Beyonce, Beyonce, Beyonce. We can’t keep her name out of our mouths. I have a very contradictory outlook on the corset-clad, pelvic bone-popping pop culture phenom. It’s not that I don’t enjoy Beyonce’s undeniable talent. It’s not even that I am sick of seeing this blonde-haired beauty over saturate my screen. It’s more because I don’t understand her image–what she shows us and what we think we know about her.
I don’t regard her as a role model by any means. She’s here for our entertainment. But, that’s not all she’s here for. At the end of the day, when the makeup washes off and the heels are kicked across her well-decorated bedroom, Beyonce is a woman, wife, sister, and mother among other titles. Despite the critics, she’s also a feminist. Feminism challenges inequalities in society. And don’t you think our beloved Bey does this very thing?
I came across this article about Beyonce’s brand of feminism, which includes, but is not limited to booty shaking half naked. This often-used exploration of voyeuristic female sexuality isn’t brand new. Beyonce gathers inspiration from those who came before her like Josephine Bakerand even those around her, like Madonna. But it’s the Black woman’s dips, hips and curves that exposes many critics’ discomfort of the Black woman’s physique.
In “Toward a Genealogy of Black Female Sexuality: The Problematic of Silence” Evelynn M. Hammonds states:
“Black women’s sexuality is one of the ‘unspeakable things unspoken’ of the African American experience. Black women’s sexuality is often described in metaphors of speechlessness, space, or vision; as a ‘void’ or empty space that is simultaneously ever-visible (exposed) and invisible, where black women’s bodies are always already colonized.”
Black and female. Despite Beyonce’s exponential fame and fortune, as a Black woman, she’s right beside me, representing seven percent of our marginalized population. Black women are often seen as whores who will take your man, often borrowed from the historical ideology of the caramel-skinned house slave who master always watched a little too closely. Pre-Civil War Black women were seen as sexual deviants, therefore our lynchings, rapes,and segregation were justified. We were made separate from other races. Judged on a different scale from other women. Beyonce’s familiar with this weighted judgment.
She stands on an international pedestal, so she’s met with a microscopic criticism. From her looks to her talent to her womb and her marriage, Beyonce’s representation of feminism is like most Black women, multidimensional. But it seems society can’t let go of the old ideals of a Black woman’s sexuality.
I am an admitted critic of Beyonce as a role model. I don’t challenge her feminism at all. I am not a feminist. I love being a woman and I fight for my place in this world, but I don’t think a label like “feminist” or “womanist” needs to be used for me to feel powerful. I realize there’s an imbalance in the world between men and women, but me being a card-carrying member of this feminist movement will not change it.
Tamara Winfrey Harris praised Beyonce’s mounting success, but pondered her many, many critics’ choices to crucify her as the worst version of a feminist…ever. In fact, according to Harris, some criticisms expose society’s discomfort with the Black female form and all it’s glory and power. History is repeating itself. The only difference is that now we’re free and we have our voices and our bodies back in our own possession. So we get to do with it as we please. We’ve been trained for centuries to be ashamed of our bountiful bodies. Not anymore. Thanks to pop songs from Beyonce like, “Bootylicious,” despite however silly the lyrics, her feminist stance is clear–she loves and appreciates her curves and wants her fans to do the same. What’s funny is, I really don’t think they’re ready for Beyonce’s jelly.