By now you’ve heard all about Beyoncé’s record-breaking, self-titled album and what it means to black women, black women feminists, and feminists as a whole.
While many have taken to their social media accounts to beat the “Bey is a feminist!” drum (myself included), others have taken a different view, choosing to withhold the title of “feminist” from a woman who seems happy to twerk for her husband, and the public at large, while he spits lyrics that hint at the possibility of an ass whooping, Anna Mae.
I get it. The stealth album drop. Breaking the Internet. The brilliant Chimananda Ngozie Adichi clip. The body rolls. The jizz on ball gowns. It all seems like a schizophrenic ode to excess, sex, patriarchy, love, freedom, and yes, even feminism.
And while you will find 1,980,000 results if you Google Beyoncé + Feminism (seriously) that stake claims on every side of the debate imaginable, I’m just downright tired of talking about.
I’ll admit. I went on my own “isn’t feminism about choice???” rant on Twitter over the weekend, dedicating several tweets not just to Beyoncé’s right to call herself a feminist, but also to the movement that continually tries to define itself by excluding those who don’t fit within its narrow boundaries.
As a self-identified feminist, I often talk about why so many of my sisters do not and will not identify with feminism because they feel it does not speak to the issues of black and brown women. Whenever I bring up feminism or being feminist, inevitably I hear, “That’s white people’s sh*t.”
And when you add on respectability politics, and the fact that black women who speak openly about sex and their sexuality are often viewed as shameless whores who are disgracing themselves and the race, ish gets really real.
So I get it.
Beyonce coming out as a feminist, or even mentioning feminism in a very explicit way, on an album that changed the music industry is a big damn deal. And people want to talk about it.
But for how long?
Brittney Cooper, writing for Salon, attempts to explain why Beyoncé’s foray into feminism has caused such a stir:
Beyoncé means a lot to us. She triggers a lot for us: about desire and beauty and skin color politics and access and being chosen and being the cool kid. Because representations of black female subjectivity are so paltry in pop culture, the mainstream doesn’t know that we struggle with this kinda shit, too. Nerdy girls resent the popular pretty girls. We grow up to become feminists who are beautiful in our own right, to critique patriarchy and challenge desire. And we have a sort of smugness that says, the pretty girl who gets the guy can have all that, but she can’t be radical. That Beyoncé would even want to means she has stepped out of her lane, and lanes matter greatly.
Ultimately, what makes “Beyoncé” so important isn’t necessarily what she’s saying—that she is sexual and loving and super-successful and you bitches better deal—because that’s been said before (Janet Jackson’s similarly freaky-deaky self-titled album, for one), but rather that it’s Beyoncé, of all people, saying it. A woman who never takes credit for her success, who looks blankly while being insulted, who created a whole other alter ego just a few years ago so that she could sing about popping her pussy without ridicule.
… “Beyoncé” is the most feminist piece of mainstream art I’ve consumed this year and maybe ever…It’s women’s empowerment for a group that doesn’t get a lot of it in media and needs it more. It’s feminism for women who are taught that patriarchy will get you to heaven. It’s feminism for women who don’t care to rhapsodize about whatever mainstream feminism’s issue of the day happens to be because they’ve got their own, separate issues. It’s the feminism of lived experience.
I understand we live in a new, hypercritical world where every move a pop star or politician or celebrity makes is scrutinized and written about ad nauseam, but is this a good thing? Or are we merely just listening to our own voices and actually damaging the relationships between communities—feminists and non-feminists, black women and white women, feminist of color and white feminists—that we need to be strengthening?
At what point do we just sit back and enjoy the album—or not—without trying to philosophize and dissect about what it all REALLY means?
Hopefully we’ll reach that point soon, so I can go back to focusing on how to perfect Bey’s twang when she sings, “EYE been drankin…EYE been thanking…” cuz, yeah…I need get that together.