The legions of think pieces twenty-four hours after Beyoncé’s Video Vanguard Award performance at the 2014 MTV VMA awards were astronomical. Sure most of the commentary focused on “black love” thanks to the Carter’s embrace or on how the best living entertainer not one has one of the dopest discographies, but that she dared to perform her entire album in a 15-minute set and in heels. What stood out the most that night however, was a Black woman standing confidently in front of 12-foot letters that read, feminist.
Yes, that happened. Yes, that moment mattered most.
She did it and did it boldly after Bell Hooks called her anti-feminist and added the word terrorist to the list of names the world calls Bey. She did after she included a TED talk clip of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s discussion on feminism, in a two-part track that previously suggested, bitches bow down. Beyonce fearlessly did it after previous think pieces on feminism and deciding to name her tour, The Mrs. Carter Show. She stood there for a matter of seconds, engraving a memory that most of us, apart of the Hive or not, will remember forever.
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Some of those think pieces ripped Yoncé apart, while others supported her notion that she truly is, a “modern day feminist,” and while the conversation on what makes and who is a feminist continues on social media, it definitely introduces the concept and narrative of feminism to young girls and introduces others to the world of “Black feminism.”
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Rutgers University professor, Kevin Allred, teaches a course titled, “Politicizing Beyoncé: Black Feminism, US & Queen Bey” through the women studies department. The professor states, “…students are getting an education in the history of black feminist theory in US, just using Beyoncé as the focal point” and some wonder, why her? Why not the women who are the faces of feminism for women of color, like Bell Hooks and Angela Davis? It’s obvious that in drawing in pop-culture figures and how they do indeed, fit the criteria of the restructured definition of feminism, that more people will be prone to continue the conversation on the f-word. And even if pop-culture icons do not fit the mold of the conventional definition, the conversation still goes on.
That’s the point; to keep talking about it, to bring about awareness, present the uncomfortable statistics and find a solution, instead of carrying on the problem that women don’t fight for theirs because they’re too busy fighting one another. Does it really matter if Beyoncé calls herself a feminist? Have people put her too high up on a pedestal that the moment she labels herself something, we have to make her the poster child for it? Does her being on a magazine cover not fully clothed, on a stage gyrating while singing about sexual activities with her spouse and subsequently, showing affection to her two-year old eliminate her from declaring herself a feminist? Who are we?
Who is Annie Lennox and what gave her the authority to dismiss someone’s right to call themselves whatever they want? While I will agree with Lennox’s point of artists, “taking the word hostage and using it to promote themselves” (and for me, not just the word feminism, but any word for that matter as a marketing ploy), I don’t find favor in her remarks that Bey’s approach is radical, convenient for many and looks great but doesn’t “represent wholeheartedly the depths of feminism.”
Radical, “defined as a person who advocates fundamental political, economic and social reforms by direct and often uncompromising methods” or “characterized by departure from tradition; innovative or progressive.” Annie, are you okay? What’s wrong with any of this? A key component in the fight for women was breaking the mold, knocking down the stereotypes and the “standards,” and Annalise Keating’ing the rules that women have to look and act a particular way. Again, how come Beyonce and feminist can’t be understood in the same sentence?
Earlier this year, I read a caption from squintyoureyes on Tumblr that read, “if your feminism doesn’t have room for roll-bounce cunnilingus carols in Wonder Woman tshirts, I’m not interested in your feminism” and thought, that’s my kind of feminism. What woman would’ve been able to do that fifty years ago and do so, confidently? My how times have changed.