Thursday, February 7, 2013
Feminism's Dirty Little Secret
I was a junior in college when I took Intro to Women's Studies. It was a required core course that I took, thinking it would be fun to study the journey that women have had to take in society just to be not only seen but equal. As a literary geek, I didn't have to do to much research when reading Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen to understand why the elder Mrs. Bennett was so desperately trying to marry off all of her daughters. Women were not allowed at that time, which would've been early nineteenth-century England to own property or trusts. A woman basically wasn't allowed to take care of herself, no matter how smart and capable she was.
When this class first began, we explored these early challenges women faced, discussing how women would and could lose all of their property to a male cousin, brother or husband just for having a womb. Fast forward to the activism of the 60's and 70's. Women ripped off their bras, marched in the street, got "Roe v. Wade" passed, became CEO's, etc. But just like the image above feminism was subtly predominately white. Even for me in that class, it wasn't until we studied the later years that I realized, not one African-American or woman of African descent had ever been brought up in class. We're discussing feminism, and made it all the way to the 60's and not one mention of Harriet Tubman? How was that even possible?
I also realized that I could not personally identify with much of the feminism movement, which literally took up about 50% of the course. So, why am I discussing this today? Well, after Beyonce' literally shut the Superbowl down, the Internet went into a collective frenzy over her announcement of concert dates coming this Spring/Summer. She even released a commercial in the UK regarding upcoming shows at O2 Arena in London. Donned in traditional regal dress fit for a queen, Bey sashayed out in ridiculously high stilleto heels and demurely looked into the camera as the title: THE MRS. CARTER WORLD TOUR scrolled. This angered feminists from Cali to NY. Correction: this angered white feminists.
I follow a good number of progressive and controversial women on Twitter, and none of them even mentioned the promo. However, feminists, all of whom just happened to be white, LOST IT! They weren't upset that Beyonce wore a gold wide-set crinoline (normally worn under traditional gowns to give a wide set bell look) on the outside of a fancy gold corset. They weren't upset that she wore gold encrusted thigh-high red royal 6-inch stilleto boots. They weren't upset that her lightened skin showcased a pouty red-lip that screamed sex! No, they were upset because she called it the MRS. CARTER TOUR! *double sigh*
The teacher that taught my women's studies class was married and pregnant as she taught the course. Week by week I saw girl after girl in my class lose respect for her, as we delved deeper into feminism. They deemed her a feminist in fantasy because she was married to a man. By the end of the semester, it was clear that at least 87% of my class were also lesbians. They felt the professor was not and could not be a feminist because her marrying a man meant that she'd conformed to the patriarchal demands of society. They also felt that her being pregnant by him was her acceptance of this conformity, thus making her unfit as a feminist. WHAT? Me, being the meticulous person I am, went home and read the text practically cover-to-cover. I saw nothing in the feminism chapter regarding marriage, except the right of a woman to choose not to get married if she didn't want to. My poor professor got riled in class by these girls who truly believed conformity of any kind deemed a woman as being weak, and definitely NOT a feminist. I couldn't have disagreed more. I argued that our teacher was married, pregnant and tenured at the third largest university in the state. Needless to say, I was not popular in this class. In fact, I was often excluded, which was due more to the fact that I just didn't feel attached to the majority of their causes.
Black women in America often deal with negative images, as well as prejudices regarding our race. This double-edged sword forces us to stay on top of our game, especially if you work in corporate america, but we have never felt the need to "masculinize" ourselves in order to be equal. Here, silly me, I thought feminism was so women could enjoy the basic rights men enjoy, such as owning property, equal pay for the same work, etc. But, you will not hear me or many of my black counterparts to wave a red flag and claim to be just like men. Not only do we not agree with that, it's just not true! In my opinion, that is the power in being a woman, the fact that we are different in a lot of ways than men. The fact that we can be feminine, bring life into the world, be smart, nurturing and all of the things that God made us to be. So, why then does it seem, that feminists are so determine to make women JUST LIKE MEN? I find that insulting. I did in college, and I still do.
So back to this Beyonce' promo for her tour. She called it the MRS. CARTER WORLD TOUR, because guess what, she IS Mrs. Carter! Her husband is Shawn Carter, a/k/a Jay-Z. Why does she have to just be Beyonce'? She just had this man's child a year ago for goodness sake. And so now, she is expected to deny that she is not only a brand, but a married woman, with a child? When did this become popular? And how come no one railed against Madonna when she married Guy Ritchie, moved to England, where he is from and took up a whole new life? Why are these alleged feminists coming for Beyonce' so hard? I will say it. Because Beyonce' doesn't look like them. Because, even the most progressive black women who stand on the front lines for women's rights, will not deny their husbands or any important man in their life, for the cause. We, unlike our white counterparts, exist in a country that works against us daily. We have no choice but to know who we are. We don't need a movement for identity. Beyonce' was a brand before she became Mrs. Carter, and she will continue to expand her brand. So, to all of the Caucasian women out there using the cover of a movement to hide the fact that it's basically a self-imposed identity for them, HAVE A SEAT! Don't be upset, simply because it is not the be-all for every woman who considers herself down for women's rights. I hope to someday teach my daughter (if I have one) to be self-sufficient, brilliant, brave, feminine and proud. I will also teach her that marriage will only enhance those attributes, and that she will never be less than, because of it.
To Beyonce' - SALUTE TO YOU MRS. CARTER! See you July 17 in Chicago.