When Beyoncé’s album first dropped, the internet blew up with articles, blogs, and discussion critiquing whether or not Beyoncé is a feminist. Naturally, as feminists, we joined in and began to critique Beyoncé’s new album as well. The critiques ranged from pointing out the explicit glamorization of intimate partner violence shown in “Drunk in Love”, when Jay-Z says:
“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, Anna Mae
Said, “Eat the cake, Anna Mae!”
…to the blatant exotification, objectification, and hyper-sexualization of black women, and the undertone of classism, capitalism, and heteronormativity. On the flip side of this, Beyoncé is praised for quoting one of the most renowned black feminists Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, calling out body shaming, and challenging standards of beauty for women.
On the surface, Beyoncé’s new album displays some of the core concepts in feminist thinking: female empowerment, gender equality, and a critique of body image ideals. To this we say: it’s a start. As Rosa Clemente stated on HuffPost live interview, “Every single one of us starts our feminist journey somewhere”. We also understand how Beyoncé is working within a patriarchal, capitalist system which shapes the entertainment industry. Therefore, we do not want to shame or exclude Beyoncé from feminism, but welcome her.
Since entertainers unfortunately have a lot of influence in shaping our culture, Beyoncé’s representation of feminism can have a profound impact. As feminists, we know that when mistakes happen, this is when the learning occurs. Part of being a feminist is being open to ongoing questioning and growth, and an awareness of how our actions, intentionally or not, contribute to systems of power and oppression and how these systems perpetuate all forms of violence against women. We want to encourage Beyoncé to take an intersectional approach to her feminism.
As Mia Mackenzie writes in her blog Black Girl Dangerous “I want our movements sustainable, angry, gentle, critical, loving — kicking ass and calling each other back in when we stray.” As an alternative to calling Beyoncé OUT on her feminism or lack thereof, we would like to call Beyoncé IN and have her challenge her feminism to include thoughtfulness on the connections between race, wealth, class, heteronormativity, capitalism, and ableism.
Let’s work with each other, not against each other, fighting patriarchy is hard enough.