is beyonce the new face of feminism?
Further complicating matters is the fact that Beyonce dared to express her thoughts on gender inequality alongside these pictures, stating to the interviewer:
‘Equality is a myth, and for some reason everyone accepts that women don’t make as much money as men do. I truly believe that women should be financially independent from their men. And let’s face it; money gives men the power to run the show. It gives men the power to define value. They define what’s sexy. And men define what’s feminine. It’s ridiculous.’
The real question to me though is not whether you can be considered a feminist if you use your sexuality or your fit body to propel your own agenda, but rather whether the ends justify the means.
When Slutwalk was being debated rather more persistently, I wondered whether the publicity it was garnering for feminism and campaigns fighting violence against women was worth the obvious issues surrounding it. But I find this Beyonce/GQ debacle considerably less problematic, given it’s not a calculated “movement” but rather one woman using her position (both in the public eye and possibly in more compromising positions in the magazine) to share a message about something that concerns all women in a forum that wouldn’t often hear such viewpoints.
Let’s look at this again friends; these quotes –
‘Women should be financially independent from their men.’
‘Equality is a myth.’
‘Men define what’s feminine. It’s ridiculous.’
– have appeared in a men’s magazine. GQ, no less. As in, the GQ that its publisher reports has a circulation of 963,507 and a total audience of 6,414,000. That’s a hell of a lot of dudes being told that it’s uncool for men to still be running the show, and that women aren’t happy about it.
That Beyonce has now potentially exposed a large population of men (and women) who don’t often think about gender inequality to her own views of it has been overlooked in favour of questioning whether we want feminism aligned with a scantily clad Beyonce, regardless of what she’s saying. But one interview hardly makes her the figurehead of feminism.
As for whether Beyonce even could be considered a feminist – well, I don’t know. I suspect she hasn’t given much thought to the furore in the feminist blogosphere about her giving feminism a bad name, considering she’s the woman who came out with this gem to British Harper’s Bazaar: ‘I need to find a catchy new word for feminism, right? Like Bootylicious.’
Ultimately though, it’s only our own feminism that we can be in charge of or label. Try as we might to hand Gloria or Germaine or whoever a trident to decide who is or isn’t a feminist, there are potentially as many types of feminism as there are feminists. And like it or not, some people’s idea of feminism is one in which they get paid obscene amounts of money to pose half naked on a magazine cover. You can get on your soapbox all you like, but it’s probably not going to stop anyone self-identifying as a feminist.
Personally, I don’t really care if Beyonce says she’s a feminist or not. With the hoards of women who were dismissing feminism and defiantly pronouncing themselves NOT-feminists, I don’t think it’d be bad PR for “feminism” to have Beyonce identify herself as such (Zooey D’s probably feeling lonely in the celebrity-feminist corner). We may want only the right kind of feminists on side, but it’s impossible to get anything done without the numbers to back you up.
In my mind, the worst case scenario here is that no one ever reads the interview and no one is thus prompted to think a little deeper about gender politics and inequalities. But more likely is that Beyonce’s words will actually inspire the odd person to give feminism a bit of thought. And a gesture that both appears to be sincere and improves how feminism is perceived is, I think, a good thing.
Dunja Kay is a former Lip columnist who now just writes bits and bobs here and there about this and that (but mainly music and feminism).