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“Hey Mrs. Carter”: Navigating Beyonce’s Feminism

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December 20, 2013

The queen Beyonce unexpectedly dropped a new album and it has been a holiday gift for all. Her 17 music videos and 14 tracks on her self-titled album has had feminists chiming in on her new songs with messages of empowerment, positive sexuality, and changing what it means to be a feminist of color. We must first understand that Beyonce’s feminism, like most,  is not perfect and has a lot of growth, as do all the work done in the reproductive justice movement. Constantly criticizing each other can be detrimental, but we must give credit where it’s due and reinforce constructive criticism.

As a Houston native, I had to pay homage to a world star. It’s empowering having a person of color grow up in some of the same areas I did and become an icon. Beyonce’s journey in the feminist movement has had a long history.  Being a popular media figure, she is constantly surrounded by rumors and more importantly has had her body policed far too often. From rumors about an abortion in her life to her baby bump speculations, her life has faced tough scrutiny and criticism for her choice as a woman and a mother. Media has claimed she was using her pregnancy to gain album sales and to promote her music, which is incredibly disrespectful. Her choices should be private, personal, and respected regardless of how, if, and when she chooses to be a mother.

Married, happily in love, and a mother of a newborn, Beyonce shatters misconceptions about feminism. There is no rulebook saying you can’t be a feminist who celebrates love with their partner, embraces positive sexuality, and takes pride in raising a child. A lot of that is seen in her new album where a song is actually dedicated to her daughter. She has faced criticism about wearing clothes which are too suggestive and Jay-Z is always just in the background of the videos while she dances for him. I think critics are looking too hard into it. As a woman of color, she reclaims a space for standards of sexuality and beauty. Beyonce can choose to embrace her sexuality any way she chooses wearing whatever the hell she wants.

She can celebrate her love with her husband and that should not be a reason why she isn’t a feminist. In her song ***Flawless, she samples Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche’s TED Talk entitled “We Should All Be Feminists.” The excerpt from the song reads,

We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller.

We say to girls: “You should have ambition, but not too much.

You should aim to be successful, but not too successful.

Otherwise, you will threaten the man.”

Because I am female, I am expected to aspire to marriage.

I am expected to make life choices

Always keeping in mind that marriage is most important.

Now, marriage can be a source of joy and love and mutual support,

But why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage?

And we don’t teach boys the same?

We raise girls to see each other as competitors

Not for jobs or for accomplishments, which I think can be a good thing.

But for the attention of men,

We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings in the way that boys are.

Feminist: a person who believes in the social, political,

and economic equality of the sexes.

Beyonce seems to do exactly just that. She promotes the idea of marriage as a source of joy and mutual support.  She shatters the idea of girls not being able to be sexual and uses her lyrics and video to change that. Beyonce supports a healthy and positive message about how she expresses her sexuality. This is especially important for women of color because of white standards of beauty and sexuality. The song continues to promote self-confidence for girls and says, “don’t think I’m just his little wife. Don’t get it twisted.” This shows she’s much more than a decoration or supplement to Jay-Z. She is her own person with her own goals, successes, and accomplishments she’s proud of.

We don’t all have a cookie-cut formula for what it means to be a feminist. It is important to validate and support one another when we try out different ways of navigating our own personal feminism. We should not constantly criticize one another holding each other to unwritten rules all the time. Her self-entitled visual album and empowering lyrics could just be the perfect holiday gift for the feminist warriors in our lives.

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One Response to ““Hey Mrs. Carter”: Navigating Beyonce’s Feminism”

  1. diana

    Nick, I’m so glad you wrote this. You’re right, Beyonce isn’t perfect, no one is. No one is perfectly feminist. We all make choices sometimes that are “not feminist” but that doesn’t make us bad people. I so very hate the criticisms of Beyonce that goes on social media. Half the white feminists who criticize her for being married and valuing her marriage are themselves married. They go on and write books about how being married and having kids was the most radical, feminist thing ever but when black women (Beyonce, Michelle Obama) do the same thing, somehow they are “a feminist nightmare”. No one bothers to teach themselves about black women’s feminism/womanism. How for us, it’s not just sexsim but we also battle racist oppression. If Beyonce were white, the mainstream feminist movement would be crowning her the next Gloria Steinem. It’s not that Beyonce shouldn’t be criticised, I just can’t stand the bigotry that often comes with the criticism. What we really should be doing is criticising the entertainment industry that forces women in the industry to make choices that men in the industry never have to. Wow, that was a lot. lol,