HANNAH BEER writes about why Beyonce should not be considered as the feminist role model she appears to be.
99% of the world’s population believes that Beyoncé can do no wrong, and as such, hearing anything to the contrary might make them feel uncomfortable. If you consider yourself part of that demographic, then I’m sorry for any upset this article may cause you.
I am part of the (what feels like) the 1% that not only doesn’t really get the hype around Beyoncé, but actually feels pretty angered by it. May I remind you, first of all, that this is the woman who was paid millions in 2009 to sing privately for Gaddafi and only announced two years later, when the rest of the world found out, that she conveniently gave the money to charity. Kinda shady, don’t you think? Queen B (a title that, for me, will always belong to Blair Waldorf in Gossip Girl) is presented as the ultimate independent woman, her songs are the megaphone through which the feminist manifesto is blasted, preaching gender equality and female empowerment to every corner of the world, a reputation I cannot understand.
Now, whilst I can’t dispute the quality and the message of Beyoncé/Destiny’s Child classics like ‘Single Ladies’ and ‘Independent Woman’, I can remind you all of Destiny’s Child’s ‘Cater 2 U’ which includes lines like “When you come home late tap me on my shoulder, I’ll roll over/ I’m here to serve you”. These lyrics don’t exactly chime with the message of ‘Independent Woman’, do they? Furthermore, ‘Drunk in Love’, the lead single from the “feminist anthem” that is Beyoncé’s self-titled 5th studio album, is a duet with her husband that glorifies the horrific domestic violence, such as that seen in Ike and Tina Turner’s marriage. When they performed the song at the Grammy’s, Beyoncé mouthed the line “eat the cake, Anna Mae” along with Jay-Z (the line is a reference to a scene in the Tina Turner biopic, in which Ike force feeds his wife cake and then hits her). However, instead of picking up on this, most of the world at the time talked about how great Beyoncé looked on that chair, with only The Guardian questioning her. The aftermath was reminiscent of when the world applauded her for her single ‘Run the World’ and overlooked the fact that it’s on the same album as the song ‘Dance for You’, whose lyrics describe giving a man a lap dance to say thank you for being nice to her, whilst calling him ‘Daddy’.
Beyoncé is the music industry’s ultimate puppet, a true propaganda machine making everyone believe what it wants us to believe. Sure, she sings songs about girls running the world, and when you look at the pop world you’d think that’s true: Rihanna, Katy Perry, Beyoncé herself, all female, all dominating the music industry; but it’s a façade. A quick glance at their Wikipedia pages show that they’re all managed by men, sing songs written by men and writhe around in skimpy outfits in videos directed by The Man, Terry Richardson, notorious for publishing photographs of the models he directs giving him head.
What about that ‘feminist essay’ Beyoncé wrote? It was bland and superficial, a very short two and a bit paragraphs of facts and figures dressed up like an argument, written as part of the Beyoncé Inc. feminism-as-a-marketing-device. In it, she reminded us that women ‘make up half the U.S. workforce’ and that ‘we must demand that we receive 100% of the opportunities’. The exceptions, of, of course, are the opportunities she creates; out of the 39 people involved in the production of ‘Beyoncé’ (the album), only 4 of them (except for herself) were women. That’s 10.2% of the company she owns. The emerging pattern is that Beyoncé uses feminism to sell records when it suits her, and the world puts her on a throne and bows down to her (as she instructs us to do) as a result. It’s clever, I can’t deny that, but if she’s going to do it, she should at least do it with some consistency and conviction.
Even if you look past the questionable song content and hyper-sexualised dance moves, you can’t ignore the ‘Mrs Carter World Tour’. How can a woman who claims to be a spokesperson for female empowerment and success independent from men perform under a title that basically attributes her success to the fact that she is ‘Mrs Carter’; i.e. the wife of someone important? It was a move that is totally contrary to the autonomous woman she made the world believe she was, a move that, for me, pulled the curtain up on her whole façade. Yet because the world is so utterly convinced by Beyoncé’s brand of sound bite feminism, it was pretty much swept under the carpet and B’s reign continued.
For as much as she talks about independence, at the end of the day she is still constantly trying to be what is undoubtedly a man’s idea of sexy, because she knows that is what will secure her place at the top; case in point being that she wouldn’t let any unofficial photos of her tour be released, in case they showed her in an unflattering light. When you consider this in contrast to Lady Gaga, who is just as successful as Beyoncé but seen by men the world over as ‘ugly’ and ‘not sexy in the slightest’, it’s clear that Beyoncé is playing everyone, and winning. At the end of the day, Beyoncé wants to be queen. And to be queen, it’s not enough to be nice: as our good friend Regina George taught us in the ever-relevant Mean Girls, the queen is always pretty. Everything Bey does, from her music videos to her philanthropy is geared towards self-promotion. Which is fine, truly. But everyone, especially Beyoncé herself, needs to stop pretending otherwise – she’s a great singer, and she’s enormously talented, but she’s also a Beautiful Liar, and it’s time someone challenged it.