"None of this is a competition."
September 29, 2014 9:58 AM   Subscribe

Beyonce feminism vs. Emma Watson feminism. "The Internet’s overwhelmingly positive reactions to Watson’s feminism were exciting, but also troubling when I remembered the way Beyoncé’s feminism was dissected, critiqued, and doubted last year when she dropped her self-titled album that included a recording of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie speaking about feminism."
posted by Librarypt (49 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
The Internet’s overwhelmingly positive reactions to Watson’s feminism

Hmmm
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:01 AM on September 29, 2014 [35 favorites]


IIRC Watson has also had some less than positive things to say about Beyonce and her chosen path of feminism, which I found to be needlessly divisive, and while it was not of the same aggressive nature as the commentary by bell hooks, it still felt unpleasant and unnecessary.

I really resent being expected to choose between the two of them.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:05 AM on September 29, 2014 [16 favorites]


If only she had told herself it wasn't a competition before that insipid tweet, she might not have had to write this article.
posted by boo_radley at 10:07 AM on September 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


Meanwhile, the enemy chuckles.
posted by salishsea at 10:11 AM on September 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


If only she had told herself it wasn't a competition before that insipid tweet, she might not have had to write this article.

Uh, clearly you read the whole article, so how did you miss the part where she was specifically addressing a specific strain of white feminism that's hostile to black women?
posted by kagredon at 10:13 AM on September 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I mean, there is already so much gross divisive false-flag bullshit going on these days, courtesy of the usual shitstain parcel of MRAs, that it can make genuine concerns about the lack of intersectionality in "mainstream" feminism seem unreasonable or disproportionate, and that's really the worst fucking crime of all.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:15 AM on September 29, 2014 [18 favorites]


Emma Watson gave a speech at the United Nations. She is an official Goodwill Ambassador for the UN Women organization, which was founded by resolution of the UN General Assembly. The HeForShe campaign which Watson promoted is an official UN campaign.

Beyoncé performed the closing song, a medley based on her recent album (entitled "Beyoncé"), for the MTV Music Video Awards.
posted by Bwithh at 10:31 AM on September 29, 2014


Beyonce is rarely taken seriously by certain "thinking people." It's annoying, actually.
posted by girlmightlive at 10:35 AM on September 29, 2014 [14 favorites]


Emma Watson gave a speech at the United Nations. She is an official Goodwill Ambassador for the UN Women organization, which was founded by resolution of the UN General Assembly. The HeForShe campaign which Watson promoted is an official UN campaign.

Beyoncé performed the closing song, a medley based on her recent album (entitled "Beyoncé"), for the MTV Music Video Awards.


And? They are both promoting the idea of equality to impressionable men and women across the world, and seem to be quite earnest in their efforts.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:36 AM on September 29, 2014 [22 favorites]


Are you stating this clear and accurate description of each situation for clarity or because you feel that one has less societal value than the other? Or for some other reason which I am missing?
posted by poffin boffin at 10:37 AM on September 29, 2014 [12 favorites]


Emma Watson gave a speech at the United Nations.
Beyoncé performed the closing song...for the MTV Music Video Awards.


Isn't the title of this post, "None of this is a competition."

Here, let me check.

Yes. Yes, the title of this post is indeed "None of this is a competition."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:38 AM on September 29, 2014 [20 favorites]


No true Scotsman would react more favorably to Watson's speech.
posted by dios at 10:39 AM on September 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


Emma Watson gave a speech at the United Nations. She is an official Goodwill Ambassador for the UN Women organization, which was founded by resolution of the UN General Assembly. The HeForShe campaign which Watson promoted is an official UN campaign.

Beyoncé performed the closing song, a medley based on her recent album (entitled "Beyoncé"), for the MTV Music Video Awards.


this seems like a weird and divisive way of framing two famous female celebrities, who have the right to talk about feminism in any place, at any time
posted by jetlagaddict at 10:39 AM on September 29, 2014 [9 favorites]


Can we have a site that just generates these comparisons in table and chart form. Compare and contrast Nicki Minaj feminism with Lady Gaga feminism.
posted by Apocryphon at 10:42 AM on September 29, 2014 [8 favorites]


Meanwhile, the enemy chuckles.

Chucklesplaining. ;)
posted by Celsius1414 at 10:44 AM on September 29, 2014


Beyoncé performed the closing song, a medley based on her recent album (entitled "Beyoncé"), for the MTV Music Video Awards.

Because she was accepting the Video Vanguard award, or their version of a lifetime achievement award, putting her in some very esteemed company, but keep sneering.
posted by gladly at 10:45 AM on September 29, 2014 [5 favorites]


When you criticize Beyoncé’s feminism based on the clothes she wears, her level of education, the dances she does; when you say she cannot be a feminist or is less of a feminist than a woman who wears clothes differently, has been educated differently, dances differently, you are erasing her nuance and you are erasing the part of her feminism that is interlocked with her humanity. Because in case you didn’t know, fellow white feminists, the white experience of womanhood is different than the black experience of womanhood...

I'd understood that most of the criticism of Beyoncé's feminism have to do with its apparent basis in trading on sexuality and the longstanding argument that this isn't actually empowerment for many (if any) women.

There probably are counterarguments to be made, but the author seems to be trivializing the objection to BF instead, and possibly moving in the direction that an expression labelled as feminist should be above review as to whether it meets feminist goals.
posted by weston at 10:46 AM on September 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


Emma Watson gave a speech at the United Nations. She is an official Goodwill Ambassador for the UN Women organization, which was founded by resolution of the UN General Assembly. The HeForShe campaign which Watson promoted is an official UN campaign.

Beyoncé performed the closing song, a medley based on her recent album (entitled "Beyoncé"), for the MTV Music Video Awards.


This morning, I successfully parallel-parked!

This "list what a feminist has achieved lately" game is fun!
posted by kagredon at 10:49 AM on September 29, 2014 [64 favorites]


There probably are counterarguments to be made, but the author seems to be trivializing the objection to BF instead, and possibly moving in the direction that an expression labelled as feminist should be above review as to whether it meets feminist goals.

Concrete long term and short term feminist goals are not necessarily agreed upon by all people who self identify or who are identified as feminists.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:51 AM on September 29, 2014


Beyoncé performed the closing song, a medley based on her recent album (entitled "Beyoncé"), for the MTV Music Video Awards.

Emma Watson's name is Emma Watson.

Your move.
posted by griphus at 10:55 AM on September 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


I have the weird feeling that this article was meant to be read by people on Twitter. I can't speak to that, because I'm not on Twitter, but I feel like I have seen plenty of people criticize Watson's speech just here on MetaFilter, with plenty of linking out to other sites. I have also seen people defend Watson, here and elsewhere. Similarly, I've seen pro- and anti-Beyoncé comments here and elsewhere online. I've probably seen more pro- and anti-Beyoncé material since she has been at this longer, but I would hardly say that Watson has been given some sort of free ride by the internet. So, I dunno, maybe I am missing something by not being on Twitter.

However, it's pretty clear that there is an... let's say eddy... where the currents of feminism and race come together, that is really hard to navigate, and Beyoncé gets flack from directions Watson doesn't because, at least in part, race. It's pretty hard to dispute that.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:07 AM on September 29, 2014 [5 favorites]


I'd understood that most of the criticism of Beyoncé's feminism have to do with its apparent basis in trading on sexuality and the longstanding argument that this isn't actually empowerment for many (if any) women.

There probably are counterarguments to be made, but the author seems to be trivializing the objection to BF instead, and possibly moving in the direction that an expression labelled as feminist should be above review as to whether it meets feminist goals.


My understanding is that among many feminist goals is the freedom for a woman to express herself sexually in any way she chooses.

Beyoncé's powerful and provocative sexuality are a major point of 3rd-wave feminism and the current comparison of Emma Watson and Beyoncé suggests to me what's really being approved of is Watson's demure (and so acceptable) sexual presentation and what's being rejected is Beyoncé's aggressive sexual self-assertion.

In my opinion, a better feminism understands and supports both forms of sexual presentation as well as many others.
posted by mistersquid at 11:08 AM on September 29, 2014 [19 favorites]


Your move.

Queen's Knight Pawn to g3. Benko's Opening.

It's exactly the same as Muggle chess except the figures are animated and can be directed like troops.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:10 AM on September 29, 2014


There should be rap battle.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:13 AM on September 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


what's really being approved of is Watson's demure (and so acceptable) sexual presentation

Yeah, I'm sure everything being discussed here really just boils down to one thing.

I guess people think of feminism as this high horse to climb onto. Guess what, this stuff is pretty complicated and no one is pure.
posted by leopard at 11:16 AM on September 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


The thing is, much criticism of Beyonce doesn't seem to come from great familiarity with her work or with womanism, or from feminists of color. It mostly seems to come from white women who have given her videos a cursory inspection, and it seems to carry a weirdly disproportionate emotional charge. I've read a couple of "for these detailed and close-reading-based reasons, I am skeptical of the usefulness of Beyonce's feminism" essays, and they just don't seem to get the same kind of internet traction as "that Beyonce with her shiny leotards, calling herself a feminist!"

It's perfectly possible to think that Beyonce's approach to feminism has [various flaws, contradictions, etc] - it's the emotionally charged "so there Beyonce!!!" business that leads one to believe that there's something more going on.

I think that since white feminists are aware by this point of the deep-rooted, unconscious bias against black women in our culture, it behooves us to be really cautious, thoughtful and self-doubting when we have a strong and visceral negative response to work by women of color. I think that those strong and visceral negative responses are always overdetermined by racism and should never be accepted as stand-alone critiques.

Basically, my question when white feminists get really worked up about Beyonce is mostly "why is this your starting point and emotional center? there are many, many women whose feminism is just as vexed as any pop star's is going to be - why aren't you starting with them? why the all the cathecting?"
posted by Frowner at 11:19 AM on September 29, 2014 [18 favorites]


From the article:

Maybe because Emma doesn’t gyrate on stage? Hmm. I seem to recall a lot of white feminists defending Miley Cyrus for doing exactly that, proclaiming her a feminist and shielding her from slut-shaming. Last I checked, part of feminism is owning our sexuality and expressing it however we choose.

Are there really people out there arguing that Miley Cyrus is a feminist but Beyonce is not? I also seem to recall a lot of white feminists defending Beyonce as well.
posted by leopard at 11:28 AM on September 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


And to respond further to this snippet:

part of feminism is owning our sexuality and expressing it however we choose.

And another part of feminism is recognizing that individual choices are not made in a vacuum and our choices are influenced by others and other people's choices are influenced by our own. Feminism is not reducible to libertarianism.
posted by leopard at 11:30 AM on September 29, 2014 [6 favorites]


Man, different media bubbles, I guess. I heard one positive piece on Watson from NPR, then saw a ton of stuff in the style of Black Girl Dangerous that were all, "Fuck Emma Watson." Whereas with Beyonce, I saw a lot of positive stuff, then a bit of bell hooks showing her ass, then lots and lots of affirmation.

I'm not feminism's Uato, but my memory is pretty diametrically opposed to the linked article.
posted by klangklangston at 11:32 AM on September 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


Among my (predominantly white) friends, I've seen three reasons that people have questioned her feminism. One of them is that she depicts a submissive sexual role in her marriage. Can someone who sings about giving a blow job (for example) be seen as a feminist role model? This seems really off for me, because in many other ways Bey is in control of her life and her career, and if being submissive in the bedroom gets her off, good for her. It's not as though she's saying all women have to be submissive, but rather that being submissive is what works for her.

The second is that she allowed Jay Z to write and rap a line about Ike Turner for her album. For all the rah-rah feminism content of Beyonce, that left a really bad taste in my mouth.

The third is that she worked with Terry Richardson, noted rapist and photographer. While I don't want to take away someone's feminist cred based on something like that, is hiring a man who has sexually assaulted women on camera really a feminist act? Were there no other female photographers or directors who could have done a comparable job, or at least dudes who haven't, you know, raped anyone?

You can be a feminist and be married; you can be a feminist and be sexually submissive; you can be a feminist and be somebody's mother; you can be a feminist and wear a leotard, etc. However, making jokes about domestic abuse that punch down and hiring rapists while calling yourself a feminist does give me pause.
posted by pxe2000 at 11:54 AM on September 29, 2014 [5 favorites]


I think the difference between Beyonce and Emma, as far as public persona's go, is that Beyonce's feminism is an aside to her pop star stuff. How many people know Beyonce co-founded an organization to help women? I know she talks about feminism in interviews but has she ever given a long public discussion about what feminism means to her and why she thinks it necessary? Emma on the other hand, with her speech, and the UN Ambassador thing, is all "Feminism, ya'll. Pull up a chair, I'm about to school you." It's much more upfront than Beyonce. Also, racism and slut shamming.
posted by nooneyouknow at 11:58 AM on September 29, 2014


I'm not feminism's Uato, but my memory is pretty diametrically opposed to the linked article.

Also to local conventional wisdom. How dare you!
posted by umberto at 12:01 PM on September 29, 2014


sorry, sorry, obviously i was feeling a little sassy when i commented

Seriously, tho, after the introduction, Cole gets in the way of her essay. The piece read to me like she was addressing not so much the absurd hyperexamination of Beyonce's statement, but of her own statements backing Beyonce. She uses twitter as the lens of her piece and examines the uncritical reactions to her off-the-cuff tweet through that lens alone. Take out the strawman arguments and there's not a whole lot of meat there. I think Mia McKenzie's piece over at BGD addressed Emma-Watson-As-Ordained-Feminist in a much more compelling fashion.
posted by boo_radley at 12:04 PM on September 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


> One of them is that she depicts a submissive sexual role in her marriage.

I'm not familiar with her songs but your example isn't self-evident. Giving oral sex isn't to my knowledge an act of submission to anyone I know who's ever brought up the subject. Generosity sometimes, but at least as often they're really, really into it. (And I'm referring more or less equally to both genders on either side of the exchange.)
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:06 PM on September 29, 2014 [6 favorites]


Can someone who sings about giving a blow job (for example) be seen as a feminist role model? This seems really off for me, because in many other ways Bey is in control of her life and her career, and if being submissive in the bedroom gets her off, good for her. It's not as though she's saying all women have to be submissive, but rather that being submissive is what works for her.

I think this is a really unusual interpretation of a pretty commonplace sexual activity. Would you say that the opposite hetero sex act is submissive for the man?
posted by poffin boffin at 12:08 PM on September 29, 2014 [9 favorites]


Yeah I am unsure how enthusiastically participating in consensual sex with one's partner is in any way anti-feminist.
posted by KathrynT at 12:09 PM on September 29, 2014 [12 favorites]


Please note that I don't agree with the "Bey isn't a feminist, she enjoys giving BJs" line of argument. I have, however, seen it floated out among white feminists as a reason to take away Bey's feminist credentials. (And in rereading my comment, I wish I'd found a better way of wording how I've seen that particular issue get passed around Twitter.)

As a side note, a lot of the women who say that Bey isn't a feminist because fellatio probably own a copy of Exile in Guyville. Which is its own brand of sketchy.
posted by pxe2000 at 12:16 PM on September 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


I think the difference between Beyonce and Emma, as far as public persona's go, is that Beyonce's feminism is an aside to her pop star stuff. How many people know Beyonce co-founded an organization to help women? I know she talks about feminism in interviews but has she ever given a long public discussion about what feminism means to her and why she thinks it necessary? Emma on the other hand, with her speech, and the UN Ambassador thing, is all "Feminism, ya'll. Pull up a chair, I'm about to school you." It's much more upfront than Beyonce. Also, racism and slut shamming.

I really cannot tell if you are being sarcastic here. She talks about it in interviews, she had a 20-foot tall neon FEMINIST sign behind her in a televised performance, has an all-female backing band, has participated in philanthropic work benefiting women, but she isn't sufficiently upfront about her feminism?

Not to mention, that, double standards being what they are, the ugly swipe upthread about having a self-titled album (?????) would likely set the tone for how people would respond, cf. "She's just using feminism to promote herself"
posted by kagredon at 12:19 PM on September 29, 2014 [4 favorites]


This reminds me of the situation with the professional models who appear at comic conventions, who are dealing with massive amounts of harassment and general sexism. You would think if anyone would ally with feminism, it would be them, right?

When asked, they denied being feminists, because the feminists they had encountered were too busy criticizing them for their sexual appearance, to actually help in any way.

Sometimes we feminists are good at forming the circular firing squad.
posted by happyroach at 4:24 PM on September 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think this is a really unusual interpretation of a pretty commonplace sexual activity. Would you say that the opposite hetero sex act is submissive for the man?

You don't have to dig real deep to find people who say that kind of thing in both directions, but it's definitely not the mainstream view, and it's a weird way to frame a criticism of Beyonce on feminist grounds.
posted by Dip Flash at 4:46 PM on September 29, 2014


The Beyoncé submissive thing goes beyond blowjobs, it also includes the whole "Mrs. Carter" branding. Like every other powerful woman in history, she didn't dissolve the patriarchy, so everyone is free to view her as a feminist icon or as an insidious perpetuator of the status quo, depending on how snippy they feel.
posted by leopard at 5:24 PM on September 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


it also includes the whole "Mrs. Carter" branding

I was a little surprised by her tour name, and then I read some comments about how changing your name is important for some Black feminists, which I really respect. (If anyone has any other blogs or citations, I would be interested in them.) Also, frankly, all tour names are kind of silly and ultimately forgettable, so I don't know if it's really such a lingering deal.
posted by jetlagaddict at 6:05 PM on September 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


Can someone who sings about giving a blow job (for example) be seen as a feminist role model?

What? Really, what? Your dick, my teeth. What is non-feminist about a blowjob, again? I'm really interested.
posted by goo at 8:52 PM on September 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


Beyoncé as an icon seems to exist at the nexus of a lot of different divides within the feminist camp. I'm positive that many of her critics don't see their problems with her as explicitly racial in nature; I'm equally positive that race likely plays more of a part in these things than they, or I, am aware of. Nonetheless, her divisiveness does not particularly surprise me:

— She's a pop singer and icon, and a huge part of celebrity culture, all of which is generally looked upon as less "serious" than work of a more explicitly intellectual nature.

— Her music is highly-sexualized, which I think seems like just an expression of who she seems to be as a person. However, you get the detractors who claim that sexualization of women in the media is a big enough problem that anybody who propagates it is feeding into the bigger problem. (I think this argument is particularly problematic, unless you want to argue that Beyoncé isn't in control of her own image, at which point your argument makes sense but is ridiculously condescending.)

— Her highly-publicized marriage to Jay-Z appeals to both critics who see herself as somehow "subjugating" herself to him (see certain above comments) and to more radical critics who see marriage itself as damaging to the feminist cause.

I'm sure there are plenty more. What's neat to me about the intersection of these three issues, however, is that between them you can formulate critiques of Beyoncé almost regardless of your personal beliefs, since they offer you enough room to call Bey either too sexual or too repressed, too difficult to take seriously if you're targeting the mainstream or too entwined with mainstream conventions to really make a statement. And it seems like she gets criticism from both white feminists who are perhaps unaware of black feminist convention, and from black feminists such as bell hooks, so it's really a lose-lose situation, if you want to play things that way.

That's all bullshit, of course. Feminism benefits from the inclusion of as many voices as possible, and the fact that perhaps the single-most widely-heard openly feminist celebrity is a pop star only makes sense, and is better than that same pop star not being a feminist. (It's certainly a hell of a lot better than whatever Katy Petty spouts confusedly whenever the subject comes up.) Beyoncé and Emma Watson approach feminism in two different ways, and rather than taking sides against one or the other it seems like the best thing to do would be to look for a third way, and a fourth, and a fifth and a sixth and so on and so forth because the louder the conversation about feminism becomes, the better.

It is possible to offer thoughts about what feminism is without shitting on somebody else whose thoughts are not identical to yours. Sure, it's possible sometimes to make the claim that somebody calling themselves a feminist is not aligning themselves with ideals that are truly feminist in nature — I'm comfortable calling Christina Hoff Sommers' brand of feminism not-actually-feminism, for instance — but that seems like it ought to be done as sparingly as possible, lest it splinter people who all are reaching for the same thing and diffuse focus on the actual goal.

I am not a huge Beyoncé fan, for reasons purely musical and not remotely personal, but it seems to me like a lot of the criticism lobbed her way is reflexive knee-jerking against her omnipresent status as a celebrity icon, especially post-her 2013 album release, or else it's a knee-jerk against pop in general. Definitely a lot of the hurr-hurr highlighted in the original post feels less like it's an intellectual disagreement and more like it's just stupid noise. I feel there's not enough separation of Beyoncé as a pop musician or celebrity and Beyoncé as an avid, openly-declared feminist who goes to steps to promote both feminism as a cause and herself as a feminist figure. It's very possible to not find Bey an interesting musician while simultaneously thinking it's fucking awesome that she's publicizing feminism as much as she is. And I'm not seeing a whole lot of academic disagreement with her on that front — it reads to me as largely slut-shaming, with certain accusations of anti-intellectualism or hatred of pop/celebrity joining the mix and a strain of radical feminist critique giving the whole collected anti-Beyoncéism a veneer of legitimacy. It's stupid and wasteful.
posted by rorgy at 10:09 PM on September 29, 2014 [6 favorites]


Once you get to singing about blowjobs, you're basically doing blowjob ekphrasis, which is a pretty big degree of remove from blowjobs qua blowjobs, which themselves are distinct from feminism or role-model-itude.

The whole question functions as an attempt to gatekeep (and consequently weaken) feminism via slut shaming. I get where that comes from -- surprise! it's the patriarchy! -- but just ick.
posted by amery at 10:27 PM on September 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


It doesn't all come from the patriarchy. There are still a surprising number of Andrea Dworkin-style feminists out there - mostly either older women or brand-new college-age feminists in my limited interactions with them. They are a minority, but they definitely exist, and I think that a lot of the 'how dare she be married' and blowjob lyrics criticism comes from that angle unfortunately.

I agree though that the slut-shaming is far more widespread (in the last Metafilter thread somebody described her as looking 'like a streetwalker', WTF), and that is just good old gender-policing.
posted by tinkletown at 4:28 AM on September 30, 2014


Her music is highly-sexualized, which I think seems like just an expression of who she seems to be as a person

Seriously? So differences in presentation between female pop stars and male pop stars are just reflections of individual artist preferences? Wow, feminism really has made a lot of progress in recent decades.
posted by leopard at 6:27 AM on September 30, 2014


Metafilter: you're basically doing blowjob ekphrasis, which is a pretty big degree of remove from blowjobs qua blowjobs
posted by clarknova at 4:59 PM on October 5, 2014




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