Beyoncé Her Way
By: Kalyn Williams
Known to the world as Queen Bey, top-tier songstress Beyoncé Knowles-Carter boldly triumphed the loopholes and obstacles of the rigid American music industry to become a globally adorned musician and performer. In experiencing trailblazing successes, marrying one of the top rappers in the hip hop and rap world, Jay-Z, and managing to keep most of her personal life private, this artist undeniably stands as a symbol of the American dream and a woman who “has it all.” However, while watching Beyoncé grow and change to maintain her position on the throne, the nation has struggled to accept this American sweetheart as the sensual being she has become.
At this year’s Grammy’s Music Award Show, Beyoncé and rapper husband Jay-Z performed their hit song Drunk In Love live, causing social media to explode with harsh comments about the music mogul crossing the line. Life coach and journalist Demetria Lucas reported that a writer for the British newspaper UK Metro deemed the performer “Whore Beyoncé” for her alluring and sensual performance. Several media outlets such as The Boom Box and The Hollywood Report boasted the Tweets and Facebook posts of outraged parents who argued that Beyoncé should be more mindful of her youthful audience.
While most of Beyoncé’s avid supporters do not question the motives behind her increasing sexuality, attesting it to the fact that she wants to remain feeling beautiful and desirable after giving birth to her first child, many others are at odds with her methods. Comments alluding to her new album as too sexual and inappropriate ultimately led to audiences denouncing Beyoncé as a “true” feminist figure. These opposing views raise questions about feminism, about Beyoncé as the women’s empowerment-driven artist she claims to be, and the severity and relevance of her sexually-inclined music.
“I believe in the right of people to self-define and live their feminism as they see fit,” says director of UGA’s Women’s Studies Department, Professor Juanita Johnson-Bailey. “And if she believes that she is embracing her feminism with this album, then who am I to judge?”
Professor Johnson-Bailey says that she feels this album is simply a “continuation of her sexually provocative music and videos” and disagrees with society’s narrow-view of feminism as it pertains to Beyoncé.
Defining feminism and understanding Beyoncé’s stance on her role in the feminist movement are two necessary steps in putting out the flames between these opposing views. In this recent self-titled album, Beyoncé, the artist directly explores feminist topics in her music. For instance, in the controversial hit “Flawless,” Beyoncé includes an excerpt of the Ted Talk by author and speaker Chimamanda Adiche on Feminism to help express her thoughts on self-confidence in womanhood. Furthermore, her more sexually-related songs serve as barrier-breaking music promoting women to own sexuality. In “Partition,” Beyoncé includes another excerpt, in French, which translates to, “Men think feminists hate sex, but it is a stimulating and natural activity that women love.” While the majority of the album is used as a platform on which to advocate for these aspect of women’s power, they are often overlooked because of the shock associated with the provocative images Beyoncé’s sexuality portrays.
Rhodes believes the crowds are having a hard time adjusting to a mature, sexy Beyoncé. “…Beyoncé, who has always been so put together, has finally shown people a side not previously revealed by her,” says Terrance Rhodes, a fourth-year sociology major at the University of Georgia. Both Professor Johnson-Bailey and Rhodes agree that Beyoncé’s increase in sexuality may be mostly due to Beyoncé’s response to motherhood and her want to remain “desirable,” which should justify this change and eliminate the shock factor from this loss of innocence.
Also, failing to forget her husband’s role in her life and career, many critics say that Jay-Z is exploiting Beyoncé for financial gain and that her dependence upon her husband lowers her validity as a feminist. Passionate Beyoncé lover Taylor Stubblefield, a second-year political science and Spanish double-major at UGA, disagrees with this notion because of what she feels is an obvious link between Beyoncé’s new music and where she is in her life.
“I think people confuse feminism with the idea of thinking that women are superior and don’t need a man to survive,” says Stubblefield. “I don’t think Beyoncé supports that radical scope of the feminism spectrum.”
Stubblefield noted that Beyoncé is coming into a time in her life where she is in love, family comes first and she wants to be liberated from control in the earlier years in her career, meaning that she is not simply choosing to be sexually degrading or trying to stay afloat and relevant.
“I feel like I received a little bit of insight of who Beyoncé actually is in her latest album,” says Stubblefield. “[In my opinion], Beyoncé’s newest album, titled Beyoncé is arguably one of her best pieces of art.”
This argument also brings in realities of race. Blogger at The Grio Donovan Ramsey argues that the backlash in response to Beyoncé’s newest album has to do mainly with the fact that she is a black woman.
“If this was a white woman doing this, I think that the feminist attacks against Beyoncé would be different if nonexistent,” agrees Rhodes. Ramsey argues that views towards what feminism actually is differs among groups of people. He argues that many women identify feminism as harnessing the power you have as an individual and as a woman.
“She seeks to empower women through her music,” says Rhodes. “It speaks about taking control of your sexuality… which Beyoncé does.”
All in all, Professor Johnson-Bailey summarizes it best with her simplistic definition of feminism: “Feminism is the belief in equality of girls/ boys and women/men and the commitment to work towards that equality in our society.”
She ultimately argues that the way someone chooses to display their stance on feminism is simply that: their way. With this in mind, it is safe to say that if Beyoncé claims to be a feminist, with or without a husband, a child or her incomparably successful career, then she is.
It is undeniable that she cares about the equality and empowerment of women, documented in several of her biographic and self-reflective productions and her music itself. The fact that she uses her marriage, wealth, power, family, faith and sexuality as her way to express this is simply that: her way.
Reposted from infUSion Magazine