Read of the Day: “All Hail the Queen?”
6:02 pm, May 21st | by Colette McIntyre
While we (and Drake) know full well that girls love Beyoncé, feminists have been wrangling with Queen B ever since she embarked on part one of being an independent woman. In the most articulate and thoughtful essay we’ve read on the subject thus far, Tamara Winfrey Harris, Senior Editor at Racialicious, suggests that our perceptions of the singer/entity as a feminist may say a lot more about our own politics than Bey’s.
Turns out, booty shaking and stamping your husband’s last name on a product of your own creativity makes a lot of folks question your feminist values. (Beyoncé recently told Vogue UK that though the word “can be extreme…I guess I am a modern-day feminist. I believe in equality.”) Some of the equivocation is no doubt caused by Beyoncé’s slick, pop-princess brand. It is difficult to square the singer’s mainstream packaging with subversion of conventional and sexist views of gender. But ultimately, the policing of feminist cred is the real moral contradiction. And the judgment of how Beyoncé expresses her womanhood is emblematic of the way women in the public eye are routinely picked apart—in particular, it’s a demonstration of the conflicting pressures on black women and the complicated way our bodies and relationships are policed.
In a January 2013 Guardian article titled “Beyoncé: Being Photographed in Your Underwear Doesn’t Help Feminism,” writer Hadley Freeman blasts the singer for posing in the February issue of GQ “nearly naked in seven photos, including one on the cover in which she is wearing a pair of tiny knickers and a man’s shirt so cropped that her breasts are visible.”
Of course, in that very same issue of GQ, Beyoncé makes several statements about gender inequity—the sort not often showcased in men’s magazines. Among them: “Let’s face it, money gives men the power to run the show. It gives men the power to define value. They define what’s sexy. And men define what’s feminine. It’s ridiculous.”
That Beyoncé speaks the language of feminism so publicly is even more notable in a climate where high-profile mainstream female entertainers often explicitly reject the very word. Katy Perry, while accepting a Woman of the Year Award from Billboard, announced that she is not a feminist (but she believes in the “power of women”). And when asked by The Daily Beast if she is a feminist, Taylor Swift offered, “I don’t really think about things as guys versus girls. I never have. I was raised by parents who brought me up to think if you work as hard as guys, you can go far in life.”
To read the essay in full, head over to Bitch magazine.