This was a legitimate question posed to me by a good friend at a winery. I had mentioned in passing that I adored Beyoncé and my friend could not understand why. His reasoning was based solely upon Beyoncé’s appearance. Because she dressed and danced provocatively, I could not support her as a good, respectable feminist. Obviously there is a number of things wrong here.
Beyoncé has done amazing things for feminism and racial equity. She leads the entertainment industry in her work on making the struggles of women (esp. Black women) public. Her latest album, “Lemonade” is a veritable (Black) women’s anthem. She’s 100% clear that she doesn’t need a man for anything. She renounces jealousy over terrible men, housewifery, and any other shit the patriarchy tells her that she should value.
We could talk about her performances, in which she actively defines feminism. On screen. In giant letters. Think about how wild this is; a popular female, a Black woman, in entertainment (which is arguably ruled by white men), is asserting herself and her power in the most public and obvious way. I can’t even get started on her Halftime show or I would never stop talking. She is a mother, a sex symbol, an incredibly talented individual, and an independent one at that.
In any case, Beyoncé has more than proved her dedication to women’s rights and racial equity. So, how could someone possibly NOT link feminism to enjoying Beyoncé’s music and entertainment? Well, apparently it has to do with her sexy clothing and her sexy dancing- as if this behavior somehow denounces the years of work towards making the struggles of women and minorities visible. As if her cleavage removes agency from her and makes her passive- something to be looked at and not critically engaged with. As if her voice is drowned out by the sound her heels make when she grinds and sways. I want to scream and shout “We can be both! We can be all of it!” We can be sexy and sexual and respected and powerful and talented. One does not negate the other. Men get to be all these things at once; Ryan Gosling is an accomplished actor, sexy, and a father. We never think, “How dare he be sexy AND be successful at the same time? His sex appeal totally detracts from his ability to be a good man.” And we can relate this to politics too. Women in politics are asked about their clothing, and how they can manage motherhood and politics- rather than their policies and goals for the future. We do not get the luxury of having more than one facet. (This reminds me of the time my boss told me no one would think I was a college educated girl by looking at me because of my tattoos)
I want to be sexy and fuck who I want when I want and I want to have a successful career and be taken seriously in the workplace and be respected. This is not too much to ask. We are multi-dimensional and should be allowed to be. If you’re a badass feminist but still want to discuss the topic through lyrics while gyrating in fishnets, go for it. I’ll applaud your message AND your sexiness.