A Grown Woman: Beyonce and the Power of Self-Definition

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There are few public figures in this world that are as polarizing as Beyonce Giselle Knowles-Carter. She divides people across musical lines as well as ideological lines. As someone who has dipped their toe in the pond of feminist media, I have witness scores of debates and articles written about Beyonce and validity as a feminist. That said, when her new song Grown Woman was leaked to the media earlier this week and I saw her grace the cover of feminist magazine Ms., I knew this week was gonna be a doozy in Beyonce news.

I saw Beyonce’s Ms. cover over the weekend as I played around with this blog’s fanpage. Mikki Kendall reblogged it on Tumblr along with a link to Ms.‘s fanpage. Underneath the picture, scores of feminists expressed their displeasure with Beyonce being on the cover. Many believed she wasn’t a feminist because they deemed some her behavior as problematic. Check these screenshots.

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Yea, it was a pretty interesting discussion. According to these comments and scores of others I’ve seen, some of Beyonce’s problematic behavior means she can’t be a feminist. Not to mention, there was a heap of slut-shaming in that thread. I saw a few of them flat out call her a whore. Granted, Beyonce has done some questionable stuff but so has Gloria Steinem, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and I’m sure most of the people commenting on that thread would not question their “feminist credentials.”  If using the word “bitch” means you aren’t feminist, let me go ahead and turn in my membership card. Perhaps someone should alert Bitch Magazine that they have to change their name. If her skimpy clothes eliminate her girl power, I need someone to send me a memo with a list of acceptable feminist clothing. Why didn’t I get my feminist handbook?

That brings me to Beyonce’s newest single, Grown Woman. I listened to the song and I liked it. I wouldn’t call it a hit and the lyrics were simplistic but it was cute and the beat was catchy. This song comes on the hills of the controversial Bow Down (I Been On) and has received its fair share of criticism. Her use of the word “bitch” bothered some people and made them start questioning whether or not she has a problem with other women which brings us back to the feminism debate. In a blog post I wrote about Bey a while back, I erroneously claimed that Beyonce never identified herself as a feminist. Bey named herself a “modern feminist” in an interview with British Vogue. “That word can be very extreme, but I guess I am a modern-day feminist. I do believe in equality,” she told them. “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.”

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That quote signified something to me. I don’t think songs like Grown Woman and Bow Down (I Been On) were made to denegrate other women or establish dominance. Perhaps, they are Beyonce’s form of self-definition and a middle finger to people that seek to challenge her definition. To some, her calling herself Mrs. Carter was sacrificing her independence but as she said in Bow Down, “I took some time to live my life/But don’t think I’m just his little wife.” Others talk about her clothing and brazen displays of sexuality and to that she can say “I’m a grown woman/I can do whatever I want.”

As a black woman who is used to seeing black womanhood being defined by everyone except black women, I can get behind Beyonce and any other black woman that can say “And they listen to me when I talk/’Cause I ain’t pretending.”

What do you think of Beyonce being on the cover of Ms. and her song Grown Woman? Leave a comment!

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One thought on “A Grown Woman: Beyonce and the Power of Self-Definition

  1. four4mommy says:

    I think there is nothing wrong with her being on the cover of Ms. Magazine. Some of the other covers she has graced make me think that she is being used as a sex symbol. I think letting her voice her vantage point and self-definition as it were is a “Bey”utiful thing. There will always be haters and nay-sayers around, usually because they are envious, but we are to expect that. ‘Grown Woman’ I think is a response to rampant criticism of her use of the “B” word. I am not one to use it personally, and though I have my opinions about the use of it, I say to each his (or in this case, “her”) own. I happen to like the song, and I think most like it as well. By now, there is a “Beyonce appeal” with her music. Today she is beyond a household name and can start a trend almost without saying one word. I say ‘Do your thing Beyonce’!! Not only because I am a member of the infamous Beyhive, and love her music, but because we all have the freedom of expression. I think she balances all of the roles in her life (wife, mother, daughter, sister, singer, producer, etc.) better than her critics can balance half of that!

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