Chimamanda and Beyoncé: We Should All Be Feminists

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Beyoncé’s new album is not only refreshing in an increasingly stale and samey pop music industry, but also a boost to feminist discourse. Some feminist discussion around the singer has characterized her (unfortunately and mistakenly) as “the wrong kind of feminist.” However, at least one song on Beyoncé’s new venture is inspired by Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “we should all be feminists” TEDx talk, which suggests the pop star is doing more than just churning out fabricated female-empowerment singles such as Katy Perry’s “Roar.”

Adichie’s TEDx talk and Beyoncé: The Visual Album both recount journeys of self-discovery to reclaim the word feminism. Both women, who are met with the perceived derogatory meaning of the F-word (“Feminists are women who are unhappy because they can’t find a husband,” Adichie was once told—so she decided to describe herself as a “happy feminist”), progress in life to identify themselves as defenders of equal rights.

Refreshingly stepping away from the “strong woman” role on her new album, Beyoncé discovers her own feminism, contradictions and all. She unapologetically celebrates her femininity in “****Flawless,” for example, but simultaneously critiques a world where women are only valued for their looks in “Pretty Hurts.”

Adichie’s TEDx talk also criticizes the need to identify as anything other than what you are. Adichie tells her audience of her first time as a lecturer, when she rejected the “girly skirt” she really wanted to wear in favor of an “ugly, very manly suit” because that’s the only way she thought she would be taken seriously. She later banished that suit from her closet, no longer apologetic for her “femaleness and femininity.”

BeyonceCrop

Beyonce and baby Blue Ivy

On her album, Beyoncé talks about love and her vulnerability as a mother and a wife. She is open about her path to strength when singing about her miscarriage: “I fought for you / The hardest, it made me the strongest.” Adichie agrees: It’s obvious to her that feminism is not only about equal rights but also self-discovery. It is our weaknesses and mistakes that make us “strong women,” and it’s useless to pretend we are simply born unbeatable.

Beyoncé explored the dynamics of successful relationships in the songs “Countdown,” “End of Time” and “Love on Top” on her previous album, 4. Her new songs still reveal a woman who is deeply happy in her marriage, yet it explores the difficult and complex parts of that relationship. Adichie says that marriage is still seen as ownership as opposed to partnership, and that this must change. Beyoncé echoes that in “Flawless”: “I took some time to live my life / But don’t think I’m just his little wife / Don’t get it twisted, get it twisted … ” She might be married, but she is still doing her thing.

Yet, Beyoncé is honest about her flaws and mistakes, singing “And I love making you jealous but don’t judge me / And I know that I’m being hateful but that ain’t nothing / That ain’t nothing / I’m just jealous / I’m just human.” In her TEDx talk, Adichie says it is always women who make sacrifices for their marriage, because they are taught it is the most important thing in their lives, but Beyoncé pleads with her partner for a joint effort to fix things.

The song “Rocket” includes perhaps the most sexually explicit lyrics Beyoncé has ever sung: “Let me sit this ass / on you / Show you how I feel / Let me take this off / Will you watch me?” This is not a forced “sexual maturity” stunt, as so many young female artists pull, but a song about genuine sexual satisfaction and a grown woman’s love for pleasure and pleasuring her husband. It echoes back to Adichie saying that girls are taught not to be sexual beings like boys are, and that it’s still shocking for a grown woman to seek sexual pleasure.

Beyoncé’s path to self-knowledge has been met with a puzzling amount of hatred: In the eyes of some, she’s the “wrong kind of feminist” because she wears thongs on magazine covers, dances suggestively and claims her sexuality on stage, pampers her husband, wears high heels and tells men to “put a ring on it.” But, as Adichie says and Beyoncé obviously agrees, feminism is personal.

Photos of Chimamanda and Beyoncé from Wikimedia Commons

Comments

  1. In other words, feminism means absolutely nothing. Funny how you failed to mention Beyonce’s collaboration with predatory pervert Terry Richardson OR her husband referencing Ike turner beating up Tina in Drunk in Love. Beyonce is an agent of the patriarchy and MS publishing this nonsense just demonstrates that we all get susceptible to falling on to bandwagons. Black feminists are throwing other Black women under the bus in an attempt to sit at the cool kids table with Beyonce- – pitiful.

    • hey husband is his own artist and chooses his own words.If you are going to go there then you shouldnt watch her No Angel video, plenty of misogynist in there.And as for her collaborators, do you know your employers google search. Meaning, she may not even be aware. Youre reaching and you seem bitter

      • Lacking awareness is a poor excuse for promoting misogyny. Ignorance perpetuates prejudice and violence. Those who hold this much power to influence must make awareness a priority. Young girls are waiting and watching…

        • Also, be careful labeling your sisters bitter when expressing themselves. We get enough from those dismissing us daily.

    • Excellent points made here. Holding women accountable must be primary in this discussion. Otherwise we have failed in our efforts to show our faith in them. Not all strong women are feminists nor promote the destruction on misogyny. We need to be clear about intention.

  2. This is how I experience Beyonce.
    So in the world/people have always been exploitive. One way is through women’s bodies minds and souls/hearts and sexual freedoms.
    At times rendering them hopeless. What Beyonce and her husband have done is ignite a conversation that brings in the element of hope. For women to have their choice in what they do with THEIR bodies, hearts and minds and sexuality. They are allowing the voice the thought the idea, the spark of hope to be realized in the lives of those who can see it and who want that freedom. They are tapping into the greater consciousness/subconsciousness of us the viewers. The world is too complex a place for us to see her as simply that blind. Do you really believe she’s that ignorant or backward as to feel she is worthy of exploitation. Or is she grabbing the bull by it’s horns? She may have not concurred the bull, but she’s grabbing at it for sure.

  3. dr. tracy ann essoglou says:

    luv this. well done.
    grace in the fray!

  4. To be honest, I have been lukewarm about Beyonce. But like the review here indicates, Beyonce’s new album has much more complexity than people are giving her credit for. There is definite artistic maturity here. This is no Miley Cyrus. Beyonce’s feminism, while uncomfortable for some, is a huge relief and positive step forward in an industry where women-even “feminist” icons like Susan Sarandon and Madonna deny being feminists. I think that that denial is much more dangerous than a pop icon bringing feminism into the mainstream media attention and probably passing on the seeds of feminism to at least some of her fans. The debate around Beyonce and her brand of feminism should be a healthy one that makes us all step back and do some reassessing of our own views and the feminist movement in general. Simply dismissing her-or worse, insulting her- is not addressing the point and is merely a hegemonic act of probably white mainstream feminism that still won’t listen to other voices. Beyonce still makes me a little uncomfortable, but I am willing to listen to her message and I am willing to allow her message make me re-evaluate where I am coming from, because in the end the baseline of feminism is making space for others to have a voice and listening to those voices. I applaud her for coming to feminism and being unashamed to publicly brand herself as such in a social and political atmosphere where being a feminist is very much a negative thing. It shows her to be brave and to believe in what she says. Whatever brand of feminism she may be describing on this album-because there is no one feminism, there are many feminisms and we don’t always see eye to eye, but that does not make one feminism less valid than another- I think the time has come for us to be more inclusive and less judgmental and listen to those who say they are feminists and try to understand what they mean by that.

  5. I agree with Gina! Beyonce is an agent of the patriarchy not to mention mainstream brainwashing and secret society crap.

    Probably Ms. Magazine will never post on any First Nations or Indigenous women tearing down the walls of patriarchy and crazy amounts of hardship because of the racist and sexist culture we live in? Eekwol from, Muskoday First Nation, knows whats up — http://youtu.be/0XuYikRUl7g

  6. It never ceases to amaze me how Jay Z’s choice words on women throughout his career are routinely forgotten whenever this topic comes up. “Adichie says that marriage is still seen as ownership as opposed to partnership, and that this must change.” You really expect that change to come from a woman who married Mr. Money Cash Hoes? Or Mr. Parkin lot Pimpin? Or how about Mr. Big Pimpin. People forget that this is the man who excused cheating with the line “I was just fuckin them girls, I was gon’ get right back” (Song Cry). And let’s not forget the trivialization of violence against women with the Monster video that he was definitely in. Yet everytime Beyonce wipes her “Bootylicious” rear end, there seem to be a million feminists waiting to pick up the toilet paper and call it the next breakthrough in feminism

  7. So, let me get this straight. Since Beyonce happens to be married, she is an agent of patriarchy. I do not understand. Feminism to be is women working together for the ultimate goal of their voices being heard in society. It is not feminist behavior to bash, and beat down other women. Nor does there have to be only one approach to feminism. Who says it is wrong to express feminism in the way of song lyrics. No, I do not agree with her husbands choice of song lyrics, but I think people are getting personal life mixed with business life. Who Beyonce chose to fall in love with and marry has nothing to do with the decisions Jay-Z made as and artist. They are two separate people. Should they divorce because of Jay-Z’s horrible lyric taste? However, if you want to mix personal and business life, you can obviously tell she’s grown as an artist and as a person. Thus explains her decision to become a feminist.

Speak Your Mind

*