This month, the cover of Ms. magazine features a smiling, confident picture of pop powerhouse Beyoncé. The culture-mogul-cum-domestic-goddess calls herself a feminist in public, and promotes a global charity focused on girls and women. She out-earned her celebrity husband Jay-Z (again) last year, and reportedly convinced the once-thuggish rapper to change his last name to “K n owles-Carter,” adopting her surname.
But while the cover line of the classic women’s lib mag promises a dissection of her “Fierce Feminism,” the article inside isn’t an adoring paean.
What Beyoncé receives instead is a hand-wringing investigation into whether she really belongs on the feminist team. Now, there are valid critiques to be made of the Texan-born superstar: She played a million-dollar concert for a Gadhafi, pushes Pepsi despite refusing to drink it, and despite her advocacy of poorer women’s rights, obviously doesn’t mind wearing their hair. Those arguments aren’t the ones in the article. Instead, it discusses her revealing outfits and the supposedly regressive (I’d say tongue-in-cheek) “Mrs. Carter” title of her new show. Lady Gaga and Madonna are said to be more thoughtful about how their personas interplay with female stereotypes (both have taken pains to reject the feminist label, Madonna preferring to be thought of as either a “humanist” or a “bitch”). While white women writhing around half-naked is apparently philosophical art, similar costumes on a black multi-millionaire are just too sexy.