build it together.
That being said, I am.troubled by a generation if under 40’s (which I am not) who seem to think the most powerful thing about us is ass, vagina and twerking skills. I littlerally SIDEEYE anyone who comes at me with that. Because I’m married to a man who, while physically attracted to me knows that if I wasn’t an intellectual equal, and a woman that will help and build him as he does me, he wouldn’t have even entertained the thought to date me, let alone ‘wife,’ and make me his baby’s momma, to use the vernacular.
So don’t tell me “Beyonce” is being a feminist because she’s reclaiming the image that men use and redefining it. That’s like saying the use of the N word isn’t degrading when we say it to each other.
So, thank you for breaking it down. And now let’s let the innanet Ph.D’s and sociologist break, break, break it down.
Thank you for your comment! I think it’s sad too.
Thank you! There haven’t been very many lyric by lyric analysis I’ve seen. I’d appreciate that kind of debate.
HI, I enjoyed reading the article because I ENJOY REASONING and the true process of “education” and learning which is “QUESTIONING EVERYTHING”… which, yes, does mean your article can be questioned which you aren’t hiding/running from. I appreciate that you point out that others think they can do/say whatever they want and CANNOT BE QUESTIONED…which is a direct relation to CAPITALISM and the control/power that many embrace because they have money and/or whatever gives them “rank” or makes them think they are “elite”. Beyoncé’s song: “Grown Woman” suggests this: “I can do whatever I want”… and I just don’t like it. It’s true, everyone, everywhere is doing exactly whatever they want BUT many don’t know how to take responsibility for their actions after the fact. I am in the process now of trying to explain this type of thinking to my 18 yr old niece. I am 36. The spirit of “invicibility” and “know it all-Ism” of our youth is EMPOWERING and yet it can be sellf-destructive when not guided properly. It’s never been good for African people living in America or abroad being effected by the OPPRESSIVE government and culture these celebrities are ROLE MODELS for. It’s never been HEALTHY for us to be impacted by IMAGES considered “ICONIC” that are nothing but what the etymology of the word suggests: “LOOK ALIKE” contests where we watch ourselves and others WORK HARD to prove themselves WORTHY to “fit in” to the “European” standards of beauty, music, art, culture, etc. This Beyoncé debate reminds me of how WE, AS A PEOPLE, need our own culture without any outside influeces and need to embrace our own voice LITERALLY, not masquerading behind disingenuine messages such as “FLAWLESS” and “PRETTY HURTS”.
I’ve been paying some attention as of late to Beyoncé’s facebook pages as Rihanna has grown in popularity and after my first visit out of this country which happened to be due to my own artistic and love pursuits. I traveled to Barbados where the “mental slavery” is all the more sickening and Rihanna is definitely a product of her environment and has now become a MARKETTING TOOL for the conquest of IMPERIALISTS world over going back to the sugar and tobacco plantations in the Caribbean and the PHYSICAL AND SEXUAL SLAVERY African women endured too a larger degree there. A time when “EUROPEAN FEMINISTS” only embraced the STRUGGLES AND SUFFERING of African female slaves because it was in their self-interest to appear “REASONABLE” in light of their fight for “HUMAN RIGHTS”… by the very “WHITE MEN” who were holding them back. So, my point with bringing up Rihanna. After she has grown in popularity and sells while BEING HERSELF, with all the “negatives” publicized and admired… WHAT ELSE COULD INSPIRE BEYONCE TO “COME OUT THE CLOSET” and stop being so “secretive” and “private” about the very things such as “SEX”, “BOOTY, and her response to “MALE DOMINANCE” as seen in her relationship with her husband and how they “make it work” one way or the other….besides Rihanna’s and even Nicki-Minaj’s self-expressions which are NATURAL to them as Caribbean island women???
Her use of a lot of ISLAND imagery and holding the TROPHY, etc… all give me RED FLAGS about some self-esteem issues surfacing if you ask me… yet another SECRETIVE approach to speaking her truth while at the same time HIDING BEHIND SEXUALITY to deliver whatever message takes flight in the media. She is a new wife, a new mother and a HARD WORKING ambitious career woman who I think just doesn’t ever feel like she MEASURES UP… and I think we get a glimpse of her “post-partum depressive” thoughts in the album of course tweeked for our listening/viewing pleasure unlike other EUROPEAN FEMALE ARTISTS who always give it to us, FACE ON, DIRECT, DARK AND EMPOWERED, for example: Alanis Morrisette and even Katy Perry. Rihanna is falling into this arena of POP music as well. Beyoncé is still, AFTER SPENDING HER ENTIRE CHILDHOOD, navigating her way to the top, trying to find out where she belongs. And if she was being true to herself when she said that it’s in her husband’s eyes that she has found meaning and in being a mother, etc….and that this is the message she wants to give her fans, …she succeeded in showing us how they as a family truly PERCEIVE reality and what that has to do with “FEMINISM”… she released her album SECRETLY so that we can TELL HER.
Thank you for a space to share. I am a spoken word artist and have a track I call “Black Body Art” which is my artistic rendition of embracing sexuality in an empowering manner. I now wonder if I had the audience she has, would others think I am “feminist” or if my message is “good enough” for young daughters. I know I write my poetry with mental empowerment in mind and that’s all I can guarantee. Any opinions to the contrary would be shocking.
Take care. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_lvQdpoNnSA
I know I said a lot but can I also just mention the “EAT THE CAKE ANNA MAE” verse… which I totally find DEGRADING and DISRESPECTFUL, not LIBERATING OR EMPOWERING from a female or male view point…. Tina Turner’s story is not one to be played with like some sort of “sex toy talk”. I again mention the Caribbean where DOMESTIC VIOLENCE is as socially acceptable for many as breathing. I started a Facebook page (for starters) that addresses such ignorance and I in the true spirit of “feminism” made mention of Tina Turner. I say these things to say, THERE ARE MANY YOUNG AFRICAN WOMEN, who are not in the spotlight who do take ourselves seriously, who are artists, growing into different forms of “activism” and embrace our SENSUALITY and feminine power as well. THANK YOU.
#Objectification is the process of representing or treating a person like an object….like personal property.
Thomas Sankara, describes this as follows:
“Humankind first knew #slavery with the advent of #private #property. Man, master of his slaves and of the land, became in addition the #woman’s #master. This was the historic defeat of the female sex….”
“Very often in our ‘walk-abouts’ we meet men … and when we talk about #domestic #violence one of the men said, ‘that is what you call it? It is just a little #lash to keep she in shape’. ” ~President of the National Organisation of Women, Marilyn Rice-Bowen, #Barbados
The day when black women stop judging and trying to bring down other black women that don’t fit their “standards” will be the day we don’t blame others for what I daughters may be. To say you downloaded the album just to comment can make real women judge your character as a Mom, sister, friend, wife. You not only read her. You criticized each entry on this project with no proven facts really. With pretty hurts you understood it is a good song but “coming from Beyonce.” And I will stop here.
Thank you for your comment. I think there are “real” women here that are not judging me negatively as a Mom, sister, wife, or friend. I hope that you actually read the post and took note of all the “facts” I detailed. But if you chose not to, that’s cool too.
Again, thanks for reading.
This by far is the most IGORANT blog post that I have EVER read. I will agree that the album is NOT for children. But at the same time. You’re one of those people who OBVIOULSY take shit to literal. What you said about the song “Pretty Hurts” you don’t seem to comprehend it right. True enough it’s about insecure women. But just because Bey stated that she likes her stomach flat doesn’t mean that’s she’s contradicting what she said. Everyone is beautiful in their own way. You do things that make you happy & comfortable. All of this talk about “feminism” & “women empowerment” I would think that you would have taken the time to do more research about Bey before you bashed her in this blog of yours. You obviously didn’t read about the incident when Beyonce did an advertisement shoot for H&M and they edited her photos making her appear thinner ? Beyonce demanded that they changed the photo’s back or remove her from the add. And I’m pretty sure that Beyonce could care less about you or your daughter not listening to her album. It’s the number one selling album on iTunes. She sold 800,000 in less than a week, the best selling album of all time with NO promotion whatsoever. You basically wasted your time blogging this post
Thanks for your comment. I read the song as it’s written. If you want to provide an alternative reading, go right ahead. Please do, however, use the actual lyrics of the song instead of what you *think* Beyonce and the men who wrote her songs meant. Then we can accurately compare our readings, and folks can judge which reading they believe to be more “true.” Please do attack my argument; I argue for a living. But don’t attack me. Cuz you don’t know me.
Nice that Bey has done some good things in her life. I’m sure she’s a very good person. I gave her my $15.99. I dance and run to Single Ladies almost every day. I did not bash Beyonce, I bashed “Beyonce” as a feminist manifesto. I questioned Beyonce as a role model for our daughters since she is the most ubiquitous female star of our time. I challenged the popular opinion that everything about “Beyonce” is a-ok.
I regret that you think I wasted my time. But it got you (and over 3,000 other people) to read and even to comment, and if I ran ads, I think that’s would be a nice chunk of change. Beyonce may not care, but you did. Doesn’t seem like a time waste at all.
But again, thanks for your comment.
So, you basically spent $15.00 just bash the album. It caught my attention because it didn’t make any sense to me how you can sit & listen to every single song and then claim not to like it. And with the song flawless. I don’t feel like she was degrading any woman. At some point in time every woman that read this blog has felt like they were the shit & no one could tell them anything to make them think otherwise. Every single song on this album is relatable. Every woman can relate to at least two songs on this album I’m positive,
You’re questioning her about being a feminist & how she advertises it but you failed to look deeper into the album &I what it does
What you said about flawless was a very ignorant statement.
I paid for the album having no intent to bash it. I have every Beyonce album. I am an avid fan of music. I’ve sang my whole life, including getting paid for it. My father is a musician. I love music and I collect it. My itunes library is consistently larger than everyone else’s I know.
You’ve never listened to a whole album and then decided that it’s not for you? I had no choice but to buy it to hear it. It makes no sense to me how that makes no sense.
We all can disagree as to what the lyrics mean. But to call my reading ignorant? No sis. And it’s very interesting to me that I can dissect each and every song, even say how I *like* some songs but I’m accused of “failing to look deeper?” Oh. Ok.
Thanks for your comment.
Thank you! Thank you for writing what I’ve been thinking ever since I saw the video with Beyonce and the 4 models walking down the street looking like prostitutes. I just could not understand how a “feminist” could make a video like that.
Thanks for your comment. To be clear though – I’m not really trying to debate Beyonce as a feminist, but the use of others holding her up to be a feminist with the obvious lyrical issues I tried to address. I don’t necessarily agree that women who “look like prostitutes” can’t be feminists, but I do think it is worth having a conversation about it AND I think that what we need to consider how children hear the music and watch the videos.
On the same note, I was accused earlier of taking lyrics “too literally.” Do we think our children listen in any other way than “literally?”
Basically what I gather from the article is that you take issue with people blurring the lines between Entertainer and Feminist ICON. People tend to hold their celebrities up as other titles(role model, feminist, civil activist, etc) I am an avid Beyonce fan, however, I get the article.
I also agree with a lot. You would not want anyone to present her as a feminist legend to your impressionable daughter because she is an entertainer and should be viewed as one first. I get that. I think that we too determine our labels based on characteristics that we see and relate to/admire in a person.
So true Beyonce is an entertainer, however to some people she is also A, B, C, too. I think maybe people should articulate their opinions better and say she is an inspiration to me because ABC…. or I admire her because she does ABC…… but Not Beyonce is the feminism messiah and the greatest human ever because she sings well and gives a great concert. LOL Also just because someone doesn’t laud her and praise her when they speak of her some fanatics take it as hate…. not so.
I think you have a critical analysis of the work and YOUR interpretation, and I respect that. You pointed out positive points all through out the article so that is not a BASHING. But then on the other side of the coin, there are also people who are so aggressive in trying to counter the fans adoration with their hate campaign that someone (like me) can say I am a Beyonce fan and then I get attacked and called a stan….. WHAT? I see both sides of it. She has many fans who love her but I realize she is not everyone’s cup of tea…… and nobody should be attacked because of who appeals to them.
However, Good Article and Good discussion points.
“Basically what I gather from the article is that you take issue with people blurring the lines between Entertainer and Feminist ICON. People tend to hold their celebrities up as other titles(role model, feminist, civil activist, etc)”
Yes, I would love it if people did what you’re suggesting: “I admire because X,” or “She makes me uncomfortable because Y.” If people were clearer about why she makes them feel empowered sexually, that would be even better. I’m really curious…
It seems that there are several different conversations going on that are being treated as one and I think that’s why we all appear to be talking past one another. in your earlier comment, you posed the question, what’s wrong with Beyoncé? Although I think that is a great question, I think it is a different discussion than the one posed by the author in her original post. I see this as an attempt to shift the conversation and that’s fine but I think we need to be clear that that is happening. To address the author’s original post and as she mentioned earlier on this thread, this is not a discussion of Beyoncé’s right to call herself anything. This is about the need to impart a particular set of values onto Beyoncé and her brand that a)are not readily apparent and b)are not her primary motivation. Beyoncé’s job is to be an entertainer . . . first. In order to do that she has to sell records, concert tickets etc. She has to market her brand in such a way that she remains relevant and people are willing to pay her to simply show up. And not just a few people, millions of people. In our society, sex and sexy sell; drama sells; confrontation sells; contradiction sells – even more so than good singing. Knowing that, it is quite difficult for me to believe that Beyoncé’s scantily clad body gyrating on a stage is a product of her sexual awakening. I am skeptical that her body issues are solely her desire to have a flat stomach. I think it’s also about her knowledge and acknowledgement that she has to give off a certain image to be successful. Now the question becomes, does the fact that Beyoncé acknowledges the ways of our society and capitalizes off of it . . . does that signify some type of woman empowerment. In my opinion no. Does the fact that she has learned to play the capitalist patriarchy game and use her image to her advantage mean that it is no longer the capitalist patriarchy game? Again I would say no. Does feminism mean that as long as we consent to commodifying our bodies and then are given a certain percentage of the proceeds (and then say that we are empowered we, too, get to capitalize off of the our own objectification). Audre Lorde gave great insight into the (lack of) usefulness of the master’s tools in dismantling his house. I think that’s instructive because it’s not enough to simply feel and think about feminism/women’s empowerment, it’s also important to DO something toward that end. There are those of us that would argue that wielding the master’s tools may not necessarily DO that. Now does anything that I have said detract from Beyoncé’s complexity or her coming into her womanhood or anything like that? Does what I said above signify some type of visceral hate that I have for a black woman owning her own sexuality? I hope not because that was not my intention. My intention is to say that Beyoncé is an entertainer and primarily guided by the rules of the entertainment industry (and she plays the game well). To inflate that into some type of Beyoncé feminism does not sit well with me. And I don’t think I should be silenced because I am not buying it (literally or figuratively). ORJ, you asked that we have a discussion about what makes us uncomfortable about Beyoncé. For me, it’s not so much about Beyoncé. It’s about this cult like following of rabid fans that are willing to distort concepts and theories in order to make something or someone fit into it and then will slice you up, call you names, dismiss your perspective, try to silence and discredit you solely because you disagree and you say so (and it gets ugly. Real ugly. to a point where you start to wonder what is the REAL deal cause surely this can’t be about my disagreement with Beyoncé as the voice for women’s empowerment. But that is a different discussion.) And it’s not all Beyoncé fans. But the loud, rabid fans are drowning out the voices of fans who are willing to have civil discussions. I appreciate this thread because there is room for discussion. Also, I completely agree that Beyoncé is not necessarily the role model of womanhood/feminism that I want for my son or ANYONE’s son or daughter (in the words of the author). But we also need to keep in mind that the Beyoncé that we see is a persona. A character created to market a brand. So the Beyoncé that we see is (probably) about as real as Olivia Pope. We don’t know this woman.
One quick question, does Beyonce only belong to black women? Do we own her? I ask because black feminists speak in a sort of possessive vernacular, one were they decipher everything she does in modes of blackness. As an international pop star can we say she belongs to us only? Did Madonna belong only to white women?
You are totally on point. I tried to have the same sentiments on my blog..but of course..folks weren’t understanding or feeling me. You def said all I was thinking…Black feminist PhDs unite!! 🙂
But lest anyone think I am saying that Black female PhDs are the only ones allowed into this conversation. I most emphatically am not. I bring up my education only as background to my opinion, for as I said in the piece, my primary lens through which I am analyzing the album is motherhood. I encourage others to talk about their perspective and their background because I believe that all we do is informed by who we are.
Honestly, I’ve lost track of what this conversation about! Toya started off by suggesting that Beyonce is not (necessarily) a role model for feminism, especially as it comes to the erotic. And she used her work, in the form of lyrics, as examples. I thought her analysis is right, but I don’t think that it is the end of the discussion. And even if we are to conclude that NONE of what Beyonce does can be part of the model (a proposition with which I do not agree), then the question that logically follows, is “what can?”
Beyonce and her image, regardless of whether it is her authentic self, has been put out there as one model. When I ask what makes us uncomfortable about that image, I ask because we need to try and figure out what does and does not look like empowered sexual identity for black women. Fitts Ward above suggested that it is difficult to figure that out within the context of the music industry, and Toya has suggested that it is difficult to figure that out within the context of our American culture. Fine, it’s hard. But I don’t believe it’s impossible. And I do believe the work needs to be done. And I think these spaces are good places to start the work, whether or not that means I’m moving away form the original question.
I watched this video this morning about the debate: http://live.huffingtonpost.com/r/segment/beyonces-black-backlash/52a9f01f78c90a6902000292
At the 19 minute mark, the women summarized my thoughts perfectly: “We have not forced black feminism to take on language of the erotic…If you do not have a pleasure politic in your feminism, …or theorization about how other black women can be truly liberated through the erotic…then Beyonce, in many ways, is illegible. You have no language for her other than fear of what she might do; you have no language for her other than her “hypersexuality.”
And later, “what we haven’t seen… is actual feminist cultural criticism…track-by-track, video-by-video. And doing the work, and seeing the possibility. That has allowed us to not see the possibilities of what looks erotic, what looks hypersexual, what are we shaming, what are we celebrating?…It speaks to our lack of true emotional language… to discuss what we see when we see Beyonce, and what it conjures for us.”
Those two quotes mirror many of my remarks above, including questions about what empowered female sexuality looks like, and what it means when we insist that Beyonce is hypersexualized, and that that is incompatible with feminism. Kudos to LaToya for actually starting the cultural criticism! I am now interested in imagining the possibilities
WOW!!! Thank you for posting that link. That was a dynamic discussion and I want more!!! Arrrggghhhh!! 🙂 Unfortunately, it was too much to do in 30 minutes and the conversation would shift at very critical points that were kinda left hanging. I need a sista circle session soon!! Regarding your question about hypersexualization and the erotic, What does Beyoncé’s (or any woman’s) embrace of her own sexuality signify from a black feminist perspective? Is that a part of the boundary? Or is that a manifestation of one’s politics? In other words, if the boundary is for one to celebrate who they are as en entire person, wouldn’t celebrating one’s sexuality (and identity as a sexual being) be a result of that? Or does the celebration of said sexuality signify one’s politics? Or both? Or neither? I don’t know if I articulated that well or if it makes sense at all. I asked that because there seems to be a HUGE focus on Beyoncé’s embrace of her sexuality (for those that support her and those that don’t) but I wonder if we skipped a few steps.
Again – to say that the pleasure politic form of feminism has not been forced on us is a lie. It just is. Most of the mainstream new generation of black feminists are doing exactly that. If you disagree, it’s about politics of respectability. To say that Beyoncé is illegible to someone if pleasure politic is not part of our feminism is to say we can’t speak on it for one cannot understand what one cannot read. That is implicitly saying that if you don’t feel that Beyoncé is part and parcel of feminism, then you can’t speak.
As far as a track by track “feminist cultural critique”… What is that? I went track by track…but it wasn’t a feminist cultural critique? Why? Am I not a feminist? Was it not a critique? Did I not discuss culture? After over 6,000 views of this post, I don’t understand why mine doesn’t count. But I do — bc the conversation is dominated by those who disagree with me. That’s not inclusive, and personally, I think that in and of itself is not black feminism.
And I do think it’s important to be clear about the questions we are answering. I personally don’t think we need to define what is and what is not in feminism. I don’t think that is necessary. And that’s where I think the problem is — our constant need to label anything and everything. What I think is really needed — and this is the social scientist in me — is a true appraisal of where we, as black women, think we are in terms of feminism, where we want to be, where we hunk we’ve come from. We need to include everyone in the conversation and understand the intersectionality that is going to influence each of our ideas. And we need to understand how our environments influence how we think and the caveats we attach to our arguments.
You wrote: After over 6,000 views of this post, I don’t understand why mine doesn’t count. But I do — bc the conversation is dominated by those who disagree with me. That’s not inclusive, and personally, I think that in and of itself is not black feminism.
As I read that I couldn’t help but to think that your argument about why your critique should count or why feminism should be inclusive reiterates the point that some have made regarding Beyonce’s viability as a feminist. She went platinum off iTunes alone. Does that count? If black feminism should be inclusive, should she not be included even if we don’t agree with everything she does/says? That’s the point I attempted to stress in my blog. Would be interested in your take on it. Basically, what gives you or me the right to claim feminism and deny Beyonce’s exploration of it? I mean, how are we more authentic than she? And who makes that decision?
I think if feminism is everything, then feminism is nothing. But again — I’m not arguing that Bey can’t be a feminist. I am arguing that her album “Beyoncé” should not be evidence of a feminist manifesto for all the reasons I outline.
I get that, but how do you differentiate between being everything and being inclusive? And as far as I can tell, many of the posts regarding the album and its relationship to feminism have explored Beyonce embracing her grown woman as the feminist manifesto. The whole ‘I’m a grown flawlessly flawed woman who embraces me and struggles with me’ is what I took as the manifesto – not per se every song, every lyric. It’s an adult album. Yes. Young girls will listen as well. Yes. But it’s up to us to buffer and make sure they understand the album represents some of her (our) experiences as grown women. There are definitely some contradictions on the album, but to suggest it has limited value as a contribution to feminism is a bit much (for me). If nothing else, it’s a conversation starter but I just don’t understand how some of the authors of the posts I’ve been reading can be applauded for their ‘feminism’ for bashing the Beyonce the woman and album. One commenter here even referred to the models in the ‘Yonce’ video as prostitutes. I think Beyonce purposely chose three high fashion Black models for a reason. We’ve read time and again about how the fashion industry slights Black models…and we refer to them as prostitutes? How is this “feminism” acceptable as long as it’s agreeable? I’m no Beyonce Stan either, but many of the conversations (to me) have resulted to ‘mean girl politics’ and used feminism as a facade.
If Beyonce wanted to embrace her grown woman and the album was about doing drugs or shooting people, would it still be a feminist manifesto because she’s embracing her understanding of what it means to be a “grown woman?” It’s an extreme example, but I think it highlights my key concern — what exactly is feminist about the album? Why were we not heralding Lil Kim or Trina or Nicki Minaj and their embrace of their “grown woman?” What is it about Beyonce and this album that so appeals to folks wanting to call it a feminist manifesto?
I hope folks saw that I was NOT “bashing” the album. I pointed out the songs I liked. I tried to stay away from global statements about the album to focus on the parts that I found particularly problematic. And again — it’s not that I don’t like the album. When it first came out I told my girlfriend that she was going to win Grammys with this one. I recognized what she had done, and applauded the genius of the marketing and distribution plan and her ability as an entertainer to shut. it. down.
I absolutely thought you did that! I said “Kudos to LaToya for starting the cultural critique”–I meant that you had laudably started talking, track-by-track, about why those songs were so problematic from an empowerment standpoint! Why don’t you think you count as a feminist cultural critique? And at 3,000 hits, surely others agree! 🙂
I didn’t think they were saying at the roundtable, though, that if we don’t feel Beyonce is part and parcel of feminism, then you can’t speak. I understood them as saying that if we don’t have some standards/principles/common understandings of what healthy black female sexuality looks like, then it becomes impossible to truly assess Beyonce, other than to conclude that she is hypersexual, and that hypersexuality is bad. And again, I’m not sure it is in the abstract. At least that’s what I heard. And from my first response to you, I think I was trying to get at the question of how we assess her in ways that go beyond, even, the lyrics. I apologize if you feel like you did that, and I’m just not hearing you; I thought we agreed that we didn’t yet know what truly empowered sexuality looks like.
AND, if we decide to focus on Beyoncé as a sexual being as an entry point, are we reinforcing narratives of Black women as sex objects? But instead of buying into it, we push against it. Either way, that narrative is defining the conversation. Can we envision another way to frame the conversation?
I’m confused by the author’s use of “black feminism.” I teach in academia and refuse to teach black feminism in a way that reinforces a politics of respectability (good vs. bad ideal) or an ‘appropriate’ or standard way to be – that’s going backwards, not forward. In general, it seems as though she has a problem with the way children may receive/interpret certain images. Yes, women (even Beyonce) have to fit a certain image to be desirable to men (and women too!)- and she does a good job at it which is why she is so successful. While the objectification and profiting of women’s sexuality is connected to patriarchal/sexist standards imposed primarily by MEN, women also receive pleasure from exploring their sexuality in complex ways that is not connected to male desire. Why is it wrong to be overly sexual, how does that harm women or does that just harm people’s own individualized morality concerns? Actually, what I think is violent is black family’s pressuring of daughter’s, etc. to get married (which i might add in general is a sexist institution that limits and regulates people’s individual freedom and safety) even if they do not want to just so they can fit into a societal norm, not explore their sexuality because people will think of them as whores (which is dependent on the representation of sex workers as abject and responsible for the violence targeted against their bodies), and not associate with certain people because they are from a different class/upbringing (even though most of us black people come from these backgrounds and turned out okay) . With that said, I think Beyonce does more good than harm (and I am not even a Beyonce fan). Lastly, most of the time it is women who are targeted for being the proper role models for an entire race, why is that? There is a double standard and most the the labor is put on women- which sucks.
Thanks for your comments.
So where I am coming from is an understanding of black feminism from the point of view of a black mother of a black child. When I think of feminism for her, as a black girl/woman, I’m thinking about the type of messages and the particular role models. I’m writing this point, I’m trying to challenge the view that “Beyoncé” as an album is a feminist manifesto such that I’d like my daughter to see it or hear it. I’m challenging Beyoncé as a feminist manifesto for the explicit reasons I outline above for why those lyrics should not be seen as feminist.
I find it interesting that if we say that anything is vulgar, if we say that adopting sexist views of women’s bodies as objects even when a woman does it is talking about politics of respectability. Since when is respect a bad thing? We teach our children to be respectful, and most importantly, we tell them to respect themselves. If we don’t have definitions of what respect yourself means, and if we can’t disagree, then accusing someone of respectability politics is a straw man argument.
Again — I am not judging Beyoncé as her own woman, grown and sexy with the right to put out any music she pleases. But the album is emphatically NOT the feminism, if that is what folks want to call it, that I think is what our girls need. I say this as a mother not interested in my kid being respectable, but respecting herself. With lyrics like eat the cake, Monica lewinsky, and bitch bow down — while others think I’m being too literal, I’m listening the way a child or teen would listen. One that doesn’t have the background of “respectability politics.” Ones that are already emulating nicki Minaj and Rihanna. Ones that won’t understand why Beyoncé is a feminist manifesto and Pink Friday or Rihanna’s stripper song is not (or are they?) I’m thinking of 7, or 10, or 15 year old me being influenced by 12 Play and Lil Kim’s No Time and thinking of our teens who are already engaging insex and sexual acts way before we all know, and research confirms, they are ready for. I’m thinking of those who cannot discern the nuance in the erotic as it exists in our hip hop culture that is already rife with folks talking about objectified black women’s bodies out of the mouths of both black women and men.
I just think you took the album way too seriously. WAYYY too seriously. I don’t know your age, but my peers know that Jay Z mentioned Ike and Mike Tyson… because to “beat it up” has nothing to her with hitting her physically. REAL Beyonce fans don’t even need this debate, as the hive knows whats really good.
Thanks for your comment.
And I’m 32. And I definitely know what “beat it up” refers to — if there are those who don’t, it refers to going hard during sex. I get that. But what you and your peers maybe don’t know is that Ike and Mike are notorious perpetrators of domestic violence. Which is nothing to joke about, and it isn’t clever, it’s ignorant. Ike didn’t just “beat it up” he raped Tina. He beat the shit out of HER. Not just “it.”
But again — thanks for your comment.
Sigh. I’m getting tired 😦
No! Don’t get tired, Toya! You know, you are right that those lyrics, in particular, are a HUGE problem. I really wasn’t clear enough in acknowledging that in my first response to you. It’s especially a problem in light of the fact that the issue here is not only that kids take these lyrics literally (indeed, if that were the only issue, then maybe “chocolate krys” and others’ understanding of the what the lyrics mean wouldn’t be so bad; and “pretty hurts” would also look a lot better). No, the additional issue is that people don’t necessarily understand the larger context in which these lyrics exist, and the history that often informs them. The references to Ike and Mike are not just about specific instances of violence against women, but are also the normalizing of violence of women; the kind of normalization that is part of our American rape culture.
Girl, we need to design a course, called “Deconstructing Beyonce.” I would teach the heck out of that course, and I know you would, too. (No joke, I just also envisioned a course called “Higher Learning” based on the movie, which I would show at the beginning of the semester; and then we would do a series of readings on preparation (or lack thereof) of black students for higher ed; race relations on campus; sexual assault on campus; mental health issues on campus; sexual orientation on campus, etc., etc; then I would show the movie again! don’t laugh at me!). We could do some really interesting things in a course using Beyonce’s images and movies, set against critical readings regarding race and sexuality in the U.S. It would close by asking students to write papers answering the questions that have been posed in your post and in the responses to it. Who’s coming with me?!?!!?!?!
Yes!!! I would love to do that!
Wow! Thanks for posting, really insightful.
Thank you for your comment!
Reblogged this on The Good Curl.
Reblogged this on So Addicted 2 Fresh and commented:
An interesting take on Beyoncè’s album from one mother
I don’t agree. And I’m a feminist. And I respect your opinion. But I guess what made your post lose credibility with me is that you claim to have issues with all these songs because they have terrible messages for our daughters and you go to great lengths to arrive at that conclusion, which of course is your prerogatives. But then, you lose all credibility by saying you like Drake, you just don’t let your kids listen. Hmm… Drake embodies every single thing you mentioned about Beyonce and adds a few more disturbing messages. First of all he can’t go more than a line without saying, “nigger,” and we don’t have to have the “nigger” debate, I just find it interesting. Secondly, he not only objectifies and trivializes women (and their attached genitals) in general on songs like “Bitches Love Me” but in particular like on 2 Chainz’s “No Lie” when he talks ostensibly about Rihanna when he says, “Aww that look like what’s her name Chances are it’s whats her name Chances are if she was acting up then I fucked her once and never fucked again She could have a Grammy I still treat her ass like a nominee Just need to know what that pussy like so one time is fine with me…” So that’s okay, but a beautiful woman talking about “Pretty Hurts” is not? Lastly, Drake, whose music and sound you enjoy but keep away from your children also, in more than 10 songs glorifies drug use, in particular, promethazine and codeine in songs like “On One” where he eloquently states, “Two white cups and I got that drink…It could be purple, it could be pink…Depending on how you mix that shit” and in the same song: “All I care about is money and the city that I’m from…I’ma sip until I feel it, I’ma smoke it till it’s done…And I don’t really give a f-ck, and my excuse is that I’m young…”
I’m in my 40’s so I’m not some 20-something Beyonce “stan,” however, I love and enjoy her music, I just put it in perspective and understand the value of the metaphor (with regard to Jay-Z’s Anna Mae/Mike Tyson/Ike Turner lyric which is really about “beating up” his wife’s – ahem – Skittles) and I also like 2 Chainz, Drake, Lil Wayne, etc. I just take the lyrics and messages for what they are and use them hopefully as a dialogue for children, who as you said, will hear the songs regardless of our valiant attempts to shield them. So I’m a feminist with facets. I am an attorney who is educated, brilliant, accomplished, sexy, professional, smart, a lover, sister, mother, friend and daughter. I like music that explores all of that and I keep it in its place. I feel sexy and empowered listening to Beyonce’s latest. I feel raunchy and rah-rah listenting to Drake and 2 Chainz. I feel ready for the revolution listening to Gil Scott Heron. I feel cultured and refined listening to Tchaikovsky. I feel worldly and knowledgeable listening to Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk. I feel womanly and intelligent listening to Nina Simone. Music is all things for all people. But one offering will not be all of those things at once. You’re under 35 so as you grow up you’ll see that there is nothing wrong with enjoying Drake and Beyonce and keeping it in perspective. It’s just not this serious.
Thanks for your comment.
The whole post was not about whether I “like” Beyonce, or even if I like the album. I don’t get the losing credibility. I said I like Drake’s SOUND. If folks were holding up Drake as a feminist, I woudl have said the same about him as I did about this album. The post was/is a response to others saying that “Beyonce” is a feminist manifesto, which I think it is not. That’s the discussion I wanted to have. “Like” has little to do with what I wrote. It’s about taking a close reading of the lyrics and analyzing them. That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less.
So, regarding the lyrics, I understand metaphor well. And I think it has value. I love a good poem or novel, or piece of writing that is able to use metaphor. But I think these particular metaphors in these particular lyrics are anti-feminist. For example, I don’t think referencing known violent-towards-women persons is a good metaphor for “beating it up.” I just don’t. So it’s okay for us to agree to disagree. If my husband ever said to me, “I’ma beat it up like Ike beat Tina,” I would be like, “Wait…what??” I hope other women would feel the same way.
I think as I’ve “grown up” I’ve become more discerning in what I allow into my mental space. I try to be mindful of the world I’m creating for myself. I’m multi-faceted too, but it is very important to me to be integrated among all my parts. That’s how I feel whole and balanced. I don’t feel whole and balanced if I’m bumping to something that is against my core values. That’s just not how I roll. Because I know me. Because I want to teach that to my kids. But I was wrong to say I wasn’t going to listen to the album again. I did, last night, driving in my car, just me and my husband. And we enjoyed it within the understanding of our relationship.
So my issue with seeing the album as a feminist album is that teenage girls are going to listen without the benefit of understanding the role the erotic and explicitly sexual play in healthy adult relationship. And every teenage girl out there, especially black ones, may not have the privilege that my daughter will have growing up with me as her mother, someone who will take the time to deconstruct, to talk about the lyrics, as a friend of mine said, as they relate to sexism, white supremacy, classism, and exploitation. This is why I think artists and entertainers have a responsibility to our community, because there was a time when we thought about our actions not just in relation to ourselves, as “grown women” who can do whatever we want to do. We thought about our children, our collective children. Hip hop in so many ways has completely abdicated that responsibility, and I think our community is worse for it.
So one last time — this post was NOT about whether I like Beyonce, or whether I like the album. It was about some lyrics that I find sufficiently anti-feminist for me to conclude that the album is a feminist album. It was about how I think we’ve let feminism become anything because a woman did it. That we’ve let our love for Beyonce as a talented black woman cloud our understanding of feminism for the masses, especially of feminism as it is being relayed to our girls.
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