If being a feminist is part of your personal journey, at some point you could find yourself in a boxing ring, asked to choose favourites between the two fighters. If your feminist principals are living, breathing creatures and not cold & dead strictures, you could (much to your discomfort) find yourself rooting for both fighters in the ring – each for different but equally logical reasons. It’ll torment and make you question your integrity until (if you’re lucky and smart enough) you get to the bit where you realize it’s not a boxing ring at all – and that the two fighters are really buds. Not quite Siamese twins, but good buds.
Beyonce Knowles, it seems to me, has cracked the code in her latest album Beyoncé. Coming as she does from a pop music industry that doesn’t miss a beat in objectifying women (especially women of colour and women in the hip-hop industry), breaking them up into body parts that are pressed into the service of a man, she will lull you gently into a song starting with the lyric “Let me sit my ass down….on you…”. Then just as you begin to roll your eyes over this hot mess, she will oh-so-sexily wrest back control of the situation, ending the track, repeatedly singing “Goddamit, I’m so comfortable in my skin…” This is not a woman who can be controlled or contained by anything other than her own independent self.
She will sing a song called ‘Partition’ that’s all about ripped up blouses, flying buttons and mascara running down the side of a woman’s face because she and her man couldn’t wait to get rough on each other. She will complain that she took “45 minutes to git all dressed up/ And we ain’t even gonna make it to this club…” and then she’ll show you who’s boss by ordering the chauffeur to raise the partition while she takes charge in the back of the car. She will sample a French translation of the epic Julianna Moore dialogue from The Big Lebowski: “Do you like sex? Sex. I mean, the physical activity. Coitus. Do you like that? You’re not interested in sex? Men think feminists aren’t interested in sex, but it’s a very stimulating and natural activity that women love.”
She will embed an extract from a Chimamanda Adichie talk into her track ‘Flawless’, a track whose lyrics play on the many meanings of ‘diamond’ – The Rock. Is it the rock she wanted put on her finger as a single lady, the glitzy symbol of belonging to another, that too many women feel is the sole purpose of their existence? Or is it the rock solid power she feels just by being alive, the flawlessness of all of us? She sings most matter-of-factedly: “I woke up like this/ I woke up like this.”
She will confuse us with her hungry sexuality, her quest for artistic climax, her insecurities, her carnal appetite and her innate confidence.
She will make it wonderful to be in love with a man and feel sexy – for him and for herself.
She will remind you she’s also a mother.
And she will piss the fuck out of Bill O Reilly.
So it follows that I love her. I absolutely love this woman. She makes it so much fun and so very interesting to be a woman.
In her latest album, she celebrates herself as Mrs. Carter, the woman who bears her husband’s name. She does this with such absolute confidence that no one will dream of confusing her with her (very accomplished & famous) man. Her man. The sheer power of her self-belief will subvert the notion that marriage – or the claustrophobia of patriarchy – could ever trap a woman. Ha! As if!
Watch as Oprah Winfrey asks her how it feels to be ‘a wife’: