Trust me, you will find very few people who love Beyonce more than I do. And I know living the feminist life is difficult and sometimes confusing. (Hello! 30 Rock’s “TGS Hates Women” episode ringing any bells?) But this excerpt from Bey’s interview in the May 2013 issue of Vogue UK got me thinking:“I guess I am a modern-day feminist. I do believe in equality. Why do you have to choose what type of woman you are? Why do you have to label yourself anything? I’m just a woman and I love being a woman.”
Great. BUT. There’s this little preoccupation we have with the word “bitch.” Especially when snarled ferociously. In case you’re unaware, Beyonce’s new album is coming out soon, and the first track released is “Bow Down/I Been On.”
Words only have the meaning we give to them. But women (and men) across the world have had that word hurled at them far too many times. Whether Bey commands our respect or not, this is nothing but petty name-calling. Just like that time in middle school when you were elected to student council and that other boy wasn’t. Like in high school when all the girls “jokingly” call each other terrible names–because you’re friends. Like that time at work when you overhear your co-workers talking about your new promotion. And now, like that time Beyonce reminded you of her supreme success over you.
So what does this have to do with the label of feminism? Well, according to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, feminsim is, “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.” But political, economic, and social change only comes when the mindset of the people are changed. And the mindset of people is directly influenced by the rhetoric we use. Is the beach “hot” or “sweltering”? Is the artwork “beautiful” or “breathtaking”? Is Hillary Clinton “ambitious” or “a bitch”? All of these sets of words can pretty much mean the same thing. Pretty much. But not really. That’s what rhetoric is. Denotatively they mean the same. But the connotation makes them very different.
When Beyonce grabs her mic and starts singing “Independent Women,” I feel a lot different than when she’s singing “Bow Down.” Why? They’re about the EXACT same thing: Beyonce takes care of herself. But the rhetoric used in the two songs differ greatly. One is encouraging, and one is demeaning. Which is exactly what feminism is about. Feminism encourages while patriarchy demeans.
Bey’s just a woman, and she loves being a woman. Yeah, being the woman/person on top is wonderful, I bet. But when you get to the top and then call everyone under you demeaning names, names that have history, names that we’ve all been called over & over our entire lives in an attempt to get to where you are, it’s not so great. It’s not helpful. It perpetuates the cycle of putting women down.
Words mean things.
And don’t even get me started on girl-on-girl hate. That’s another post for another day.