Now that I have my quarrel with “Bow Down Bitches” out – I’ve legit been “WTF”ing about it for ages – I can continue with my assessment of “Queen Bey” as feminist. Although I do not agree with this perpetual contention for the spotlight, you can’t argue with the fact that Beyoncé has molded herself into a force to be reckoned with. The only reason Beyoncé, the album, was able to generate such attention literally overnight is because, well, it’s Beyoncé. Say what you will, Bey/Yoncé is a motherfucking diva and she demands a level of artistic respect and attention. As I pointed out in Part One of this post, she is clearly using her perceived status as Queen to further the ground for feminism. Lest we forget a few years ago, she did release a woman’s anthem with Run the World, although there are also qualms with that one too, but remember, NOT A BLUEPRINT.
One criticism making the rounds on the internets is derived from her current single “Drunk in Love,” a duet with her partner Jay-Z. A snippet of the song which Jay-Z raps refers to a domestic violence incident:
I am Ike Turner…Baby know I don’t play / Now eat the cake, Anna Mae / I said eat the cake, Anna Mae
Now I personally thought it was some sloppy reference to Marie Antionette. Turns out it’s a reference to Tina Turner and her husband, who forced her to eat cake when she had declared she didn’t want any. I was surprised to learn that Beyoncé would allow this on her album, from her husband. Recently, a radio station even made the decision to censor the verse. Clearly, this is no trivial matter to the socially conscious but to many others, it’s just a verse in a song; a song they performed live on the Grammy’s as millions tuned in. I’ve seen several blogs and media sources that cite this verse as the comments section has a field day (but really, when doesn’t it?) and I wonder if this was just an oversight. What kind of weight do these few lines have on this album and a self-proclaimed feminist? I’m personally not happy about it, but like a friend pointed out when she posted about this criticism herself: Beyoncé can do what she wants, and her beyhive will likely follow suit – and this has the potential to be incredibly dangerous. So many people forget that these celebrities are images, concocted personas, and not everything they see/hear is real. Thankfully though, Beyoncé has been using her powers for some good. Small domestic violence citation from her husband aside, the rest of BEYONCÉ | THE ALBUM does pretty good.
Take the track “Pretty Hurts.” The song delves into the insecurities women face and the pressure to address these so-called flaws. To be honest, my first thought was: as a beautiful woman, with a body almost religiously revered by others, telling us common folk that “pretty hurts” – that’s pretty gutsy. Then I got off my snarky high horse and appreciated the general message of the song:
Ain’t got no doctor or pill that can take the pain away
The pain’s inside and nobody frees you from your body
It’s the soul, it’s the soul that needs surgery…
Plastic smiles and denial can only take you so far
Then you break when the fake facade leaves you in the dark
In a society where we’re so inclined to change and mold ourselves into an unattainable image of perfection, this is a necessary statement audiences need to hear. I think it’s quite important and possibly a deliberate decision that this is the first track on the album. It could be saying, “this is my album, these are my songs, these are my images … but don’t take them to heart. What really matters here is you…” Even as I’m writing it, I realize how implausible that sounds but it works in my favor. People need to stop looking to outside sources for validation and start working on themselves, on repairing their souls.
We can cry all we want, “Beyoncé is a bad feminist! Look what she’s doing! Wrong, wrong wrong!” but … who is a perfect feminist? I sure as hell am not – it’s hard work, and it’s frustrating, and sometimes I say the wrong thing just as many times, if not more, than I say the right thing. Beyoncé can say and do what she wants – she is BEYONCÉ – and if it works in my favor, GREAT. Said element goes in my arsenal of “awesome shit.” If it does not, I observe it, critique it, learn from it, and move the fuck on because Beyoncé is not my blueprint.