After Beyoncé's recent performance at the VMAs, social media platforms have been alive with debate. Users have been questioning Queen B's values and accusing her of having double standards as she proclaimed herself to be a feminist in bright lights on Tuesday. Although others have praised her for promoting feminism through her performance, which featured an excerpt from novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s speech “We should all be feminists”, many believe that the fact she performed provocatively and sung songs with sexual connotations was simply an act of hypocrisy and was NOT feminist.
So why am I writing about this?
Well, it perfectly illustrates something which has confused me about certain feminists for a long time. Feminism's own double standards and inaccessibility. **Before I go on, I do not mean to generalise - I know there are a lot of lovely feminists out there and I am one of them!! I am talking about a select group here.** As shown here, some people take great offence at the idea of a strong woman portraying her sexuality. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought part of the point in feminism was to empower women? Perhaps she is only allowed to be empowered in certain ways to be accepted as a true feminist. Ways which do not portray her as a sexual being. Clearly, according to these feminists, if she does sexualise herself, she is objectifying herself. How outdated is that?!
"We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings in the way that men are"
In fact, people have gone as far as to call her "slutty" and a "hoe". Err hang on, isn't slut shaming one thing that feminists totally object to? The whole thing is so flawed.
Of course, the industry is full of sexual imagery and misogyny. However, I do not believe that Beyoncé's performance is an example of this. Her performance was, simply that, her performance. Personally, I found it to be incredibly empowering. She is promoting ambition, independence, strength of character. This is not only empowering from a feminist point of view but from a general perspective, too. She is not just inspiring women here, but everyone. Of course she is capitalising from it, that's just the way the world works, but I don't think this devalues her message in the slightest.
If a woman writes a song about sex it doesn't make her any less of a feminist or mean she's objectifying herself. It doesn't mean she thinks any less of herself. Surely the fact she is able to express her sexual empowerment is a good thing? Sexuality should not be viewed as a taboo subject to be frowned upon! I think being sex positive and being feminist should come hand in hand. If it wasn't for this ideal we wouldn't have easy access to contraception, for example.
It's this kind of thing that make me incredibly intimidated by some "feminists". It should be a movement which is open and welcoming to other women, but it seems to me that there are quite an oppressive group of the feminist elite waiting on the sidelines to shoot down women who may challenge their ideals, or may think of the term in a different way. Perhaps we're not extreme feminists, but when did extremism ever get us anywhere? I've seen it mentioned that certain women (including our example of Beyoncé) don't have the "right" to use the word "feminist". I've seen it mentioned that women cannot call themselves feminists if they are uneducated in the topic. Wouldn't you find this intimidating and oppressive? It's a perfect example of why I believe that these labels do more harm than good.
Beyoncé is a person, performing, living her life and inspiring people. If she is happy with that, leave her to it.