Beyoncé’s criticism shows societal discomfort with powerful women
August 9, 2016
Whether it was love for the girl power anthems or disgust over the sexually charged language, everyone had something to say when Beyoncé released her latest album, “Lemonade,” last week on HBO.
Matt Walsh from “The Blaze” argued that “it would be merely absurd … for a woman to feel ‘empowered’” by the messages in Beyoncé’s album. Because you know what makes women feel the most empowered? Having a man tell them what should make them feel empowered.
At any rate, Beyoncé received endless criticism for the political messages in her music videos. In one video, she is lying on top of a sinking car, alluding to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Another video includes the mothers of black children shot by the police, holding pictures of their late sons. Between themes of social injustice as well as feminist motifs, it’s safe to say “Lemonade” is Beyoncé’s most political album yet.
The music is predominantly about marriage infidelity, starting with an emotional ballad, moving on to apathetic “screw you” breakup songs and ending with forgiveness. But “Lemonade“ is more than love songs and club jams. It is a nod to Beyoncé’s southern black roots, which resonated closely with many black women and their struggles. Those roots were no doubt the target of criticism.
Piers Morgan, was one of the first to critique Beyoncé and her political messages. While admitting that she is a great performer and the music on her album is “fantastic,” he states that he prefers the “less inflammatory, agitating” version of Beyoncé.
One could argue that Beyoncé is exploiting social activism efforts by using the Black Lives Matter movement or proclaiming herself a feminist. But where is this criticism when any other artist makes politically charged songs?
Where were the “Boycott Bruce Springsteen” shirts after “Born in the U.S.A?” What about the outrage over Ice Cube’s “Gangsta Rap Made Me Do It?”
Dave Matthews’s “Don’t Drink the Water,” Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror,” Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” All of these songs tackle political themes from the Vietnam War to the Native American genocide. But none of these male artists is accused of writing these songs at the expense of marginalized groups. They are seen as brave for taking on such difficult themes.
But when a woman such as Beyoncé makes strides away from bubblegum pop to tackle more challenging subjects, the public’s immediate response is shock. People are so shaken up by the thought of a powerful woman using her power as a platform. People are only comfortable with silent, well-behaved women.
Walsh, in his column, made this clear by telling us that Beyoncé is not empowering our daughters, she’s destroying them by giving them a voice. He wants so badly for women to surrender to their assigned gender roles that he even dictates which emotions are valid for a woman and which are not.
“Bitterness, greed, envy, narcissism, sexual desperation and self-objectification do not empower,” he says.
Morgan furthered this sexism by begging her to go back to the old Beyoncé — the one who submitted to her role as a female performer while the men took on the bigger issues.
We see so much policing of women and their actions in the media, but none so blatant as Walsh’s and Morgan’s self-righteous expositions. Beyoncé’s criticism is just another instance of men telling women what to feel, how to feel and how to express those feelings. Walsh claims that Beyoncé is destroying our daughters, but what’s really destroying young girls is the notion that they must act the way that men expect them to act.
Unfortunately these opinions aren’t isolated; they are just an indication of society’s views of women as a whole. But while society recovers from the shock of a woman having opinions, hopefully Beyoncé and other female artists don’t cower down from these holier-than-thou attitudes and will keep making people squirm with their empowering messages.
Isabella is a freshman in ACES.