No Halo for Beyonce in Feminist Critique
Published: Tuesday, January 28, 2014
Updated: Tuesday, January 28, 2014 03:01
Is Beyoncé a feminist? If so, is she helping or hurting the feminist movement? Georgetown University Women of Color held a discussion Monday night in Healy 103 that attempted to answer just that.
The consensus: yes, but with plenty of room for discussion.
Soyica Colbert, an associate professor of African-American studies and theater and performance studies, facilitated the talk that included a discussion of Beyoncé’s self-titled album, released in December, and its accompanying music videos.
Attendees debated whether Beyoncé’s new album is a response to critics who say she is content to subjugate herself as the wife of wildly successful rapper and hip-hop mogul Jay-Z.
“Is she contradicting herself in some of these songs by both highlighting certain feminist ideas while also presenting herself in a very sexual way?” Colbert asked after a viewing of the music video for the song “***Flawless,” which features a voice over from Nigerian-born writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED Talk “We should all be feminists.”
While many among the 30 attendees found it hard to reconcile Beyoncé’s public image with her own personal views on feminism and gender equality, others applauded her for starting a dialogue on an issue often overlooked by the media and mainstream American culture.
Khadijah Davis (NHS ’15), a board member for GU Women of Color, touched on why she feels this is a topic that inspires such intense debate from different segments of American society.
“Beyoncé is always at the center, and I think one of the reasons this is such an interesting topic is because everyone is always trying to figure out exactly how her brain works and why she does what she does,” Davis said.
The discussion also touched on the evolution of feminism as both a concept and a movement, from the second-wave feminism of the mid-20th century to the third- and fourth-wave feminism that expanded the conversation about gender equality to include race, ethnicity and a number of other factors.
After a viewing of the music video for the song “Drunk in Love,” which displays Beyoncé and her husband together on a beach and contains plenty of sexual overtones, some discussion ensued over a certain lyric in which Jay-Z references Ike and Tina Turner and their troubles with domestic violence.
“I’m Ike Turner, turn up, baby, no, I don’t play. Now eat the cake, Anna Mae said, ‘Eat the cake, Anna Mae!’” Jay-Z raps.
Some audience members raised concerns over whether or not the public gives passes to artists who reference sensitive topics casually within the context of music.
“I don’t like the idea that we give someone like Lil Wayne, Jay-Z or Drake a pass for saying something that might be controversial in normal conversation just because they say it in a song,” one audience member said.
Colbert challenged the audience to look to not just one history or interpretation of feminism when examining contemporary debates, and to examine why the very word “feminism” evokes certain connotations and reactions.
Joslyn Burchett (COL ’16), another board member for GU Women of Color, said the event was both a way to examine ongoing debates over feminism and women’s roles in society, as well as a way to bring together women of color in the Georgetown community in a safe, communal space.
“We do these events to really get everyone together to talk about the issues that we think are important,” Burchett said. “The decision for this topic was really a collective decision by all of the board members.”