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Is Beyonce's New Video Feminist?

How the new clip from the world's biggest pop star plays out female empowerment, stilettos and all.

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I now understand that every woman is a whole woman. This means that she is multi-faceted, (perhaps, contradictory), complex, and nuanced. She has many sides and has the right to express any of those sides whenever she sees fit. I experience myself as intellectual, emotional, spiritual, sexual, physical, mental, and growing. And if my understanding of feminism is correct, the ultimate goal is to create a world where women can be whatever they want to be, whenever they want to be it, without limitations imposed by gender and sexism. I think that any idea, institution, or person that tries to deny a woman this full range of expression is an enemy to feminism. Feminists…this means you! Sometimes in a misguided attempt to set up parameters, feminists create a narrower and (ironically) oppressive definition of womanhood

Check out the video below of a young lady – who goes by the name of NineteenPercent – giving her take on the new Beyonce video,   Run The World (Girls). This is EXACTLY the kind of feminism that I experienced at that conference…snarky, confrontational, biting, sarcastic, and ugly….

 

Now don’t get me wrong. I value critique and I don’t believe anybody is exempt from it. I also think that if you can look past the off-putting tone, NineteenPercent shares some really important information and makes some critical connections. I appreciate her and any young woman who decides to address these pressing issues. Unlike NineteenPercent, I believe Beyonce’s lyrics were not oppositional, but complementary to the points outlined in the video. I think any form of empowerment starts with an internal decision to be empowered. Beyonce’s song is just that…a creative, aesthetic, call to empowerment. NineteenPercent thinks Beyonce is a liar because she failed to speak about all of the challenges faced by women. I think Beyonce is an artist doing what artists do…creating her vision of what reality should be.

However, NinteenPercent has every right to disagree. I definitely think that a strong feminist movement must include critique of ourselves and each other. But I also firmly believe in what bell hooks, calls “loving critique.” Particularly, when it’s a critique of another woman. Why is it that the women who proclaim to be pro-woman so loudly are the first ones to tear another woman down in the most brutal and humiliating fashion? Why must we enter the arena of dialogue armed with ridicule and disdain for each other? Or is it less about feminist critique and more about seizing an opportunity to attack another woman in an unconscious act of internalized sexism? Does sexy (and arguably hyper-sexed) Beyonce become more of a target because of the added influence of  jealousy and repressed sexuality? These are questions we should be willing to face with honesty and authenticity.

Now, I can completely understand the crux of Beyonce and why she is so controversial. Her expression is decidedly sexual. People observe her blonde hair and question her racial politics. When confronted with her as a woman, a brand, and an artist, questions arise about how much of her is genuine expression, how much is savvy marketing, and how much is female exploitation by male handlers. I’ve often thought about Beyonce’s relationship to corporate interests and what it means for the young women and men in my community whom I work with on a daily basis. Beyonce, just like feminism itself, is a complicated knot of fascinating and uncomfortable questions.

Let me just state for the record, that I have not always been pleased with everything that Beyonce has produced. And if given the opportunity, I would love to engage her in a conversation about all of the things I love about her body of work AND the things I take issue with. However, the tone of this hypothetical conversation would reflect the amount of respect that I have for Beyonce as both an artist and a black woman. Being able to navigate contentious points and differing perspectives is the sign of a movement that is healthy and truly progressive.

 
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