Is Beyonce a feminist?

This excellent article says yes, she is, and a big one at that. In fact, the feminist Ms. Magazine chose her for their cover this month.

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Others, however, have disagreed with what’s being called her “fierce feminism,” and it’s worth recapping some of the rather loose ends in the discussion of what, exactly, a feminist role model looks like. How does she act? What does she stand for? And is it enough for her to call herself feminist?

First off, it’s important to note that few famous women call themselves “feminists.” If asked about it, they usually say something along the lines of this, via Taylor Swift:

“I don’t really think about things as guys versus girls. I never have. I was raised by parents who brought me up to think if you work as hard as guys, you can go far in life.”

Pretty neutral and meh, right? Other women feel the need to flat out reject the label, as Katy Perry did when she–wait for it–accepted her 2012 Woman of the Year award from Billboard:

“I am not a feminist, but I do believe in the strength of women.”

Hmmm. Okay.

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But in an interview with Vogue UK, Beyonce had this to say about the term:

“That word can be very extreme…But I guess I am a modern-day feminist. I do believe in equality. Why do you have to choose what type of woman you are? Why do you have to label yourself anything? I’m just a woman and I love being a woman.”

So, better. Although I’m not sure about the “modern-day” qualifier. As opposed to what, a 19th century first-wave feminist? A 1970s second waver? I’m certainly not looking to be described as an old, antiquated somewhat stale feminist. I guess it frustrates me that women feel like they have to dance around the issue.

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But, perhaps this hesitance is to be expected, because as soon as Beyonce sort of agreed to the whole feminist thing, she received flak for it. According to the Salon article, several feminists had some on-point things to say about the image of her sexuality:

Freeman insists flashes of underboob and feminist critique don’t mix. Petersen concurs, calling the thigh-baring, lace-meets-leather outfit Beyoncé wore during her Super Bowl XLVII halftime show an “outfit that basically taught my lesson on the way that the male gaze objectifies and fetishizes the otherwise powerful female body.” A commenter on Jezebel summed up the charge: “That’s pretty much the Beyoncé contradiction right there. Lip service for female fans, fan service for the guys.”

But there is, of course, the very third-wave argument for Beyonce’s display of sexuality as a symbol of her empowerment. After all, Beyonce faces the same challenge that all women do: we must find success in terms of a deeply patriarchal world. We just have to decide and define our own terms.

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It’s kind of like a game, and if Beyonce’s success and self-confidence tells us anything, there is more than one way to win.

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Why we still need feminism

I don’t know about you, but I’m still reeling from last week’s horrific news story in Cleveland. In a matter of days, we’ve learned the details about what these three women endured while they were imprisoned by this man for an entire 10 YEARS. Let me say it again: THREE WOMEN WERE IMPRISONED IN A HOUSE IN A NEIGHBORHOOD FOR 10 YEARS. If I sound angry, it’s because I am.

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I’m outraged, but not just for obvious reasons. Not just because three young women had 10 years of their lives ripped away from them in an endless cycle of rape and abuse. Not just because, as young teenage girls, they were offered rides by a man already convicted of domestic violence and assault and needless to say, never made it home.

Nor am I outraged just because, so far, we’ve learned that two of the women were impregnated by their attacker. One of them gave birth to a daughter, who grew up in the house and is now six years old. The other, who says that she was pregnant five times, miscarried after being beaten and starved.

I’m outraged not just because police were called several times to the house, but never bother to investigated any further than the CHAINED SHUT FRONT DOOT. Not just because they never looked into neighbors’ reports of hearing strange noises coming from inside the house, seeing bizarre sightings like, I don’t know, NAKED WOMEN CRAWLING ON DOG LEASHES IN THE BACKYARD, or a little girl staring out the window of an abandoned house.

No, I’m not outraged just because of these atrocities. Not just because of the unimaginable suffering, fear, and hopelessness that each of these women surely felt, and the hope for freedom she probably lost.

I’m outraged that all of these things happened, and continue to happen to women all over the world, and yet it’s still easier to turn a blind eye and say you didn’t notice anything. It’s still more convenient for us to choose “not to get involved.” It’s still ok to chalk things up to “private issues” and simply walk away.

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And on top of all that, some still have the audacity to question if feminism is really relevant in today’s “progressive society.” I mean, do you know any women who still need advocacy, who still need someone to step up for them and say “Yes, I care?”

I’m outraged, of course, that women are kidnapped, tortured, and murdered, everyday, everywhere.

But what really kills me, what really breaks my heart, is the realization that at the end of the day, it seems like no one really cares–not even the people who are paid to.