Beyoncé is on the European leg of her Formation tour, named after Lemonade’s first released single. Billboard say ‘Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” is a Revolutionary Work of Black Feminism. Her fans say it’s ‘Beyoncé’s evolution as an intersectional feminist and her recognition of culture and Civil Rights. So Bey is ‘woke’. She has come a long way from saying ‘It is not about colour or race.’ Or has she? I see Bey, as the zeitgeist princess of pop, consuming social movements of the day to stay relevant and rake in ‘the Benjamins.’ While I appreciate that celebrities can bring social causes to the fore, commoditization of social movements impairs their power. It takes the focus from the movement and places in the hands of the establishment they are trying to change.
Celebrities like Bey, have taken the nasty taste from the ‘Burn your bra – hate men’ misrepresentation of Feminism1. That said, Bey does not liberate or empower women and girls. She says, ‘I put the definition of feminist in my song [Flawless] and on my tour, to give clarity to the true meaning. I’m not really sure people know or understand what a feminist is?’ Neither does Bey.
Lemonade as a ‘Revolutionary Work of Black Feminism’ is pure hype. The album is the story of the cheating man and the woman being angry. Well for the first four songs anyway. After that, she is the good little ‘wifey’ who accepts and forgives. That is the default position for women irrespective of race.
I don’t know if Jay Z cheated on Bey, I’m not interested, but Lemonade has been an important and vital payday for him. It was initially only available on his download service Tidal, which was in financial trouble. There are also his royalties for putting his hand over Bey’s mouth in the video album in a ‘Shh! Don’t talk’ gesture. How liberating!
On a wider note, with her superstar status, Bey is in an elevated position to influence gender equality. Nonetheless, she worked with photographer Terry Richardson, whose associated with being a pervert and sexual predator. He is said to manipulate and degrade girls and request sexual favours. There is a dangerous implied message when a role model works with a man who has a vile reputation toward women. It’s like saying sexual exploitation is part of the industry.
Bey’s new clothing line, Ivy Park proclaims ‘Promote women in every sense.’ It is refreshing in a world where women represent 70% of the world’s poor although they work two-thirds of the world’s working hours. Except, the young women who make her £100 leggings receive just £4.30 per day.
However, Drunk In Love is part of the same collection. It includes Jay Z’s rap ‘I’m Ike Turner, turn up/Baby know I don’t play/Now eat the cake, Anna Mae’. These lyrics are in bad taste. They are a reference to the domestic violence Tina Turner suffered. Lyrics should not make it appear acceptable.
Domestic abuse against women is an international problem. In America, women are murdered for refusing a date. Taking a beating is not empowering, and violence has no place in love.
Despite having an all female band, her contradictions identify Bey as a ‘marketplace feminist’3 – somebody who takes only the part of the practise that appeals to their want, disregarding the rest of the ideology.
Part two being ‘woke’
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