Chances are, if you’re a person in the world who has access to the internet, you’ve heard about the absolutely ground-breaking, chart-topping, whirling dervish that is Beyoncé’s new self-titled album. The tracks, which dropped silently in the middle of the night with no warning, no advertising, no marketing, caused the Internet to explode into a sparkly confetti of Bey fans.
Rolling Stones reports: “Every second was alive with someone uploading to their Tumblr a perfect GIF of Beyoncé writhing on the beach in her "Drunk in Love" video, or screen-capping every lingerie look of her "Partition" clip. A seriously GIF-worthy moment across the Tumblr and Twittersphere for the intersectionalist feminist community was Beyoncé spouting the "BOW DOWN BITCHES" chant in her video for "Flawless" as she moshed and freaked out to the voice of of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's "We Should All Be Feminists" TED talk. “
From Beyoncé worship, to criticism about what she is and is not doing for Black feminism, the internet has been an outright k-hole of Bey fandom: “There was backlash on Tumblr to anyone who so much as thought of publishing anything other than Beyoncé-related content. "THIS IS NOT THE TIME TO BE UPLOADING SELFIES BITCH TAKE A SEAT" read one Tumblr post. "I'm really about to unfollow u if you're not talking about Beyoncé," read another. Save the rest for later, this is Bey worship time.”
But Knowles' path to stardom has not been paved with the approving adoration of feminists and parents alike; over the years, Beyoncé has been criticized for everything from her attire to her lyrics, with communities all over the globe urging her to join their ranks of theocracy. The Guardian joined the ranks of the discourse around Bey’s feminist flair earlier this week, stating: “Beyoncé seemingly has it all. A career, family, and a lifestyle that many envy, and many more hope to emulate. She employs more women than any other artist in the industry, and she owns her sexuality in ways that many sex-positive feminists celebrate in other women. So, what exactly is she doing that isn't feminist?
Is it the fact that she sings largely about relationships? Is it her willingness to embrace her sexuality and use it as part of her career? Or is it the fact that she revels in the happiness she has found in marriage and motherhood? What, exactly, is Beyoncé supposed to do that will appease everyone, yet still allow free will?”
On the feminist frontier, the album receives mixed critiques. Some say that it embodies the epitome of Black feminism, which challenges white middle-class narratives that so often undercuts and proves oppressive to women of color. Some say that the explicit sexuality in the album is anti-feminist (a dinosaur first-wave idea that encompasses femininity and sexuality as antithetical to the movement as a whole)
When Bey has been interviewed about being a feminist in the past, she’s responded accordingly. In this interview with Harper’s Bazaar she famously said, “I don't really feel that it's necessary to define it. It's just something that's kind of natural for me, and I feel like… you know… it's, like, what I live for. I need to find a catchy new word for feminism, right? Like Bootylicious."
Here at Slixa, we engage in a lot of conversations about sex positive feminism (to name one written by yours truly), but we rarely talk about the differences in feminism based on race, or the differences between what feminism means for folks across the spectrum of gender and sexuality. I know that feminism has been a site of oppression for many already-marginalized groups of people—so how do we continue the conversation of feminism through a lens of inclusivity, particularly when discussing the complicated landscape of sex positivity?
One thing that seems apparent is that this new album is making waves in many circles. The Atlantic lauds Bey’s response to her many critics and fans, by stating “It also fires back at some of her critics. Her lyrics about not being “just his little wife” take aim at those who link the overall quality of her previous album, 4, with its celebration of monogamy and domestic bliss. And the extended spoken word bit from Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie feels like a response to original pushback against the song. The “bow down, bitches” line got plenty of heat for dissing women, but when Beyoncé samples Adichie’s suggestion that competition among women for jobs or accomplishments isn’t necessarily a bad thing, Beyoncé seems to say that calling her out for being anti-feminist is just another case of a patriarchal society trying to police her behavior.”
Whether you agree or not is up to you! But this new album, with all of its many facets and components truly proves what Bey says in “Mine (feat Drake)”: “There’s no rest in the kingdom.” All hail King Bey!