Saturday, February 16th, 2013 was B-day, and I was celebrating. In case you were unaware of the new February holiday, it consisted of a Beyoncé takeover on multiple channels. Palladium started by showing recordings of her previous live shows (The Beyoncé Experience from 2007 and I Am…World Tour from 2010). Then it was on to HBO for the premiere of her new documentary Life is but a Dream.
I want to make it clear that I do consider myself a fan of King B, and was counting down the days until I could get together with a friend and finally see Beyoncé, the person, not just the larger than life, mysterious, private, diva performer. Did the documentary give us the person? Not completely, but that was okay.
We seem to put the pressure on celebrities to give us every part of them. To let us know who they are dating, what they are doing with their children, and demanding the message behind every song they sing (hoping that it will have something to do with another celeb) – especially when it comes to women artists. This time, rightly switching up the audience’s viewpoint, Life is but a Dream gave us only a bit of insight into Beyoncé’s life, and it was through her music. Because let’s be honest, that is all we truly need, and no, she does not even owe us that.
The aspects of the documentary that did give us a glimpse into her personal life, allowing us to view Beyoncé as someone who is “just like us,” were the intimate, personal reflections she recorded on her computer’s webcam. It looked as if her laptop followed her everywhere. It was her diary, and in that, she was able to say whatever she wanted, and she did. A shocking but lovely moment came when she seemed to be giving herself advice, telling herself to remember that she isn’t perfect, granting herself permission to be scared. She ended the reflection with “I think I need to go listen to ‘Make Love to Me’ and I’ll make love to my husband.” This vulnerability and openness shocked me… in a good way. Unlike her male counterparts, we do not expect her to let us in on the fact that she does make love to her husband (or has sex at all for that matter), but through this intimate and vulnerable therapy session she has with her webcam, we see it as real and beautiful. Beyoncé’s confession, and once in a lifetime dialogue on her sex life may be frightening to most, due to women’s sexuality still being a taboo topic. But in this setting, it is empowering. However, is this giving her too much power and pressure?
We want B to empower women, we want her to do it a certain way, and we want to judge and criticize her when her politics don’t reflect certain feminist beliefs. Following Beyoncé ‘s decision to name her upcoming tour, “The Mrs. Carter World Tour,” we were quick to judge. Why is this powerful woman not only taking her husband’s last name in her personal life, but now putting HIS name in HER world tour? Why is it any of our business, and why should it make a difference in how we view/respect her? In the documentary, she talks, while fighting back tears, about the love she has for her husband and the soulful connection they have together. As a powerful woman with an equally as powerful man (yes, “equal” can be debatable), why can’t she carry her husband’s name while remaining an independent role model? Do we have to automatically blame her and label it as a feminist setback? We forget that feminism is about choices, and we forget that B is a person, and not a machine for us to dictate or force our opinions onto.
Her personal life has never been what interests me the most. It is the way that her work strives to help guide and represent women that I care about. It is the message she hopes to send through her music. During the performance of “Run the World (Girls)” at the Billboard Awards, Beyoncé was pregnant for the first time (which we learn about only in the documentary),
“Nobody knew I was pregnant during that performance, and I’m cool with that. I’m not interested in a free ride, but it absolutely proved to me that women have to work much harder to make it in this world. It really pisses me off that women don’t get the same opportunities as men do, or money, for that matter. Because let’s face it, money gives men the power to run the show. Its gives men the power to define our values, and to define what’s sexy and what’s feminine and that’s bullshit. At the end of the day, it’s not about equal rights, it’s about how we think. We have to reshape our own perception of how we view ourselves. We have to step up as women and take the lead and reach as high as humanly possible. That’s what I’m going to do. That’s my philosophy and that’s what Girls is all about.”
It may have been the most important quote of the night (or maybe it was just to me), but it was the one that showed off B’s feminism, even if she does not claim the title herself. She may be spitting facts that everyone is tired of hearing, but when one of the top pop artists, an international celeb/role model, as well as People Magazine’s Most Beautiful Woman of 2012 says it, will more people listen? We can hope. Also, as much as I love you B, the sentiment was slightly flawed. Of course we need to change our perceptions of ourselves, but aren’t equal rights just as important? Realistically, we live in a society where the political is still very personal, and it is important to change ideas that socially and socioeconomically marginalize people on a scale much larger than the personal level.
Anyway, the main point of all this, Beyoncé, is that I, as a feminist, adore you. I will continue to put your music on just about every playlist I make. My roommates and I will still sing your words at the top of our lungs at 2 a.m. And we all will still respect you because you have respected yourself. Keep giving us music and keep making your own choices. Keep your personal life private and empower women and girls always – cause I mean, let’s be real, we do (or will) run the world.