What's Really Going On With White Feminists' Critiques of Beyoncé?
Yesterday I posted a photograph of Beyoncé on Ms. Magazine with some probing questions that I have for the article, which included this text:
I will be interested in seeing if the article reveals the nuances of her perspectives (such as ones revealed in her documentary), whether they challenge or affirm patriarchy at times (as she, like many women do both) or will the article solely hold her to an unreachable standard where she has to be bell hooks to be feminist while Lena Dunham, not Gloria Steinem appears to be the bar of White feminism. Again, nonfamous womanists and feminists should not be overly THIRSTY for celebrities to validate feminism. At the same time, I am interested in reading more of Bey’s perspectives on self-esteem, empowerment, confidence, inclusion, sexuality, LGBTQ, friendships and romance/marriage, for example. (I am DEFINITELY not interested her (or anyone) being labeled “unfeminist,” as I wrote about before. That word, specifically, is problematic.)
Silly me; I originally thought the article was an interview. Apparently, it is not. Since yesterday, I learned that: 1) The article is behind a paywall and not accessible to poor women or anyone without a subscription. 2) The Facebook thread for the article is disgusting, as expected. Many of the comments have the typical misogynoir and respectability politics that people seem to have confused for feminism. 3) The thread itself ends with a question, which part of it reads “Has Beyoncé ‘earned’ her feminist credentials?” Credentials and feminism should NEVER be used in the same sentence. This reeks of the merge of White supremacy, “legitimacy” and education.
In my post on Storify today, Is Beyoncé Going To Be Critiqued By White Feminists Ad Perpetuum?, I shared some Twitter conversation on the topic and raised six points as to why this critique, in general, seems never-ending and is non-productive, three of which include:
1) White women want to control and police feminism, which is actually quite White supremacist and patriarchal. It seems that theist, cisgender, heterosexual, thin, middle class, White women in the West think that feminism is their plaything and country club. It isn’t. Even White women without some of these privileges still stand firm against Beyoncé in a way that they would not do to any White woman, feminist or not, celebrity or not. They still view Black women as “allies” to their feminism, not actual women or feminists.
2) Feminism tends to have an element of inaccessibility by class and education, which definitely connects to race. By class, of course, Beyoncé doesn’t have this issue. She can access whatever she wants in any space. She has a platform. However, many of those with literacy/formal education privilege do not want Beyoncé to be considered feminist because she is not an academic. Black women have to be bell hooks to be considered feminist, but the bar (which should not even exist for any women) for White feminists is Lena Dunham? Beyoncé has no college education and she was home-schooled for a lot of her education as well. She is not the picture of a “scholar.” But neither was Sojourner Truth. Neither were Black blues singers or Black women who worked as domestics. Many still were the faces of resistance for Black women.
3) Some women, both White and Black, view Black women’s sexuality as automatically deviant, even if that woman is heterosexual, with heterosexual privilege. White heterosexuality is deemed the “norm” of heterosexuality. Heterosexual Black women are still deemed sexually deviant, even if they have the privilege that lesbian, bisexual, queer and trans* Black women do not. Thus, Beyoncé being sexual with her art, despite being in a highly heteronormative, presumably monogamous, heterosexual marriage and being a mother is not “enough” to deem her “respectable.” The problem is respectability politics are constructs of patriarchy, NOT feminism. Then there is the concept of sexuality within art itself. When is it “too sexual?” The fact that Miley Cyrus in a White body is not deemed “dirty” for twerking, yet Black women and our bodies automatically make the dance “dirty” reveals this race-specific misogyny, or misogynoir.
The fact that Jenna Jameson (a White woman deemed “mainstream” now) is a porn star in a patriarchal society and receives less criticism for her sexuality than Beyoncé speaks to the racism involved in the perception of sexuality. Beyoncé has been blamed for everything from teen sexuality and poor health to sex trafficking, and people think this criticism is normal and logical. This reveals how deep racism and sexism runs in our society, as it pertains to Black women, specifically.
A Black woman does not have to pass a certain “bar” of entry that White women hold before she is “acceptable” to feminism and this suggestion is most certainly racist, especially since White women are automatically assumed to be feminist. Even White women who openly hated feminism, such as Margaret Thatcher, has had the label “feminist” placed upon her post-mortem. White women can be considered feminist even when clearly operating in ways that reinforce imperialist White supremacist capitalist hetero-patriarchy, like Thatcher did (examine her damn record, one that is as patriarchal and imperialist as any White male leader), yet Beyoncé is consistently attacked for not meeting some arbitrary standard as White women stand GUARD over feminism?
I’ve also noticed that some Black women and other women of colour do not want Beyoncé associated with feminism in any way, and unfortunately, their reasoning seems to be tied into respectability politics. They think choosing the “positive” side of patriarchal binaries is what feminism is about, such as being a “good” role model and exemplifying “perfect” womanhood, as dictated by theism and patriarchy. This is also a mistake. Even so, it seems that the largest voices against Beyoncé amidst feminist spaces are White women’s voices—probably because there are so many of them and because their voices are amplified due to White privilege. When most of them dissent, it hits a major blog or newspaper. When most Black women dissent it’s via tweets or personal blogs. The access points differ in scope. Even when a Black woman or another woman of colour writes about Beyoncé for a major publication, ironically (or not so) her views seem to match White feminists’ views against Beyoncé. Perhaps this is what it takes to be published.
Critique is important. No one is above it. But this perpetual critique of Beyoncé is no longer productive critique. (I am not sure that it ever was.) This critique is creating arbitrary standards that Black feminists have to meet that White feminists do not. This is racist antagonism towards Black women if they are loved, are considered beautiful and are successful. This is respectability politics and misogynoir masquerading as feminism. This is intellectual elitism. This is double standards—ones where Beyoncé’s experience with capitalism is evil but Sheryl Sandberg’s is good, where Beyoncé’s sexuality is deviant and Lena Dunham’s is empowering, where Beyoncé being married and a mother is just her succumbing to patriarchy but for White women, it’s deemed a powerful choice, especially if coupled with a career.
If White women view Black women as inferior and White feminists view Black feminists as inferior at worst or as “allies,” “sidekicks” or just Black women to “save” not actual feminists, at best, the problem is theirs, not Beyoncé’s or Black women’s at all.
White women need to stop guarding the invisible gate to feminism. It’s not a country club. That was never the point. Leave the gates and hierarchies for patriarchy.
things that determine your sexual orientation
- who you’re attracted to
things that do not determine your sexual orientation
- who you’ve fucked
- who you haven’t fucked
- what kind of sex you enjoy
- how you dress
- the porn you watch
- what you look like
- what the day of the week it is
- what you ate for dinner yesterday
- the length of your toenails
- beyonce (no, not even beyonce)
- OTHER PEOPLE’S OPINIONS
- OTHER PEOPLE’S OPINIONS
- OTHER PEOPLE’S OPINIONS
just because i have enjoyed penetrative sex with men does not negate the fact that i’m queer, and the idea that queer women cannot enjoy penetrative sex is pretty ludicrous (uh, have you heard of STRAP-ONS? or FINGERS? or VIBRATORS? a penis is NOT required!!! and what about people who aren’t male but have penises?!?!)
if you’re spending time policing someone else’s queer identity, it does not ultimately mean you’re more enlightened about someone else’s preferences than they are — all it means is that there’s some deficiency in your life where you feel the need to pick apart aspects of other people that have absolutely nothing to do with you, and that’s really, really sad
I don’t get why asexual people have to come out to their parents about their sexuality. How do they even expect this to go down? They’re like: “Mum … Dad … I am asexual.” And then the mother breaks down crying and the father starts yelling: “NO THIS IS NOT HOW WE RAISED YOU HOW WILL WE EVER HAVE A PREGNANT TEENAGE DAUGHTER NOW WHERE DID WE GO WRONG JUST THINK ABOUT ALL THE STDS YOU WON’T CATCH AND HOW WE HAVE PUT ALL OUR HOPES INTO YOU BECOMING A MAJOR SLUT WE ARE SO DISAPPOINTED!” … or what?!
ADVICE REQUESTED: Battling sexism in dress code
A question from a reader
I’m a Drum Major (Of a Marching Band aka Queen of Band Geeks… For if you don’t know what that means) and so as a leader it’s important that everyone moves as a cohesive unit. However, my Band Director has a implemented a new rule which states that males may take off their shirts at the practice field, which is fine because it gets EXTREMELY HOT AND HUMID for the 11+ hours we’re out there a week. The rule states that females have to stay fully clothed, which is a point of discord between myself and my BD. I think that females should be able to wear appropriate sports bras out to practice, but I would personally never do so and neither (to my knowledge) would any other females. This creates a dilemma: Should I fight for what I see as equality or should I let it rest b/c no one would really use it anyway. Another problem is it’s my job to smooth problems over not create more and as a DM its important to seem masculine so as to demand authority. This is highlighting my gender which isn’t going over well (esp since I have a higher pitched voice and a small stature).
I said that it is still worth fighting this unfair rule, especially if they find it unfair and they are in a position of power that gives them more clout.
Do you have any advice for our reader?
“In the United States, assumptions of heterosexuality operate as a hegemonic or taken-for-granted ideology—to be heterosexual is considered normal, to be anything else is to become suspect. The system of sexual meanings associated with heterosexism becomes normalized to such a degree that they are often unquestioned. For example, the use of the term sexuality itself references heterosexuality as normal, natural, and normative. The ideological dimension of heterosexism is embedded in binary thinking that deems heterosexuality as normal and other sexualities as deviant. Such thinking divides sexuality into two categories, namely, “normal” and “deviant” sexuality, and has great implications for understanding Black women’s sexualities. Within assumptions of normalized heterosexuality, two important categories of “deviant” sexuality emerge. First, African or Black sexuality becomes constructed as an abnormal or pathologized heterosexuality. Long-standing ideas concerning the excessive sexual appetite of people of African descent conjured up in White imaginations generate gender-specific controlling images of the Black male rapist and the Black female jezebel, and they also rely on myths of Black hypersexuality. Within assumptions of normalized heterosexuality, regardless of individual behavior, being White marks the normal category of heterosexuality. In contrast, being Black signals the wild, out-of-control hyperheterosexuality of excessive sexual appetite. Within assumptions of normalized heterosexuality, homosexuality emerges as a second important category of “deviant” sexuality. In this case, homosexuality constitutes an abnormal sexuality that becomes pathologized as heterosexuality’s opposite. Whereas the problem of African or Black sexual deviancy is thought to lie in Black hyperheterosexuality, the problem of homosexuality lies not in an excess of heterosexual desire, but in the seeming absence of it. Women who lack interest in men as sexual partners become pathologized as “frigid” if they claim heterosexuality and stigmatized as lesbians if they do not. ”—
Patricia Hill Collins
This is from the 2nd edition of her book Black Feminist Thought - Knowledge, Consciousness and The Politics of Empowerment. Even amidst heterosexually being presented as “normal,” there are categories of deviant sexuality within heterosexuality that are ascribed upon Black bodies. Even as some heterosexuals cling to theoretical “normalcy” of heterosexuality, which is heterosexist and homophobic to do so, sexuality as Black heterosexuals is still not viewed as “normal” anyway (when juxtaposed to Whites), even as Black heterosexuals still have heterosexual privilege (when juxtaposed to LGBTQ Black people). It’s important for heterosexual Black people to stand with LGBTQ Black people, always.
just a quick lil message that’s obscured by like 90% of social ‘justice’ bloggers:
it’s ok to be cis!
it’s ok to be straight!
it’s ok to be white!
it’s ok to be male!
it’s when you fail to respect and recognise other, equally ok parts of the gender, sexuality, and race spectrums, and act superior because of the way that you were born, that the problem arises.