JAMIA: I was annoyed to see that commentary too, but not surprised. Beyoncé’s feminism is intersectional and the lens these critics are using is purely representation focused and one-dimensional. It is like Media Analysis 101 and kind of paternalistic. Beyoncé is using her power, privilege, and platform to bring greater awareness and nuance to the ways people perceive feminism and feminists in our culture and she’s using her megaphone to advance equality on her own terms. People just aren’t used to seeing brown bodies wielding that sort of privilege and power, so it disrupts their preconceived notions.
TAVI: That Ms. response post is so great. I just like how Beyoncé comes back in “Flawless” and claims the label again, even more intently, but she doesn’t change her definition to match those of her critics. Also, what Jamia said above: “The greatest victory is one that requires no battle.” Because really, WHY IS THIS A BATTLE? She did so much for the feminism before she even identified with it.
DANIELLE: Right?! WHY IS THIS A BATTLE. She has been supporting and promoting strength forever. But I also feel like we had to give her time and space to be great. Like, being a woman in charge of an empire is NO SMALL FEAT, and she wouldn’t have been able to be this without room to develop on her own.
TAVI: Yes! Time and space to be great! Like when she says in this song, “I took some time to live my life.” Though I am mad curious as to HOW THIS VISUAL ALBUM EVEN GOT MADE? Does she bottle her own sweat as an energy drink like a circle of life unto herself? My god!
GABI: I like to think the way she released this was kind of like a nod to “Flawless”/“Bow Down” because she’s like, “LOL you guys have to promote? Watch this.”
TAVI: It is crazy to think that just three years ago, Beyoncé gave that interview [in British Vogue] where she was like, “I guess I am a modern-day feminist…but I love my husband” and sounded all hesitant. And now to hear and watch this album…it’s like, the “Irreplaceable” video and “Single Ladies” and “Run the World (Girls)” are incredible girl-power anthems, but this album is another level altogether. And she’s not just talking about feminism in some interview that will go around the internet; she’s putting it in her MUSIC that her millions of fans will hear. It’s incredibly generous of her to let us watch her relationship to feminism evolve. Bowing down so much, seriously.
DANIELLE: I’ve also loved watching her relationship with feminism evolve, because she seems to come to it in the way that a LOT of people do—not with jackbooted certainty, but with a lot of questions that she works out in her own way. Her earlier songs about love are still great songs about love and no less feminist in scope, but here she’s saying, “I can have all of this, and you can too, and still be a feminist, and still be a boss.”
TAVI: And, to get more specific, this album is a really admirable way of responding to those feminist critiques from earlier this year. I think the impulse when people dip their toe into feminism and are then scared away because people start to ask so much of them is to just be like, “If that’s what this feels like, I don’t actually want to be in your club, thanks.” But Beyoncé not only made this amazing song where she reminds us all that SHE ALREADY DOES SO FUCKING MUCH, YOU CANNOT COMPLAIN THAT SHE TALKS ABOUT LOVING HER HUSBAND, but also warmed up to feminism even MORE, and on her own terms. I mean, to have a definition of a feminist explicitly stated in this song is so huge!
DANIELLE: I hate the idea that we can ignore girls and women who aren’t “feminist” and that’s somehow OK? There are a bunch of girls who listen to TSwift who will never identify as feminist, but who get some sort of personal empowerment from hearing her sing about breaking up with guys that are bad for her—that’s still important. Empowering girls to make decisions that positively affect them is important, even if they don’t frame it as feminism. And so when we’re like “Taylor Swift, UGH,” we normalize the idea that girls are disposable if they don’t fall in line. Which is SO ANTI-FEMINIST to me. So I love how Bey is like, “Girls, you can be and do anything as long as you do it in a way that makes you feel empowered.”
TAVI: What is the point in interviewers asking Tswift or Bey or Katy if they are feminists? It feels so ARE YOU WITH US OR AGAINST US—and in the case of someone like Taylor, I think she actually effects more change by not identifying as feminist. I think her doing so would alienate a large portion of her audience, and if we want those girls to feel strong too, I would rather they stuck with Taylor and continued to feel empowered by her. So I was really OK with Bey not identifying as feminist if it didn’t feel empowering to her at the time, and I am stoked that she identifies as one now because removing stigma, etc., and I think we should just respect that and be grateful instead of considering it permission to give her an extra-hard time on all the details.
DANIELLE: YES yes yes. We have to stop dragging people out of the feminist closet! And I say this as a person who wants armies of feminists marching in the streets every day. My own feminism evolved when I realized that being a feminist means that I support the rights of all women, even the ones who don’t give a shit about feminism. Of course it would be amazing if everyone could access feminism, but I’m not going to stop fighting for rights just because they don’t, or devaluing the lives of women who just aren’t feeling it.
JAMIA: Yes! That happens even within feminist movements—we justify writing people off if they don’t toe the line. I’ve been alienated from certain feminist circles for not being old enough, black enough, radical enough, connected enough, and so forth. I want to see a lot more healing, listening, and compassion and less policing, blaming, shaming, and assuming in the name of so-called accountability.