DANIELLE: I hate the discourse of “not enough” in feminism, and Beyoncé has been cast in that light SO OFTEN.
TAVI: I think another part of it is how once you identify as a feminist, you are held to a higher standard, so Katy Perry will say, “I’m not a feminist, but…” and then people are like, “FINE WE DON’T WANT YOU ANYWAY” and don’t even bother with her, and then Beyoncé does identify as a feminist and is put under a mega microscope, as if her naming the tour “The Mrs. Carter Show” could invalidate everything else she does. I actually think it’s cool that she can name her tour that and then explicitly identify with feminism in “Flawless”—it helps debunk the myth feminists are against marriage and stuff.
HAZEL: Re: dragging women out of the feminist closet, to me it just feels like the wrong target. When you’re trying to dismantle the patriarchy, why nitpick the women within your own movement? I’m not talking about constructively critiquing feminist movements (obviously, like Danielle said, mainstream feminism has serious inclusion issues), I’m talking about “let’s focus the convo on which pop stars aren’t labeling themselves correctly.” It’s just cheap, and it gets at no real problems. It also completely disregards the issue of access to information. I knew a lot of girls in high school who never wanted to call themselves feminists but who had little notion of what that can term for mean for so many women, nor of all of its internal movements. There’s an assumption that women who don’t identify with feminism have heard every argument, have read all the bell hooks, have been part of the circles we—those who assume the label—have had access to. It seems wrong to yell at a girl for not calling herself a feminist without recognizing that she might not know much about feminism to begin with.
Also, getting back to the subject of role models, like one million young Beyonce fans can’t be wrong, right? You cannot argue that Beyoncé is not being a role model when she LITERALLY IS a role model. When a young feminist says, “Beyoncé empowers me,” how can you argue with that? I’m tired of feminism’s rigid rules and restrictions. We have to abolish those. A major point of this album is to underline this idea of feminist growth and acceptance and to hair-flip restrictive haters.
ARABELLE: So many girls I know are calling Beyoncé anti-feminist because of this album! Because she’s talking about giving and getting head [in “Blow”] and how much she loves her husband and also looks great in these videos. I don’t think any of these are anti-feminist—she wants these things, and she doesn’t say you have to do things her way. People are quick to dismiss her because she’s operating within capitalism as a pop singer—as though that somehow invalidates her politics. Frankly, fuck that noise. This album is bringing up a discussion about success, women, and capitalism, if we’re all going to throw Beyoncé under the bus for this, why have we never had this discussion about the majority of (white) female musicians? Why is this web of capitalism/sexuality/marriage something we’re suddenly blaming on Beyoncé, a woman of color? How exactly do her naysayers propose someone become a successful pop star in a capitalist economy without operating by the rules of capitalism? And within that framework, what should she have done differently? She is a woman whose massive success does not come at the expense of the women she works with. It’s amazing. COME ON! Did she advertise her album in some cynical or manipulative way? She didn’t advertise at all. Hahaha. Hahahaha!!! People are putting impossible standards on her—which she sings about explicitly on this album. It’s dismissive of her power and her strength and the strength of her marriage and being in control of her own life, career, etc. This album is her personal feminism and it’s not meant to be a MANIFESTO for us to all align with 100%, just like any other feminism. It’s shaped to fit within the context of her life.
TAVI: Yes, it bothers me that some feminists get upset that people praise Bey’s feminism when we “should” be promoting all the lesser-known feminist writers/activists/etc. It bothers me because it’s unrealistic—we live in a world that values entertainment above political activism, and that’s not Beyoncé’s fault. Actually, lifting up the feminist writers/activists/etc. of the world is what she did by sampling Chimamanda’s speech!
JAMIA: I totally agree with you. Her music has always been really unifying, but she’s taken unity to a new level by sending out ORGANIZING messages. I dare say that she’s moved from empire building to movement building.
HAZEL: I really like the line where she says, “Don’t think I’m just his little wife, don’t get it twisted” and then goes into her righteous “bow down, bitches” snarl, because I remember a lot of eye-rolling about “The Mrs. Carter Show.” She just transcends the feminist categories that would penalize her for expressing her devotion to her husband. She’s defining marriage and feminism for herself.
ANAHEED: She also concedes that the demands on her (and every woman) to be “sexy” all the time make us all a little crazy, on this song and on “Pretty Hurts.” I can’t help reading this song and video as an addendum to “Single Ladies,” with the broken-down group-dance number and the lyric “My diamond: flawless. This rock: flawless.” Like she’s willing to reconsider and critique her own past work, which is badass.
JULIANNE: She does “my rock” then “my Roc,” which is basically like “HI I AM CLAIMING MY HUSBAND’S COMPANY AS MY OWN” (because she makes more money than he does and, if I’m not mistaken, holds stock in Roc Nation).
TAVI: And also Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson.