After a few more listens, the surprise album isn't quite the feminist manifesto we initially thought it was.
People make mistakes. Snap judgments are, well, snap judgments. After spending a weekend with Beyoncé, it seems the Queen Bey could use a few more women’s studies classes or, at the very least Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TEDx Talks on feminism. Her well-intentioned album is rife with problematic moments, among them her husband, Jay Z’s lyrics in “Drunk in Love”: “Catch a charge, I might, beat the box up like Mike,” and “I’m like Ike Turner, turn up/Baby know I don’t play, now eat the cake, Annie Mae/Said, ‘Eat the cake, Annie Mae!’” (Ike, of course, was infamous for beating wife Tina Turner, whose given name is Anna Mae Bullock.) One video, “XO,” was directed by accused sexual harasser fashion-photographer Terry Richardson. And Bey intones, on more than one occasion, “Bow down bitches” and sings about being sexually subservient to her man. The blog Real Colored Girls calls her out on it, referring to it as “Bottom Bitch Feminism”: “The coontocracy of assimilationist corporate negroes is in full effect, riding for patriarchal capitalist agendas and having us believe that somehow Bey’s success is a step toward some dystopic vision of progress for Black women. There may be empowerment for some folks but by and large it is a false hope steeped in capitalism and individualism, supporting the escapist desires of rampant pornographic consumerism.” Let’s not forget that the music industry is about making lots of money and has little regard for advancing a cultural conversation. The writer asks, “Can’t we just love Bey as an amazing corporate artist without selling out the hard won accomplishments of our black feminist and womanist foremothers? Can we not love her for the gorgeous and fierce mega pop star she is without appropriating her for some liberal, power feminist agenda?” It’s a fine line. As one commenter put it, “Just as our foremothers and forefathers didn’t struggle for Civil Rights so that one day we could have a black drone-happy president, the feminists amongst them didn’t struggle so that we could uncritically embrace entertainers of the Beyoncé variety as THE definition of what it means to be a feminist.” Bey is having an awakening—let’s not discourage her or any woman who is discovering feminism. It just appears that she’s taken her first class and got all excited, and everyone on social media shared in that excitement and honored her with a degree.
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