Beyonce, Feminism, and Annie Lenox

Annie Lenox accuses Beyonce of taking the word “feminist” hostage.

Image from Beyonce’s Instagram

Here are her full statements on it, which you have to click through two links to get to:

As a longtime feminist, how do you feel about the way the term “feminist” has been reframed in contemporary culture?
It’s a process. It continues to be reframed, and necessarily so, because people’s relationship to the word has been a bit ambivalent over the last few decades. According to who you speak to, they don’t sometimes quite know what to do with the word. I did one event in particular called (Barclays) Women of the Year and they select certain people for certain kinds of recognition, and I was given an award not so long ago. I was so touched to have this award. I felt like I’m with a certain kind of camaraderie here and we’re all together in this room – 400 women from all walks of life – and I said at the podium, “I’m proud to be a feminist; let’s everybody stand up.” Half of the room stayed seated. It was such a hard moment for me because I realized that some women, many women, still have issues with the word and almost distance themselves from it because they’re afraid it’s synonymous with hating men.

Which is something you don’t believe to be true, right?
Not at all. I think that what happened over the years, and quite rightly so, is that women had to be incredibly radical, stringent and strident about the voice of feminism. They had to do that, but I think that nowadays it’s a more subtle thing. But we need men to be onboard with us. That’s my view. Some women might disagree with me. I’m not saying I hold the key to the absolute truth – I’m not saying that at all – but I also feel very much that the LGBTQ movement and the women’s movement need to get together far more frequently because we’re coming from the same place of human rights and civil rights.

So what do you make of someone like Beyonce? She recently performed on the MTV Video Music Awards and proclaimed herself a “feminist” during her set.
I would call that “feminist lite.” L-I-T-E. I’m sorry. It’s tokenistic to me. I mean, I think she’s a phenomenal artist – I just love her performances – but I’d like to sit down (with her). I think I’d like to sit down with quite a few artists and talk to them. I’d like to listen to them; I’d like to hear what they truly think. I see a lot of it as them taking the word hostage and using it to promote themselves, but I don’t think they necessarily represent wholeheartedly the depths of feminism – no, I don’t. I think for many it’s very convenient and it looks great and it looks radical, but I have some issues with it. I have issues with it. Of course I do. I think it’s a cheap shot. I think what they do with it is cheap and … yeah. What can I tell you? Sex always sell. And there’s nothing wrong with sex selling, but it depends on your audience. If they’re 7-year-old kids, I have issues with it.

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I got to admit, Beyonce songs are my jam. They’re catchy, good songs, and damn empowering as a woman.

Though I don’t necessarily disagree with what Annie Lennox is saying, I would like to explain why I think it’s good that Beyonce has vocally and publicly associated herself with feminism.

  1. Beyonce is a superstar with a lot of influence over a lot of people, women and girls especially. If she continues to be vocal about being a feminist it can do a lot to overcome the stigma associated with the word. Beyonce is a talented woman who seems to have a healthy relationship with her own body and sexuality, and clearly does not hate men – this could be a way to help decrease the stigma associated with labeling oneself as a feminist.
  2. This is linked to point 1. If more women and young girls are no longer scared of feminism because Beyonce is willing to label herself as one, then some of them may delve deeper into the world of feminism and move beyond the lite feminism (as Lennox states it) that Beyonce may be promoting.
  3. Beyonce is black and represents an important issue in intersectional feminism. Though it is definitely changing, there are still aspects of feminism that overlook race and oppression as it relates to feminism. I think having a black female role model as a feminist is important.

Feminism Lite or not, it’s still a very good thing that Queen B is a strong advocate for it.

Now let me get back to perfecting my winged eyeliner while listening to this.

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