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Alexa Petersen | Jeminist: A Jumbo Feminist

Feyoncé: A Beyoncé Feminist

Published: Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Updated: Wednesday, February 20, 2013 08:02

A few hours after the Super Bowl, my mom called me and said she wanted to talk about ... the Super Bowl. This was quite odd — we’re not a sports family. My dad used to change the channel to football when my friends walked by the living room, only to switch it right back to a History Channel special on the Founding Fathers as soon as my friends were out of sight. That was his version of being a cool dad. Anyway, rather than talking about the game itself, my mother only wanted to talk about Beyoncé. Queen Beyoncé. My mother said she can only describe Beyoncé’s performance in one word: “fierce.” This is funny if you know her because she’s not really a cool mom who says fierce, she’s more like a kind and smiley mom who loves poems, L.L. Bean and astronomy.

My mother is no fool — she knows fierce when she sees it. And Beyoncé is the fiercest around. Beyoncé is also a little awkward for feminists. She’s awkward for us because we’re pretty sure we like her — businesswoman, empowering public figure, advocate for pro−women causes, etc. But then she does things and we’re like “OH NO don’t make us put you in the Britney category” (I know, she’s Britney and we love her, but lets face it, she’s no Gloria Steinem). There were a couple really awkward songs, like “Naughty Girl” (2003) and Destiny’s Child’s “Cater 2 U” (2005). Sometimes she doesn’t wear a lot of clothes and sometimes she does dance moves that appear as if she’s having sexual intercourse with the stage. There’s definitely a sexual objectification concern there, whether intended or not, whether precedent−following or not. And then there’s the most recent anti−feminist accusation: Beyoncé named her new world tour the “Mrs. Carter Show.” There’s nothing wrong with changing your name, to each his or her own. But it’s definitely concerning that the tour for one of the most successful female entertainers of the decade is named for her new name: her husband’s name.

As I said, though, she’s got some good feminist stuff going on too. Her empowering female anthems have grown too many to count: “Survivor” (2001), “Independent Women Part I” (2000), “Irreplaceable” (2006), “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” (2008), “Ego” (2009), “Diva” (2009) and the unmatchable “Run the World (Girls)” (2011). Her documentary on HBO, which aired last week, was filled to the brim with quotes of female empowerment. I liked this one, from “Run the World”: “Men have been given the chance to rule the world. But ladies, our revolution has begun.” But then she goes up and says this and I got really sad: “I’m like most women — very generous, and I’ll compromise.” Cue funeral music. So sad. We really don’t like that. I know it maybe sounds good, but it perpetuates the stereotype that we’re passive and always agreeable. So now I’m really confused. Feminist or not feminist? Anti−feminist? Mostly−feminist? Avatar?

Academically, am I the most pleased with everything that she says and the implications of the paradigms she sometimes conforms to? No. But, honestly, who cares what I think? I’m Alexa and she’s Beyoncé. And if millions of people love her, and she’s saying at least mostly positive things about women’s empowerment and being a mostly excellent female role model, I’m mostly okay with that.

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Alexa Petersen is a senior majoring in political science and peace and justice studies. She can be reached at Alexa.Petersen@tufts.edu.

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