The Great Big Beyoncé Roundtable


JULIANNE: I had a mini-weird about the “Superpower” video because the riot imagery is very similar to ACTUAL THINGS THAT ARE HAPPENING in Syria and misappropriates the tenets behind the Occupy movement, though obvs her ultimate point is that love will conquer all. Still, I didn’t need to see a flaming tire like that, dude. Mad at the director, Jonas Akerlund (who also directed “Telephone”)—call it the post-M.I.A. effect. That said, I think the styling is phenomenal (HOW DO I GET UNDERBOOB LIKE THAT?!) and I LOVE LOVE LOVE the fact that Kelly and Michelle are in it as co-leaders of Beyoncé’s badass end-of-the-world wrecking crew (and Pharrell, I guess). One thing I find so important about these videos and this album is how subtly and not-so-subtly she is hair-flipping in the face of her critics. Not just in terms of all the feminism stuff, but to anyone who tried to drum up drama among Bey and Kelly and Michelle. Maybe there was competition—sure, of course there was—but with this video she’s telling us that they will always be her sisters. And speaking of jealousy, I also love how on-display she is willing to go with early disappointments, via the footage of her old group (with Kelly!), Girls Tyme, losing to a band called Skeleton Crew on Star Search in 1992. That must have been HEARTBREAKING, especially for girls their age.


Anyway, I really appreciated this take on this video.
13. “HEAVEN”

…is beautiful, the end.
14. “BLUE”

…features Blue Ivy, the end. No, wait—while we’re on the subject:

JAMIA: Some critics online are questioning the motivation behind putting Blue Ivy on camera.

HAZEL: What?! It is insane to suggest Beyoncé would be cashing in on her kid!

JAMIA: My friend Chloe reminded me that no one hated on Jay-Z when he included Blue Ivy in his videos and performances. There is a sexist double standard for Bey and mothers in general that is also complicated by racism. Black motherhood is pathologized and maligned in the media on a regular basis, and even Bey is not immune.

TAVI: In a recent interview, she talked about how she’d been thinking about how hard she’s been working since she was a child, and how she wanted to basically “blow that shit up” and make an album about what is truly important to her. It totally comes full circle, starting with “Pretty Hurts,” being reminded that she’s been competing and performing her whole life, and then ending with “Grown Woman.” I adore her sitting bored in front of her trophies, snapping gum in a crown and a bratty pink dress.

Screen shot 2013-12-19 at 2.27.03 PM

HAZEL: All the archival footage she uses (or just references, like the trophy in “Drunk in Love”) is so powerful, just a constant reminder of why she is where she is and how she started, and makes it feel super magnum opus–y.

AMY ROSE: Yeah! It feels like a narrative about HER LIFE AS A WHOLE, and there’s obviously mad gravity to that! Seeing Tina at the end of “Grown Woman,” just looking all victorious, cinched that for me.

JAMIA: That gave me chills, too–especially since she’s named after her mom’s maiden name, Beyincé. I saw someone tweet today that Beyoncé is at that place in your 30s when you start feeling like a grown-ass woman, owning your strengths and failures, when you stop giving a fuck about what other people think. Bey and I are the same age (she’s a year younger) and I’m feeling so much of this album and its message. HOT DAMN.

TAVI: OOH YES. Not that I directly relate, but as y’all know I’ve been having funny feelings about growing up. But this song/album makes me excited to be a real-person grown woman motherfucking boss ruler of my own world. I’ve been jittery all day because I’m just so excited for the FUTURE IN GENERAL. I love Beyoncé I love myself I love being a young woman omg

JAMIA: I’m SO excited for you. My 20s and early 30s have been so exciting and fun. I used to worry about getting older and becoming trapped by the bullshit and I feel more free and self-actualized than ever now–I still have a long way to go but I’m enjoying the ride so much. After I got married I freaked out about what it would mean for my independence and it has actually felt really liberating because I waited to make that commitment at a time where I felt like a grown ass woman and my own person. It comes at different times for everyone but I’m like “don’t forget it, don’t get it twisted, just bow down bitches” to people who tried to get me to do this anyway but my own. Have you heard Janet Jackson’s Control album? I loved it when I was younger and in some way it seems like this and “Grown Woman” are evolved homages.

TAVI: Ooh, I am making this album + Control my go-to’s when I start to feel discouraged about growing up and want to crawl back into childhood

JULIANNE: OMG CONTROL! Also, Salt-n-Pepa’s Blacks’ Magic. Those two albums showed me what feminism is.

JAMIA: This album is about being the CEO of your own life, not rising to the top of someone else’s industry. Beyoncé moves the conversation from “run shit within someone else’s institution” to “RUN YOUR OWN SHIT,” and that is the goal for real. This is something I’ve seen mischaracterized as selfish, but it is necessary and smart. People spend their whole lives toiling away on things that have nothing to do with their real purpose and joy and regretting it. Beyoncé worked hard to get where she is, and it took decades. She’s an inspiration and an example of why millenials ROCK.

TAVI: This album feels like the perfect soundtrack for both loveytimes and world domination, so I feel like it covers all the ground.

AMY ROSE: This album is making me feel more like myself.

DANIELLE: This album is a tax write-off, because I need it to live.

JAMIA: I think this is the feeling that e.e. cummings was talking about—that the “hardest battle which any human being can fight” is “to be nobody but yourself.” Every year I resolve to preserve my imagination and my child’s mind. When I’m feeling like I’m fronting or losing myself or martyring myself I imagine my five-year-old self with ashy knees and a big snaggle tooth smiling at me and reminding me who I am—and I just can’t lie to her.

JULIANNE: I have been a huge fan of Beyoncé since Destiny’s Child, yet this album was a total surprise to me in terms of its openness and the adventurousness of its SOUND. It has only reinforced my love for her, “flaws and all,” as she once sang on yet another of her many feminist anthems! If she has contradictions, and I do for liking her, then so be it. We are human women and I’m a better, stronger person because she exists. ♦

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Tavi Gevinson

Tavi Gevinson is the editor-in-chief and founder of this site.

64 thoughts on “The Great Big Beyoncé Roundtable”

  1. I’ve had Bey’s album on repeat since it dropped and I still can’t get over how amazing it is. I was in a huge rut before because everything I said, did, and wrote felt wrong somehow. This album reminded me that I’m a badass and in order to be the happy creative person I’ve always wanted to be I need to shed my insecurities. Ugh I love her and this article so much! All hail Queen Bey

  2. Though I dont really listen to Beyonce I read through this whole thing and i found it really interesting..

    Im from a country where the black population is very very low so it was very interesting to learn that america suffers inequality even among women because of race..I never knew there was ”white feminism” or ”black feminism”

  3. I love Beyonce and I love that she’s making feminism accessible for everyone. That said, the fact that she let Terry Richardson direct the video for “XO” leaves a bad taste in my mouth. He’s sexually assaulted and exploited his models, and I was hoping Bey would work with a director who didn’t have that kind of reprehensible background.

  4. I was with y’all until this.

    “The worst thing about that GQ article is that a woman wrote it. I fully believe that if one of their male staff (at least the dudes on the staff who are my friends and have #feministconcerns) had written it, it would have been less condescending.”

    The article wasn’t condescending because the writer was a woman, it was condescending because the writer was kind of an asshole. Why not ask that an intersectional-feminist woman had written it instead of a dude with “feminist concerns?”

    1. hi orionhasabelt! i think maybe that i could have worded that better because what i actually meant was not that a MAN SHOULD HAVE WRITTEN IT, but that i was bummed that a woman would have written such a stereotypical, patriarchy-capitulating piece that painted beyoncé as a “hysterical control freak,” essentially. that i would expect it from a man but sad it came from a woman. i should have framed that better for sure, and also i was just wishing in my mind that my friends who work there should have written it instead. BUMMER/BAD FRAMING ON MY PART.

  5. I love this album but I don’t know how I feel about the representation of skinhead culture in the Flawless video. Yes there are skinheads of colour in the video and female skinheads too. That makes me happy especially as a black British girl who holds the mod and skinhead subcultures very close to her heart.
    But…*sigh* in my eyes I can’t see it as purely beautiful and subversive as I’ve heard other people make it out to be. The appropriation of subcultures by pop stars is not new or subversive. (For example Robbie Williams and Dizzee Rascals embarassing video about modsvsrockers, and The Brassic’s where a girl steals the clothes of her mod/casual sister to ‘become a mod’ so a guy will like her.)And it’s so tricky as well because I don’t know if those are actual skinheads who live and breathe the lifestyle or models with shaven heads and Doc Martens. I don’t know if those involved in the video are aware of the roots and beliefs behind skin culture. Just anything more than the style. Obviously the video black and white but some of the male skinheads look like they have white laces in their boots which is often associated with white supremacist skinheads (boneheads. They don’t deserve to be called skinheads). They might not be white laces I don’t know. But I can’t help wondering if this not just another example of how pop nods to the way subculture is seen to give ‘edge’. idk this is just my two cents? x

  6. I don’t really listen to Beyoncé’s music, but as another commenter has said, it’s cool how she’s making feminism more accessible to everyone. It was nice to hear that excerpt of the TED talk on feminism in her song Flawless.

  7. This conversation is so AMAZING! Especially everything on page 5. I kind of want to tattoo it all on myself. Because I’ve been out of touch with most pop music for so long, I actually don’t own any Beyonce, but I am going to download this album based solely on the incredible conversation it stirred up. It sounds insanely empowering and that’s exactly what I need for the new year!

  8. For all important intents and purposes, I love this album and the message Beyonce has for women.
    However, I don’t like how many feminists have been saying that Beyonce is somehow exempt from criticism because she’s proclaimed that she’s a feminist. Obviously pop stars insensitive to the issues Bey regards should be criticized before Bey, but just because you’re a feminist, not every choice you make is (nor does it have to be) a feminist one. Beyonce is completely entitled to cage dance and dress in a sexy way and “sell sex” and whatever, but those are not feminist decisions. They would not be feminist if Katy or Miley or whoever did them, and just because Beyonce’s a feminist, it doesn’t make it feminist, either. Feminism is about gender equality and gender equality is achieved through subverting norms- obviously not every decision you make has to subvert norms, live your life and do what makes you happy, but don’t call any decision you make a feminist one just because you’re a feminist.

    1. Can’t you argue that the “norm” for women is to NOT dress in a sexy way and be overtly erotic, though? Beyonce is subverting a norm, the norm that wants to suppress female sexuality and their control over their own.

      1. You could argue that, and it would be true to a degree. The overall norm is that women aren’t doing “sexy” stuff for themselves, they’re doing it for men, because women aren’t expected to have sexual autonomy. But I wouldn’t say that women dressing in a sexy way is NOT a norm- there’s the catch 22 with the prude/slut dichotomy. In that vein, you’re right, Beyonce would be subverting that norm because she’s (in our perspective) doing it for herself.
        I think what it comes down to is not something that Beyonce (or any individual) can be held accountable for, but something that should be brought to light and a feminist discourse like this a good place to do so. In terms of female (or any) sexuality, I wish that there was more nuance and less glamour- the cage dancing and sexy outfits are “sexy,” but I wish explorations of sexuality didn’t reflect sexual ideals that are harmful, like beauty ideals, the allure and implications of the woman behind the cage or on the pole or writhing on the ground. In that regard I love what FKA Twigs and Jenny Hval are doing because their explorations of sexuality are more natural and experimental, in my eyes. It’s sexy because it’s about sex and it actively attempts to disentangle sex from “sexiness.” Beyonce’s sexiness, which is as valid as any, looks just like other mainstream sexiness to me. It’s great that she’s doing it for herself and owning it, and it’s a big first step, but I don’t think it’s a completely solid subversion.
        But this is all nitpicky- to anyone who wasn’t completely familiar with feminism, I would just gush about Bey.

        1. I think Beyoncé’s blackness is really relevant to this discush. Like, who was the last bajillions-selling black woman who got to be that powerful + be unabashedly risqué and sexy and openly sing about her ambivalence about same? Like, it’s one thing for Madonna to wear underwear & fishnets to a black-tie event (and I don’t remember anyone calling her out on feminist grounds for that—not that they should have!), and it’s very apparently another one for Beyoncé to choose probably the most modest leotard I’ve ever seen for a performance at an event that benefited a feminist organization. When Gaga wears this outfit to go hang out in London, no one questions her feminist bona fides. But Beyoncé wears this one as a costume, onstage in a performance, and is deemed unfit for the cover of Ms. I think we need to talk about why that is.

        2. I agree with Anaheed’s comment. Julia, I’m not sure if you’re Black, but you don’t seem to be aware of the many ways that Black/African American women’s sexualities have been policed and suppressed since literally always. For Beyonce to express her sexuality in her own terms IS revolutionary. Black women, as well as other women of color, are still not on the same playing field as white women when it comes to having agency over their sexuality.

        3. Beyonce seems to be expressing pride in her personhood using the clothing that she wears. Take into account the subject matter/lyrics of her songs and her body language within the videos. Removing yourself from the society’s idea of sexiness is not a requirement for feminism. Yes, our society is marked in everyway by the white patriarchy. But, in my opinion, it can be just as powerful to exploit and revel in patriarchal sexiness as it can be to reject it.
          I also think it’s important to note that criticizing any woman for the clothing she wears is really counterintuitive when attempting a feminist discourse. It questions a woman’s agency in the clothing she wears. Miley Cyrus is allowed to wear her white undies. Beyonce is allowed to wear her fab outfits, and I’m allowed to wear the clothing that I wear to school everyday. There is no ‘feminist’ dress code, and even if there was, no woman needs to feel as though she is required to dress this way in order to hold on to her ‘feminist’ ideals. I feel as though making generalized judgments- regarding, for example, what a woman chooses to wear- creates another dichotomy of ‘feminist’ and ‘not feminist’. When one judges another in such a general way, it really ignores the crazy awesome existence of tons of beautiful and thriving grey areas within feminist analysis. Which are what makes feminism so awesome in the first place, in my opinion!
          Whether mainstream sexiness or your own personal version, I think owning that feeling for yourself matters more than whether something fits into the ‘rules’ for feminism.

        4. Quick chime-in: as a former dancer (who was never even CLOSE to being in the same galaxy as Beyoncé as a dancer), I do not understand why everyone is up in arms over a woman whose choreography is notoriously athletic, wearing a leotard while dancing under blazing hot lights. I mean most of her outfits are basically the same thing legendary dancer/Bob Fosse muse Ann Reinking wore on Broadway in the ’70s and ’80s:
          (Give or take a sequin/Mugler).

          Dancers wear leotards! Other clothes tend to restrict the movement.

        5. “Who was the last bajillions-selling black woman who got to be that powerful + unabashedly risque and sexy and openly sing about her ambivalence about the same?” Uh…Rihanna? I don’t know…Janet Jackson? Lil Kim? Foxy Brown? TLC? Black female music performers being sexual/sexy and displaying awareness about their sexuality ain’t new. (And what does being ‘bajillions-selling’ have to do with anything?) In fact, each of those women are, in my eyes, far more revolutionary that Beyonce in terms of sexuality because there’s an edge to their sexiness that I just don’t see Beyonce as having. The “terms” that she’s working within, the ones that are apparently all her own, are entirely in line with conventional mainstream heteronormative sexiness right down to the blond hair.

          You know what would be revolutionary to me? If Beyonce took off that weave that she whips around and has a perpetual fan for. If she played an instrument on stage. Showed some evidence of playing an instrument period. If she solo produced one of her albums, or even a song or two. And beyond that, beyond Beyonce, or female sexuality in the music industry, or black female sexuality or whatever, it’s so odd and frankly upsetting to me that most major discussions about feminism or female empowerment in our culture are based on something as ephemeral as entertainment. Did we talk this much about the 2012 Delhi rape?

          1. OK yeah good point about Rihanna et al. I knew I was being stupid when I typed that, and yet I pressed “reply.” So thank you for correcting me!

            Of course it sucks that people don’t talk as much about the rape in Delhi as much as they talk about Beyoncé. But I don’t think talking LESS about Beyoncé is the answer!

  9. Also, in regards to Pretty Hurts and Flawless; I love Pretty Hurts’ message- I think the beauty myth and the beauty industry are huge problems for women and one of the biggest issues feminism should tackle. I also completely endorse the confidence Beyonce encourages in Flawless. However, I don’t think the solution to the problem in Pretty Hurts- harmful beauty standards- will be solved through what Beyonce suggests, telling yourself you’re flawless/beautiful/etc and being confident in your appearance. The solution to the beauty myth is not confidence, but a disregard for beauty in general. Everyone should be able to cultivate a personal aesthetic and mode of self expression without being inhibited by beauty norms. I respect Beyonce’s message as a stepping stone towards disseminating the beauty myth’s power, but I don’t want women to think that is the final solution for the oppressive beauty expectations society has. Feel good about yourself because your appearance isn’t important, not because you’ve convinced yourself you’re “beautiful-” there’s way more to feel good about.

    1. I disagree. I think it’s best to realize that we are beautiful DESPITE any and all social norms. That’s when I started feeling confidant about my weight, etc. Feel good about yourself because, finally, do BELIEVE that your appearance is “good,” because you no longer recognize that is can be “bad,” because you are beautiful in your own right. Does that make sense?

  10. Why do people love this flawless, hyper-controlled image Beyonce puts forth? Even her moments of so-called vulnerability are so grossly contrived. The level of obsession about Beyonce and the degree of hostility shown to anyone who dares to criticize her is terrifying to me.

    1. I think I know how you feel. I mean obviously Beyonce is not going to be perfect and not everyone is going to like her, but criticizing any of her motives or actions would be the end of the world. My opinion of her is not totally negative, but either way I am afraid to voice it because of the backlash.

    2. Of course the images she puts out of herself are controlled- she’s a pop star. Every artist chooses what of themselves to show or withhold from the public. All of it is controlled.

      And I highly doubt that you feel “terrified”. If all you have to say about her is “Why does anyone like her? She’s so fake and her fans are crazy!!!” then yeah, people might disagree. Try having productive convos about what you think is problematic about her, people might respond differently!

    3. I KNOW RIGHT. It’s like everyone is under her spell for some reason. I listened to a couple of tracks out of sheer curiosity and was.. underwhelmed (wow I sound like a judge from Project Runway). Aaanyway.

    4. THANK YOU. It’s true. Show a differing opinion of Beyonce that leans toward indifference or scrutiny, and suddenly you’re oppressive and racist and hate women showing their bodies and their sexuality. Maybe these people who seem so sycophantic of her just hate to think someone else might see her as mediocre artistically and a poor example of feminism, or NOT as in control of her image as she seems. It seems a bit like they doth protest too much, if you ask me.

  11. I really think Flawless is such a perfect song, both musically and its message. I really identify with it and it makes me feel really powerful. I don’t wear makeup or brush my hair so now when I look in the mirror I think “I woke up like this,” and I just have so much more confidence. I feel as if she’s speaking to me individually. I also feel so excited about her sampling the feminist TED talk and thinking about all the people that will hear that and hopefully think about it.

  12. I have so much to say about this album. I love how personal it is; I’ve always admired how Beyonce controls her public image, most of the stuff we know about her is because she wants us to know it. That’s why I loved the fact that there were songs like Pretty Hurts and Jealous, because she always seems to have her shit together (she is an amazing performer, actress, she found true love early in life, she handles all her business, etc.) but she has problems also. It also seems sincere, it’s not like “Hey you guys, I’m relatable so buy my album”. That’s why it upsets me when people criticize how sexual she is. I must admit, when I first heard the album I was surprised by her language because this came from the person who wouldn’t even allow cuss words in her previous albums. But she evolved and now she wants something different in her music. I think she showed a healthy sexual mentality and wasn’t telling people to follow her lead, she was just showing what makes her happy. People who want her videos banned need to realize that actual porn is just as easy to find as a Beyonce video. It does bother me that people can think that a human body is vulgar, as much as I think there needs to be a more diverse representation of female sexuality in the media I absolutely love it when people are comfortable expressing themselves. People need to become more comfortable at seeing female bodies and learn to not have such a strong reaction against it.

  13. i really don’t understand Beyonce. i see someone who has been privileged most of their life. she grew up going to private school in the upper/middle class. she’s clearly beautiful and had a talent that was nurtured from a young age. her sexuality has been on display (and could say exploited) since her early years in Destiny’s Child. if anything, her clothes keep coming off. and that’s all she’s shown us over the years, mediocre pop songs, along with a shedding of clothes…what has she fought for? what has she done that is so brave? she is nothing out of the norms in terms of pop music and the way females go about creating an image and selling themselves through that image. Beyonce is part of the 1%. she makes millions and millions of dollars. are those dollars worth what she actually puts forth and does? i really don’t think so. i’m not sure seeing her parade around in a bevy of sexy outfits merits all this attention or is worth it. this does not empower females. this does not empower me. it makes me feel worse because i know because i don’t look like that i am not worth as much.

    1. hahah hah hah, really??

      ‘and that’s all she’s shown us over the years, mediocre pop songs, along with a shedding of clothes…’

      jeez, you don’t have to love beyonce’s songs, you can think they are mediocre, but there is no way that you have knowledge of beyonce’s music and lyrics and still think that all she’s done is take off her clothes. It doesn’t seem like you’ve read this article or listened to her songs, and all you can criticise her for is that she shows too much skin.

      I’m sorry that you haven’t been empowered by Beyonce (only sorry because it is a really great feeling) but you can’t say it doesn’t empower females because I feel pretty empowered listening to this album.

  14. I also loved the diversity of people in her videos, it shows how easy it is to include POC. I wish more people who claim to encourage female empowerment would actually make the effort to include all women. A few years ago in one of her specials she mentioned that she has an all female band and I remember at that moment I realized how special she was and how important she was to me as a role model.
    Hearing Flawless I realized how important it is was to have a popular modern feminist anthem. It’s so aggressive and perfect. I do love the evolution of her relationship with feminism, I feel like it mirrors how most people enter feminism. Many times the people who go into it blindly are the ones that don’t truly understand the message. This album doesn’t only include her relationship with friends and family but also with feminism, business, the media, etc. It’s so well rounded. That’s why it’s even more ridiculous that they would attack her for mentioning how much she loves her husband. I also think it’s important to show a healthy marriage where both people are equally independent and still supportive of each other.

    1. Her all-female band is one of the reasons I love Beyoncé. In the Superbowl, a predominately masculine activity, where females are scoffed at and discouraged from participating, Beyoncé owned the stage. For 13 minutes, there were all females on the stage at the SUPERBOWL. That is huge.

  15. I know my comment won’t be a trendy statement, but I’m so confused with this. I really respect Beyonce and I admire the fact that she is doing something important with music and empowering women. But, sometimes I feel she has been so overrated. You guys claim that is she is representing and empowering black women, but the fact is that she doesn’t really look like a black girl, I mean, she has this polished blonde hair, all this makeup that makes her look almost like a white girl, sometimes. So, I do not feel represented, she doesn’t look like a regular black girl who suffers because she doesn’t look like white blonde girl that is the beauty standard. So, all of this really confuses me… What is really making an statement?, she looks like a white movie star, she represents the produced world, not every black girl has an stylist every hour to look like “the queen”, so then, those girls would feel lost and ugly again. Idk if you guys get what I’m saying. Thanks

    1. I totally get it and this is so legit. I don’t think any of us think that Beyoncé is some kind of savior of all women or all black women or anything like that. But to many if not most Western white people, she is A BLACK PERSON, and she’s fucking with what a person who is seen that way gets to do in the public eye. Of course I hope that there are more dark women, fat women, disabled women, poor women, immigrant women, trans women, sick women, old women, and young girls getting this much visibility across the board. But the fact that we need MORE doesn’t discount each thing we DO have, you know what I mean?

      1. I do not see how she is fucking with the idea of what being a black person looks like or how they are seen in the public eye. She is the epitome of safe sexy eye candy. None of those people you mentioned will ever come to the lime-light with people like Beyonce being held up as a visual for a type of “other” being represented. Why would anyone want to see a fat woman, a disabled woman, a poor woman? Not to mentions sick women or old women, which are practically non-existent in the media. None of these women will get the representation they deserve bc as much as people claim to want that, they really don’t. Because most times those faces don’t come in a attractive package. They come with hardship, they come with us acknowledging something beyond a surface. And as long as we give constant praise to people like Beyonce, who give us nothing BUT surface, we will never see other stories of women represented. We will continue to see exploitation of female pop-star after female pop-star. The taking off of clothes to out sex one another. It’s funny how the men never have to go this far to get far.

        1. I disagree w/ the idea that she gives us nothing but surface. But I pretty much agree w/ the gist of what you’re saying. I just think that Beyoncé is more solution than problem. I don’t think we can expect any one person to change the entire landscape of capitalism, patriarchy, racism, ageism, ableism, heterosexism, and beauty standards in one fell swoop, especially if you add “oh and also do it on a huge scale so that millions of people will pay attention to it” to the mix. If Beyoncé is expanding people’s ideas about feminism and about women and black women and marriage and success and independence and fame in one fell swoop, in a huge and successful way, I call that a victory.

        2. Anaheed, thankyou for your response. I don’t think Beyonce is responsible to fight all those things at once either. But since she does have an immense amount of fame and influence especially on younger generations, I think I would like to see her talk about something more, show something different besides the excessive amounts of skin in tiny outfits. I think we all know she’s beautiful (conventionally) and I think we all pretty much know what she would look like naked too. I am not sure that either of these things qualify as victories for me personally to look at her as a role model for females, esp. in a world where the age of female exploitation seems to be getting younger and younger. I don’t see Beyonce as a success persay, sure monetarily she is wealthy. Is money the only sign of success? Sure she is famous, is fame and having millions of people “know” who you are success? I’m also not sure still how she is expanding feminism. Recently, Miley and Lily Allen came under scrutiny for using black female bodies as props. The black female body is fetishized in culture over and over again. I see Beyonce playing into these same stereotypes and roles. Her voice is powerful, yet has to be in competition with the way she displays her body. One seems to not be without the other. I’m not saying she should have to cover up. I’m just saying let’s not ignore the fact that she is scantily clad 95% of the time. And as much as we would like to think it’s of her own accord. I believe that she feels and has an immense pressure to keep up with the race to stay relevant and sexy.

          1. I wasn’t defining success monetarily. I mean she seems to be doing what she wants to be doing, the way she wants to do it. I should use a different word, though, because I also mean her work has an audience, which isn’t really part of my personal definition of success.

    2. Beyonce’s hair is naturally dark blonde/brown, for those of us who don’t research the information we are not sure of when we discuss parts of culture that we are not familiar with. Also, many women of mostly African descent have mixed blood: it doesn’t always show in your features visually. In Beyonce’s case, you can see it visually enough to criticize her for it, and enough to criticize how she deals with it in society. She is not more mixed than someone else just because you can see it more visually. Third, ethnic complexions can change according to the weather (colder= sometimes more pale, hotter=more tan). Yes, her complexion is sometimes altered with makeup to create an unhealthy romanticized view of lighter skin, but you did not acknowledge the fact that she uses bronzer makeup to look darker as well, possibly for unhealthy cultural reasons too, and also, possibly just to experiment with makeup. I am a woman of African descent, who is not a Beyonce fan, but I felt the need to clarify. Great points and I appreciate your honesty. Oh… and…not sure if you know, but some people of African descent have mixed features as a result of slave rape in the past. Some, not all. Doesn’t seem helpful to criticize how some people deal with/accentuate/mask these features that are sometimes the result of violence against women in the first place. Beyonce represents the enormous population of some women, who exist in real life, who have mixed features for both beautiful and/or dark reasons.

  16. So…no comments about Jay Z’s “I beat the box up like Mike”…and “Eat the cake, Anna Mae” lines in Drunk in Love? Seriously?

    1. I thought that was super dumb and that it marred an otherwise amazing song. I’ve read speculation that it refers to some private joke or sexytalk between him and Beyoncé, which, OK, but you don’t have to put it on an album!

  17. i woke up that day and was like i need to make one of those “I MET GOD SHE’S BLACK” shirts. i was reading someone talking about how beyonce now sings with a more”masculine” voice and is adding some masculine behavior and more aggressive, and said to my mother: fuck, this is such a stupid comment because she is being aggressive, brutal, revolutionary yes, but in a WOMAN way, a not stereotyped not girly supposed way! HER way, in life is but a dream when she is singing at the studio you can almost see her SOUL and her pain and the strong feelings and the FACE SHE DOES!! i think this is really revolutionary, when she is singing “bow down” with that gesture for me it’s like she’s putting that sexual energy, that strength in a whole different way from what’s going on in pop music! only mixed feelings i got was on super power as i live in brazil and riots are a delicate subject to put in a love song. BUT CHRIST this album is crack i love this woman

  18. ok, hear me out. this felt weird to me. isn’t attacking feminists who attack other feminists still attacking feminists? i understand there may be divisions in feminism, although i hardly think the lines around them are clear. it just kinda made me feel sad. especially the comment: “I HAVE BEEN FEELING SO BAD about feminism (mostly because #whitefeminism)”. it feels like we’re turning in on each other which is really the last thing we need. the second thing is this never really mentioned the album’s sound… it talked greatly of the concepts but not the sound. someone mentioned the microscope that’s put on celebrities who identify themselves as a feminist and i feel like this article almost contributed to that as first and foremost she’s a musician! thanks for reading. i hope i can get a clearer understanding of where some of you are coming from.

  19. I am disappointed to see that there is not more of a critical discussion going on. Feminism does not only mean equality between 2 genders. It encompasses males, trans, and all the other races that are of less equality to white. Someone made the comment that Beyonce does not appear black. I would have to agree with this. She has assimilated so much into an appearance of what is acceptable and considered attractive in terms of white culture, that it is not really ever discussed. I’m not saying all black women must present themselves the same, or can’t be blonde. every race shows an array of body types, hair colors, skin tones, etc. But it is curious to me that she looks more like Britney Spears did back in her prime years. I see this as another way the white patriarchy assimilates the “other” into acceptance in their culture. At one point in history it was seen as liberating for black women to let their afros grow, to let themselves be natural and accepted for who they were naturally. Now it seems we have regressed backward. Blonde straight hair for all. Do people not realize who owns entertainment and music industries? WHITE MEN! Do people not realize that Beyonce isn’t and can’t just do whatever she wants? She is locked into contracts, her image is not hers alone. And here in a society that is still so male dominated and continues to repress women and sexually exploit them, I do not see how people are so naive as to think Beyonce does not fall into these trappings. Do no kid yourselves. Women’s power still very much relies on their sexual exploits and their “beauty”

    1. I don’t think any of us can “do whatever we want” if we need to make a living, though. I think EVERYONE changes things about themselves to fit into a male-dominated capitalist society, at least if they aren’t independently wealthy. Why does Beyoncé have to be like a radical activist to earn our respect? Not to mention that radical activists do not get the kind of exposure she gets. I think there’s a place for every kind of work in the revolution—activists are important but so are entertainers. And besides, Beyoncé makes MUSIC that is fun and emotional and inspiring for some people to listen to. She gives people pleasure, and that’s important too, in life. I think music is what her heart is all about way more than political activism, and isn’t that OK? To be an artist for art’s sake?

      I once heard an interview w/ Chris Rock where he said that he believed that Bill Cosby did more for black people than this other black comedian who was huge in the ’60s, Dick Gregory, who basically quit comedy for a long time to be an activist. And I agree w/ that. I mean, at this point people don’t even know who Dick Gregory is, but he was a massive star before he went off to do political work.

      My grandmother was a huge racist most of her life, then one day she told me that she had changed her mind about black people—she now saw them as good people. I asked her what changed her mind. It wasn’t Martin Luther King or Nelson Mandela or Jesse Jackson or Rosa Parks—it was Willis, a black character on a sitcom called Diff’rent Strokes. He seemed like such a nice, smart kid, she said, and that changed her mind about the whole race. That’s important work, even though that show and that character and that actor fit very well w/in the mainstream media landscape and none of them was doing anything “radical.” In fact there’s a lot about that show that was actually super racist!

  20. This whole conversation and all theses comments are great!! This article was just what I needed.
    I think the best thing about this album, BESIDES EVERYTHING, is that it opens up this conversation about feminism to the greater mainstream public who isn’t exposed to it.

  21. As a girl who usually wears long dresses and cat lady sweaters (and yes, I sometimes enjoy wearing fishnet stockings too), I thought Beyonce’s music was empowering for me. I now feel less ashamed of myself, it inspires me to continue doing creative/ art stuff. I’m not afraid of failing so much anymore. If I’m doing all this stuff I like without hurting others, then it should be okay.

    I felt pretty isolated when some of my feminist peers (most are white) judged me for not being bothered by sexuality (specifically, “non-classy” sexuality according to them). It’s also bad enough that I grew up with conservative relatives (stuck in a patriarchal mindset) who used the term “slut, whore, etc.” for outfits they thought were “too revealing” even when they’re appropriate for certain occasions. Like that one scene with Felicity Jones in Downton Abbey who only just wants to wear a trendy 20s dress to a ball like her female cousins, but her mom said, “no”.

    I guess maybe I have a different experience growing up in a patriarchal world from my immigrant family. It’s kinda similar to the Haitian writer’s, Edwidge Danticat, Breath, Eyes, Memory. Not sure if any of you rookies read Danticat’s books.

    Like everybody else, I don’t think Beyonce is a perfect person (She’s “No Angel” hah), but I’m glad she opens up to feminism– that’s good enough for me! And yes, I do embrace low-key artists as well who speaks out about feminism/ womanism.

  22. Also, I love how in Mine, there’s that shot of her back with MINE written on back. It just shows that her body is hers and she gets to do want she wants with it!

  23. It’s nice that the whole Rookie staff is Beyoncé fans, but we should be reflecting the content more critically. Domestic abuse is no base for kinky jokes, especially not for Beyoncés “feminist” album. Keeping that in mind, I think Rihanna’s songs are more honest, because her family history was shaped by abuse and later, she sadly had to experience it herself. So her songs come from another place, a place of true empowering.
    And why is nobody talking about Stromae’s great new vid, where he’s playing with gender roles? It’s just formidable!

  24. Yes, Beyonce has brought a lot to the world and you’re right that millions of girls feel she empowers them for a reason, but let’s not start acting like she doesn’t also bring a lot of contradictions to the table too.

    I love Rookie and normally love reading the group talks but I think this was way under form. I have no problem with Beyonce’s sex appeal or the Mrs Carter shenanigans (this album is hot as, and Beyonce is free to do marriage however she pleases), but Terry Richardson and casual domestic violence references are not at all where it’s at for me. I would have thought they weren’t at Rookie either.

    Also, like I said, I’m all up for Beyonce doing what she wants with her body. I just wish her previous form was to the effect that she was A-okay with other women doing what they wanted with theirs (i.e. “Nasty Girl”, a vid that slut shames to such an awful degree that it became the subject of an executive intervention at all the schools in my area).

  25. I’ve basically been crying ever since I watched the Hunger Games while on my period and so I cried through reading all 7 pages of this article. Can’t stop listening to the queen.

  26. This whole article was really interesting. I was never a Beyonce fan – I mean, i obviously like some of her songs and I respect her carreer and everything that she has accomplished, I’m just not super into her- but i really loved the album, especially “Pretty Hurts” and “Flawless”. But i have to say, some parts of this conversation made me feel realy unconfortable, especially lines like “I HAVE BEEN FEELING SO BAD about feminism (mostly because #whitefeminism)”,as someone already stated. And it’s weird cause i’ve been also feeling kinda weird about feminism lately and I agree with all the criticism about some parts of it, especially “mainstream feminism”,that don’t include women of color and people that are not cis and straitgh, but the way it was put made me feel odd.
    And even tho I DO FEEL empowered by Beyonce, i think you guys are overestimating her contribuition. Yes, it’s SUPER important that she, as someone who is widely known in the industry, is expanding the idea of feminism and taking it to everyone, especially women who are afraid of identifying themselves as feminists because of a distorted definition they have of it.But I don’t know if the way she expresses her sexuality, for example, is really that groundbreaking.It has been said many times, but she fits perfecftly into our society’s ideal of sexiness. It’s also a little annoying that nowadays most feminists, and I think THAT is what is putting me off,think that just because someone identifies as a feminist everything that she does is feminist and we should support her at all times. No one is abbove criticism.

  27. I just read this piece and wanted to say THANK YOU to you all for sharing this important conversation.

    This is among the best things I’ve read about this album, especially as it relates to feminism, on the entire internet.

    I truly went through it over this album. And as a writer, I was physically compelled to write about it. I normally do no go about linking to my personal blog in comments, but I hold out hope that these spaces can be used for greater connection and sharing among like minded people.

    So yeah, for what it’s worth…

    But most importantly, thank you all again for sharing these thoughts. I love that you posted this as a dialogue among many women. It echoes what’s happening IRL, where so many of my friends (and their friends) are all sharing more, being more honest, being better to one another, and re-opening lines of communication on a real level as we grow up into beautiful and strong women in the world. You mentioned that this feels like a “movement.” I felt that too, which is why I was compelled to share.


  28. Hi there,
    I know this was posted a while back, but I just wanted to say that I find strange that “Blue” was filmed in Brazil. I don’t think Brazil as a setting was chosen for any deeply personal reason, and it’s not like Beyonce’s ever lived there (keeping in mind this is such a personal album). I think this was my least favorite part of all, because it certainly felt like profiting from poverty and social inequality in a country that is not even hers, while showing “locals” in a very superficial/stereotypical way. It felt like she was dismissing so much in her portrayal of Latin America as idyllic and blue. I’m kind of tired of having English-speaking pop singers (Michael Jackson, Alicia Keys, Beyonce, Flo Rida) filming their music videos with Brazilian children (or from any other “poor” country) in the slums. What do you guys think?

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