Queen Bey–Too hot for feminism?
In Bitch magazine, Racialicious senior editor Tamara Winfrey Harris weighs in on feminist criticism of singer Beyonce:
Dr. Sarah Jackson, a race and media scholar at Boston’s Northeastern University, says, “The idea that Beyoncé being sexy is only her performing for male viewers assumes that embracing sexuality isn’t also for women.” Jackson adds that the criticism also ignores “the limited choices available to women in the entertainment industry and the limited ways Beyoncé is allowed to express her sexuality, because of her gender and her race.”
Her confounding mainstream persona, Jackson points out, is one key to the entertainer’s success as a black artist. “You don’t see black versions of Lady Gaga crossing over to the extent that Beyoncé has or reaching her levels of success. Black artists rarely have the same privilege of not conforming to dominant image expectations.”
Solange, Beyoncé’s sister, who has gone for a natural-haired, boho, less sexified approach to her music, remains a niche artist, as do Erykah Badu, Janelle Monáe, and Shingai Shoniwa of the Noisettes, like so many black female artists before them. Grace Jones, Joan Armatrading, Tracy Chapman, Meshell Ndegeocello—talented all, but quirky black girls, especially androgynous ones, don’t sell pop music, perform at the Super Bowl, or get starring roles in Hollywood films.
Black women (and girls) have also historically battled the stereotype of innate and uncontrolled lasciviousness, which may explain why Beyoncé’s sexuality is viewed differently from that of white artists like Madonna, who is lauded for performing in very similar ways.
by Latoya Peterson
Bitch Magazine published an interesting piece called “Oh Yoko!: 20 Ways of Looking at an Art-World Icon.” There are 20 different takes on Yoko Ono’s body of work and perception in the media, many of which revolve around art and gender. Others dealt with race, self-perception, and darkness. Here are my favorites:
4. Offered Sacrifice
Back in the ’60s, I was peripherally involved in a Fluxus concert evening at the Carnegie Recital Hall in New York where Yoko did several pieces, [including] “Cut Piece.” People began lining up to cut little pieces of her skirt or sleeves or strands of hair as souvenirs, or artworks, if you prefer. Everybody was very respectful, [and] Yoko remained impassive, without any change of expression.
The atmosphere changed to dark and unpleasant when several young men who were obviously not members of the art community started taking off large parts of her skirt and sweater, disclosing her bra, and getting back on line after each of their cuts. They couldn’t stop laughing. I recall Carolee Schneemann going up to one of them and slapping him in the face, which didn’t faze him one bit. He was after Yoko—the offered sacrifice.
At the point where one of the grinning guys went towards her bra strap with the scissors, Yoko made a slight gesture towards the wings, and the curtain immediately closed on her before her breast could be revealed. The piece was over. Obviously, when you let the audience into the artwork, you can’t always predict the result.
—eleanor antin, performance artist, filmmaker, and installation artist
It is beautiful that people can open their lives to human beings of any background, but I think that all of us – every human being – runs the risk of being commodified in a hypercapitalist culture. For example, I feel that as a biracial person I have more social currency now that we have a biracial president. So when we think about which bodies have currency, it’s an interesting question.
One of the writers [whose piece] didn’t make it into One Big Happy Family wrote about how the process of adopting a child from another country made her more aware of human trafficking. Ultimately, she had to question whether her child had been put up for adoption or was stolen. If we look at plunging fertility in developed nations and raging underdevelopment and poverty in others, we can see how children can become the ultimate product.
Many people don’t realize that there are more human beings in slavery today than ever before. The discussion of transracial adoptees should be part of a growing awareness about the modern slave trade, but I think the glamourization of them in popular culture often does not lend itself to a deeper dialogue.
— “All In the Family: A Q + A with author Rebecca Walker”, Bitch Magazine, Fall of 2009, interview by our own Nadra Kareem
Note: Racialicious often critiques transracial adoption practices. However, we prefer to not demonize the participants, and to respect the narratives of those most directly affected. Please keep this in mind when commenting.