I try to live my life as closely to the lessons extolled in Kenny Rogers’ “The Gambler” as much as possible. Kenny had it right when he sang, “You got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em. Know when to walk away and know when to run.”
I wish several writers and editors would pledge to do the same because there are certain topics that have had far too many resurrections. That’s exactly why I’m presently at the point where if I read yet another online diatribe bemoaning Beyoncé’s brand of feminism, I’m going to pour apple cider vinegar into my eyes. Yes, it’ll burn, but at least I’ll be spared of reading the literary equivalent of the song that doesn’t end.
The most recent piece ran over at The Huffington Post. In “Why Beyoncé’s Latest ‘Feminist’ Move Was So Problematic,” the site’s women’s editor Alanna Vagianos criticizes a portion of Beyoncé’s set at The Made In America Festival. Vagianos did not like Beyoncé incorporating UFC fighter Ronda Rousey’s “Do-Nothing bitch” speech.
For starters, the term “problematic” is in an abusive relationship with the internet. Secondly, the optics here are a smooth cackle. A non-Black woman taking a Black woman to task under the banner of “Black Voices.” The irony here is hitting one of Mariah Carey’s old dolphin notes.
I’m not saying Beyoncé is above criticism. However, many often employ Beyoncé’s name to draw attention to some larger argument that may have nothing to do with her. In this instance, Vagianos seems to have a bigger gripe with Ronda Rousey than Beyoncé. It’s evident in her spending several paragraphs criticizing Rousey.
And then there is that other issue that has bored many of us to death when it comes to Beyoncé, “bad feminist”: the condescension and air of superiority that reek from this dismissal of Beyoncé’s beliefs as simply not being “good enough.”
Vagianos acknowledges Beyoncé helping feminism become a wider discussed topic, but then goes on to write that “we need to understand Beyoncé feminism for what it is: A watered down, widely digestable version of feminism.”
This is akin to recent critiques of Amber Rose and her looming “Slut Walk.” In the past, famous women were criticized for their ambivalence to embrace the term “feminist.” When they do, many are then told they’re not doing it the right way.
People like Vagianos apply a purity test to feminism and even if their condemnation is wrapped in the bow of a few complimentary words, it’s condemnation all the same. It is tearing someone down for no other reason than making choices not in line with their views.
This is a pattern among select white feminists in particular when it comes to Beyoncé. No one’s perfect. Again, no one is above being challenged. Still, if you’re actually trying to enlighten someone, there is something to be said about approach.
Vagianos argues: “If Beyoncé is going to be seen and not heard, she needs to choose the words she broadcasts much more carefully — especially if she’s tying her message to the feminist movement.”
Thing is, Beyoncé, doesn’t need the approval or permission of Vagianos and other judgmental people like her to deliver whatever message she deems worthy to share with her audience.
I agree with the sentiment that if you feel someone isn’t doing their audience justice, speak up. That said, there is a difference in disservice and personal objections over how something is done. There is more than one way to do it, and if her critiques haven’t learned it by now, Beyoncé is perfectly content with using her platform her way. Rewriting the same essay again and again won’t change things.
So until there’s some kind of remix, let her be already.