– Cassie Yusofi
MANILA – A few months after having heard the infamous Tedx talk of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie online and feeling utterly inspired and empowered by her words, I was pleasantly surprised to hear her words chanting over Beyonce’s ‘Flawless’ performance at her Mrs. Carter tour in 2014. I’m not sure about you but for a second that felt like a significant moment forward for the feminist movement, because as E. Dockterman put it in her Time column (2013), she was one of the few superstars to claim the ‘scary’ title of feminist.
This controversial figure of inspiration to so many women had come out as a feminist: hurrah! Docktermann claims that next to being one of the world’s biggest superstars, Beyoncé also manages to ‘cultivate her marriage, her role as a mother and her sexuality’ thereby ushering in a whole new wave of feminism. But what does that mean? Does Beyonce’s feminism mean we have to have it all? What is Beyonce’s feminism exactly? And more specifically: how much does Beyonce’s feminism matter?
To say that Beyoncé is a just a pop-star would undermine the relevant magnitude of her influence in pop-culture and since recently her rising voice in politics. W. Morris says in his article in the New York Times (2016) that ‘Beyoncé doesn’t speak, she signifies’. She has a power to her that is typical to performers, one of political provocation. Since a few years now, Beyoncé has decided to grant her powers to feminism because even before her bold statement, she wrote next to mostly about men and heartbreak also about empowering yourself as an independent woman. But, she carries her sexy image and looks matching to what is expected from women by media and pre-set standards of beauty by mainstream society.
You could say that sexiness is part of being an empowering woman, as B. Pencz points out in her article in the Vancouver Observer (2012), and this could hold true in some cases. However which idea of sexiness is the right one? It’s an ever organically changing trend. And when pillars of the entertainment industry abide by an idea of sexiness that is imposed upon them by mainstream society and culture that is established within the patriarchal framework, then what Beyoncé describes as empowering is merely a confirmation of what the patriarchy has told her to be from birth.
The Real Colored Girls blog calls Beyonce’s feminism ‘Bottom Bitch Feminism’, doubting whether she is earnest in her statement and unsure if she truly understands what feminism is about. They are concerned that she is portraying it as a ‘simplistic, pro-capitalist, structurally violent sampling of feminism’ and admit that while what she brings forward may seem as empowerment to some it’s ‘a false hope steeped in capitalism and individualism supporting the escapist desires of rampant pornographic consumerism’.
I can’t help but to wonder what the igniter of all of this thinks about Beyonce’s ‘hijacked’ feminism according to some. She was after all an inspiration for Beyoncé to come out so publicly. A. Kiene spoke to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in an article in the Volkskrant (2016) about what she thinks about the whole ordeal. Adichie seems to have a similar view as the women above, claiming that Beyonce’s type of feminism isn’t her own because it still gives too much importance to the necessity of men. ‘We women are conditioned to relate everything to men’. Nevertheless Adichie thinks that Beyonce’s portrayal of a woman who is in charge of her own destiny is a great one.
I agree with her, despite questioning whether feminism is sponsored by corporate music industrial complex like the Real Colored Girls blog, I think we can give Beyoncé some slack. Feminism needs all the help it can get, even now more than ever before with the US being on the verge of electing it’s first ever female president, we women have to stick together. Beyonce’s reach in the houses, hearts and brains of little girls everywhere cannot be understated or undermined. She has managed to get everyone to speak about female equality and even more so in her latest interview in Elle Magazine. It’s like L. Schwartzberg said in Dame Magazine (2013), ‘Beyoncé is having an awakening, let’s not discourage her or any woman who is discovering feminism’.