I don’t like to get into debates about Beyoncé Knowles’s feminism since it is altogether possible to be raunchy as all hell and writhe around with your cheeks hanging out of your shorts and still identify with the idea of women’s equality. That, on a rudimentary level, is what feminism is supposed to be about—women’s equality. But just as simple as that definition is, it’s equally simple to see what feminism is not. And what Mrs. Knowles-Carter did last night during her Grammy performance of “Drunk in Love” was decidedly anti-feminist.
Stans know that her husband, Jay Z, jokingly makes a reference to a horrific moment in the 1993 Tina Turner biopic, “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” during his “Drunk in Love” cameo. ”I’m Ike Turner Turner/You know I don’t play/Now eat the cake, Anna-Mae/Eat the cake Anna-Mae” he says in with his usual swagger. If you’re not familiar with the film, it’s the part when Ike Turner—angry about the adoration Tina’s getting—smashes cake into her face and slaps a backup singer who tries to defend her. After the violence a roadie wearily says, “Eat the cake, Anna-Mae.”
At least one radio station—in the U.K.—blurs out this part of the song because it’s a jokey joke reference to physical abuse. So last night when Jay got to the “Eat the cake” line, I thought maybe Queen Bey would stay silent on it. Instead she puts bass in her voice and chants along with her husband, “Eat the cake Anna-Mae!”
That Tina Turner is supposed to be one of Beyoncé’s idols makes this even worse.
Moments like this matter.
Even when they’re not supposed to be a big deal, or they’re “funny,” or they mimic the video, or they come out of the faces of people we like, moments like this matter.
I’m disappointed in Beyoncé. I wish in this moment she could have been more Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and less “Cater 2 U.” But maybe that’s just damn much too much to ask.