Beyoncé, Feminism & Intersectionality: “Fuck Your ‘Fourth Wave'”
Criticism of Beyoncé‘s “feminism” or “anti-feminism” has reached a boiling point this year following her Super Bowl performance and attire, a polarizing new single “Bow Down,” and recent photos of the 31-year-old pop star’s provocative tour costumes.
The nipple-bearing outfits prompted an open letter to First Lady Michelle Obama from writer Rakhi Kumar on Huffington Post a couple weeks ago titled, “Beyoncé No Longer A ‘Role Model:”
“Variations of Beyoncé’s body suit can be found in brothels, strip clubs and red light districts across the world – where sex is for sale and it happens to be dispensed through a woman’s body. That she is a human being with feelings and dreams, perhaps a sister, a mother, a leader, a teacher, a student – ALWAYS – a daughter – all of this can be forgotten.
In those surroundings a suit like Beyoncé’s would look far from glamorous. Maybe just downright heartbreaking as a woman somewhere becomes an object, available for the gratification of a desire – at a price dictated by her ‘managers’.”
The letter has provided a perfect opportunity for embittered Black feminists, who have always been, and continue to be left out of mainstream feminist conversation and outrage — unless it’s for the sake of condemnation.
28-year-old Guyanese-American writer, who goes by BlackAmazon has clearly had enough:
“It all intersects. It intersects that you can’t find a pro-Beyoncé article… It intersects that folks come out of their racist anti-black mouths to say Beyoncé’s image encourages sex trafficking but have NOTHING to say on where the sexual assault rates are highest in America: Native women. Black women.”
Yet these facts never seem to come up among many mainstream (white) feminists who would like to think they speak for all women.
Feminism’s New Groove
As we enter “Fourth Wave” feminism or “sexy feminism,” are we to pretend that non-White women are at all intended to be apart of the movement when any amount of sexuality from black women instantly carries the burden of setting all women back 100 years?
This new wave celebrates women who “run things,” women in power — Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo!, Ursula Burns, CEO of Xerox, and Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s high-paid COO, who has beckoned women to “Lean In“ — and women assert themselves in their careers.
The approach follows “Third Wave” feminism, started in the 90s, where feminism supposedly became “diversified” and realized there are women in other cultures too, unlike the First and Second Waves.
The fourth wave is intended to “help women find their feminism” and “enjoy fashion, have sex, and go on a diet without having their feminist membership card cut in two.”
Assert yourself, be confident in your abilities, embrace your own feminism and sexuality… unless you’re Beyoncé.
Does Everybody Hate Beyoncé?
BlackAmazon’s sentiments sent me on search for any kind of supportive article of Beyoncé and her “brand of feminism.” Though the negative is overwhelming, I found quite a few in reply to the harsh critiques.
On the defense, there’s feminist organizer Lily Bolourian, who questions why “the feminist movement takes such offense to Beyoncé’s body?”
“No, that is not my feminism. My feminism is about equality. My feminism is about choices and equal acceptance of those choices. Feminism does not play favorites and treat one person or group different than another. That is not feminism. Beyoncé Knowles-Carter is a great feminist and her choices are her own. Feminists respect that.”
Charing Ball, author of the blog People, Places & Things, who writes in MadameNoire:
“I think as feminists we sometimes need to spend more time listening and valuing the experiences of all women, not drown-out the voices of women, who may not walk step-tow in line with every single ideology of the so-called modern day feminist movement.
This includes Beyoncé, who even through her glitters, glam and occasional shallowness, still represents the very core foundation of feminism and this equality.”
Emma Gannon at Telegraph:
“If we accept that Lena Dunham likes to take her clothes off and celebrate her body, (with the majority of the media giving her a firm thumbs up), then how come Beyoncé is branded ‘not a feminist’ for doing the same? A woman’s own standard of how she wishes to look or conduct a relationship with a man or woman is a personal thing and should not pervert any definition of feminism.”
And in direct response to the open letter to Mrs. Obama, Caperton Gillett states “Rakhi Kumar’s open letter to Michelle Obama ‘slut-shaming’ Beyoncé over her image and lyrics is ridiculous and wrong.”
“I think holding Beyoncé personally responsible for human trafficking is a bit of a reach. I think conflating her sexy costumes with actual sexual availability is slut-shaming and wrong and contributes to rape culture. I think that requiring women to cast aside any sexuality to be taken seriously and considered successful is also slut-shaming and wrong.
I think that conflating sex trafficking, voluntary sex work, and sparkly-costumed music concerts is closed-minded, elitist, misleading, and flat-out confusing. I think that reducing Beyoncé’s success to “looking hot, being desired by alpha males, wielding power over others with her body and sexuality” says more about you than it does about Beyoncé or about the young women who admire her.”
While most of the authors above are not black, the bad taste remains, considering–as BlackAmazon states–“white women still have to ‘invite’ us to the table.” She continues:
“It intersects that Chicago , Detroit, South BX don’t fall from too many lips and no one lists poverty and violence as our strongest feminist concerns.
It intersects so much that yes, folks would rather listen to Beyoncé talking about magic and belief than “leaning in.” But you only have advice for the singer who NEVER SAID SHE WAS FEMINIST.
It intersects. It intersects that no one speaks of the STRENGTH of accomplishment of Black women straight haranguing, magicking, and ministering concessions with LESS THAN NOTHING, and those things being ignored for infographics.
It intersects and fuck you and your fourth wave.”