“You know, equality is a myth, and for some reason, everyone accepts the fact that women don’t make as much money as men do. I don’t understand that. Why do we have to take a backseat? I truly believe that women should be financially independent from their men. And let’s face it, money gives men the power to run the show. It gives men the power to define value. They define what’s sexy. And men define what’s feminine. It’s ridiculous.”
—Beyoncé in GQ. First, this is an excellent quote.
Now I recognize the weirdness of this: Beyoncé has not, at least publicly, accepted the label of feminist and this quote was in the GQ article which accompanied this cover, which is that picture of Beyoncé smoldering away in true form in her underwear that has been all over Tumblr since it was leaked ahead of publication. The picture was, of course, taken by Terry Richardson of gross, hipster misogyny fame, the man who has substituted being a predatory creep for actual artistic talent. (No, I’m not linking to his weird Tumblr, you’ve all seen it.)
There’s too much going on here for me to reconcile. Beyoncé as a strong woman of great achievement and ambition on many fronts, talking in a direct and savvy way about a business-y understanding of what I would term feminism, in a magazine with that cover. Hadley Freeman astutely notes that feminism, and women, are being done no favors by having famous women pose for photographs like this and comments on the direction in which covers like GQ’s and Esquire’s have been moving. We do benefit from people like Beyoncé saying things like the above.
It’s impossible for us to escape the contradictions of our existence. As feminist as I am, I live in world saturated in inequality, a world in which I can’t help participating. This is true on an incredibly public level for Beyoncé, who participates in this kind of massively gendered celebrity. We can be independent and cognizant of misogynist reality but we cannot escape living in that world and being influenced by it and being induced to cooperate with it. This is not an excuse offered, but a search for an explanation of how contradictory things like this can and frequently do co-exist.
(And this commentary is all without getting into the discussion of her ongoing large-scale self-archiving project.)