5 Reasons I’m Here for Beyonce’, the Feminist

Last night while we were all still trying to get our lives after the Scandal Season Finale Part I, Beyonce’ stealth dropped a new self-titled totally unpromoted album.



The fact that she managed to pull that ish off undetected means we can conclude only one thing: #BitchBad!




Yes, I said, “Bitch bad.” Didn’t even do the watered down version “Bish.”Sometimes to make a statement you have to use all your vowels and consonants!



Since I usually be feeling kinda spent after the weekly rendezvous with Scandal, I fell asleep. But woke up to news reports and a newsfeed filled with Bey’s latest feat. That means I have not yet listened to this entire album, and this is not an album review.



But the thing that immediately drew my attention was the fact that Chimamanda Adichie, the new Nigerian superstar writer on the block was featured on one of the tracks.



So I skipped ahead and watched the video here. (Oh yeah did I mention that there are 17 videos on the album. I repeat: #Bitchbad.)



Lo and behold, what do I find – a remixed version of Beyonce’s song from earlier this spring. On the album it’s titled “Flawless” but you might know it is as “Bow Down, I Been On.”  Some feminists I know had their panties all in a wad when the first version came out, because Bey instructed some generally nameless bitches to bow down. (Here at CFC we reposted this great piece from Red Clay Scholar about Bey’s sonic ratchetness, which you should check out.)



Look, I don’t generally get into debates about whether women can or should say “bitch” or Black people can say “nigga.” Because why? The bottom line is we do it anyway, and marginalized groups have the right to self-define. What I will say is that it took feminism to introduce me to real bitches (good and bad.)



Anyway, folks said that Beyonce’s choice to do something so demeaning killed her feminist street cred. But then folks been pulling Bey’s feminist card from the beginning. Let us not forget how much folk acted a fool after the Superbowl.



So the reason I fucks wit Bey so deeply is that she had something for that ass.



The remix. The remix with Chimamanda Adichie spitting a very clear and succinct definition of feminism for the masses. “A person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.” Yup. For starters anyway.  And that interlude came right after Bey said, “bow down bitches.”



Talk about Crunk Feminism – percussive, a refusal to fit into particular boxes, a willingness to “fuck with the grays.”



So here’s a few reasons that I’m here for Beyonce, the Feminist.



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.


4.)  I’m here for anybody that is checking for the f-word, since so many folk aren’t. (Except Republicans. Ain’t nobody here for that.) What we look like embracing Queen Latifah and Erykah Badu even though they patently reject the term, but shading and policing Bey who embraces it? If Bey is embracing this term, that is laudable. If she’s figuring out her relationship to it, I embrace that. I will never let my politics be limited by folks’ identification with a label, but it is nice when folks are willing to take the risk that comes with the word. Especially when said folks are backing it up by living out feminism in the ways available to them – performing with an all girl band, with visibly queer members, for instance.


5.)  King Bey always brings her A-game and manages to have fun while doing it. I wish feminism could take some clues here. We don’t always bring our A-game, since we spend a whole lot of time trying to figure who’s in and who’s out as if that is going to get us anywhere. Time’s out for the WOC feminist meangirls shit. Sometimes folks just be hating. Real talk. Cuz if you ain’t critiquing Katy Perry and Pink and alla dem for being pro-capitalist and in league with the establishment, then back up off Bey. Posthaste.    (And yes, we can and should have a robust critique, and that in itself ain’t hating.  But again, sometimes, folk are just being mean or contrary, and we need to be about building some shit, not tearing shit down. And sometimes folks need to go to therapy and heal from the shit the meangirls in your past did to you. Stop taking it out on Bey. She don’t know you. Seriously.)



More to the point, sometimes we take ourselves too seriously. If laughing and dancing aint a part of this revolution we’re building, then you can keep it.

In Beyonce’s words “Haters hate and I get better.”

There you have it. #AllHailKingBey


127 thoughts on “5 Reasons I’m Here for Beyonce’, the Feminist

  1. Beyonce is the best! I’m so excited to see something like this in pop culture. Most of the time we get little representation or a straw feminist. I watched the TED talk and I was just so happy.

    1. I think Beyoncé is the badest performer out there. She works hard and is a perfectionist. However, I personally would not look to her as a feminist. She plays the role to sell records. She is a pop artist. Her album is provocative but not deep. She attempts to challenge the current paradigm but because I believe she is so wrapped in it she doesn’t see how she reproduces it. The addition to Flawless was contradictory to her opening versus. The song reproduces the concept that women must compete and put other women “down” (oppression). The song is not empowering and the fact the she placed the remix in their shows her lack of awareness. I think feminism is a state of awareness and understanding where we all fit on that spectrum. It’s a funny song. It sounds like a song you would make up for fun with your girls playing around to vent about others hatin’ on you, but would you craft it in an album? If so, maybe that’s where she is but it sounds a little immature and petty. It seems like a lot of the sounds, vernacular, jargon on the album is trendy not unique. Don’t get me wrong she is a bad ‘bish’. Lol. Let’s let her be Queen. Queen of Pop and what’s hot.

  2. “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.” I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this comment. I want to quote it for always.

    Regarding your fourth point, I want to share what my friend Heather (founder of Get Born Magazine) said at a feminism panel at the Denver Museum of Modern Art: “What? I can’t say “fuck” because I had a baby? How do you think I got the baby in the first place?”

    Well done!

    1. I would say that it fits in because Beyonce is a high-status woman who is married to a high-status man (the limo, the club). She is a sexually expressive being, a mother who is in love with the father of her child and is in a mutually sexual and healthy relationship with a man who accepts and supports her success. Surely, she is happy in her womanhood at this moment…I feel like expressing it through sexuality shows a feeling of fullness on her part.

      Also, they are more interested in each other than making flashy appearances at the club.

      I mean she’s married, she’s had a baby, her body is crazy, she is an international star after..what? 20 years of hard work– who is going to dare to tell her sex is only about her as an object.

      1. Thanks for your response. I get that people including Beyonce like sex. But one of the feminist critiques of representations of sex in popular culture is that sex is too often understood through the lens of male pleasure. In such representations we really don’t get to see women enjoying sex on their own terms and we really don’t even get a conception of what female pleasures might look like beyond the pleasures of being objects desire for men. So my issue with partition as part of a feminist representation is NOT that Beyonce attempts to own her own sexuality and offers an image of a wealthy famous woman who is also sexual. I agree that representations of women owning their sexuality and exhibiting agency in that regard can be useful. my concern is that the song doesn’t really give us any imagery of female pleasure. Instead, the representation that we get (as usual) is of Beyonce on her knees pleasing a man. Look at the lyrics “He” so horny, “He” want to fuck, “He” Monica Lewinskyed. etc. Each line of the song is about “His” pleasure. She “just” wants to be the girl that “He” likes. I get that part of a married woman’s agency might be to assert her right (and pleasure) in pleasing her man. I also understand that being an object of desire can be part of male and female pleasure but wouldn’t she also want to be sexually pleased as well? Why don’t we get to see that part? My impression is that this song reproduces rather than challenges the dominant and (oppressive) trends entertainment culture with respect to women’s sexuality and agency. However – again I’m very much still listening and open to learn more.

      2. @ chenjerai

        Have you heard the song “Blow”? It’s entirely about cunnilingus. It IS about her pleasure. Please listen to the album as a whole before jumping the gun to run in here with another predictable “look at how problematic Beyonce is as a feminist” comment.

        Besides, do you not realize how problematic it is to imply that pleasuring a man can’t be pleasurable for a woman as well?

      3. There are women who enjoy being on their knees. Who happen to be feminists. I happen to be one. Pleasing gives me pleasure just as much as receiving. I am a giver. Maybe Beyonce is too. If you have never been with a girl who enjoys pleasing you, I feel bad. Giving head to your husband, your partner, the father of your child is not demeaning.

    2. Women (excluding asexual people) like having sex. The last bit of the song in french explains explicitly:
      Les hommes pensent que les féministes détestent le sexe mais c’est une activité très stimulante et naturelle que les femmes adorent
      which means “Men think that feminists hate sex but it is an exciting and natural activity that women love”.
      Essentially the song rejects the notion that women should be ashamed of wanting or having sex or that it any way demeans them.

      But maybe that was already obvious, and not what you were looking for. 🙂 Anyway have a good day and I hope someone answers your question satisfactorily. 🙂

      1. Thanks for your response. I get that people including Beyonce like sex. But one of the feminist critiques of representations of sex in popular culture is that sex is too often understood through the lens of male pleasure. In such representations we really don’t get to see women enjoying sex on their own terms and we really don’t even get a conception of what female pleasures might look like beyond the pleasures of being objects desire for men. So my issue with partition as part of a feminist representation is NOT that Beyonce attempts to own her own sexuality and offers an image of a wealthy famous woman who is also sexual. I agree that representations of women owning their sexuality and exhibiting agency in that regard can be useful. my concern is that the song doesn’t really give us any imagery of female pleasure. Instead, the representation that we get (as usual) is of Beyonce on her knees pleasing a man. Look at the lyrics “He” so horny, “He” want to fuck, “He” Monica Lewinskyed. etc. Each line of the song is about “His” pleasure. She “just” wants to be the girl that “He” likes. I get that part of a married woman’s agency might be to assert her right (and pleasure) in pleasing her man. I also understand that being an object of desire can be part of male and female pleasure but wouldn’t she also want to be sexually pleased as well? Why don’t we get to see that part? My impression is that this song reproduces rather than challenges the dominant and (oppressive) trends entertainment culture with respect to women’s sexuality and agency. However – again I’m very much still listening and open to learn more.

      2. Again, we’re only “seeing” a snippet of an encounter. Perhaps the woman IS being sexually pleased during the blow job! Must we challenge everything?! Sigh… you say you get all the other perspectives of receiving pleasure from and ownership in pleasing her man, so what’s left to challenge? Does Bey’s choice to focus the song from the perspective of how a woman enjoys the way her man wants/desires her make Bey non-feminist? I agree with Crunkista, the article’s author, that there are diverse expressions/levels of feminism… and whose to say what the one single standard of feminism is? SN: Let’s also keep in mind that the songs Beyonce writes are not necessarily about her or reflective of her life.

        (P.S. I am enjoying our discussion, everyone!)

      3. Perhaps I don’t yet get it. I am trying though. And no we don’t have to challenge everthing – but I do think its important to raise critical questions about misogynist tropes regardless of who’s mouth/art they come out of. I just can’t help but feel that its unfortunate that a seemingly empowered woman has to metaphorically blow her husband in order to challenge the idea that feminist don’t hate sex (Since that’s how rap genius and several others on this thread seem to interpret this song). I feel like when Beyonce makes a song that reproduces the same basic misogynist male gaze male pleasure capitalist blueprint that exists within the dominant culture we should acknowledge it. We should be free to say ” I like Beyonce but she reproduced the same bullshit on this one.” We should be free to say “I like Beyonce, but everything isn’t feminist.” To be clear I’m not trying to say that what Beyonce is doing is any worse than anything else in pop culture, but I just haven’t seen where it’s “revolutionary” and all of these other superlatives that get applied. What I am getting is that are quite a few feminists among the people who ride for Beyonce no matter what she does. And that’s a learning piece for me. It shows how diverse and contradictory the perspectives on feminism and pop culture can be. Beyonce doesn’t need my or (or the young women in my life) to listen to her music – I think she’s fine without us. However, I’ll throw the record on a couple more times to really try to hear with more compassion.

      4. Yes, these are very fair and valid points you make. Thank you for raising them, and absolutely we should be free to say we like Beyonce “but she produced the same bullshit” or “but everything [she does/sings] is not feminist”. I get that, and I appreciate your interest and concerns about what’s being perpetuated in entertainment media.

      5. @NASBoyd – And your points I think that your point about not reducing Beyonce to her lyrics, or the lyrics of part of one song is a good one as well. Thanks.

    3. lol how could u not get this? it appears that you’re positing this song is somehow anti-feminist. from another male feminist ally, how is a woman celebrating her sex life problematic? did you bother clicking to translate the last lines?

    4. It fits into the conversation by being grown and woman and confident enough to talk about the many splendid ways we can enjoy being with our man! It fits quite perfectly, and is a wonderful example of women’s rights. 🙂

    5. Try listening to the song “Blow” it talks about how much she enjoys her man going down on her. She’s demanding how she likes it. Blow is right after ” “partition ” .

    6. “wouldn’t she also want to be sexually pleased as well? Why don’t we get to see that part?”

      We do. Listen to the song Blow, which is all about her being sexually pleased.

    7. this is a huge demonstration of why the visual concept is so vital to this album and genius on her part. If you watch the video you’ll see that the entire song is about her fantasizing about pleasuring her man. She’s in total control in the video and in essence Jay is actually an object in her fantasy. If that aint agency I dont know what is! I love this woman!

    8. Why wouldn’t you be “allowed” to say what you are thinking because you are male? You might not have the context to add value or you might frame your opinion in terms of unexamined privilege because you are male. These are two reasons that I’m not trying to contribute to this discussion (based on my ethnicity). It’s not because I’m not “allowed.” It’s because I’m not educated.

    9. Hey, these were my own thoughts when listening to the song (which I haven’t been able to stop listening to, as I love the bass and the rhythm on it!). It feels like it’s fitting in into every stereotype about women only being able to experience sexual pleasure via the sexual pleasure of the man they’re pleasing. As a woman who often finds it hard to spin sexual fantasies outside of the narrow narratives of sex we receive in pop media, I definitely feel like I tend towards fulfilling that kind of stereotype, and often wonder whether this is something I should fix, can be fixed, etc.

      Anyhow, I just wanted to say thank you for starting the conversation, I’ve learnt a lot from the thread!

  3. Let’s just be real and say that we enjoy the entertainment cuz that’s what it really is more than anything else. What we really enjoy are the spaces that she shares with us, as women who love, hurt, want to feel sexy, smart, and all the rest but it gets messy for us regular black girls and that’s why the brand of feminism that she promotes is dangerous in a lot of ways. We CAN like it, respect it to an extent, and think Bey is bad and all of that while we still desire and work toward a stealthier erry-day kind of feminism that is not as glossy and unrealistic. Let’s not be so simple cuz what she brings is easy to like (which is why we do). Forget about Katy Perry and the like…we as black women there is a stark difference in our unity as women which is why the black feminist movement began and exists. Let’s not be so simple as to let popular culture be the loudest most powerful exercise and voice in feminism because we know WHO REALLY is controlling the structure that she is operating and who is disseminating her image.

    1. Thank you for your nuanced perspective on this. I have become increasingly disheartened by the conversation about this album because it seems that people are in a rush to be in one of 2 camps. It’s either “All Hail King Bey” and this is some sort of feminist manifesto or it’s “Beyoncé ain’t no feminist” and she is the spawn of the devil. With people hurling insults and dismissing those that disagree with them. Interestingly, I think she is somewhere in the middle. Beyoncé may very well identify as feminist and live her life as such. But this album (for me) is not representative of what feminism means. And I think we do ourselves (and Beyoncé) a disservice by trying desperately to define that space (whether we think she is or is not). To be honest, I didn’t listen to the album until a few days ago. But even before I heard it, I knew that I wasn’t on the Beyoncé (the album) is a feminist manifesto train. After I heard it, I was . . . disappointed . . . that it had occupied such space with (in my opinion) a ridiculous debate. But I think there can be some useful dialogue to be had. First, I am disturbed by the author’s assertion that “Flawless” is some type of meaningful demand for respect. Telling bitches to bow down does not strike me as a woman secure in her talent in her own right. I would argue that the fact that she has to make a whole song demeaning people in order to explain why she deserves the respect she demands is an indication that she is not so sure that she deserves it. After all, rich people don’t run around talking about how rich they are, happy people don’t feel the need to tell people, “I’m happier than you” and smart people don’t need to tell people how smart (or well read) they are. However, I don’t think that is Beyoncé’s doing. I think she is a product of the culture in which she lives. We do live in a culture of zero sum, one-upmanship and a faux sense of competition and meritocracy. I would think that black feminism would challenge that perspective rather than spend time figuring out how to win at that game. Second, I’m all for Beyoncé embracing her sexuality and celebrating herself as a sexual being within the context of her marriage. I also don’t have a problem with her celebrating her sexuality if she weren’t married. But what does that have to do with her feminism. It seems that many people viewed this as some type of coup. Beyoncé and the erotic. I think that is a very superficial litmus test. All in all I guess I don’t think the album was that deep (well not as deep as people were making it out to be). But the response to the album can be a great conversation starter.

  4. Beyonce, a feminist? You’ve got to be kidding me. How could anyone suggest that such a fervent proponent of capitalism and consumption could ever be considered a feminist? We’re obviously all works in progress, and are full of contradictions, but only in the most watered down and meaningless definition of feminism could the violence perpetuated by the values and systems that Beyonce uncritically embraces and promotes have a place. I wonder what the women who work in the sweatshops manufacturing her clothing line would have to say about this…

    1. Can you expand on what you mean here because almost anyone living in America engages in consumption and supports capitalism directly or indirectly? With that being said, I don’t understand how that would not make you a feminist.

      1. It’s not that simple, look at the structure that she works within who is disseminating the music, videos? This brand of feminism is primarily surface level, provocative, and easy. Where is the depth and challenge? These are catch phrases that are fun. It’s pop culture. Look at hooks, and the like. A new generation of feminism is needed but there must be deeper layers than this here. This ain’t no Mississippi Go# da*MN stuff that she is spittin’. Come on now !

    2. ‘Pends on why you suggest feminism and capitalism are mutually exclusive. I consider myself both. Let’s face it – money talks. I make a lot and enjoy tithing to Feminist causes….

    3. Because you aren’t guilty of any of those things yourself and you’re a perfect, completely non-problematic, non-contradictory feminist. *eyeroll*

  5. Hmmmm… Lots to consider here. First tho, it was a great read (I really like when something makes me smile as I read it).

    It seems like you’re putting Beyonce on a trajectory. I like that move cuz one thing that the posts also demonstrates is that feminism is on the move. And while I acknowledge that it is perhaps too ambitious to tackle in a single blog post, the piece makes me wonder where “Beyonce the Feminist” is going. Where is this feminist trajectory taking her? Us? The struggle?

    Admittedly, I have difficulty reconciling King Bey’s declarations of tyrannical might (i.e. bitches bow down) with Adichie’s (spot-on) definition of feminism let alone understanding it as a just epigraph. I think that’s a good thing tho. Moreover, I think we (those of us wanting to reshape this world into something just, fair and beautiful for all) should be prepared to militate against Beyonce or anybody else who can so skillfully persuade us to carry around such cognitive dissonance.

    So I guess the bigger question is where is Beyonce going? Is she running towards that necessary life-affirming paradigm and praxis we call feminism/womanism (I’ve always dug Alice Walker’s use of that term), or is she posturing towards it while running in the opposite direction while we vehemently give chase?

    Thanks again Brittney for dropping a little sumthin sumthin to get the folks thinking and smiling and building with each other.

    1. I think your comment and many others critical of “Bow Down” betray a lack of understanding of the context of the song. It’s emblematic of hip-hip culture, where rappers constantly brag about their greatness and tell others to bow before their superiors. Female rappers do it too and this is where “Bow Down” comes from. It’s not a declaration of being superior towards the rest of the female sex. I think I’d rather militate against those who critique from a place of ignorance and end up unfairly attacking others as a result.

      1. There is no lack of understanding regarding the cultural context in which “Flawless” and its proclamations for bitches to “bow down” is situated in. I know that it is emblematic of hip hop culture and that almost every MC (male and female) engage in this cultural practice. That doesn’t negate the problematic nature of Beyonce’s particular engagement with this practice nor the cultural practice itself writ large. At the end of the day, this cultural norm of one-upmanship only works to reinforce capitalist notions of competition and meritocracy which are highly problematic as they are used to justify capitalism’s vicious class system. My critique does not stem from a place of ignorance but rather an acute understanding of how competition and meritocracy serve as ideological bulwarks for ruling-class domination. And this is always worth militating against.

    2. In my opinion the verses of the song are not contrary at all. I think the entire song (all three verses) are an articulation of having confidence in yourself no matter how many people tell you to back down and stay in place. I think thats why Chimamanda’s quote was so genius. Its like she’s saying these are the ways in which society will try to keep you in your place. And her two verses are saying ‘fuck that bullshit always believe in yourself’. She’s asserting her confidence in herself as a woman and telling her haters that they will never stop her. (she released the original after she was getting so much hate about the star spangled banner/ inauguration fiasco) Like Dr. Cooper said more women need to hear this message and put it into practice in life. Dont ever let anyone stop you, dont ever let anyone make you feel like you are less than them for any reason. I guarantee you that there are so many women, black or otherwise, that enjoy this song because it makes them feel powerful and I think that was her motivation. Its interesting, although not surprising, to me that so many people are threatened or shocked by her confidence.

  6. On what “level of feminism” what Beyonce stand? I;m still caught on her lyrics “my momma gave me good house training,” and the other many subservient house wife lines she says. I question her on equality in the household. Furthermore, because of single ladies I cry at the sight of women thinking that the institution of marriage actually means that “they reeled their men in.” In terms of reproductive rights, sure Beyonce could be “feminist” in that regard.
    I absolutely agree Beyonce is strong, strong in her identity, and wants her “seat at the table.” But I question if she wants all women to “have a seat at the table.” Is run the world and irreplaceable (and so forth) enough to say that she cares about all women’s equality in the workforce?
    I don’t know. When it comes to Beyonce I am particularly analytical because, yes Beyonce is a beast performer, but everyone seems to naturally sway WITH Beyonce. And any particular person, event, whatever that swings that many people into cult mode should be seriously analyzed.

    1. I don’t think Beyoncé’s song lyrics necessarily represent all that she is (or possibly believes) as a woman… I think we limit her, and our discussion of her and feminism/womanism, by only focusing on Beyoncé “The Queen/King Bey”. One of her “identities” is an entertainer… I’d like to think she is more than that to her family, friends, community, and to the causes she believes in, supports, and possibly even fights for.

    2. She says her mama gave her “good home training” which means her mother taught how to behave respectably. Men and women get home training. It’s not a housewife thing so you need to come up with more of these “subservient house wife lines” since you clearly don’t even understand what she’s saying.

      1. Also since in the SAME SONG she says “I took some time to live my life, but don’t think I’m just his little wife, don’t get it twisted”

    3. Yeah….not what that means. Thank you @NASBoyd for breaking it down. Vibez: you are just off. Point blank. To say good home training, is to locate yourself in mostly black, mostly Southern black households to be more specific, households where how we as black people act in the world is reflective of our parents, but more especially of our mothers (because of the shade black women are always thrown on the daily and the blame we always face) and how they raised us. So, when I hear this song, she’s saying- “I have home training. I know how to act right.” which is such a racialized and gendered phrase that feels like home.

      So, please-come again.

  7. It’s super easy to portray yourself as a independent woman/feminist when your husband is practically a billionaire.

    1. bossbitch, I’m basically saying the same thing you are… she was independent, wealthy, and an advocate of equality amongst the sexes long before JayZ. (So, it is Constance’s point that might be irrelevant, as I was simply replying to her comment.)

  8. ” I wonder what the women who work in the sweatshops manufacturing her clothing line would have to say about this…”

    Arko, you know what the women who work in sweatshops are probably saying about this? They’ll be jamming to the music once they get a listen and will probably also regularly play “Flawless” as they contemplate revenge, sabotage, social injustice, and dreams of love.

    What, you think women in sweatshops don’t have access to our music, nor we to theirs? Have you been paying attention to how this local/global remix culture works? Or, are you more comfortable thinking women “over there” have no connection to us “over here”?

    It’s complicated, as is Beyonce, as are most of us feminists.

    1. This is a simple minded response to a serious issue. Yes, music is a universal language but don’t forget entertainers get paid extremely well to be provocative. This is not new. However, those who are advocating for a brand of feminism that is about change and not surface level ish know the difference between enjoying her as an artist and real world everyday lives and boots on the ground change that needs to occur. Sure, she appears to be compassionate and wants women to feel empowered but it is only one brand of feminism and a facile version (Madonna did it and so did Janet). this form is quite frankly all too easy to embrace. We must go much deeper than finger poppin’ for real change.

      1. I agree, but whose to say Beyoncé doesn’t go deeper in these diverse areas, in her “real” life? We’re only seeing one piece of the puzzle, and are so quick to put her in the finger-poppin’ box with Madonna and Janet… do we know what Madonna and Janet are (or are not) doing in their real lives to encourage/support/advocate for “boots on the ground” change?

      2. No we don’t know that but at the same time neither Janet nor Madonna were elevated beyond what they primarily were…provocateurs and entertainers. First we should keep it in context but let’s also not ignore the issue the post raised. Bey is in a position to make sure that those who make her clothes are paid a living wage and can attain the equality that she claims that she advocates. I’m a fan but the previous poster has a point. Is she actually making sure that those who make her clothing are being paid a living wage, rather than simply being able to snap their fingers and shake their rump. Why should they sing and dance to their own oppression? There is far too much of that.

      3. Of course feminists need to go deeper, but why should we expect depth from a pop artist creating dance tracks for our partying/twerkin’/lovemaking purposes? Even activists, academics, and revolutionaries need down time.How nice to have a bit of feminist theory mixed in with the fun! I don’t need Bey to go any deeper than that. CFC and other black feminists got that covered!

      4. Yes, not necessarily in every song she writes/sings, at least. Now, if she’s giving a talk somewhere, then we should challenge and question… Where’s the “Love” button! 🙂

      5. Oh, I agree, Mikki. They certainly shouldn’t sing and dance to their own oppression… and, yes, there is a level of responsibility that comes along with Bey’s global status.

      6. What I fall to understand is how it is all of a sudden a feminist statement what Beyonce has done when you have someone like Rihanna who more embraces the concept yet is constantly vilified. It baffles my mind the double standards and how we still try to pigeonhole what is true feminism and what is not. Honestly, I think what Beyonce did is more capitalistic than feminism.

    2. I’ve never read that the House of Dereon uses sweatshops. Can someone please provide an authoritative source on that information?

      1. I haven’t either Lola, and wondered the same… they might be referring to the H&M brand backlash and Beyonce repping their brand?

  9. I would also add that it was not my intention to be so “simple-minded” or dismissive about serious issues. What had irked me about the above comment was this immediate division that was being created between the “sweatshop-worker” and “non-sweatshop worker,” as if we don’t live within the same globalized neoliberal capitalist context. The sweatshop worker was being fetishized in a very different way than Bey was in this argument about who is “more feminist,” “more oppressive,” etc., and that worker’s relationship to Bey was placed in some kind of oppositional framing, which strips the sweatshop worker of any agency in either A.) being able to enjoy Bey and Bey’s music (if said worker were so inclined) and B.) being able to vicariously identify with her image or with some of the themes espoused in her music (i.e. love, rage, sexual pleasure, jealousy, female empowerment, etc.).

    If we’re going to ask questions about Bey’s relationship to any “subaltern,” what about all the “hood” residents of H-Town or the “favela” residents in Rio as shown in some of her music videos? Bey clearly positions herself in solidarity with them, which is of course questionable and problematic, considering her own position as a multimillionaire American pop star. Still, the visual politics of this alignment is intriguing and deserves further commentary – and is a better conversation to put forth about Bey’s feminist and racial consciousness, if we’re going to go down that route.

    I agree that Beyonce is oftentimes contradictory and problematic in her feminist articulations, but let’s stop acting like we’re not all operating within the same forces and not always acting in ways that dismantle systems of power. Where I give Bey credit is for still championing self-love and girl-love, and doing so through some catchy pop tracks. Sometimes, escapism and entertainment need not go all that deep, ESPECIALLY after week-long struggles with systems of oppression on the job, in the streets, in social networks, or at home. Sometimes, you just want to unwind and not think that deeply, y’know? And when the entertainment features some feminist consciousness, then, that’s just an added bonus for me! That just reinforces the everyday theorizing we’re engaging in – in activism, academia, politics, and love and elsewhere.

  10. i love this article! i am not a bey fan and i really find her feminism problematic. this article (and the comments) spell it out for me so plainly why i find it problematic. it’s already been said so eloquently, so i won’t repeat, i’ll just second the ideas about her trajectory as a feminist, her lyrics (and i’ll add the troubling epistemic violence in the videos), and the simplicity with which we swallow it all wholesale–quite often (but not all of us, always). lawd, cognitive dissonance YAAAASSS. shoulda jes pointed fb friends i was on a thread with here, and said “read da comments!” so they wouldn’ta called me a beyoncé-hatin’-heaux. lol. oh well.

  11. Well said! We’re always so tempted to put everything in a box, and only see/define things one way. Thats for articulating this aspect of the struggle

  12. i love bey as much as the next – but she is also a well-engineered tool of a patriarchal capitalist system. and the conversation over whether she is “really a feminist” is moot in my opinion. i bought her album as many others did because i want her to pay off all the awesome artists who helped her create this beautiful work. but did/does she not have deals with Pepsi, H&M, the NFL, and in the future countless other huge brands that have one purpose and one purpose only – to sell to the masses. so, if Katy Perry and Pink are corporate puppets, then – and I hate to say it, but it is the honest to G truth – so is Beyonce. (RE: the video for Superpower. I like the parallels between the song & video, but seriously, was Bey at a single Occupy event?! hell no. did she or any other celebrities really face SWAT teams in Oakland like I and many others did? NO. So please, stop frontin like you are radical, or even political.)

  13. This post is fantastic! I love it whenever feminists take time to be positive and build up other feminists. We spend so much time on critique (I’m guilty) that it’s really great when folks write with a welcoming and joyful vibe. So kudos to Beyonce and kudos to this piece and the CFC!

  14. WOOZERS,
    Beyonce is stating that competition between women is okay not in looks but in accomplishments. She has accomplished a lot and paved the way for many new female artists. Her words are not meant to hurt but to inspire, in my perspective, by challenging us women to be competitive. We must stop being so passive and accepting if we want real change.
    A feminist does not only demanding equality between the sexes, but also asserts her standing. It’s time to embrace our natural beauty (this doesn’t mean to not wear make it means understanding that you do not need it to be beautiful, powerful, and/or worthy) and also to embrace that fact that we want to be the BEST at what we do!
    That is what Beyonce’s ‘Flawless’ song means.
    Let me break it down for y’all:
    (The parts of ‘Flawless’: Part 1- You wanted to be seen as powerful, but did not truly understand what it meant. Part 2- You were taught that women should compete for attention and to be passive and accepting. Part 3- If you want to be the best, don’t let superficial things skew your vision of what it truly means to be powerful; it takes hard work.)
    Initially, we may take offense to her words because we are not used to hearing women being so assertive, but channel that negative response into productivity and determination. If you listen to male artists, every other word they speak is exactly what Beyonce was confident enough to do in the song, be assertive.

  15. I don’t think ‘bitches’ as used in the song Flawless only refers to women; I think she means anyone who’s trying to belittle her e.g. those who think she’s just Jay’s wife or people who think that she doesn’t deserve what she owns because they think she didn’t work hard for it.

  16. You have GOT to be kidding me. Listen to the references to Ike and Tina on Drunk In Love and tell me she’s a feminist. Watch her dancing in a cage with animal print superimposed onto her body in the Partition video and tell me she’s a feminist. Listen to her singing “I just wanna be the girl you like” and tell me she’s a feminist. You can’t believe she’s a femininst OR that this album and its images are positive for Black women. I understand that you may be a fan of the girl’s music but don’t get carried away and try to demean what feminists have been fighting for. It’s disrespectful and irresponsible.

  17. The half-baked perspectives that pass for feminist critiques can be so awe-inspiring!

    Is it one’s feminism or ideology that is complicated or is it our behaviour that needs adjustment? Most of the time we are pandering to systems of oppression in our actions and conflating them with a body of ideas to which we are committed.

    Demanding others to bow or cower before you is an order to a moral agent to transform herself into the Other. What kind of feminism is that? Liberal feminism? It is certainly not the revolutionary feminism that is a part of my overall ideological outlook.

    One can put folks in their place when they transgress certain principles but I am not going opportunistically claim it to be consistent with the highest ethical or moral principles. I am merely demonstrating to the transgressor that I have sharp elbows and have no conscience in vigourously using them!

    Is point 3 excusing the lack of engagement with the written word, which could help people develop an understanding of ideas that they are spouting?

    One doesn’t need to attend graduate school to cultivate the habit of reading for information. If I claim to be an anarchist, it will not be an anarchism of the heart (feeling), it will be one of the mind (rational engagement with the literature and practice). Ignorance can never be blissful to the minds seeking social transformation!

    1. the sentimental/rational dichotomy you are exploring in your final comment is a definitive nod to male oppression through biological and physiological governing spaces i.e. head and heart are unrelated and mutually exclusive. Furthermore, the trope that women are “feelers” and men are “thinkers” is being repositioned with a clear subversion of the female-sentiement-leading side–we are stop all this feeling BS and become good thinking types if we want to be taken seriously. Are you implying that women should begin to “use their brains” rather than their hearts when it comes to exploring topics/interests? If so, it appears you are reproducing a problematic paradigm that not only compartmentalizes spaces of the body (and assigns male/female governance to said spaces) but also places higher value on specific “ways of knowing”/exploring, those which (ironically) happen to be viewed as “feminine way so knowing” are seen as less satisfactory or well-developed then the “masculine ways of knowing” which are to be utilized. It appears to me you are “pandering to a system of oppression” just like the rest of us “half-baked feminists”.

      On a side note, it seems possible that Bowing Down could be an act of respect rather than an act of cowering to oppression. In my reading of the song, it seems that she is demanding respect in her public (“I know when you were little girls you dreamt of being in my world. Don’t forget it, Don’t forget it. Respect that bow down bitches”)and private (“I took some time to live my life but don’t think I’m just his little wife. Don’t get it twisted get it twisted this my shit bow down bitches”) sectors of life–a squarely feminist posturing. She is exploring the ways she has been demeaned and disrespected as a public agent i.e. an artist as well as a private agent i.e. a wife and mother. She is then reasserting her personhood and agency within both realms and asking for her respect in a way that is perhaps controversial but not necessarily oppressive.

      For those that say there is only surface-level analysis or “liberal feminism” in this song, I encourage you to look at the visual component of “Flawless” as there is a clear communication of intersectionality and a larger understanding of the relationship between gender, age, racial, geographic, counter-culture/subgroup oppression and the like.

      The overall storyline is real clips from her first performance on national television which is at the age of 9 wherein she and the other “Girlz Tyme” performers (all female-genered, pre-teens, and black) are positioned to challenge “Skeleton Crew” a group of 20-something white men. In the introduction of Girlz Tyme the announcer calls them “hip-hop rappin” (clearly racializing the group) as well as mispronounces some of their names (those that are considered “black” i.e. LaTavia). From the beginning of the competition it is clear that this is not only a talent-search competition but that it is also an argument for convincing mainstream America of who is more “American” who is allowed to represent “us,” who is visible and appreciated in society. Needless to say, Skeleton Crew becomes the winner of Star Search thus reasserting the white, male, 2-something as the American norm. This is a moment of Beyonce being personally oppressed in that her dreams were not unraveling the way she wanted them to at that time but it also (and she appears to understand this or why would she include these clips) represents the larger social oppression of children, women, people of color when facing adults, men, white people. Beyonce is occupying all areas of the oppressed in these clips and she does not “win.” She is yet another person who has felt the glass-cieling and has not prevailed through it (at this particular point). This exploration of intersectionality is, in my opinion, a radical feminist paradigm. It is challenging multiple areas of oppression and the institutions that perpetuate said oppression. Furthermore, her use of what appears to be an alley-punk-party as the backdrop for the majority of the video adds in another sub-group/oppressed group in America. Thus she complicates the conversation but introducing white subjects and male subjects who ARE NOT the representation of America that would be selected for a Star Search competition, those that are not the norm. Flawless is in essence a juxtaposition of our realities as “regular folks” with the perception of us as the Other. This provides cognitive dissonance for the viewer if they (like myself) are a young woman of color, because there is an innate desire to see the championing of agency achieved by beyonce and her people/our people. However, Beyonce expands this boundary by forcing us to see beyond the limits of our own perspective and identity politics while maintaining a clearly racailized and gendered dialogue through her lyrics (i.e. home training, fine, dis, dat, ladies tell ’em, gotdamn, and i would even argue her peppering of cursing especially bitch) and Adichie’s words. Thus the music at this point is beyond a one-note feminist statement but is really more so a challenge of American popular culture by, ironically and importantly so, one of America’s biggest pop stars.

  18. Ya’ll are realllllllllllllllllllllly reaching here. HOW IN THE WORLD??? The answer is No. smh. Audre Lorde didn’t do the work for this. Body positivism is NOT the only marker of feminism. Neither is economics. This girl is just as much a feminist as white girls laud Lena Dunham and her pasty white behind as being “feminist”. NOT HERE FOR IT. Ya’ll dissapoint me yo. (and you are usually so on point)………for real. Yes feminism, esp black feminist thought, isn’t cookie cutter but gimme a daggone break. smh.

  19. My friend Susié Hatmaker just unleashed this very beautiful and powerful piece on BEYONCE; it is a really important piece of Beyonce theory I recommend to anyone interested in raising the caliber on this conversation we’re trying to have about feminism right now. She delves into Bey’s role as a performance artist in white supremacist capitalist consumer culture and cuts right to the heart of BEYONCE’s emphasis on valuing revolution, community and solidarity in a world that doesn’t often grant agency to people of color, womanhood and all its beautiful manifestations, and self-love and sex-positivity. Crucial and beautiful! Please share and repost!:


  20. Tell me, when did “If you like it then you better but a ring on it?” become the rallying cry for feminism? Have you seen the video where Beyonce grinds on a line of riot police? How does glamorizing state violence further the causes of feminism? What about Beyonce and her husband using their millions to prop up Obama, whose foreign policy is continuing to slaughter women and children in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen? Please tell me how this makes her a champion for women’s rights and a role model for young girls everywhere.

  21. I find it ironic that we are comfortable with some of our feminist icons’ obvious complicity with and benefit from the inherently white, anti-woman and classist space better known as “academia” while simultaneously being so uncomfortable with an artist like Beyonce who is complicit with and benefiting from an equally white, anti-woman and classist space (corporate, mainstream entertainment). What’s even more ironic is that we easily grant that academic women (who benefit from their participating in the white, male, classist universities and organizations) can simultaneously critique the very institution with which they participate and from which they benefit while someone like Beyonce can’t, even when she is obviously explicitly doing so. When Beyonce does it, she’s just “doing it for the money”. It’s not a “real” critique. I don’t see why we can’t say the very same thing about every one of our feminist “icons” who have ever been a professor or tried to sell their books.

    If this isn’t elitist snobbery, I don’t know what is.

    I don’t mean to diminish the contributions of academic women to feminism. (I’m an academic woman of color myself.) I’m just concerned that many are too happy to wipe away any feminist cred from Beyonce simply because she happens to benefit from the problematic system she critiques. If Beyonce can’t be a “good enough” feminist simply because of that, then we need to rethink our allegiance to academic feminists who are pretty much involved in the very same benefiting-while-critiquing bind Beyonce is in .

    1. I say amen to this reply. I’m sorry to say this but no one living in America has ever been able to completely unwrap themselves from the capitalistic or patriarchal institutions we live in and many feminists and activists have chosen to work within it or compromise with it to make gains. I would like to know how can anyone truly divorce themselves from it without being labeled as un-feminist for being a supporter of it. I’ll wait. I would like to know how many of these people ate, drank, or bought anything without being a supporter of capitalism, its developing world tentacles, the policies that created it, etc….watched a movie, listened to music or any other activity that reinforced patriarchal notions in America. Again, I’ll wait. I agree that you can become conscious of some (or many) things that represent these two ideologies and alter some of your actions so you don’t support it, are not a part or it, or fight against it but don’t think for a minute that you don’t contribute to these two things in regards to the rest of your actions. If you do then you can just post a big denial sign on your forehead because that’s the pool you’re wading in.

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