Why I Like My Feminism Gray…

What’s the quickest way to pick a fight?

Wear stilleto heels to a conference on Feminism.

And if you want it to really get ugly…pair said heels with skinny jeans, nail polish and copious amounts of lip gloss.

This is exactly what I did a few years ago.  As I waded through a sea of buzzcuts and flannel shirts, I could feel the eyes on me. Eyes of contempt. Eyes of lust. Eyes of confusion. I smiled and waited for the hammer to drop. I didn’t have to wait long.

About an hour into the conference, the conversation turned to the “male gaze.” For those of you who are unfamiliar with feminist lingo, male gaze is a term that was first used by feminist scholars to describe how the film industry typically adopts the point of view of heterosexual men by using camera angles and filming techniques that objectify women. Although it was a term initially applied to sexist film practices, the term now has a wider application – as it is used  to describe the focalization of women as objects on a socio-cultural level. Today, much of the female representation and imagery that we see in the media is shaped to please the male gaze.

So at this conference, one sister kept talking about how we, as women, too often defined ourselves by the standards set by men. As she spoke, she pointedly looked at me… and my shoes. Following her cue, a few other women glared at me, openly hostile. Many of the women at this particular conference were lesbian and mixed in with their hostility about my questionable feminism -was definitely a certain amount of sexual interest in my appearance. Hate and lust in equal measure. Maybe they thought I would be intimidated or would start to doubt my decision to unabashedly be myself in this space that they had carved out. I chuckled silently as a Beyonce line ran through my head. They must not know about me.

First of all, let me be clear. I am a feminist. A staunch one. I am a woman who firmly believes that women should have access to all of the rights and opportunities that are afforded to men. I do not hate men. Or anything for that matter. I love men and women. I want to see a society where all of us can be free and whole. I take my feminism seriously. So seriously in fact, that I have taken time to critically think about it. I  have not allowed anyone to impose their brand of feminism on me. Whether it’s white women who have made feminism all about the white, middle-class experience or sistas who have rejected feminism for some reactionary and equally debilitating form of  womanism that still denies full range of expression and being, I reject anything that tells me that I’m not allowed to be my whole self. I like stiletto heels and make up. I like men. I like attractive men. When I was a single woman, I liked to look at attractive men and I liked them to look at me. Does being a feminist mean that I cannot love and embrace these parts of myself?

I used to feel a deep internal conflict between who I was and what I thought my feminism should look like. But like Joan Morgan said in When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost, I’ve learned to embrace a feminism that’s not afraid to “f*&k with the gray areas.”  A feminism that lets me find peace in the understanding that my job as a feminist  human being is to constantly work on checking the “isms” within myself, while also loving the parts of me that are healthy and conducive to my growth—even if they don’t fit into someone’s pre-conceived notion of who I should be.

I now understand that every woman is a whole woman. This means that she is multi-faceted, (perhaps, contradictory), complex, and nuanced. She has many sides and has the right to express any of those sides whenever she sees fit. I experience myself as intellectual, emotional, spiritual, sexual, physical, mental, and growing. And if my understanding of feminism is correct, the ultimate goal is to create a world where women can be whatever they want to be, whenever they want to be it, without limitations imposed by gender and sexism. I think that any idea, institution, or person that tries to deny a woman this full range of expression is an enemy to feminism. Feminists…this means you! Sometimes in a misguided attempt to set up parameters, feminists create a narrower and (ironically) oppressive definition of womanhood

Check out the video below of a young lady – who goes by the name of NineteenPercent – giving her take on the new Beyonce video,  Run The World (Girls). This is EXACTLY the kind of feminism that I experienced at that conference…snarky, confrontational, biting, sarcastic, and ugly…

Now don’t get me wrong. I value critique and I don’t believe anybody is exempt from it. I also think that if you can look past the off-putting tone, NineteenPercent shares some really important information and makes some critical connections. I appreciate her and any young woman who decides to address these pressing issues. Unlike NineteenPercent, I believe Beyonce’s lyrics were not oppositional, but complementary to the points outlined in the video. I think any form of empowerment starts with an internal decision to be empowered. Beyonce’s song is just that…a creative, aesthetic, call to empowerment. NineteenPercent thinks Beyonce is a liar because she failed to speak about all of the challenges faced by women. I think Beyonce is an artist doing what artists do…creating her vision of what reality should be.

However, NinteenPercent has every right to disagree. I definitely think that a strong feminist movement must include critique of ourselves and each other. But I also firmly believe in what bell hooks, calls “loving critique.” Particularly when it’s a critique of another woman. Why is it that the women who proclaim to be pro-woman so loudly are the first ones to tear another woman down in the most brutal and humiliating fashion? Why must we enter the arena of dialogue armed with ridicule and disdain for each other? Or is it less about feminist critique and more about seizing an opportunity to attack another woman in an unconscious act of internalized sexism? Does sexy (and arguably hyper-sexed) Beyonce become more of a target because of the added influence of  jealousy and repressed sexuality? These are questions we should be willing to face with honesty and authenticity.

Now, I can completely understand the crux of Beyonce and why she is so controversial. Her expression is decidedly sexual. People observe her blonde hair and question her racial politics. When confronted with her as a woman, a brand, and an artist, questions arise about how much of her is genuine expression, how much is savvy marketing, and how much is female exploitation by male handlers. I’ve often thought about Beyonce’s relationship to corporate interests and what it means for the young women and men in my community whom I work with on a daily basis. Beyonce, just like feminism itself, is a complicated knot of fascinating and uncomfortable questions.

Let me just state for the record, that I have not always been pleased with everything that Beyonce has produced. And if given the opportunity, I would love to engage her in a conversation about all of the things I love about her body of work AND the things I take issue with. However, the tone of this hypothetical conversation would reflect the amount of respect that I have for Beyonce as both an artist and a black woman. Being able to navigate contentious points and differing perspectives is the sign of a movement that is healthy and truly progressive.

With that being said, I absolutely love Beyonce’s new song and video. I can relate to the words and performance. In so many ways, this song embodies how I experience my own feminism. Futhermore, I respect that Beyonce is Beyonce. She is not Gloria Steinem. She is not bell hooks. And she is not supposed to be. Her brand of feminism is and should be a reflection of who she is.

Thank you, Beyonce, for making a song for the women who embrace their wholeness, even in the face of ridicule and repression. For us sisters who have no qualms about marching into a feminist conference in sky high shoes and perfume. For the women who understand that feminism has a million different faces.

Who run this mutha?!?!?!?

Comments

  1. Just wanted to let you know that i learned AND loved reading this. great work!

  2. SugarKovalczyk says:

    I looooved this posting. Like you I have never felt a desire to have my feminism define me, but have sought to shape what is viewed as feminism. The scope always seemed too narrow. Thank you for expressing this point of view so well.

    And women being contradictory? I embrace my contradictory nature. I roll around on the floor naked in my contradictions, lol! I’ve long since lost the idea of reconciling any contradictions to fit into a cookie-cutter definition of what someone else says feminism is.

    I watched (and loved) NineteenPercent’s video. I didn’t view it as a calling out or criticism of Beyonce so much as an indictment against the ridiculous literal idea that girls (not even women) run the world. It’s a pop song and as such I imagine it is aimed at young women and girls. The idea that a young girl would hear the lyrics and take them seriously made me cringe. Flashback to ‘grrl power’ of 1995. I saw NineteenPetcent’s video as pointing out the reality. The title might imply an attack on B, but listening to her didn’t for me.

    You should contact her for her side of it. I believe you’ll find you two agree more than disagree. Plus I’ll have the pleasure of hearing what two intelligent women come up with together on this topic.

    For the record I don’t like the lyrics but I do love Beyonce’s video. The woman is fierce.

    SK

    • Thank you so much. I appreciate the thoughtful response. I think the fact that Nineteen’s video started off calling Beyonce a “liar” is what set the tone for me. Now, granted, this may have been tongue-in-cheek, it did remind me of the experience that I had at the feminism conference…where I felt unjustly attacked. I agree that Nineteen made some very good points. I just think that it could have been done with just a little less venom thrown at Beyonce. But as stated in the blog, I appreciate both Nineteen and Beyonce for who they are and the very strong voices that they bring to the table. Thanks for reaching out.

  3. I want to thank you for giving another side to this debate. I have always thought that the movement (feminist) looked down on women who wanted to express their feminine side. I am for our equal share but can’t I protest in a dress? Keep up the great work!

  4. Riot4Art says:

    Great article! and that video is aesthetically amazing

  5. I really like what you wrote. I feel like those feminists that look down on you fro being feminine are a certain sect and I take issue with them as well. My issue with Beyonce is that it seems like she plays ALWAYS both sides of the fence. I.E. “Upgrade You” she’s talking about how she can improve a man and how she can make him better. Yet when Jay-Z appears she’s slinking and sliding all over him like she’s a back-up dancer in HIS video. I LOVE THAT SONG THO & the video- we are a visual society so what you see is what you believe.

    With this song, I find it awful on all levels… the beat, the lyrics, the video was ok but that is about all. Let’s examine the song: it contains a sample from a group called Major Lazers- 2 men & was written & produced by The Dream- a man. So how is she running anything? Sure she paid them… well with Beyonce we really don’t know.

    The other thing about Beyonce is for all her Feminism & Girl Power anthems she steals other women’s work. I’m not talking about inspiration or imitation it’s flat out the same thing!

    Remember this?

    or

    I think Beyonce is very talented and she does have a great platform to inspire and uplift. She can be a feminist without lumberjack shirts and construction boots as well as be original.

    • mahoganie says:

      WAIT! The Dream Wrote Run The World?!?!?!?!?! Okay. lol

    • Cristal…thank you for your response. I think you bring up great points. As stated in my piece, I have taken issue with Beyonce at various times throughout her career. However, I have never had the opportunity to have a conversation with her and because of that..I hesitate to jump to my own conclusions about the meanings of her works or her intentions. While you point out that Beyonce has stolen work from other women and that men are really in control of her works/image (points which could be debated), I think it is also important to note that Beyonce has often insisted upon touring with an all female-band that she hosted auditions for and hand-picked. This is what makes her such a great subject for feminist dialogue. For every instance that someone could put forth that Beyonce (as a woman, artist) is detrimental to women…someone else could make an equally plausible argument that she had done a lot for women and the feminist movement. Either way I appreciate what she brings to the table and the debate that she sparks. I have equal appreciation for your thought-provoking contribution to this piece, Sis. Thank you.

  6. mahoganie says:

    This is a very good post!

    I actually brought up a question on my FB page pondering if the message of Beyonce’s song was lost amidst the lingerie. I got the connection that our sexuality is just as powerful, but I know this part of the vid didn’t sit well with some folks. Including me, because I too thought about the whole hypersexed notion and I actually was a bit disappointed because it didn’t feel like it was something new in terms of watching Bey and her dancers in leotards and etc. For me it felt like the same ol Beyonce and I was execting a power punch of a video considering the hype around it. The choreogrpahy was on point, but the women in lingerie still disappointed me. :(

    I actually like the art direction of the performance she gave during the Billboard Awards better than the video. However, I understood it (the vid) was done as part art form and part expression from Bey.

    As you stated, being a feminist is full of twists and turns, but it is mainly about embracing what’s true to your fem-mystique. I love and thank you for driving this point.

    In the midst of all this discussion, I wonder if anyone remembers any other calls to women via a song. I particularly think of Neneh Cherry’s “Women.” It’s a bit of a contrast to Beyonce’s dance record with its dramatic orchistrated tone and all, but nevertheless a really good song! Check it out when you get a chance.

    Now let me go see what the hoopla is about with 19% vid. hmmm

    • Mahoganie. I appreciate your response. I can definitely understand and appreciate your perspective…and your fem-mystique! I also agree that Neneh Cherry’s “Woman” is a beautiful song. Thank you for contributing to the dialogue.

  7. Mereswin says:

    Thank you for writing a well thought provoking article. I’m gong to pass this and the video along to my sister to educate my nieces.

  8. I really liked your article, I love Girls (Who Run the World) and NineteenPercent’s video is needed. I got two Beyonce performances, one video critique and several critique articles in about 12 hours. Thanks for the balance!!!

  9. I completely agree that women are often each others worst enemy. However to say the song is for women, isn’t completely accurate. I believe “girls” run it. That’s exactly who that song is for. As the above comment states, is that the portrayal of power we want to give young girls? Is that what Girl World Order is about? Skin baring high Fashion and choreographed dances?
    Nineteen did tear into Beyonce a little, but these aren’t soft issues she is touching on. You can tell she is passionate and often passion can be abrasive.
    I don’t like the song. However if we are talking about empowering “Independent Women” by Destiny’s Child with women really “running” things is more empowering than this video.
    Also feminine is more than an article of clothing. Feminine has more to do with class & tact than high heels.
    Thank you for your article, I greatly enjoyed reading it. I agree, we are walking contradictions and have many facets, that is what I feel make us women. Having the choice of which face to show is also part of being a woman.

    • Andrea…thank you for sharing. While I disagree with some of the points made…I definitely respect your voice and your observations. I agree that the term “feminine” is about more than just clothing. In fact, “feminine” (like the term “feminism”) is just as multi-faceted as we are. I did not think that I was more feminine than the women at the conference because I wore heels and make-up….however, I don’t think this made me less feminine/feminist…which is what many of them would have me believe. As Joan Morgan so eloquently stated, “I believe in feminism(s).”

      Again, thank you so much for your thought-provoking response. I particularly love this statement:

      “we are walking contradictions and have many facets, that is what I feel make us women. Having the choice of which face to show is also part of being a woman.”

  10. Roxiee.hart says:

    While I don’t find NineteenPercent’s video about Beyonce nearly as antagonistic as Natasha Theory does, I can’t help but find validity in her claims about how you approach criticism. She could have found a better way to disagree with the songs lyrical content than to berate Beyonce and her efforts. Still I think NineteenPercent is hilariously sarcastic and valid on many of the historical points she makes, but she completely overlooks any good intentions Bey may have had in Run The World (Girls). I don’t love the song, but hey I like the idea and belief that women can *and will one day* actually “run the world”. We do everything else..

    C’est du très bon travail!! Feminism, as gray as it needs to be!! Love it!

    • I was conflicted about Bey’s video — the song was mediocre to me, but more than that, the “harem as gynocracy” vibe (stole that from a writer at Celebitchy) wasn’t working for me. But I like your thoughts about Bey being a visionary and this being more her dream as an artist. That is totally valid. I think another thing drove me insane about the vid is I am so tired of Beyonce (and other black artists) seeming obsession with being the blonde queen. (There are no other blondes of any race in her video.) I loved nineteenpercent’s critique because voices like hers seem so absent in today’s world. A witty, mentally strong and forcefully articulate woman like her (and at her age) is woefully hard to find in media. Her video got 30,000 hits so far and I think is perhaps even starting a mini-feminist revolution…? But when I think about it, I wouldn’t want a world without Beyonce OR women like nineteenpercent.

      • Jenni, thanks for your response. I completely agree…we need both NineteenPercent and Beyonce!

      • Also, when you noted that there were no other blondes in the video besides Beyonce, I went back and looked. While brunettes definitely dominate, there are a handful of blondes in the video. Enough to be a somewhat accurate representation of the blonde (truly blonde) population.

        Not that it should take away from the very valid discussion about Beyonce’s blonde hair and what it may mean…racially, politically, and culturally..but just something to note.

    • Roxiee…agreed! However flawed anyone may find it…I do think this was an attempt by Beyonce to share a progressive message and to empower women. And while it may not be a “perfect” artistic vision (according to some) – I do think we should applaud the sister for her contribution to the movement. So, I agree with you that the criticisms of this song/video “completely overlook any good intentions” that she may have had. Thank you for reading the post and sharing. I appreciate you!

      • Roxiee.hart says:

        Thanks for nurturing an open environment! And yesss, I’m a film major and I honestly smiled when you brought up ideas that reflect Laura Mulvey’s Visual Pleasures and Narrative Cinema theories! Take that male gaze(whatever you happen to be at any given time)!

  11. I think its a bit ridiculous to expect a pop star, who has to constantly compromise and negotiate being a brand with being an artist, to provide a three-dimensional context of themselves and their audience in the promo campaign for their first single from their new album.

    I’m not necessarily a fan of Beyonce as a public person or artist but I don’t think she’s necessarily setting females or communities of color back in any way that half of her peers have. I do think her existence in the public sphere is a good avenue of bringing up discussions like this, but when I see people like 19% get visibly mad, ala Cam’ron “you maaaaad doggy”, I think the opportunity for conversation and actual progress starts to get muddled.

    That said, I am thankful for the specific points about women she brings up and I am equally thankful for this eloquent and personal retort.

    • Sweeney…thank you! I appreciate your voice and that of Beyonce’s and NineteenPercent’s. Because of the sexist attacks that women face daily…I simply urge us to approach each other with a certain amount of respect and compassion. My only issue with NineteenPercent was that I experienced her critique as “less loving” than it could have been. Thank you for reading and offering your insight, Sis.

  12. Brittany. says:

    My two cents, as a Beyoncé fan/stan:

    B never claimed to be feminist. B’s most feminist undertone/statement: female empowerment messages in her music to empower women. I find nothing wrong with her intentions. Beyoncé makes me feel empowered by leading by example. Visuals & lyrical content aside (which I’ve no issue with), Beyoncé is the epitome of a woman. She’s talented, hardworking, has succeeded in her field(s), & broken barriers in many others. She “redefines” the bar as an entertainer and as a woman (femininity/womanhood (feminism)). She’s sexual, but tasteful. Despite her sexiness, she is considered an icon and role model for women. She IS taken seriously. She IS respected.

    Classiness goes beyond fashion, indeed. Beyoncé’s classiness is beyond fashion. Offstage (and ON), B carries herself as a women. We’re introduced to entrepreneur, philanthropist, wife, sister, daughter, aunty, friend, & MOST INTERGRALLY, human Beyoncé. In this instance, B’s not as unrealistic as she’s deemed. Not as fabricated. People have selective amnesia & choose what is to be ascertained from her, because like any woman, she’s full of complexity. Truth be told, a lot of women are scared of her. And scared of what she represents, because what she represents is refinement to the confinement women still tend to place themselves in. She can be as easily sexy (entertainment- wise) as she can be admirable for what she offers in all the other aforementioned avenues. And women know this, depending on whose opinion we’re consulting on Beyoncé.

    Women “tend” to consult these convenience arguments based on “pseudo-knowledge” about the truths of women (femininity) & womanhood (feminism and sexuality). But what’s really truth in hindsight of the complexity of the woman, & our struggles on a multi-cultural scale. Let’s think outside of Nineteen’s personal ethnocentrism for a moment. Is she really speaking to the plight of the woman, or to the plight of a certain culture of women, historically? We all know the answer. The only absolute truth is that we’re all women, our common affinity. Therefore, we should bond based upon that, not degrade each other ‘cause femininity and feminist expression “will” differ. No one woman exercises an inferior or superior way of the socio-culturally constructed notion that is femininity (defining the woman and women), & one of its by-products (feminism). Biologically, we all have vaginas, we’re all women. Socio-culturally, there’s gender: women are feminine. Therefore, there’s no one way to partake in womanhood. So, B’s not any less “feminist” than any other woman.

    Anyway, her female demographic is diversified, hence range in songs: UU, RTW, VP, IW, PT.1 (DC). It’s not contradictory, it’s multi-relational. She has fans outside the American demographic. Cultures are different, women are different. Nineteen way of critiquing B for RTW is reminiscent of a man objectifying a woman, IMO. Is it so unfathomable that a woman CAN actually “run the world” someday? Has the mentality of woman been that enslaved…? It seems to me that it’s not the message of RTW, but it was a deeper issue she had with Beyoncé. It seems to be an inability to see outside of her feminist pompousness.

    Whether Nineteen agrees, B offers an alternative expression & dimension to feminism. Males & females relate to Beyoncé, she’s not too alienating (males) or too unconscious (females). For an entertainer, who’s overly criticized at times, she offers more of a balance than people give her credit for. As far as the B Brand, she runs her brand. She is “partnered” with her label, misinformation (a.k.a. GOSSIP) aside. It’s just not Nineteen’s forte for feminism.

    Nineteen is speaking “status quo” feminist perspective. Women shouldn’t be sexual because we’re already hyper-sexualized. Women will be sexualized, whether we leash or unleash our sexuality. It’s not a Beyoncé thing; it’s a socio-culturally constructed thing–goes beyond Beyoncé. It’s embedded because we, as women, are socialized & enculturated into it. Nineteen isn’t even escaping (nor above) it, truthfully, because it’s at a deeper level. Nineteen is perhaps, more conscious of it, though. Nineteen needs to understand that women, womanhood, & feminism will never be static. We’re in an evolutionary society & culture. Feminist principles have to evolve with the changing times & changing statuses of women. We’ve come a long way from original feminist principles, but we can go further with newer ones. We’ve been defined by older feminist principles, but we can be redefined with newer ones. How do we (women) expect any man to consider our cause, when we ourselves, as women, constantly limit & confine our own femininity and feminism in a box?

    P.S.: Songwriting: Women, I really need y’all to take two minutes & Google the definition of a songwriter. Beyoncé “IS” the definition of one. IIWAB: IASF booklet, B’s credited as “producer” not “writer.” Big difference. It ‘wouldn’t” be considered “stealing” either way. Any contribution she has to the song and its conceptual process constitutes songwriting. Songwriting is literally its definition, SONG WRITING. A song is not just composed of lyrics. A song has lyrics, beats, bridges, choruses, verses, melodies, harmonies, syncopation, rhythm, production (vocal and other sonic features), etc. RTW: B “collaborated” with Major L. & the Dream, she’s not “controlled” by them. She’s paying them; the concepts are hers & she “co” on anything that has her name on it. I guarantee that RTW’s a ‘co’-written & ‘co’-produced song. “Co” anything is mutual. So again, B’s redefining “co”-partnerships with men. So, she can’t be controlled when those men came to work for her. #OOP.

    Anyway, excellent alternative insight. I was totally inspired by your post to type my own perspective.

    • Thanks Brittany…your analysis is spot-on! Loved this:

      Nineteen needs to understand that women, womanhood, & feminism will never be static. We’re in an evolutionary society & culture. Feminist principles have to evolve with the changing times & changing statuses of women. We’ve come a long way from original feminist principles, but we can go further with newer ones. We’ve been defined by older feminist principles, but we can be redefined with newer ones. How do we (women) expect any man to consider our cause, when we ourselves, as women, constantly limit & confine our own femininity and feminism in a box?

      Thank you for reading and for your eloquent response.

    • POW! Thank you.

  13. Realist says:

    Great piece- love your clarity and candor.

  14. Candice says:

    I just want to say that this is a beautiful article! Thank you so much for taking the time to write it. I whole heartedly 100% agree that women should be able to express themselves and who they are, and feel completely comfortable doing so. Articles like this teach us to not only embrace who we are, but embrace who other women choose to be. Great article!

  15. miss numa says:

    you just earned a new fan. perfectly stated.

  16. Well-written article. I appreciate your response on it, and through this article I learned about author Joan. I also liked what she wrote on her Facebook page about the matter. Great insight from both of you.

  17. sojourner says:

    OH! how i enjoyed the substance and spirit of this post. thank you for taking the time to post this for us to ponder. hooks’ “loving critique” has always resonated w/ me. i’m also sensitive to the kinds of symbolic violence that seem benign and well-intentioned bc they’re not as obvious but cut us down deeper than any verbal charge of “lying” ever could. its to this symbolic violence that i wanna dwell on for a sec.

    so when we talk about every woman being able to express the full range of her being without full concern about how that expression catapults and ripples through the lives of other woman, violently violating others’ ability to express the full range of their being, the call to ‘be loving’ can neglect the violence of other people ‘just being themselves’ without ever directing their anger at anyone in particular: this is the fetish of individual liberation over interconnected liberation. i think thats part of why so many folks enjoy the 19% clip: it gives voice to the symbolic violence of ignoring the full range of women’s experience.

    when calling attention to that violence, as 19% does, becomes more offensive to us than the actual violence of rape, domestic abuse, unequal pay, and when beyonce and her global platform are made the underdog, i gotta wonder. how much more privilege can we possibly allot a particular version of womanhood that refuses to acknowledge its own privilege? not all women create themselves equally.

    in these false contests, i always feel like we’re looking in one of those carnivelesque mirrors when our bodies are outta wack, like when folks think expressing outrage about racism is the cause of modern racism? so they want people to stop calling attention to the violence of racism…because it makes them uncomfortable or better, bc its passe, been there done that.

    i strongly believe that we all have different callings and roles in our interconnected struggles for liberation, and artists have a unique one. in many ways, popartists are (made) more impt than politicians, so the ‘seriousness’ of the profession is no measure for how seriously we should engage the form of prof/expres/sion. so i personally don’t heed the call by some who say we shouldn’t be engaging B’s work. i respect the power of popart in our world too much to listen to them. that said, unlike a boring paper that i write about gender-or racial violence with lotsa facts that no one will read and thus no one will bother making a youtube vid about (lucky me!), when B sings about what she conceives female liberation to be…it ripples through all our lives! thus i think we have some right, obligation even, to comment on her vision…because it impinges on our reality as people with uteruses (or is it uteri?). and so i wholeheartedly thankyou for engaging and i agree with you, that the more loving the better! but i also get that when people feel like their reality has been violated, they’re often not polite…

    what do i mean that one pop song can impinge on other women’s reality to elicit such a strong reaction?

    there are multiple multiple strata among womankind based on all kindsa things. to use the metaphor of a polygamous marriage: dominant girl power-esque feminism is, at the moment, the 1st wife–her power is an extension of the husband (and the larger system of polygamy). the 1st wife can’t understand why the 2nd and 3rd and 4th wife are disgruntled, as they cook for her, and go to the well for her, and have sex with hubby when she’s too tired, OR even better (and because ‘she’s in touch with her sexuality’) she lures hubby away from another wife with her stilettos and red lipstick whenever she’s in the mood etc. the other wives experience the true brunt of this unequal system while the 1st wife experiences a modicum of comfort and adoration (except of course when she goes to a feminist conference;-).

    B’s song is, for many 2nd and 3rd and 4th wives, a slap in the face to their experience and a reminder of their lack of global platform to express THEIR version of the marriage…no one is bouncing to a podcast of their feminist conferencing!! and even though the 1st wife thinks they do, they don’t wanna be her! (we can’t fault the 1st wife for thinking they’re jealous bc she’s used to being adored. but no, its not really about her or her stilletos even though it seems like it is). the other wives just desperately want to overthrow the unjust system, a system that in order to survive MUST have 1st wives serving as a buffer–to keep the other wives in check, to express disdain for their complaints, to call them irrationally discontent, to sweetly tell them to be more loving, and above all to reap the benefits of the system. 1st wives and those who want to be 1st wives don’t realize that their contentedness and/or desire (all good-sounding things, right!) actively maintain the subjugation of their sisters. the 1st wife’s status is only one small part of a system that needs cooks and cleaners and sex on demand. sure, maybe the madame can say no and yes when SHE wants…but someone else has to do the work when she refuses. every unjust system requires this kinda buy-in to reproduce itself…but critically, buying in under the guise of free choice, lest the 1st wife realize she too is comfortably oppressed.

    the sting comes when the 1st wife gets on stage and sings about how wonderful it is to be a wife… according to who? the world the 1st wife is calling in to existence with her fly song isn’t the one i want… which is why my favorite line from 19% was that ‘we don’t want female domination, we want a socially egalitarian society’. after all, true sign of invisible privilege is when someone thinks they know what kinda world i want…

    • Sojourner…thanks for your feedback. As sentient being occupying this time and space on Earth, we always have to walk that fine line between individual expression and collective well-being. At any given time, we can make personal decisions that some portions of the collective may deem detrimental. At every juncture…we have to decide. I hope that you did not read my post as saying that we should disregard the collective in favor of the individual. I am not for that. Nor am I for the collective adopting narrow parameters for membership. Within feminism, there are several variations/strains…all of which are valid. And yes, it’s true that Beyonce did not capture the WHOLE woman experience in her 4 minute song, neither did NinteeenPercent in her video. This is why we need multiple voices, sharing multiple experiences of womanhood. And rather than looking at these as opposing forces that “catapults and ripples through the lives of other woman, violently violating others’ ability to express the full range of their being”…we can look at it as different angles and experiences to the story. Yes, we are all women. But our experience of womanhood is not monolithic. Race, class, geographic location, age, gender expression, sexual orientation, and worldview are all factors as well.

      I also take some issue with your 1st, 2nd, 3rd, wife characterizations and assumptions. With all due respect, you don’t know much about me…other than the fact that I like heels and lipstick. Is that all that it takes to get me classified as the 1st wife? With little information about my background, education, struggles, experiences…this seems a little myopic, presumptuous, and indicative of the very thing I’m talking about. Also, keep in mind that when I went to this conference, these kind of “assumptions” were made before I even opened my mouth. I went to the conference ready to engage with all of my sisters…regardless of where we stood in terms of shoe choice or sexual orientation. I was not met with the same type of love. For you to suggest that I somehow deserved this because of how I was dressed, rather than acknowledging that internalized sexism does exist even within the sacred, hallowed, halls of feminism smacks of denial. For the record, I don’t identify with the 1st wife. But because I still recognize the 1st wife’s experience as valid and still welcome her to the struggle with open arms, maybe it’s difficult to make the distinction.

      But because the symbolism has been invoked…let’s run with it. Let’s imagine that Beyonce is the 1st wife. Let’s imagine that she’s been hearing critique after critique coming from the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th wives saying that her songs are not feminist enough…that they don’t empower women. Although she is hurt by the criticism, she does hear it and takes it in. She then decides to try to stand in solidarity with her sisters and do something different. So, she makes a song that she hopes will do this. It’s a baby step…but a step nonetheless. Is it flawed? Perhaps. Does it capture the full-range of women’s experience in 4 minutes. Absolutely not. How could it? Could it have been more? Sure. Can we critique the song and ask her to do more next time? Yes.

      But what good do we do by totaling rejecting her? Do we force the 1st wife to continue to identify with the husband (patriarchy) by rejecting her, by name-calling, when she tries to reach out in solidarity?

      So, again, I still call for a feminism that A)tries with all its might to refrain from assumptions about what it means to be a woman, feminist, 1st wife, 2nd wife, or whatever terms we want to use to hide our judgment in and 2)that when we do critique each other (because critique is necessary)..we do so with the same love that we would approach a family member. When I have to have a real and critical conversation with my mother or sister, I don’t start that conversation by calling them a liar. Why? because I love them. Because I’m for their growth and progression. Because I understand that I can critique their behavior and actions without it becoming character assassination? Because they are not the symbol for all the things that I despise …they are human beings…with all the contradictions, mistakes, insecurities, fuck-ups, hang-ups, that I have as well. And I think sometimes we forget that.

  18. Like much of the responses, I ditto the sentiments and say “thank you” for your thought provoking blog. I have been reading “Gendered Lives” to get a foot-hold on the timeline of the women’s movement in herstory/history and how broad the range of beliefs there are in defining feminism. I loved the writing/authors you have referred to. I think I am trying to find out my thoughts on Beyonce and the likes of many women artists. Unfortunately I think we as social beings have a tendency to dictate what people should assume as their roles in specific sects. I recognize that I am one of those people who also dictates and has a strong opinion on what I believe others ‘should’ be doing. I am working on that side of me so that people can unfold in the manner that they need to and I can be in a space to simply observe, learn and love folk right where they are…whether I agree with them or not. I must say, I question Beyonce at times, but she is a sexy mamajamma of an artist! I realize it is not worth the time to pursue such
    hater-ation if I truly consider what you have written above. On a personal note, I have often observed you and thought about your attire and how easy it must be for women to attack you simply on appearance. I admit that I have JUDGED women wearing certain attire simply because they look uncomfortable TO ME…not considering the woman who chooses to wear whatever she wants. Don’t we do this to women all the time, whether they have colored contacts, naturals, makeup, tattoooos for days, gold-platinum teeth, weaves…Unsure when it will stop, but I do recognize it is a work-in-process to get to know people first before sizing them up…again, something i am working on…enjoyed the blog and loved that you said (paraphrased)that we can be complexed/contradictory in our whole make up…so so true!

    • Thank you Traci…I appreciate your feedback…from both an intellectual place AND because I know you personally and appreciate the work you do on an individual and collective level. I agree wholeheartedly that we focus a lot on what other people are doing and being. I think we do it way too much. From a spiritual perspective…I often think that we can project our own stuff on to other people…making them the target and distracting us from our own internal conflicts. I say “we” because I think that we all do it. My spiritual path is one that is leading me closer and closer to this notion that when we offer critique…we should do it with compassion because we are flawed, all hurting in some ways, and ALL working through our stuff. And with close examination, anybody can pick through various elements of our lives and find portions of it that would call into question our commitments and authenticity…according to their standards. This is why I’m working hard to do exactly what you stated…to love people right where they are. This doesn’t mean that I won’t criticize or challenge them. I think challenge and criticism encourages growth…I just think that we should do it lovingly. When we take issue with our loved ones (partners, children)…our approach is one that is designed to correct behavior butt with love. I don’t approach a difficult conversation with my husband or kids by calling them “Liar”. I’m just simply asking us to extend that same kind of love out to people who we claim kinship with,

      On a personal note, you said that you have observed my attire and thought about how easy it must be for women to attack me. I would love to unpack that …for the sake of gaining perspective and understanding. Can you expound on that?

      • Just read your response Tasha. My explaining what I mean puts me in a wonderful vulnerable place, since I am publicly sharing my unfair assumptions about women…for one moment I am calling it ‘projection upon projection.’

        I am fortunate to have had the pleasure to get to know you on various levels. Before we had met I had heard about how lyrical and powerful you are as an artist. I think I had heard your work afterwards. And then intermittently we met and I had the opportunity to watch you work (social justice work). So, everything has happened over time and in a specific order. This ‘somewhat’ chronological order has allowed me to get to know Tasha and Theory. I must be frank in saying, if I had not met you in this way I wonder if I would have been quite as critical as some of the women from the conference who were gazing at the other – YOU (as we well know from bell hooks and others). I am inclined to say NO, NOT ME!!! But I hate to admit, being someone who can’t walk in heels, does not wear makeup, and an array of other things that to others would look ‘oppositional’ when you and I stand neck-and-neck…it is way too easy to look at the differences (due to media and every other influence) and forget the similarities…forget the work we do…forget that our differences are actually to be celebrated AND to be reminded that there is room for heels and flats, makeup and no makeup or a little makeup…etc…So, I have watched the way you carry yourself and have observed a whole picture. My observation has been one of admiration and admonishing. Admiration for who you are in your totality. Admonishing myself as a reminder that my assumptions are actually based on what I do not do when I observe the physical Tasha. I do not wear this or that…get me? So, in the end, I think when I look at women I find myself saying “go on beyonce and theory…i may not be able to rock that, but i love that you and other women can show another dope dimension of women.’ Let me also say, I do not look at all women in their totality. I still have problems when I think of women getting plastic surgery for aesthetic reasons…I have a problem with how much we consume as ‘consumers/shoppers.’
        I just walked in an outlet the other day where the prices were astronomical. 700 euro for a light jacket, which is what $850 (give or take) in dollars. It amazed me that women and men were just naturally shopping for these items without blinking. I am having a tough time understanding this global economic crisis that speaks more to classism right now (in my eyes)…because some people really aren’t hurting or at least give the perception of not hurting…A jacket to look good in when I could be starting 3 or 4 programs with that $850. I’m not saying don’t shop. But when I look at advertisement and the view is that $100 is a drop in a bucket, when that is so not true in FLINT or other cities and countries, I have a problem – and let’s be honest – classism ties into other roles we play as a gender constructed society. I watched a wonderful biography on estee lauder (the cosmetics that i do use on my face). The niece was being interviewed and she was talking about advertisement in Asia and how the female beauty standard is white and blue eyes, so they make sure to create an advertisement that will draw in the target market. I have a major problem with that. I have a problem with brown women with straight or perms believing/feeling that ‘naturals are uncooth, dirty and unprofessional.’ I still have a problem with beauty standards…I’m fighting way too hard to prove to people that “the blacker the berry the better the beauty.” So I recognize that my lens for looking at all women in their totality is not fully developed…because I am still angry and frustrated…and in the midst of all of that I am working on not being oppositional in an oppositional world.

        wooooo….tag, you’re it ;-)
        blessings,
        traci

  19. Just another lesbian says:

    I agree with a bunch of what you said but totally object to your generalizations of lesbians.

    “Many of the women at this particular conference were lesbian and mixed in with their hostility about my questionable feminism -was definitely a certain amount of sexual interest in my appearance. Hate and lust in equal measure.”

    As a lesbian I felt i was represented as some type of predator. In reality, judging by our description, (no offense) you’re not at all my type. In fact we may have been wearing similar clothes. But to talk about the male gaze and the feminist objection to it, and then so quickly talk about the women staring at and objectifying you, inherently causes the reader to conflate the two, representing lesbians as contradictory and hypercritical.

    • Katie…thank you for reading and for posting your feedback. Because you may not have read it, I’m going to repost a reply that I gave to another sister who felt like I unfairly categorized lesbians. I hope that my reply will help to foster some understanding. I said:

      With that being said…please remember that the personal account that I shared in the blog was an actual event. I did attend a conference. Many of the participants were lesbian. This was not an assumption, in fact it was observed by the attendees at the conference, who wondered why more heterosexual women didn’t attend. This particular conference simply had a majority lesbian representation.

      Secondly, while I would love to think that lesbians exist in a vacuum….free of the cultural conditioning that everybody deals with….the truth of the matter is lesbians are capable of acting out in ways that reflect internalized oppression. This was evidenced by the leering, male gaze and posturing that I experienced in the presence of some of these sisters. I do not have to assume that some of these women were sexually attracted because it became more than obvious when a handful tried to get my number. I just did not feel the need to mention all of this because it didn’t seem relevant to the point that I was making. This experience was lived. These observations were made. And these experiences were shared in this blog to set a certain context. I would never suggest that all lesbians would be attracted to me. Nor would I suggest that all lesbians would approach me in the way that a number of these sisters did. However, in talking about this specific incident, I was approached in ways that I felt were sexual and hostile. To tell it any different would not be authentic to the experience that I had.

      So, to answer your question. Are all lesbians predatory? Do some lesbians adopt the very male gaze and posturing that they rail against? Of course not. Do some lesbians fall into this type of conditioning? Yes. Did some of these lesbians at this conference? Absolutely.

  20. FilmFatale_NYC says:

    While I agree with both Nineteen Percent’s and Natasha’s points of view, the question in my mind is what Beyonce thinks of all this. Was this just a cool ass sexy video or was she actually trying to make a ‘statement’? I have my own theory, but we really don’t know. This reminds me of the same debate when ‘Ally McBeal’ was on the air back in the 90’s–was she the new image of feminism? etc. Same with ‘Sex and the City’ Seeing as both shows were created and written by men..oh well.
    The one thing I do find humorous in all of this, is that Beyonce’s video is eerily similar in some regards to ’21st Century Girl’ by Willow Smith. That can’t be a coincidence.

    • Thanks for the feedback. I’m glad you see the need for all of our voices. That is the heart of this blog post. I have not seen the Willow Smith video but I will definitely check it out.

  21. One of my followers on twitter linked me to your post.

    You make some interesting remarks regarding sexual politics, femininity, and the male gaze.

    I wrote a piece today, “Arielle Loren Asks “Is Beyonce the Face of Contemporary Feminism?” My Response.”
    bit.ly/jGrTA2

    Read it and let me know what you think.

    -Renina

  22. Love the blog and feedback from other sisters and lovers of womyn. I’m an African feminist from Kenya and I have to say, I’ve had both really positive and really damaging experiences being in different feminist spaces. At the end of the day though, I love being around progressive women, and women who understand as you say that “all women are whole and complete” just the way they are. When I saw Beyonce’s video, I was just happy that another girl power song had been released – because there aren’t enough of them. I didn’t appreciate that they saluted to the soldiers at the end, but she might have her own reasons for doing this. The point is, as you say, Beyonce is her own kind of feminist and I respect that. I’m a diva myself and I love to dress up in different ways. Fortunately, in African feminist spaces, many of the women come decked in vibrant colors, accessories and beautiful hair does – Afrikan women love to express and it’s a beautiful thing.

    Regarding 19%, I think she just used the Beyonce video as an opportunity to draw attention to what she wanted to say, because she knew using Beyonce as a tag would get her traffic. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that – in fact, it’s about women taking back technology – using it to our advantage in this age of social media. She even says that her video isn’t really about Beyonce or the video.

    Anyway, if you all are interested in being part of a new global feminist alliance to advance sexual and reproductive justice, please check out RESURJ on facebook at http://www.facebook.com/RESURJ on twitter @RESURJ and sign onto the 10-point action agenda on our website if you support it. http://www.resurj.org As long as you share our values, we invite all people in all their diversities to join us.

    Bless,

    Zawadi

    • Peace Zawadi…thank you for your feedback. I agree wholeheartedly and have “liked” Resurj on Facebook and am now following on Twitter. Thanks for reading and sharing, Sis…and follow back!

  23. Hi Natasha, I really enjoyed reading this post because up til now I’ve only seen negative reviews of the video (and I’m not too crazy about it myself). I’m wondering how you respond to some of the points 19% made, like the line where Beyonce says “none of these bitches can fade me.” In general, it seems that you find the video overtly positive (or maybe neutral?). Anyway, I do appreciate your perspective!

    • Hi Lolita…thanks for reading.

      In terms of the line, “none of these bitches can fade me”, there are two things:

      1) I’m not sure that it says “bitches.” I have only heard the clean version of this song, so I’m not sure what it says. Many of the lyric sites that I go to actually says “none of these niggas can fade me.” So, at this point, I’m not sure what the line actually says.

      2) There is a feminist magazine that I like that is…ironically…called “Bitch.”

      3) When it comes to language, this is probably where I’m most third-wavish. I do believe that when it comes to words…context is important and that it is more powerful to change the connotation of a word than to censor it. Is Beyonce any less feminist for using the term than Bitch magazine is? Not to say that Beyonce should not be critiqued.

      I did not say that the video was “overtly positive.” What I did say was that I liked it….overall. I appreciate the video from an artistic/aesthetic point of view and I do appreciate her attempt to speak to women’s empowerment (flawed as some may find it.)

      Again, thanks for the feedback. I appreciate your perspective as well, Sis!

  24. Natasha agh! You are so right. I went and checked and yes there is at least one other blonde woman in the dance segments. It’s easy for my own eyes to deceive me when I already have my mind made up about someone’s “agenda” or “subconscious crap” .. :/ …! Also I wanted to say you may like this lady’s video responding to nieteenpercent:

    It’s very lighthearted, respectful, persuasive, and emmpowering, I thought.

    • Jenni…thanks for posting this video. I do like this video and really relate to it. I grew up with lots of strong, feminine, influences. My mother, grandmothers, were the pillars in my life. I am actually going to reach out to this sister and tell her how much I appreciate this!

  25. I’m sorry, I didn’t know the video would post in the comments, thought I was just doing the link …:/

  26. LadySugatits says:

    Again, I love this post and your blog. I am not a fan of Beyonce as nothing she does interests me in the least bit. With that being said I also didn’t support Nineteen Percents critique of Run the World. It was a bit too snarky and while I don’t like the song, I feel self-empowerment songs can be beneficial even if they are not culturally and financially accurate. Calling her a liar was misguided and Beyonce doesn’t write her own songs so… However she did bring up good points about the economic disparities between males and females.

    I have also identify with how you felt at the conference with other feminist projecting onto you their personal hang ups, habits or definitions of feminism. All I want as a human being is the space to be me that’s it! Other women or men who try to dictate what that me should be just have no space in my life. I was going to write a post about lesbians who project misogynistic tactics on other women but its so exhausting I don’t think I can at this moment. The labels are out of control and disconcerting.

    Great post..

  27. as a black father, raising an 11 year old girl, i hear you.
    for philosophical reasons, BET was banned in this house, until now, we usually click past.
    as an old hip hop head, with a truck that still has the subs in the back seat, most albums went into the trash, around year 3 (yes, i waited a little late..)
    as a reasonable, rational, responsible person, the birth of my daughter made me reassess SO much in this world: about what is really important.
    as a christian, i can pray.
    as my little one becomes not so little, i cannot shield her, hide her from the world.
    nor should i: it is hers to walk
    but, perhaps i can equip her to fight her own battles.
    thanks for the post.
    walk safe.

    • Thank you, Phil. I am so glad to hear that you take the job of raising your daughter seriously. My parenting style tends to favor literacy over censorship. I never want to “ban” my children from any form of media. Instead I want them to be “literate” about what they consume, so that when they leave my house (and my watch), they have tools to critically analyze what they see and know how to process it. As a parent, I’m with you all the way. Thank you for reading and sharing your experience.

  28. rosierings says:

    I was JUST talking about this on Saturday. I was a party full of young activists when the Beyonce song came up. It was ugly in there. I questioned why Beyonce’s song drew so much ire while, 98 percent of other music did not. When did showing our bodies and moving them sexually become so offensive? Why destroy Beyonce? Why not teach her? Do we all have to listen to Indigo Girls? (I do like them…I’m just saying…) I think they dismissed me as a backwards, woman hating, patriarch concubine. Eh…and we wonder why the movement stalled. I’m actually pretty versed in Feminist and Gender thought and until we get more diversity in thinking, it’s over. My fear is that we are one move away from forced Burquas…Male Gaze indeed…

    I’m sharing this.

  29. Hi Natasha,

    Thank you so much for this post! This is exactly what I have thought and been thinking as a female musician, feminist, and stiletto lover. I see this kind of feminist driven horizontal hostility when it comes to artists I have much respect for (Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Madonna, Taylor Swift, ect.) As feminists we should know better and do better than what has been done against us, but I know that we ourselves are dealing with our privileges, oppressions and internalized “isms.” We also have a right to critique, not judge, and it should be in a way that doesn’t perpetuate some hierarchy of “good feminist art/music/lit ect. Contradiction makes us uncomfortable, and unfortunately, as a member of an oppressed group, it is something that we constantly struggle with. It’s hard to live with, let alone create something that challenges it. I know I feel that “look” when I get up on stage, angry guitar + lyrics in hand, yet splattered with glitter and hairspray. It’s like I’m a traitor. That I’m some brainwashed tool of the patriarchy, a dumb girl who’s just eye-candy, a tool for the man. Trust me, I am not, and when others make me feel that way, it not only angers me, but makes me loose faith that even pro-woman, feminist people can really not judge a book by it’s cover. But then I read posts like yours and know not to loose hope!

    If you can, check out my tunes as well. Plus, I’d love to chat more with you about other women in music as well! Thanks again!

    • Thanks, Sis. I definitely appreciate you taking the time to read and share your experience. I agree wholeheartedly with everything you said and plan to check out your music.

  30. Thanks Sis. I appreciate your response and enjoyed reading your piece!

  31. In response to Samhita at Feministing: http://feministing.com/2011/05/24/behind-every-strong-man-there-is-an-even-stronger-beyonce/

    Thank you. I definitely think that you did some cherry-picking to make your point. I wish you had allowed the layered, context that I wrote this piece in to speak for itself. rather than snatching pieces of out context and then embedding them with your own meaning and interpretations. When writing this piece, I spent a great amount of time trying to articulate why the issue of Beyonce (flaws and all) was a complicated one…and why her voice is still important and relevant….why she is a sister that we should still engage. And why her song is still worthy of feminist dialogue. I appreciate the complexities, nuance, and and gray areas of this movement. I specifically left NineteenPercent’s piece intact to avoid this kind of butchering and simplifying.

    However, I do respect and appreciate your voice and perspective. As I stated before, I think a strong feminist movement should be one of inclusion and understanding. I’m okay with agreeing to disagree.

  32. good work – you have written one of the more self congradulatory pieces I have read. ‘Many of the women at this particular conference were lesbian and mixed in with their hostility about my questionable feminism -was definitely a certain amount of sexual interest in my appearance. Hate and lust in equal measure’ ahahaha – of course why wouldn’t they want you? wearing high heels and tons of lipgloss – why wouldn’t feminist lesbians be attracted to the same things that men typically find attractive.
    this article also seems to dip into petty high school politics: ‘Does sexy (and arguably hyper-sexed) Beyonce become more of a target because of the added influence of jealousy and repressed sexuality?’
    people don’t really disagree with Beyonce’s politics or her brand of feminism or her choice of expressing it – they are really just jealous or sexually curious/repressed – Just like those previous feminist lesbians struggled to accept you due to your beauty and their obvious sexual attraction people have a hard time hearing Beyonce out because of her beauty and really it just makes people jealous and confused about their sexuality. what an embarasement this article is.

  33. First, let me say thank you for reading the post and providing your feedback. Despite the derisive tone that you have decided to set in this post, I do truly appreciate your willingness to engage in this dialogue.

    With that being said…please remember that the personal account that I shared in the blog was an actual event. I did attend a conference. Many of the participants were lesbian. This was not an assumption, in fact it was observed by the attendees at the conference, who wondered why more heterosexual women didn’t attend. This particular conference simply had a majority lesbian representation.

    Secondly, while I would love to think that lesbians exist in a vacuum….free of the cultural conditioning that everybody deals with….the truth of the matter is lesbians are capable of acting out in ways that reflect internalized oppression. This was evidenced by the leering, male gaze and posturing that I experienced in the presence of some of these sisters. I do not have to assume that some of these women were sexually attracted because it became more than obvious when a handful tried to get my number. I just did not feel the need to mention all of this because it didn’t seem relevant to the point that I was making. This experience was lived. These observations were made. And these experiences were shared in this blog to set a certain context. I would never suggest that all lesbians would be attracted to me. Nor would I suggest that all lesbians would approach me in the way that a number of these sisters did. However, in talking about this specific incident, I was approached in ways that I felt were sexual and hostile. To tell it any different would not be authentic to the experience that I had.

    If calling it “petty high school” politics makes it easier for you to swallow…so be it. But the truth of the matter is that when decide to critique someone, part of our job as the criticizer is to assess how much of our criticism is valid criticism…and how much of it is us projecting our own insecurities and internal conflicts on to a target. Yes, I agree that some people have valid criticism of Beyonce. I know I do. But I have also experienced womanhood (and life) long enough to know that we are skilled in tearing down the people who touch us in the places that we are most insecure. I cannot tell you how many times a woman who might be confident or beautiful or rich might walk into a room and how she would automatically become a target for some women in the room. I would urge you to move past a simplistic view and consider the notion that critiques can be nuanced things. How often have we seen a person adopt a point of contention to critique another person on…only to find a very personal motivation at the root of that critique? So, yes, I believe some of the criticism is valid…and yes, I think some of the criticism is good ol’ fashioned “hating”. Beyonce is not immune to this. There is a certain complexity in all of this, I agree. But one that will definitely grow us if we refuse to reduce it to a simplistic “either-or” rationale.

    Also, I never said that “those lesbians struggled to accept me because of my beauty and their obvious attraction.” What I did say was that some of the lesbians at the event definitely took an interest in my appearance -in both an objectifying and critical manner. And in essence, they were women there who took issue with how I expressed my womanhood…even though I took no issue with their choices to look the way that they wanted. Beauty had nothing to do with it. The particular women that I speak of could not accept me because they could not accept a feminism that looked so externally different from theirs. And this was the point of my whole blog….if we are to progress as individuals and as a movement, it will involve us:

    1. Offering a loving critique of ourselves and others. A loving critique is one that points out the contradictions and the flaws, while understanding that in many ways, we are all contradictory and flawed. And while we could sit around adopting an elitist posture, trying to decide who is “feminist” enough, I think our time would be rather spent really exploring our own contradictions as well as the contradictions of others, and decided how we move forward in the name of progression and upliftment. When we look at Beyonce’s work and her choices, I’m sure that we can all find things that we take issue with. However, I’m sure that with a thorough examination of your life (or my life), some people would find reasons to deem you not “feminist” enough.

    2) Be willing to take a hard look at both the motivations behind our critique and the approach that we take to it. I agree with almost all of what NineteenPercent said. What I took issue with is her decision to start her video off by calling Beyonce a “liar”. In my opinion, this was an unwarranted and unnecessary act of verbal violence that only served the purpose of muddying a very lucid critique with a personal attack. And while I cannot speculate about the motivation and intentions of NineteenPercent or any other person for that matter, I will continue to urge ALL of us to examine why and how we critique. We have much to gain from this very intentional and thoughtful approach.

    I apologize that you found the post an embarrassment. For the sake of transparency, please know that it took much concerted effort on my part to not respond to you in the way that I perceive you responding to me. IBut if I am true to my brand of feminism, it calls for me to respect and appreciate your voice even we do not agree. Again, thank you for engaging in the space. Take Care, Sis.

  34. One more point to add re: lesbians at the feminist conference. It’s true that some lesbians have rejected conventional beauty for themselves, and some take that farther and disdain it in others. It’s true that sme internalize and perpetuate a male-style gaze, i.e. they express their own gender identity by borrowing cues directly from men (not all butches are like this, but some are.) But it’s also very much worth noting that many queer women, including many at that same conference, no doubt, identify as femme and also wear stilettos, lip gloss, nail polish, and more–and sometimes have to deal with the same disapproval, and often, frustratingly, have to deal with being read as “straight.” Those lesbians who asked for your number likely read you as a femme. And many of your other fellow attendees dressed girly likely were queer femmes.

    Google “femme invisibility” and you’ll find plenty on the subject.

    Just more food for thought.

  35. CJ…I agree. Thank you for adding another layer of clarity.I appreciate you.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Please note, everyone does not agree.  A great post by @NatashaTheory over at The B(e) Girl Manifesta asked whether or not we were being too persnicky in our definition of what is good for girls and what is feminist: …Now, I can completely understand the crux of Beyonce and why she is so controversial. Her expression… [...]

  2. [...] writes at her blog in response to 19 percents video, Unlike NineteenPercent, I believe Beyonce’s lyrics were not oppositional, but complementary to [...]

  3. [...] noted within this excerpt, many bloggers have been bouncing around the idea that being empowered is a decision, and that anyone who does not [...]

  4. [...] moments, Beyonce falls back upon traditional ideas of femininity, of love and of romance.” Natasha Theory is all in for the video and song due to a feminism which requires openness and multiplicity. Akiba [...]

  5. [...] doing what artists do…creating her vision of what reality should be”, says Natasha Theory of TheBeGirlManifesta. Anyone who is familiar with her body of work knows that this is not the first time that [...]

  6. [...] I’ve settled on a more nuanced definition of the word. Recently, I read a post on the blog The B(E)-Girl Manifesta that called out feminists who harshly criticize and limit the expression of other women. I think [...]

  7. [...] I Like My Feminism Gray… 6 July 2011 1 views No Comment // Tweetby Natasha Theory, 23 May 2011. What’s the quickest way to pick a [...]

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