The F-Bomb and the VMA’s 2014
Tell me a story about feminism.
I am not a watcher of the VMA’s and this year was no exception. I used to love music videos and was an MTV kid when it was still the place to see new music and hear new music. All that changed in my 20's when I realized that a lot of the music I loved (R&B, some hip-hop, pop, and rock) had videos where I was absent (as a black woman) or where I was on display only for my ass-ets (think R. Kelley). I stopped watching MTV but did not give up my love of music and appreciate the VMA’s for the legacy that they represent.
What does this have to do with feminism? Give me a moment to continue waxing.
Though I gave up on MTV, I kept an ear in the music worlds I loved and, around 1999, a girl band came on the scene that caught my attention: Destiny’s Child. I was never a rabid follower but, over the years, I came to like many of their songs and still listen to them today. When the group split, I did not keep up as much with Kelly Knowles and Michelle Williams but I would have to live under a rock to ignore the meteoric rise of Beyoncé.
Beyoncé. The name evokes an image that you either love or hate (or love to hate). No one seems to be neutral and everyone has an opinion about what she is or is not and what she should or should not do. Whew. That is a lot of weight to carry for anyone even an international pop star. So it comes as no surprise that her latest performance at the VMA’s has set scholars, critics, pundits and a host of others to talking about the hotly contested f-word: feminism.
Okay, enough waxing. Let’s get critical.
In an age where feminism is the F-word and everyone whose anyone has a defined idea of what a feminist is supposed to be, Beyoncé marched on stage and, for 16 minutes, embodied what I believe to be at the heart of feminism: empowerment. She owned her space. Controlled the message. Elevated her voice and commanded equality. For her self and all the rest of the feminists in that audience of over 3 million viewers.
We sang. We danced. We cried. We loved it and loved her.
I think we forget that feminism was not only about being able to own our economic life but also our sexual life and our sex life. The uncomfortable truth for some feminist, and culture at large, seems to be that women enjoy sex. We want to have it. On our terms. In our time and with whomever we choose. Celebrating that fact makes many people uncomfortable. For 16 minutes, Beyoncé brought us into a world where she owned all the ideals that I think Gloria Steinem, Audrey Lorde, bell hooks, and Cecile Richards (to name just a few) fought to bring to the masses. She owned not only her sensuality but her ability to have and enjoy sex.
Maybe if the women of today who think that feminism is the F-word saw her they might realize that Beyoncé as a mother, lover, friend, performer, business woman, daughter and friend brought the house down not because feminism is dead but because it is not. It is alive and well and kicking and we feminist could do worse than to have Beyoncé on our front lines.
All hail Queen Bey.