Emma Watson interviewed Tavi Gevinson, the two gals chatted about everything from Vogue to Beyoncé. Emma Watson admits to Tavi that she is conflicted about Bey’s form of feminism because she is so sexually explicit in this album and seems like she is pandering to men. (It’s not like Emma Watson has never gone topless, either.) While I don’t agree with Emma, I admire that she isn’t making a statement about Beyoncé’s intentions but expressing her feelings about her impression and then articulating those feelings in the form of question. Emma’s interested in a legit discussion and Tavi is ready to have it.
Emma Watson says:
“As I was watching [the videos] I felt very conflicted, I felt her message felt very conflicted in the sense that on the one hand she is putting herself in a category of a feminist, but then the camera, it felt very male, such a male voyeuristic experience of her and I just wondered if you had thoughts about that or if you had any of your own thoughts about any of it really …”
Tavi Gevinson says:
“Beyoncé is not perfect even though she is kind of a badass but I think it is very generous of her to work these things out publicly, to you know, have the songs that include the sample of like a Ted Talk about feminism. I think it is very generous of her to let us see her relationship to feminism publicly and I think that if we are being really nit-picky there are definitely contradictions, but I’m mostly just so thankful that album exists and for me it felt like real progress …
“I think she also makes it as known as she can without putting it in her music that her dad was her manager, she fired him, she started her own company, and she calls the shots. When I watch this album I feel like she is truly displaying her own sense of agency and it is hard to look at a lot of other pop stars right now and say the same, which I don’t mean to sound condescending, and I’m obviously not one to argue that young women have self-awareness or autonomy but I do think there is something to be said for seeing Beyoncé’s sexuality being put into the context of a video with her kid in the Grown Woman video it feels like she is so in control, like you said.
“I am so glad you asked me about this because I want to be Beyoncé’s scholar and just talk about her all the time.”
I think Tavi makes a great point about Beyoncé not being perfect and that if we are going to put her under a microscope we are going to see contradictions. The thing is being a feminist is all about contradictions but the difference between a feminist and someone who isn’t is that they understand their personal contradictions aren’t a universal representation of all women or should be written into law. What I mean to say is, you can be a feminist and a housewife.
You can be the kind of housewife who never goes to work for a day in her life, who brings her husband a cigar and a sandwich everyday, who would never have an abortion, who prefers it when women wear skirts, who prefers it when men go to work and come home to fix the sink. You can be the kind of feminist who loves every gender stereotype, who embraces every traditional role, who has strong Christian values and who wants to embody those values.
You can do all of those things and still be a feminist because even though that’s how you prefer to live, you understand that it’s not how everyone prefers to live. You understand gender equality isn’t exactly here yet but you still want to live your life. Now, from the outside, some feminists might want to say, “Why don’t you get your own job?” Or “Why do you prefer a certain kind of man?” They can say those things without seeing the full picture. From the outside looking in things can appear to be “not feminist” but we can’t really measure how enlightened or political someone is based on their preferences or lifestyle. Being a feminist is more about how you treat other women and where you place your votes, then how you carry yourself.
A lot of people will criticize Beyoncé because she shakes her booty on camera. You can be a feminist and still do that. It’s OK to want to be desirable to men as long as you don’t measure your self worth or the worth of other women by how desirable they are to men. Furthermore, Beyoncé’s new sexuality is always presented in the context of her marriage. In the “Partition” video she is literally performing for her husband, just like in “Drunk In Love.” A married woman declaring that she still has sex, post-baby, and is publicly telling us that she has sex with this man is groundbreaking feminism. There’s a long held rumor that after marriage sex stops and women become uninterested. Just look at every sitcom from the ’90s: hapless, goofy husband in sexless marriage with “mean” wife.
On top of that Beyonce’s sexuality isn’t solely defined by her desire to look good for her husband, that’s more of role play, are we just going to ignore “Rocket” and “Blow,” songs about female pleasure, and how the sexual experience is incomplete if only the man gets off. I mean for literal centuries it was believed that women didn’t enjoy sex or experience orgasm. A lot of people still believe that today. Remember that AMA where people revealed their sexual misconceptions? Well, the most common belief was that women simply could not enjoy sex. This is a myth propagated to ensure that women don’t have sex, it’s to prevent us from becoming “impure” “sluts.” But here is Beyoncé saying nope, it has to go both ways. Beyoncé’s imagery has always played with sexuality through both the female and male lens. It has always toyed with male desire and female empowerment, two things many women must reconcile in both romantic and interpersonal relationships.
Beyonce’s entire discography is a plea to be treated “like a man” and to have her agency recognized as an entrepreneur and as a good wife and mother. Her articulation isn’t always the best (We can do better than “if you like it then you shoulda put a ring on it.” Though I understand the message on the importance of commitment. Which is basically what Madonna was saying in “Express Yourself.”) but I feel like her messages are mostly in line with feminism but more importantly with her life experiences.