Everything Beyonce does is careful and thought out. Her entire image is perfection crafted from planning ahead. She does not ‘wing it’ or throw things into her performances and public appearances ‘just because’.
What she did at this award show was amazing, especially because of how intentional and thought out it clearly was.
Feminism is a scary word for a lot of people. Many women are afraid of calling themselves feminist because they think it implies anger, hatred of men, or a rejection of traditional femininity.
Beyonce presented everyone watching with two distinct images of what many viewers viewed as two very different women. There is the strong, independent FEMINIST. She is the woman who likes being in control and being in the spotlight. Then there is the WIFE and MOTHER. She is soft, sweet, smiling at the husband and child you can tell she loves and values so much.
For every girl watching who was afraid to be a feminist, afraid to be powerful, because of what she thought she would lose, this is an incredible message. You can be all the things you want to be. You can be both. Feminists can have amazing happy, full lives full of both traditional and modern womanhood.
Feminism means gender should not be a source of persecution or a restriction of your choices. Feminism mean the type of person you should be is based on what you value, not what outside forces pressure you to value because of your gender or biological sex. Shout at the top of your lungs that you are a feminist and proud. Then go and be the exact person that you want to be.
This made me tear up when I watched it. There are many legitimate critiques to be made of Beyoncé; that’s she’s lazy or doesn’t really do any work definitely isn’t one of them. She worked for both her career AND her family, against real odds. And to see how proud her husband and baby are of her here, and her reaction to that? Especially after reading some things about real shitty hateful things people (white people, white ladies, no surprise) have said about this performance? I totally cried, zero shame.
This is what bothers me, though. Couldn’t she have stood in front of the giant glowing “feminist” sign and NOT followed it up with being a wife and mother? I’m incredibly wary of any narrative that shouts “you can have it all!” because “having it all” shouldn’t have to look the same for all people and her success and fame shouldn’t hinge on whether or not she also has a softer side to tone down the strong, confident, feminist side. Why is that even a binary in the first place? Why does it even matter that she can be both? What if you just want to be Nicki Minaj? Or somewhere in between? I’d much rather think about that performance in terms of “you can define your own feminism” than “look! you can be a feminist and still have a husband and kids!” I mean, I’d rather not think about ANYTHING in terms of having a husband and kids, personally.
Could Beyoncé have stood in front of that giant glowing ‘feminist’ sign and NOT followed it up with being a wife and mother? Yes, she could have. But she as an artist chose to present herself and her work that way, and on that basis alone, her decision should be respected.
I don’t think Beyoncé’s performance shouted “You can have it all!” even if that’s how the above poster seems to have interpreted it for themselves. I agree that the trope of ‘having it all’ is deeply flawed, because of course it will look different for different people. This is what it looks like for the artist behind this work, and I think that that’s why she’s showing it to us. There’s a scene in her ‘visual album’ where a pageant judge asks her what she would like to be, and she responds, “I think what I would like most is to be happy.” She makes a point of reiterating that in this performance. I think her inclusion of her family is really about that. Maybe her success ‘shouldn’t hinge on whether or not she also has a softer side’. But what if it does, like, for her? Should she be ashamed of that? I think her ‘softer side’ is very relevant here, especially because of how black women’s humanity and softness is consistently denied. That she gets to even have a softer side is a privilege, though it shouldn’t be.
That said, I think that that’s precisely why it matters that she can be ‘both’ an artist and wife and mother. The black family is aggressively denigrated in this country, and there’s a long and awful history of black families being mutilated by slavery, Jim Crow, and now the prison system. Every smart article I’ve read about Beyoncé that has been penned by black women critics and writers has taken this context into account, so I’m going to defer to their expertise and read it in that context, as well, which I really don’t think can be ignored here.
You don’t have to want a family. But what if you do? My experience, as a queer person who has no family right now due to tragedy and really fucking hopes to have family again someday, is that all family, whether blood or intentional, and all kin groups are built on the kind of carework and emotional labor that is consistently devalued, by mainstream society, and also by punk subculture and society, and also queer society, and isn’t even entirely recognized by white liberal feminists, who always seem to want women of color to do their emotional work for them. It actually makes me really angry that that work is devalued as a gendered, specifically feminine thing, by society. So therefore, it’s meaningful to me that Beyoncé is making a point of valuing it, and saying that it’s an important part of her life.
Your suggestion that we read this performance’s message as “you can define your own feminism” sounds like a good one. But I don’t think it’s even possible to understand Beyoncé’s work or feminism without being real about the complexities of families, emotional labor, and race, and the way that those things impact a non-man IDed person’s relationship to their creative labor.
I agree with you 100% and wasn’t, in any way, trying to say Beyoncé should/shouldn’t portray herself or her feminism in a certain way - for exactly the reasons you’re saying. I think the poster above you just set of my alarms for suggesting that a certain kind of feminism, specifically a heteronormative one, is the “right” thing to be encouraging across the board. I’d rather take everyone’s context into account, because I don’t think everyone sees things in such a nuanced way, and it’s important to talk about that.
My last response was less about opposition and more about just asking more questions.