Opinion: Beyonce is not doing feminism wrong - no one is
WORDS BY COURTNEY THOMPSON
Beyonce is a feminist.
While it baffles me that this could even be contested in 2016, apparently people still hold a contrary belief. Please indulge me on International Women’s Day while I politely illustrate why they are heinously mistaken.
Let’s get one thing straight before I continue: Beyonce is not perfect. She perpetuates capitalism and usually makes belated political statements. She indulges the male gaze and propagates unrealistic beauty standards.
But surprise, surprise! Beyonce is not a radical political activist. And, I believe, it is these very same imperfections that make her feminist.
Yeah, she feeds capitalism and places importance on the equation of economic wealth to success. But doing so is a radical act in itself as the capitalist system is one that historically, and still today, disadvantages and disempowers women of colour.
You must also remember that the music industry is still dominated by men, so the importance of her success is duplicitous in this regard. Usually, the critiques leveled at her for her perpetuation of capitalism come from a place of racism and misogyny. An incredibly successful woman of colour makes (predominantly white) people uncomfortable.
Is her political radicalization overdue? Yes. But she has been silently supporting the original activists for years - just one example of this was when she & Jay Z donated to those Black Lives Matter activists who were incarcerated for protesting the death of Freddie Gray last year.
I find it baffling that when she amalgamates the dance tunes and political statements, people jump to delegitimize what she’s saying. If she says nothing, she is apolitical and a cop-out. If she says something, it’s too late and only to further her own social capital. It is no coincidence that the people who were most upset with Formation were white and they were men. This is misogyny and racism. Her fierce refusal to stand by and let these people discount her makes her a feminist.
People believe that because Beyonce wears skimpy clothes she is pandering to the male gaze and further entrenching the objectification of female bodies. What these arguments don’t take into consideration is again, Beyonce’s autonomy.
When you cry for her to put more clothes on you are slut-shaming and you are attempting to police a woman’s body and expression. Beyonce has made space for women to reclaim sexual pleasure and this is important when society repeatedly privileges modesty and ‘purity’.
Finally, some argue that Beyonce’s devotion to Jay Z, naming a tour ‘Mrs Carter’ and songs such as ‘Cater 2 U’ are evidence that she is shackled by her marriage. Being a feminist doesn’t mean you can’t love, or want to please, your partner.
Being a feminist means that you can do so and acknowledge your entitlement to receive the same love and support in return. Being a feminist means knowing that just as much as Beyonce loves Jay Z, she still knows that “when the palm of my two hands, hold each other // that feels different // From when your hands are in mine.”
To base an argument solely on songs such as these is to completely ignore a catalog that is full of female empowerment and independence from men. You only have to look to Destiny’s Childs hits ‘Independent Women’ or ‘Bills, Bills, Bills’, or from her solo career: ‘Me, Myself & I’ and of course, ‘Flawless’.
Beyonce is all about female empowerment: Formation is the latest example of that, and is particularly important for her unapologetic embracement of black girl magic.
When you call into question Beyonce’s “feminism” you highlight a trend that has persisted for sometime now. That is, the belief that there is some kind of perfect, all-encompassing conception of feminism. When the reality is that this will never exist. It will never exist so long as we – as we should – acknowledge and EMBRACE the multitude of differing yet intersecting feminist fights.
Demeaning, de-legitimating and dismissing one woman’s feminism – particularly a woman of colour – will only result in regression rather than progression. Your feminism isn’t intersectional if you refuse to accept that Beyonce is a feminist, and because of that - your feminism is bullshit.