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Is Beyonce a Feminist?

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  • circa 1993
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    #403683

    Annie Lennox has come under fire for comments she made about Beyonce being “feminist lite” because of her sexual image. Do you think Beyonce is a true figure of feminism or do you think she’s using the term out of context? 

    Discuss. 

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    Renaton
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    #403685

    It’s complicated. I do think Beyoncé (especially Destiny’s Child Beyoncé and early solo career Beyoncé) gets overpraised for her supposed feminism, no matter how talented she might be, and how excellent some of her early singles are, because the gender roles in her music are generally kinda messy without being aware of how they might be superficial reversions of roles, that in turn end up perpuating an new stereotype and idealization of women that necessarily aren’t as positive as they might come off. That said, I do think that Beyoncé is finally maturing in her position on the matter, and I praise her for being able to elaborate well on her music why marital bliss and feminism aren’t mutually exclusive, and that is having both while being very sexually aggressive is no problem. 

    I disagree with Lennox’ judgement, because I think that the vision that a woman who happens to have a very overt sexuality is not a feminist is even more outdated than anything Beyoncé might have done in the past, and seems to come from the more academic and elitist perception of what feminism is. I think Lennox is an incredibily talented woman, and I wish I had her brain, really, because she is extremely intelligent as well. I also realize that my opinion as a man, even if one who is gay and was raised by a very feminist mother, will come from a very different place than she does, and I respect that immensely. But I have to disagree with her when it comes to this point, and not just about Beyoncé especifically. That “twerking is not feminism” comment in another interview she gave, just… no. 

    Beyoncé is no ideal, but the sexualized aspect of her music and identity is no reason for why she can’t be considered a feminist. They just happen to exist in very different extremes of what that means, in my humble opinion. If she meant to be more critical of the impact that Beyoncé can have on an audience uninformed of what the term actually is, she could have done it a lot better.

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    smurty11
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    #403686

    Tearing down women is not feminism. Everybody’s art is different.
    Annie Lennox’s feminism is coming from a place in the 70’s and 80’s where sexuality was repressed to spite men for their dominance in the world. That world doesn’t exist anymore. Feminism is the belief in the economic, social, and political equality of the sexes.
    Beyonce is a feminist. Annie Lennox is not. 

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    Final2
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    #403687

    1st off feminism is for quality and not women are dominant, not women should all be friends because that makes no sense. I would hope Beyoncé is a feminist because if she wasn’t that means she think men are above women. I think if you say tearing down women isn’t feminism then you think that only tearing down men is OK? In my opinion Feminism just means I want to treated and respected just like a man is. You treat and want to be treated like everyone no matter the gender.

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    Music Forever
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    #403688

    No.

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    Gucci
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    #403689

    Hell No.

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    Berkhp
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    #403690

    Virginia Woolf diagnosed in A Room of Ones Own those elements that
    were toxic in the patriarchal environment of her day that had been restricting
    women from achieving independence, wealth, and fame for centuries.  She saw the need to expand the possibilities
    for women. She set forth the conditions that prevented “Judith Shakespeare,”
    her imagined rendering of what the female version, the sister, of William
    Shakespeare would look like, from achieving independence and prestige. Left
    without a real model to draw upon, Woolf had to imagine and vocalize the things
    that Judith would have said. Now, almost ninety years since the publishing of A Room of One’s Own, there exists a
    “Judith Shakespeare.” Except her name is not “Judith,” her name is Beyoncé.

    While wishing that
    women could become independent in the future, Woolf enumerates the conditions
    that prevented women from attaining independence, all of which point to an
    out-of-touch patriarchal system of oppression. Woolf uses “Judith” as the model
    of what an intelligent woman, held back by her society, would have looked like.
    She describes Judith as being “as adventurous, as imaginative, as agog to see
    the world as [William Shakespeare] was” (47)[1].
    But Judith “was not sent to school…She picked up a book now and then but then
    her parents came in and told her to mend the stockings or mind the stew and not
    moon about with books and papers” (47). Judith’s parents saw no imperative for
    her to go to school, explore the world, and learn about or accomplish anything
    other than tedious household chores. Society supported the double standard that
    prevented Judith from exploring the world as William did. Woolf dreams of a
    world in which women could “make money by [their] pen” just as William
    Shakespeare did, with the ultimate goal that women could achieve their own
    financial independence through writing, and in so doing gain a much wider range
    of freedom in all aspects of life.

                Referencing
    women such as Aphra Behn, Emily and Charlotte Brontë, and thinking, perhaps,
    also of herself, Woolf recognizes the possibility that a women could support
    herself “by [her] pen” if afforded the opportunity. Woolf credits Aphra Behn
    for giving women the chance to provide for themselves, saying “Mrs. Behn was…a
    woman forced by the death of her husband and some unfortunate adventures of her
    own to make her living by her wits” (63). Having found herself in a position
    where she needed to provide for herself, Aphra Behn managed to do so through
    writing. In many ways Behn is the most fully realized “woman” in history, at
    least by Woolf’s standards. She was financially independent, and without a
    husband to push her into the kitchen. While Woolf descended from a legacy of
    capital, her gender prevented her from access to economic independence. She
    drew upon the model as typified by Aphra Behn in her own attempts to achieve
    intellectual and financial independence (although she was happily married to
    her husband Leonard). But even though Woolf lived around three hundred years
    after Behn, society still restricted Woolf from attaining everything that she
    wished for in a “Judith Shakespeare.” Most women were still restricted from
    higher education, and in the 1920’s, when A
    Room of One’s Own
    was published, society still had not figured out the
    professional role that women could play (it took until the 1950’s for women to
    make a dent in the secretarial profession).

                In
    the roughly ninety years since Room was
    published, society has evolved rapidly, providing the conditions for a woman to
    support herself. Perhaps no woman represents this shift more than Beyoncé does.
    She has the “500 and a room of her own” that Woolf says is necessary for a
    woman to be successful. In Beyoncé’s case, it might be more accurate to say she
    has three hundred and fifty million and four mansions of her own, all of which
    points to her having achieved the status of “Judith Shakespeare”…and then some [2].
    Working by her “pen” Beyoncé has sold over one hundred and fifty million
    records worldwide, won seventeen Grammy Awards, starred in acclaimed films (Dreamgirls, anyone?), and amassed an unsurpassed
    following, known as the “Beyhive”. Beyoncé’s celebrity is unrivaled by any of
    her colleagues. She controls every component of her image, hiring her own team
    of photographers and videographers to document her movements, as she chooses.
    Beyoncé is fully in control of her intellectual, creative, and financial
    freedoms.

                Beyoncé
    often sings about self-love, something that Woolf would approve of as an
    important step forward for repairing the shattered confidence of women. In
    describing the oppressive role of patriarchy throughout history, Woolf calls
    attention to the issue of anonymity, which she says of female writers “anonymity
    runs in their blood” and that “the desire to be veiled still possesses them”
    (50). Woolf’s diagnosis of women’s “desire to be veiled” illuminates the way
    that men kept women in the dark, cloistered and ignorant of the world and the
    potential for their own power in it. The female pursuit of education [no
    mincing words] was met with condemnation and forced women to hide their intellectual
    interests, instead being pretty and keeping the house tidy for their husbands.
    Beyoncé sings about flipping this model. On Pretty
    Hurts
    , Beyoncé sings about the harm done to women in valuing beauty over
    intellect. Beyoncé condemns the way that her mother told her “you’re a pretty
    girl, what’s in your head, it doesn’t matter”. She thinks that “perfection is
    the disease of a nation,”[3] by
    which she means that global consumerism is perpetuating the “necessity” to
    aspire to beauty. Be it through advertisement or even the way that celebrities
    like Beyoncé present their bodies, women constantly feel pressure to feel
    “pretty”. While Beyoncé herself embodies an unattainable ideal of feminine
    beauty and desirability, an unmistakable part of her brand, as critics of this
    line of feminist analysis would have it, she is acknowledging that truth, while
    pushing for other means for women to value themselves. This is made especially
    clear when she sings, “it’s my soul that needs surgery”. Beyoncé’s feminism, as
    it pertains to beauty, is not perfect. But her efforts to remove beauty from
    the forefront of womanhood is representative of her desire to place value in a
    woman’s mind, instead of her body. The strength with which Beyoncé is fighting
    back against patriarchal beauty myths (now so deeply ingrained in culture that
    mothers are spreading them to their daughters) further solidifies her status as
    “Judith Shakespeare.”

                Female
    power, another of Beyoncé’s favorite topics, serves to dismantle the
    restrictive vice grip of patriarchal oppression. On ***Flawless, Beyoncé tells men to “bow down” and tells women that
    they “wake up flawless,”[4] a
    phrase she uses to promote self-love and confidence among women. Her
    re-appropriation of power, from men to herself (and by extension, ideally or
    eventually all women), and her redistribution of confidence to women aim to
    destroy the notion that men are the only ones capable of wielding power. She is
    coopting the notion of bowing down, a conventionally patriarchal symbol of the
    acknowledgment of power, to place herself in the same position as kings (she
    has been hailed as both Queen and King
    Bey)[5].
    While many might argue that Beyoncé has done nothing other than flip the
    conventional model of power, the sheer radicalism of doing so suggests an
    empowering ideal to women who feel as if they wield very little control in
    their own lives. She echoes this in her song Run the World (Girls).[6]
    On Run, Beyoncé praises the way that
    women “work 9 to 5” and “can bear the children, then get back to business.” She
    is taking the conventional tool for restricting women (childbirth and
    child-rearing) and using it as a means of empowering women. Whereas people like
    Sheryl Sandberg would argue that women should restrict their roles as child
    bearers in order to work in the same arena as men, Beyoncé’s declaration that
    women can have children and work
    suggests a level of capability and power that exceeds that of men. Her
    re-appropriation of the impact of children on the careers of women further
    deconstructs the myth that woman don’t possess the ability to work alongside
    men. 

                The
    importance of Beyoncé’s feminism is in the many facets of her femininity that
    she chooses to explore. Her exploration of the joys of motherhood breaks down
    many walls in feminist discussions. Motherhood and employment are often thought
    of as mutually exclusive, something that Beyoncé’s dual participation in both
    spheres is beginning to disrupt. It must be said that Beyoncé wields financial
    capital beyond that of most people, so it is easier for her to be both a mother
    and a workingwoman. As Angelina Jolie has said, “[celebrities] have much more
    support than most people…women in my position shouldn’t complain.”[7]
    Beyoncé has access to nannies, personal chefs, and truckloads of money. But Beyoncé’s
    intersection of motherhood and feminism is not intended to serve as a
    prescription for how all women should go about their lives. She simply intends
    to highlight and celebrate her motherhood, even if she is more privileged than
    other women. Blue, one of ‘Yoncé’s
    most personal song’s to date, is about the unrivaled joy that she gets from
    raising her daughter. There are no empowering mantras; gone are the
    exclamations of being “flawless” and of “run[ing] the world.” She sings about
    looking into her daughter’s eyes and “feel[ing] alive” in a way that she hasn’t
    ever felt before[8].
    In this declaration she outlines the hierarchy of importance in her life, with
    motherhood appearing to trump all else.

                Further
    conflicting Beyoncé’s duties as a feminist icon are her doubts over her
    marriage. On Mine, she sings about “having conversations about breakups and
    separations” and “not feeling like [her]self since the baby,” ultimately
    worrying if she and her husband “are…gonna even make it”[9].
    Her concerns represent the three dimensionality of women, which gets ignored by
    most men. Stripping herself of her empowering declarations, even if only for a
    couple of songs, reveals her dedication to the progression of women. In
    fulfilling her role as “Judith”, Beyoncé has revealed the dark secrets of what
    it means to be a woman. Beyoncé has revealed the dual desire to have a
    professional career and have a
    partner to come home to, and a house
    to take care of, and have a child to
    raise.

                Beyoncé goes deeper than perhaps
    even Woolf would have considered “Judith Shakespeare” would have in her
    depiction of female jealousy. Having already revealed her desire to be a wife
    and a mother (can she really fulfill those roles and have a career? Is it possible?), she digs deeper into her own
    subconscious to reveal the hurt and jealousy that she feels when her husband
    leaves her to take care of wifely duties (cooking, cleaning, etc.), a jealousy
    that her class privilege has not been able to exclude her from. While Jay-Z is
    out and about enjoying life, Beyoncé is often expected to be his wife. She laments, on the song Jealous, “cooking for [Jay-Z] naked” and
    “want[ing] to walk in [his] shoes…do[ing] the type of things that [she’ll]
    never ever do”[10].
    While she is trying to provide both food and
    sex for him, he is ignoring her. He is doing things (presumably leisurely
    activities that aren’t disrupted by household duties) while she is watching him
    enviously. She wants a wife. She is jealous of the fact that he has a wife and she is the wife.[11]
    Her exploration of her own deep-seated jealousy goes far beyond the “is she
    taller than me” nonsense that Woolf finds in William Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra (81). Perhaps
    Beyoncé’s largest contribution to the feminist cause is not that of empowering
    other women by example, but is of her dedicating herself in her work to
    exploring the extreme depths of the female condition.

                Beyoncé wields power that extends
    far beyond what Woolf could have imagined “Judith” having. Beyoncé has managed
    to “rise above,” as it were, not only her “femininity” but also her race and
    class. She was born into a lower middle-class Houston family in the 1980’s. As
    a black person, she had to overcome the racial tensions that have restricted
    black Americans for centuries. While Beyoncé’s feminism might occasionally slip
    into being blind towards class tensions, she acknowledges her privilege (pretty
    hurts), while still pushing for the furthered equality of women. She represents
    the pillar of female achievement: independence, financial and personal,
    creativity, love, and happiness. But she is the first to admit the duality of
    every positive emotion that she experiences. Her independence is defined by her
    femininity. She makes her money by her pen, using her experiences as a woman, a
    three-dimensional, living, breathing woman, to shape her voice. She is “Judith
    Shakespeare”, or perhaps, more accurately, “Judith Shakespeare” is Beyoncé.

     

    Works Cited

    Woolf,
    Virginia. A Room of One’s Own. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich,
    1989. Print.

     

    http://www.celebritynetworth.com/richest-celebrities/singers/beyonce-knowles-net-worth/

     

    http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/beyonceknowles/prettyhurts.html

     

    http://rapgenius.com/Beyonce-flawless-lyrics

     

    http://v103.cbslocal.com/2013/02/04/beyonce-crowned-king-bey-after-super-bowl-show-says-jay-z-lights-out-any-questions/

     

    http://www.metrolyrics.com/girls-who-run-the-world-lyrics-beyonce-knowles.html

     

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/21/angelina-jolie-moms-shouldnt-complain_n_5364727.html?ir=Parents

     

    http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/beyonceknowles/blue.html

     

    http://rapgenius.com/Beyonce-jealous-lyrics

     

    http://rapgenius.com/Beyonce-jealous-lyrics

    http://bcs.bedfordstmartins.com/everythingsanargument4e/content/cat_020/Brady_I_Want_a_Wife.pdf

    [1] Woolf, Virginia. A Room of
    One’s Own
    . San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1989. Print.

     

     

    [2] http://www.celebritynetworth.com/richest-celebrities/singers/beyonce-knowles-net-worth/

     

    [3] http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/beyonceknowles/prettyhurts.html

     

    [4] http://rapgenius.com/Beyonce-flawless-lyrics

    [5] http://v103.cbslocal.com/2013/02/04/beyonce-crowned-king-bey-after-super-bowl-show-says-jay-z-lights-out-any-questions/

    [6] http://www.metrolyrics.com/girls-who-run-the-world-lyrics-beyonce-knowles.html

     

    [7] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/21/angelina-jolie-moms-shouldnt-complain_n_5364727.html?ir=Parents

    [8] http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/beyonceknowles/blue.html

     

    [9] http://rapgenius.com/Beyonce-jealous-lyrics

     

    [10] http://rapgenius.com/Beyonce-jealous-lyrics

    [11]http://bcs.bedfordstmartins.com/everythingsanargument4e/content/cat_020/Brady_I_Want_a_Wife.pdf

     

    A paper I wrote on the subject. If you don’t feel like reading it all (I totally get that), then my answer is yes. The above is why I think so.  

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    Steezy
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    #403691

    ^That’s actually a great read and I mostly agree.

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    KyleBailey
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    #403692

    I like where Annie Lennox was going with this but she should have gone after a really bad one like Miley Cyrus. I think Beyonce is fine at least she doesn’t grind on inflatable penises and label that as feminism 

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    neverkneel
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    #403693

    To be honest, there is no “feminist” celebrity. They don’t even know what this term means in academic studies. All of them do not effort to read Hannah Arendt, Virginia Woof or August Bebel or change legal status.

    I’m studying at politics in the collage and whenever celebrities describe themselves as a “feminist”, we laugh so much. Their feminism is a “show time” feminism. They do not have any idea what they are talking about. No difference from Beyonce to Taylor Swift and Lorde.

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    Final2
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    #403694

    To be honest, there is no “feminist” celebrity. They don’t even know what this term means in academic studies. All of them do not effort to read Hannah Arendt, Virginia Woof or August Bebel or change legal status.

    I’m studying at politics in the collage and whenever celebrities describe themselves as a “feminist”, we laugh so much. Their feminism is a “show time” feminism. They do not have any idea what they are talking about. No difference from Beyonce to Taylor Swift and Lorde.

    How bout Emma Watson?

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    Alisha
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    #403695

    lmao no. none of the celebs who proclaim themselves feminists give a crap about feminism, they probably don’t even know what it is. it’s just something their team tells them to say so they get some good PR and some new fans.

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    bickenback
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    #403696

    To be honest, there is no “feminist” celebrity. They don’t even know what this term means in academic studies. All of them do not effort to read Hannah Arendt, Virginia Woof or August Bebel or change legal status.

    I’m studying at politics in the collage and whenever celebrities describe themselves as a “feminist”, we laugh so much. Their feminism is a “show time” feminism. They do not have any idea what they are talking about. No difference from Beyonce to Taylor Swift and Lorde.

    This is ignorance at its finest, and sadly very typical from college students who think books are the only way to interpret reality. Being a celebrity is not synonymous with being dumb and being a college student is not synonymous with being smart. Get off your high horse.

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    neverkneel
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    #403697

    How bout Emma Watson?

    Emma Watson is a tool used by United Nations. Not the more she is. She joins UN’s projects. But I’m sure she does in good faith.

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    Final2
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    #403698

    [quote=”Final2″]
    How bout Emma Watson?

    Emma Watson is a tool used by United Nations. Not the more she is. She joins UN’s projects. But I’m sure she does in good faith.[/quote]

    Thank you for clarifying on that all knowing professor of feminism.

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