You may remember earlier this year when there was a bit of an uproar against Beyonce’s song “Bow Down/I Been On.” Critics claimed that the song was soundly anti-feminist; the Washington Post even went as far as saying that the singer “sabotage[d] her female empowerment efforts.” Rahiel Tesfamariam wrote, “The release of ‘Bow Down’ suggests that the pop icon only adorns the feminist label when it suits her - dangerously straddling the line between female empowerment and subjugation.”
But on her latest album that took the world by surprise, the singer seems to answer some of those critics, an effort that’s very much appreciated by the good folks over at Crunk Feminist Collective, which lists five reasons to rock with R&B’s biggest superstar.
1.) She’s a work in progress, as are we all. In 2010, she gave an interview saying she was a“feminist in a way,” because she valued her female friendships deeply. Earlier this year, she claimed she was a “modern-day feminist.” Now she is straight up embracing the term in her music and claiming her right to tell women to both bowdown and encouraging them to be self-confident from the moment they step out of bed… in the same damn song! I rock with that because her feminism is complicated, and ours is too. Tell the truth. If your bed and the folks you shared it with were an indicator of your politics, your card might get pulled, too. Moving on.
2.) Sometimes bitches do need to bowdown. Call that a hip hop generation feminist sensibility, but it’s true. It’s just like when Papa Pope gave Fitz the read of the century last night in Scandal - “Boy, I’m literally above your paygrade.” It’s like the swag I don when academic goons try to step to me even though they are clearly less qualified. Sometimes I’ve been known to tell folk “You haven’t read enough to step to me. Go back and come again.” The world would be better if women would learn that we don’t have to take everybody’s shit. Not the white man’s, not the Black man’s, not the state’s, not the hating ass next-door neighbor, not your frenemy’s. Nobody’s.
3.) Academic feminism ain’t the only kid on the block. Confession: the first time I identified as a feminist, I was in grad school. I was able to come to an informed conclusion after reading Beverly Guy-Sheftall’s Words of Fire and Patricia Hill Collins Black Feminist Thought. But we need to stop acting like a radical feminist is the only kind of feminist to be. I mean look, I’m radical and committed to a robust structural critique. But I appreciate the good few liberal feminists in Congress who show up and actually fight for reproductive rights that can be on the books! As Meek Mill says, there’s levels to the shit. But newsflash - everybody didn’t go to college. So when women of color start waxing eloquent about how our grandmothers and mothers were the first feminists we knew and many of them would “never” use the term, I wonder then why we don’t understand Beyonce’s homegrown brand of feminism - one that honors female friendships, one that recognizes and calls out sexism and domination in her industry, one that celebrates the power of women. No, it ain’t well-articulated radical social justice feminism, but if you need a Ph.D. to be a feminist, then we’ve got bigger problems, folks. AND I’ll take a feminist that knows how to treat her homegirls before one who can spit the finer points of a bell hooks to me all day erry-day.
It’s a thought-provoking post. Read the rest over at Crunk Feminist Collective.