Tag Archives: beyonce

ON: My Back Won’t Bend: Beyoncé and Egocentric Pop Cultural Feminism

It is always, alwaysa nerve-wracking thing to be a male invested in feminism/womanism and female-presented (and at times produced) culture and then criticize a woman. I ask myself, “IS this my place?” “Am I just another voice telling a woman, particularly Black women, she is wrong?” Truthfully at times the answer is, No it is not my place, and though the tune to my song is different the lyrics sound the same (“you are wrong”), but at other times, what must trump is not ones biological sex but what causes and issues to which one is committed.  In that vein let us risk our lives, the Beyhive is real y’all, and turn our attentions to Queen, King Bey’s latest offering: “Bow Down/I Been On”:

Now I am not going to be catty and point out how this sounds more like refried Rihanna song and instead let us focus on the lyrics, particularly one stanza:

I know when you were little girls
You dreamt of being in my world
Don’t forget it , don’t forget it
Respect that, bow down bitches

I took some time to live my life
But don’t think I’m just his little wife
Don’t get it twisted, get it twisted
This my shit, bow down bitche
s

Now some are (rightfully thrown); this is not the Bey we are used to; we are used to Beyonce empowering women, but here she is letting some anonymous girls know that they will never “Run the World,” at best they can serve as ladies in waiting. And, she is firing at those of us who have scratched at her entire Mrs. Carter project; she is not just his little wife. Of course not; she is also a fulltime ruler of all things pop and apparently things that are hip and occasionally hop. Never-mind there is no acknowledgement of responsibility for why people felt that she was molding herself into “his little wife”; it was not ever because she took time off. (I for one was grateful for the break; it was part of why I was/am so hungry for new Bey material.) For some of us this started back when she (and DC) decided to begin to croon songs about how they will cater to their men (found soldiers), then she positioned herself as man’s sexual fantasy (which is of course fine), and then an independent woman in charge and looking for a good time but surrounded by men who constantly disappointed ( Green Light, Kitty Kat, anyone?), then we shifted into the Mrs Carter mode: songs espousing the need for claiming via marriage and rings; no longer were you upgrading your man (a dubious message on its own) because now you both had big egos,  and then on while we were told girls ran the world, much of their power was connected to their bodies. This is not really surprising, Beyonce has always been a rather body conscious artist, but it is to say, her “message” has been rather inconsistent. And it is not that she has to have a message but rather that she has chosen to present herself as having one.  Beyonce holds the label of  “feminist” but is she really one? Does making money, being a female in charge really make one a “feminist”? Can one still be a feminist if they trade on their body and sex appeal to men for success and media coverage? Can one be a feminist when they still play the post-baby-body game? Of course this requires also asking: “How much can one woman do?”


But let us circle back to the “bitches”

Over at The Root Akoto Ofori-Atta gives a defense of Beyonce’s song by rooting it in “hip hop” (it certainly is) and citing how much of hip hop  is about  bravado, and it does beg the question: if it is good enough for the boys then why not for the ladies? Isn’t this just Beyonce being complex? Women do not always have to be nice; that is a sexist expectation forced on women too please and apease. But, there is always danger in adhering to the “what is good for the goose is good for the gander” logic; for me, part of feminism, its goals and power, is not just equality but also CHANGE; changing society and culture for the better.

You see, more than hip hop bravado this song plays into the common media-fueled stereotype that women cannot get along; that one woman’s (or person of color’s) success must come at that expense of another. Perplexingly there is no real way to process this stance; if it is about old beef with Ciara and Kerri Hilson as some have suggested then that is rather dated and therefore petty and unnecessarily viscous. If it is about future songstresses then why should they ever pay respect to a woman who labels them “bitches”? If it is about neither of these then it seems to best then speak to an attitude permeating throughout current popular culture of people with inflated egos and senses of self that labels any and every critic a “hater” and cannot stand criticism  It is a fragile or false sense of self and entitlement buit at the cost of others. Say what I will about “Girls (Who Run the World),” it is factually inaccurate and irresponsible (as if pop music has to be responsible) and reduces women to essential bodily functions, it was at least an attempt, a striving toward, a version of female unity and empowerment.

Once again, let me reiterate, I understand that it is dicey that I, a male, am critiquing a woman, a black woman, on her performance of empowerment, but it is about what  I am invested in, feminism which lifts up rather than tear down. If I really wanted to hear someone say to women “bow down bitches” I guess I would just listen to…I don’t know what because I have no need to hear women be told to bow down as bitches for anyone.

 

For further reading check out :Beyoncé Takes A ‘Bow’ But Needs To Have A Seat”

 

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Queen B(ey): The “B” is not for “black”

While the internet went crazy over Beyonce’s lip-syncing non-scandal  (hello we live in post-Britney Spears, Rihanna, Ke$ha, KAty Perry world), the media and internet machines seem to be dead silent on Bey’s latest move:

oh and this:
and this:

instead of critique what we are getting is a lot of: “YAS! God!” and “Royalty Realness” and sites like Perez Hilton, Just Jared, That Grape Juice, and the hufingtonpost just either mentioning the tour or gushing over the pics.  My reaction was something similar to Son of Baldwin’s co-opting of Squeak’s “who dis here [white] woman?”

Actually here is the real time feed of my my twitter thoughts:

3 FebM. LucasM. Lucas ‏@MLukas82wait Bey’s tour is called the “Mrs. Carter Show”; hangs head, walks away, and just chants to myself “resentment”

M. Lucas ‏@MLukas82I am not one of those people who think it is all cute when a girl plays off her man’s name and her status as married.

3 FebM. LucasM. Lucas ‏@MLukas82like move past the 1950s, if you are going to claim feminism be feminist. women playing into patriarchy is tired and dangerous.

M. Lucas ‏@MLukas82I am feeling so many different things about these Mrs carter show ads

AND here is a comment I posted on instagram 

  1. See the thing is this:

Playing with colorism and embracing whiteness is not new when it comes to Bey:

Remember Loreal? And Bey’s radio silence?

Destiny’s Rehab did a piece on Bey and her numerous color controversies. The thing is that Beyonce herself never really responds to these things partially because she doesn’t have to. Currently, one cannot say anything about Beyonce without being accused of being a hater, without people dismissing you, or without risking you life because the her stans are in a league of their own when it comes to their utter devotion.  And while one can’t say anything critiquing Bey, her stans, the Beyhive (and yes I am speaking in a broad general sense),  refuse to look at her critically. So the result is a woman who is powerful and can affect, perhaps more than almost any other woman of color performer/artist, our perceptions of art, beauty, and performance but still is content to sit back and collect checks, that she doesn’t need, by trading on whiteness, colonialism, and outdated gendered ideas.

This is not about being catty and saying that the Marie Antoinette schtick is tired and old (it is both  Madonna and  Xtina have done it), it is about asking why in 2013 must the references women of color pull from always be the whitest ones? Bey has referenced almost every white girl in the game from Marilyn to Betty Page to now (signs that the title queen is certainly gone to her head) Marie Antoinette (or Elizabeth the First?) but her black visual references for large marketing campaigns have been few and far between. To date the only one I can thing of is a Josephine Baker reference when she performed for the Victoria Secret fashion show
sigh it is just tired and sad. And it is not just Bey, where are other black female artists overtly and visually referencing Whitney, Dorothy, Billie, Janet, Diana, Eartha, Ella? Where? Where is the media critiquing this?

Also, beyond the obvious skin lightening issues and the references to whiteness, what about the overt reference to colonial power? Does Bey not get that the power and wealth that France and Britain and other European powers she wishes to emulate came upon Black backs? That colonialism only recently allegedly ended? I get it, some will say that she is “subverting” the image. That she is claiming space for black women in this idea of beuty and power but I would counter and say, why do we want that type of power? Why do we never seem to learn what Audre Lorde so simply said:

The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.

I guess subversion is just not really working for me anymore. And one more thing: WHY OH WHY must it be “The Mrs. Carter Show”? Beyonce is a grown woman who is extremely successful and who professes to be feminist and embrace aspects of feminism but yet she still plays on the notion that it is so cute that she is married and trades on this status.

It makes you step back and think about Beyonce the woman; this is a woman who has went from being strongly attached to her dad to now being strongly attached to her husband. When I think about it, despite all of Beyonce’s claims of being an independent woman, I cannot think of time when she was not, has not, been defined in relation to a man.

So perhaps, in reality this is more of the same? I mean she did (unofficially) give us her personal anthem a few years ago right?:

I just spoke to a friend on instagram and they were telling me about how they have a problem critiquing Bey because they are such a fan and because she (my friend) is not a Black woman and Black women’s choices are always heavily scrutinized and critiqued. I agree with her. Black women are critiqued, torn apart, and scrutinized in this culture and I do approach these conversations with a certain amount of trepidation. But, then I think to myself, what about the bigger picture, what about the black women I love whose images are not exalted as beautiful  And this woman who is already light makes herself lighter to be what, more appealing? I think to myself about black women I know who had to learn to embrace their hair—pause and let that sink in, they had to learn to embrace their own hair!—and then she dyes her hair blonder and blonder and what happens, people eat it up and few critique it. I think about my future child who may possibly be black and female and I think to myself, I would rather her reference Margaret Garner or Harriet Tubman or what she imagines the queens of Kush to have looked like over the too numerous images of white women and white queens. I think of this and then it becomes clear, something must be said and we must critique.
Black women referencing black women and black excellence now that is power.

 

UPDATE: The strikeout is because, as a reader via their professor confirmed for me, Beyonce is NOT referencing Marie Antoinette but indeed is referencing Queen Elizabeth I. Note, this not only means the colonial critique can still apply but that it may perhaps be more appropriate as hers is the reign that is often (perhaps somewhat incorrectly) looked at as the start of the British (Colonial) Empire. 

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