This week, Beyoncé contributed a short essay to a feminist book and yet again, the world has gone berserk over her opinions on gender politics.
Apparently, what Beyoncé thinks about feminism is paramount to the future of feminism full stop. Her music clips are forensically analyzed, as are her clothes, dancing, choice of husband and colour of her skin.
This time around, Beyoncé stated that it’s about time women got paid the same as men. Good on her. Do we really now have to debate, yet again, whether she’s ‘allowed’ to make feminist statements and ‘allowed’ wear tiny shorts as well?
The biggest criticism leveled at Beyoncé is that she uses her sexuality in a way that is solely aimed at pleasing men. That could well be how white feminists see it. Black women may be seeing something else.
Either way, who cares? Since when has there been a definitive rule book on what being a feminist really is? And since when has it all been based on Beyoncé? The obsession is getting out of hand.
A friend recently told me that Beyoncé was doing more for women than anyone else because she was making sexuality powerful again. That, my friend insisted, is at the heart of a woman’s power: how she uses and celebrates her sexuality.
I wrinkled my nose and replied that no, that was one form of power, but women could be something different if they wanted to be. I tried to explain we would be doing the next generation of girls a massive disservice if the only thing we told them was that their sexiness was what defined them. Beyoncé could do whatever she liked, but I wasn’t about to accept that was the only way to be a feminist.
My friend was shocked. She put one hand to her mouth and said ‘Oh god Corinne, I didn’t realise you were one of those women. You’re jealous of Beyoncé!’
According to my friend, you’re either a Beyoncé-style feminist, or you’re a dried up, bitter old husk. I sincerely hope this marks the peak of the schoolyard stupidity that mainstream feminist debate has become.
Slut-shaming Beyoncé is just as stupid as claiming that she is the One True Woman. We should all be free to choose our own paths – that’s the point of feminism. This obsession with telling each other how to be ‘proper’ feminists is completely counter-productive. No-one is learning anything and the next generation is being completely turned off by the shouty futility of it all.
Why don’t we stop telling other women what they should do and instead, simply share with other women what we do ourselves?
With that in mind, here is my non-exhaustive list of what practicing feminism means to me:
- I call out sexism when I think it will make a difference. I dismiss it when I don’t think there’s any chance of changing the other person’s mind. If someone says something supremely offensive to me, I will mercilessly take the piss out of them for my own enjoyment.
- I do not tell other women that they should be feminists, nor do I dictate to them how they should stand up for themselves. Bossing other women around is not empowering them.
- I have friends who have taken their husbands’ names when they got married. I do not judge them for that. It’s their business, not mine.
- I have consciously made a decision throughout my performing career to never wear low cut tops or short skirts. This is because I want my audience to focus on what I am saying rather than on what I am wearing. If I go out to a party or awards ceremony where I’m not performing, all bets are off. I wear whatever the hell I like.
- I’ve been called a ‘ditz’ and ‘bubbly’ my whole career. Partly this is because I dye my hair blonde and partly it’s because I laugh a lot. Laughing does not signify that I am stupid. It signifies that I have a sense of humour. The more I am told that laughing makes me sound silly, the more I do it. Screw you all.
- If a person who is clearly sexist or misogynist calls me names, belittles me or mocks me, I refuse to be hurt or upset by it. If you genuinely think that women are somehow less than men, then I think you’re an idiot.
- There is nothing more futile than wasting your life working for a bunch of sexists whose minds you will not change.
- I care what I think about myself. I care what the people I respect and love think of me. Nobody else has any impact.
- I am just as entitled to an opinion as a man, as long as I can back it up properly. I try to ensure that any opinion I give is well informed.
- I don’t hate men and I don’t see men as any more of a homogenous group than I see women.
- It’s important to know the difference between someone who wants to make me feel bad about myself and someone who wants to make me feel bad because I’m a woman. The difference is important not only because of how it makes me see myself but because of how I react to them. Calling someone sexist when they’re not is just as damaging as believing something is valid criticism when it’s nothing more than sexism.
- Not all women are my allies and not all women are my enemies. I don’t find it necessary to support everything other women say just because they’re female.
- I support affirmative action. There are just as many accomplished women as there are men. Until women have the same opportunities to go for the same jobs as men, we have to consciously work to put more women in places where they can make a difference.
- I work hard to educate myself. The more I know, the more I am able to do.
- I have days when I feel thoroughly unattractive, stupid, or just all ’round useless. That doesn’t make me less of a feminist, it makes me human.
- Talking about whether Beyoncé is a feminist or not is nowhere near as important as finding ways to lift disadvantaged women out of poverty and violence.
- I neither expect nor demand that other women see feminism the same way that I do.
Please tell us your idea of feminism in the comments section below. There’s a chance we’ll learn more through sharing than simply criticizing each other.