here’s the thing:
- respect sex workers, but
- do not defend the porn industry
Beyoncé + Feminism
With Beyoncé’s release of her most recent visual album in 2013 self-titled, Beyoncé, and even more recently with her 2014 VMA performance it seems that Beyoncé has opened the door for an important dialogue between people regarding the topic of feminism. It seems that currently the audience is pretty split between believing Beyoncé is a progressive champion for feminism or that Beyoncé is exploiting her own (and other women’s sexuality) in a way that is appealing to men, ultimately continuing the cycle of the sexual objectification of women’s bodies and sexuality. Both sides have valid/interesting/confusing/problematic concepts and points - and one cannot say with any certainty that one is “wrong” or “right”. But regardless, it is valuable to observe and discuss the points of contention between these differing sides.
It is without disagreement that Beyoncé’s performance was provocative to say the least; observing the staging, dancing , and costuming. To say Beyoncé wasn’t utilizing sex appeal would be a ridiculous argument. But, whether or not Beyoncé was using her body/her sexuality (and the sexuality of the dancers) is not up for question, what is updiscussion is whether or not Beyoncé’s utilization and ownership of her sexuality is detrimental to to the feminist movement or if it is forwarding it.
Firstly, it is relevant to acknowledge the ownership men are given of their sexuality and the lack of judgment passed on them considering they are participating in equally, if not more, lewd sexual displays while simultaneously exploiting the sexuality of women that normally accompany them. For instance one might look to Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines and his exploitation of women’s sexuality that few people upon the release of the single seemed to question. It’s important to understand the initially the public didn’t question Robin Thicke’s blatant abuse of women’s sexuality because it is commonly understood within the patriarchy we live within that men have ownership over women’s bodies. So, when Robin Thicke get’s twerked on my Miley Cyrus in their 2013 VMA performance it is Miley who took all of the heat about acting “slutty” and “disgusting” while simultaneously 37 year-old Robin Thicke is singing a song about the “blurred lines” of consensual sex.
These two VMA performances create an excellent foil allowing for the better contrast between the expressions of sexuality. Why is it that in the 2013 VMA performance it is acceptable for Robin Thicke to sing a provocative/offensive song while utilizing the sexuality of a woman. Not to say that Miley doesn’t in this case have some ownership of her sexuality in the performance, but even so initially she took more heat for her behavior than Thicke did for his own. Now fast forward to 2014 where we have arguably the most successful female musician in the business performing a seventeen minute medley from her most recent album highlighting the issue of feminism. Beyoncé is staged in the dark standing in front of the word feminist, it is not to say that earlier in her performance there weren’t nearly naked women on the ground covered in body paint, but the visual she created coupled with her music was a powerful statement to say the least. Everyone in The Forum in Inglewood, California that night, everyone watching live from their homes, and everyone streaming that performance now are confronted with contemplating what “feminist” means because of that performance. Did Beyoncé use her sexuality, body, clothing, and so on to create an appealing show? Of course. Was it hurtful to women across America? Some people think so.
So, what I can understand comparing these two situations is that we don’t seem to have that much of a problem with men using their sexuality and the sexuality of women because, well, that’s what we’ve come to expect. It is a classic “boys will be boys” situation. When Beyoncé uses her sex appeal in a performance it is “disgraceful”, “inappropriate”, “disgusting”, “slutty”, and “un-lady-like”. The problem here isn’t even one that exists just in the entertainment industry but everywhere for women - women are expected to be everything. Women have to be super sexy, but not too sexy. They have to be smart, but not too smart - either way they are probably just riding on the coat tails of their husband/father/insert male figure here. They have to be sweet - otherwise they are a bitch. No one can be everything - and because of this women are constantly under severe scrutiny by both men and women.
Regardless of it you think Beyoncé is using her body as a means to an end or if you find her ownership of her body and sexuality empowering there is always going to be discourse. What I think is important is that we see women writing their stories and sharing them with other women. I think seeing Beyoncé own her body and the stage is a powerful thing for women and girls across the country to see. I think it is powerful to see that one of the most sought after entertainers in the world right now is a black female who has made a name for herself. I think all of that is incredibly empowering. Whether or not you think Beyoncé is “overrated” or not a “real feminist” I say to you - let Queen Bey through.
You don’t deserve any man or woman’s respect simply for having a vagina between your legs. Stop feeling so entitled.
We deserve respect for being people until we do something so horrible that we no longer deserve that respect.
That is all the entitlement we feel.
Which makes us probably a lot less entitled than you feel.