‘Beyonce’ Serenades Teenage Boys & Black Feminists | Shadow and Act.
I happened to be on Twitter when the ‘Beyonce’ album was released. I appreciate the excitement that people felt. The thrill. The surprise. These days, I am acutely aware of the degraded images of Black women in the media. I understand the power of colorful and enchanting visuals. I understand the need for women to feel powerful, attractive and sexy. I even understand the importance of asserting “personal agency” with respect to one’s body. However, the conversation about Beyonce and Feminism has me confused. I write this to seek understanding.
As a filmmaker, I am keenly aware of demographics. Who sees what. Who buys what. Why something is successful based on who the audience is. It is clear to me that many Black women appreciate Beyonce. The Feminist side of the women equation, however, provided a bit of backlash to her previous album. The previous album’s sales were not at peak numbers. I can imagine, for someone who has made it very clear that she wants to be a legend, a lot of thought went into how to get back “on top”. How do you keep your teenage music base (the ones who promote, buy product and social network the bejesus out of people they adore) and, at the same time, stave off the attack from Feminists? An answer, it seems, is to place one quote (that speaks to men), by a Feminist, onto the album.
bell hooks who is, arguably, the most incisive Black Feminist out there, stated that “Feminism is the end of sexual oppression.” That quote could not have worked as a sound byte. Especially not in an album that provides visuals that reflect the very thing that Feminists have been struggling against for decades: the sexual objectification of women. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie‘s quote and TED talk, could work. It is accessible. The quote does not unsettle. And, I am not expressing disdain for Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. As a media analyst, I have to look at the “why” of the choice.
Team Beyonce has a strong fan base in teenage boys and men. I wondered, how do they continue to please the male fans? And, at the same time, stop the flow of anger being unleashed by Feminists? Release all of the album at once. All of the permutations of Beyonce. This way, no one is offended. There is something for everyone. Beyonce made a song about cunnilingus and called it ‘Blow’. The video parades scantily clad women around to whet the male appetite (as do most of the videos). But, because there is phraseology by a Feminist on ONE track -“Flawless”, Feminists can claim Beyonce as being both in control of her sexuality and “sex positive”. Beyonce, on the hood of a car, flexing one butt cheek for the camera, now becomes “sex positive”.