They say bad things come in threes and it seems that Carter’s have had two hits of late, the Solange elevator beat down of Jay-Z being the latest, and the first was feminist writer bell hooks calling the Queen B, a terrorist because of the over sexualized images she projects to young women. It all transpired at the New School during a panel discussion entitled “Are You Still a Slave?”. The group, which included filmmaker Shola Lynch, author Marci Blackman, feminist icon and scholar bell hooks, and activist and author Janet Mock. The talk focused on the images of women of color in the media and the types of messages that are sent to the public at large. When author Janet Mock, a transgendered activist and author wanted to discuss how inspirational she found Beyoncé’s new album Partition to be when writing her own book, Mock lauded the singer for ‘owning her body and claiming that space.’ It was then that the venerable feminist took issue with Mrs. Carter and unleashed her thoughts about the often scantily clad “drunken love” singer:
“I see a part of Beyoncé that is in fact anti-feminist — that is a terrorist, especially in terms of the impact on young girls. I actually feel like the major of assault on feminism in our society has come from visual media, and from television, and videos. Just think, do we know of any powerful man of any color who’s come out with some tirade against feminism? The tirades against feminism occur so much in the image-making business, and what we see.
What I’m concerned about constantly in my critical imagination is why don’t we have libratory images that are away from, not an inversion of, what society has told us?”
Of course that started the firestorm that was only slightly quelled by Solange’s buck wild attack on Mr. Carter at the Met Gala on May 4th. Some people might tie both incidents together using the fact that Beyoncé stood virtually idly by as her baby sister took it to her man in Love and Hip Hop style arguing that she was being submissive by holding her place and not getting involved…or it could be said that Jay did some dirt that Solange was privy too having had enough lashed out in protection of her sister. If (and this is all predicated the over heated gossip mill at work) there was some impropriety and Solange was taking the matter in hand because her sister was unwilling or un able to stand up for herself, then the feminists would have a field day with that…however we do not know what the cause of such rage and enmity, but I will take on what Ms. Hooks was referencing, the images that Beyoncé put out into the world that might be considered anti-feminist …
When Partition hit the world like the meteor that rendered the dinosaurs extinct and Beyoncé stated that considered this her “feminist” album, while admitting to researching feminism on “YouTube” I had a eye roll that left me crossed-eyed, she opened herself up to such scrutiny from the likes of hooks. The whole situation got me to thinking. I had ask myself “Do I consider Beyoncé a feminist? Then there was the Grammy performance that featured the Carters “drunk in love”, and Beyoncé on sexual hyper-dive. In case you are living under a rock, she wore black T-back briefs and jeweled black bando under a shear long sleeved black leotard under ribbed cut out corset over lay. It was hot, she looked hot as she “smized” slinked and slithered stripper style, legged spread eagle over a chair in the opening. The thin strip of crotch on her leotard held on for dear life, otherwise we would have see Blue Ivy private exit door! She delivered the sexy; she delivered the ass shaking, albeit via a track (for the most part). Personally I was shocked at how thin she was. Not skinny, I mean she will always have some meat on her bones but her legs were so thin. I suppose that was the result of her 22-day Vegan (while wearing fur) diet. Some were disappointed wanting the high energy, high voltage Bey, with the long legged stage strut, back up dancers, long wig whipping and the crazy bouncy eyes, others (probably straight men and some women) sat mouth agape trying to stifle the tingles that you get when watching the set up to a porn video. But hey! Put that thing away, this is a family show…or is it?
The Internet blew up; one of the topics that was reignited was the idea of this being the new “feminist” Beyoncé. Some argued that the hyper-sexuality was not in keeping with feminism, others argued that it, the performance and performer were indeed a self empowered, self possessed woman in charge of her sexuality…Ok I can see both sides but when Jay-Z pranced out and delivered the lines
“I’m Ike Turner, turn up, baby, no, I don’t play
Now eat the cake, Anna Mae said, “Eat the cake, Anna Mae!”
Now for those of you who are not aware Anna Mae (Bullock) is the Tina Turner’s birth name, the reference was to a scene in the bio-pic What’s Love Got to do With It? In the scene Tina is being praised and Ike smashes cake in her face… it was a reference from an episode in an abusive relationship, an infamously abusive relationship. For a man, (a husband), to sing that, to a woman (his wife), and for her to sing along… I’m not sure how I feel about that…. Perhaps it is to be taken as mere role-play, hey we all have been there, some of our sexual fantasies are fantasies, however some should not be made public…even to your GG. Sometimes when you know what people do in private, it makes you think of them differently. But either way, something like this gives the impression that some how, and in some context, both Jay-Z and Beyoncé both are condoning physical abuse…. Insert picture of Rhianna’s battered face “Eat cake Anna Mae”
*Personally I think it is unacceptable and inexcusable, and if anyone cares, it is at the very least a bad example.
When her latest album hit the world like the meteor that killed all the dinosaurs, and the feminist buzz began, it got me to thinking. I had ask myself, “Do I consider Beyoncé a feminist? Does she in my opinion embody feminist ideas, and principles? I was left at a moral stalemate until what I am calling GrammyGate. Then eureka! The answer was a clear as day. I think that Madonna’s appearance during Macalroy’s performance help my to solidify my theory. Here is it:
Beyoncé is neither animal, vegetable, mineral nor feminist. She is an Entertainer she has no religion, she worships at the temple of fame and notoriety. She was raised in the church of the entertainment business, raised in its culture, and her values and morals have been shaped by its doctrine. Her parents had a master plan, kudos to them for setting their daughter up to dominate not merely the world stage, but the World at Large. Much like Richard Williams, father of tennis pros Venus and Serena, Papa Williams declared that this girls would be number 1 and they were, people thought he was crazy, and he was, like a fox. The Knowles had a similar plan for their firstborn. As similar as the situations might be, the world of sports is vastly different then the world entertainment. In Sports, it’s about wins, losses and rankings, the rules are clear-cut the person with the most points wins. In the Entertainment industry, success, or being “number one” it’s based on things that are both factual (profits, sales, Platinum records, box-office sales, ratings, etc.) and the ephemeral (bankability, popularity, visibility, buzz, hype, gossip) both are things that can be bought, manipulated and skewed. It’s far more mercurial equation then putting a ball in a hoop.
The entertainment industry is a Church that built on smoke and mirrors, and optical illusions are par for the course. Illusions are its corner stone, illusions of body, illusions of the talent, illusions of an artist’s whole private life if necessary. If a performer enters the Church of the Entertainer but is unwilling to be a part of the magic act, it can directly affect their level of success. Success in the Church can hinge on a myriad of things that have nothing to do with your talent or the quality of the by-product of it. “Success” can live or die on how much skin you are willing to show, who you date, who you know, who you have sex with, who you had sex with and if it was caught on tape. It can hinge on what a person is willing to do, how far they are are willing to go… and *that can be a broad list. At times an artist’s beliefs or values can impede what could be a meteoric rise, and if you want it, you have to relinquish belief in all other things and cleave solely unto it.
The Church of the Entertainer (COE) has large congregation, larger than Scientology. Time after time we see its members doing more and more salacious and ridiculous things in an effort to create visibility, buzz, to as they say in the industry “stay relevant” Madonna is the high priestess of the Church of Entertainment. In the eighties she re-wrote the doctrine. From her multiple re-incarnations, cultural appropriation, sexual exploits and outlandish statements, she has managed to keep us intrigued or at least guessing for the last 30 years. Recently she was raising Cain with her tweet of N-word towards her “white” son, and then as a buffer trotted her African son out to the Grammys in matching pimp outfits wearing gold and diamond grills… Then she performed with Miley Cyrus, bumping and grinding and sticking her tongue out like a tween. Perhaps this would be considered unacceptable behavior for your average 55 year-old woman, but its quite common for and entertainer. As always she left us not quite knowing how to feel about what we just saw, but for different reasons then in her early years. This time we were less intrigued and titillated but more disturbed and perplexed. *“Why would she that? She’s Madonna, she’s above that”, we ask. And the fact that we are questioning is the very reason she is so successful. It’s not always about being liked, being reviled can have just as many dividends as being the “Sweetheart”. In the C.O.E the doctrine tells us that it we must not only get people talking but keep them talking, it matters little if it is positive or negative. There is no such thing as bad press.
As an outsider to the Church of Entertainment, if you don’t understand what you are looking at, you might think that what you are witnessing is a contradiction. You might think that Madonna adopting an African child and then using the N-word is contradictory…you might think it is a contradiction to call your album “feminist” and then allow your husband to spit a domestic violence reference at you as you shake you scantily clad ass, and telling other “Bitches” to “Bow down” but they are not, they are completely in keeping with the practice of the Church. They are actions that have payoff in controversy, which equals press and translates into money and metabolizes into power…
There is no shame In the C.O.E, there is only shame in “falling off”, fading. There is no compunction in the C.O.E. you can appropriate, you can out and out steal other artists’ work (as long as you have enough money silence or fight the law suit) there is not loyalty, there can be love, as long as it is with a standing member of the Church, or one that has no association with the Church but is allowing of its practices. The only expectation that you can have from a member is that you will be Entertained. You have not right to hold them to what they say today, whether it’s practicing a religion, supporting a foundation, charity or cause, even their rehabilitation or sobriety is up for grabs. With the mercurial shifts of the industries winds, boundaries, loyalties and values change with swift regularity. Just when we think we identify with them, that in some way they represent us, they shift and change. We then feel betrayed, having bought into what they were presenting, we believed them… that is because we are outsiders and we don’t know the rules of operation within the Church.
Make no mistake about it, Beyoncé is all about being the biggest, baddest, B on the planet. There is little she wouldn’t do to become that (which she has) or to maintain that. That is what the religion of Fame requires. Beyoncé is not a feminist, the laws of the Church that she serves will never allow her to prescribe to feminism or any other group, she can feign allegiance, or service, she can manipulate it, but in the Church of The Entertainer the doctrine is clear, “Thy shall serve no other God but Fame”.