Recently, as I was getting ready for work, an episode of The View was on TV playing in the background. For those not familiar with it, The View is a show with a panel of women who discuss different current topics. On this particular episode the guest was one of my favorite performers, Annie Lennox. I had my back to the TV as I was doing my makeup and picking out jewelry, but I stopped in my tracks and began to pay more attention when I heard Annie talk about a very important and personal issue. That issue is Beyoncé.
According to Annie Lennox, one cannot be overt in your public displays of sexuality and still think of oneself as a feminist. Certainly for a very long time the argument has been made that in order to be a "good feminist" you must be strong, take charge, intelligent, and also on the asexual side. Sexuality has been defined by the terms of patriarchy and is used as a way of controlling women and also abusing women, it is not a tool that has the same benefits to women as it does men. Shaking your ass on TV benefits men and disenfranchises women who will be seen as "loose" or "slutty". This was certainly the view of feminist during the time Annie Lennox was growing up in what scholars call the 3rd Wave.
But, we are now in the 4th Wave, an inclusive period of redefining what feminism looks like and also who gets to call whom a feminist. Part of my problem is that up until now the main voices on what is feminism has been white women, like Annie, who speak for the movement at large. The voices of minorities, trans women, poor women, queer women, immigrant women have never been part of the dialogue, but that has changed. Now you can't say you are having a balanced conversation about feminism with only white women, because there is an understanding about representation, no one person can represent all views, needs and experiences. So when Annie sits on television and tells Beyonce, who has made immense success in a world where there are so few black women making it as far as she has. The opportunities for black women are much less that white women, and yet there she is and she has done that all while dressed in little more than a leotard and still twerks her way to the bank. She has become a feminist icon because of the fact that she is successful on her own terms, supporting women & their accomplishments, but also the inherent beauty of her feminine form and the power and strength she has in her own body. That is what is empowering and liberating to her, to be able to express herself in the context of her culture and what she envisions for herself. And that's pretty fucking feminist.
Here is the video:
My feelings can be summed up by the commentary from Segun Oduolowu on the Wendy Williams show. He, much to my surprise and relief, seems to have a firmer grasp on the concept and ideals of feminism that the women sitting next to him. He stands for the concepts that black feminism and 4th wave feminist are trying to explain.