As a feminist, I’m always stoked to learn of artists who use their publicity to leverage a pro-feminist agenda. With the release of Beyonce’s latest album, I was initially thrilled. Not only has this strong, independent, sassy, classy lady already proven herself to be a badass role model—her latest album has strong feminist overtones.
The surprise release captivated fans, prompting feminist blogs like Jezebel and Feministing to sing (pun intended) Queen Bey’s praises as a feminist activist. An especially poignant example of Beyonce’s commitment to feminist efforts was her song “Flawless”, which included a sampling of Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED Talk, “We Should all be Feminists.”
OMFG Beyonce is SUCH a #FEMNIST!!!!! #FLAWLESS #LONGLIVEYONCE #MRSCARTER4LYFE
…Cut the shit. After being inundated with the Queen’s new single “Drunk in Love” on every radio station, and watching the music video featuring Jay-Z and performance at the Super Bowl, I’ve sobered up real quick (pun, again, totally intended).
I tried. I tried to see past this one song. Tried to rationalize that it was just one setback in the midst of all the other great anthems of empowerment that the superstar has released. You see, I knew the reference to Ike and Tina Turner’s tumultuous relationship characterized by gross domestic abuse was a pretty royal fuck up. But I only knew of this story vaguely, and tried too hard to sacrifice my feminism for five minutes so I could endure the entire song. But I realized that if you have to separate yourself from your personal politics for a split second, your need to think about why you claimed the name “feminist” in the first place.
I decided that if I was so adamant about listening to this song, I needed to be confronted by a visceral display of what heavy weight Jay-Z’s lyrics carried. (To make matters worse, Beyonce mouths the words along with her hubby in both the live performance and the music video). So, I watched the clip from the movie “What’s love got to do with it?” from which the lyrics were crafted.
In it, Ike (played by Laurence Fishburne) buys Tina (Angela Bassett) a piece of cake at a diner to celebrate a recent accomplishment. When Tina politely turns down the cake, saying she’s too full, Ike proceeds to shove the cake in her face and slap her repeatedly, yelled, “Eat the cake, Anna Mae!”—calling her by her birth name and publically humiliating her.
For the sake of maintaining the integrity of an academic blog (curse words listed above notwithstanding), I am including an external link to video footage from that movie, which shows the scene that I just described. As a survivor of domestic abuse, I can’t bring myself to embed the video on my post—I can’t watch it all the way through. That being said, I feel very strongly that I needed to see this video. I needed to understand what was at stake in standing behind Beyonce, and in singing along to that song.
When considering that I’ve staked so much of my feminism on my lived experience of child abuse and domestic violence, I feel that in listening to this song, I am culpable in saying that the most horrific years of my life are okay. I’m shrugging off the lived experiences of all my brothers and sisters who have bear the same scars as I do, because it’s “just a song.” Before you’re tempted to listen to that song again, I urge you to not make the mistake of trivializing the meaning behind it.