Guys. Guys. Take a deep breath. Sit down. Pour yourself a strong drink. Annie Lennox said something marginally critical about Beyoncé and then said the word “twerking.”
In an interview with NPR’s Steve Inskeep yesterday, the singer had the gall to say that “twerking isn’t feminism.”
Hopefully Lennox is on Twitter so the really real feminists can tweetsplain to her that she’s “slut-shaming” or that she’s “sex-negative” or, like, that actually twerking is an expression of female sexuality and I do what I want fuck yeah.
Ugh. If this the most controversial thing a woman can say about feminism, let’s shoot this zombie movement in the brain because, please.
Here are two important facts:
1) Beyonce is “feminism lite.” Like, obviously. So what? Do you think even Beyoncé would argue with that one?
2) Twerking has nothing to do with feminism.
Also. Twerking has nothing to do with female sexuality or female “empowerment.” (What does “empowerment” even mean anymore? Anybody?)
Twerking is a performance of sexuality for the male gaze. That’s it. And you can do it as much as you want. I don’t care. But it ain’t feminism and it empowers nothing but your ass. And you are more than your ass. Maybe it empowers the men watching your ass. They probs feel pretty good about it, yeah. Boners are pretty empowering, I imagine.
For interested parties (i.e. those of you who like feminism to extend beyond 140 characters and quasi first-year feminist theory/self-help mantras that erase our ability to make definitive, critical statements about anything and also nuance and agency), here’s what Lennox actually said about Bey:
I would call that “feminist lite.” L-I-T-E. I’m sorry. It’s tokenistic to me. I mean, I think she’s a phenomenal artist — I just love her performances — but I’d like to sit down [with her]. I think I’d like to sit down with quite a few artists and talk to them. I’d like to listen to them; I’d like to hear what they truly think.
I see a lot of it as them taking the word hostage and using it to promote themselves, but I don’t think they necessarily represent wholeheartedly the depths of feminism — no, I don’t. I think for many it’s very convenient and it looks great and it looks radical, but I have some issues with it. I have issues with it. Of course I do. I think it’s a cheap shot. (via Buzzfeed)
You mean to tell me that millionaire pop star, Beyoncé, doesn’t “necessarily represent wholeheartedly the depths of feminism??” EVERYBODY FREAK OUT. You start, Salon.
Tracy Clark Flory accuses Lennox of dissing Bey and twerking as a means to get media attention and promote her album, which is kind of a joke. First of all, what she said was hardly controversial. It’s just basic shit. If you literally believe that Bey and twerking embody feminism than you need to go back to class. Second, a more successful way for her to promote herself would be by twerking. That’s how it’s done, isn’t it? (Quick, somebody say something ageist!)
Lennox elaborated on her Bey statement, saying: “I was thinking at the time about very impactful feminists that have dedicated their lives to the movement of liberating women and supporting women at the grass roots, and I was saying, ‘Well that’s one end of the spectrum, and then you have the other end of the spectrum.'”
Well yeah. Most “feminism” is not done in the spotlight. It isn’t done on stage. Much of it is unpaid work done by regular, non-famous, working class women. It’s done in transition houses and in rooms with other women. It’s written in decidedly unsexy books. It’s done on the streets. It’s done in classrooms. It’s even done online. It’s done in all sorts of ways and in all sorts of places but most of it isn’t done in a sequined bodysuit at the MTV awards, ass grinding up on a pole. Which is not to say that a woman can’t be a feminist and wear a sparkly bodysuit — she sure can — all it is saying is that the be all and end all of feminism is not Beyoncé.
Lennox goes on to explain that twerking is “not liberating” — that “It’s a sexual thing that you’re doing on a stage; it doesn’t empower you.” Gasp, amirite?
But folks are actually gasping at this. Flory writes:
… defining twerking as categorically unfeminist is silly and sensationalist. Look, twerking can be empowering! It can also be exploitative. While I’m making definitive statements about a complex topic, here’s another one for you: Reducing Beyoncé’s feminism to twerking is far more disempowering than her gluteal displays. Are we sure that Lennox even knows what twerking is? Because Beyoncé is hardly its most obvious spokesperson.
I’m sorry but what’s really insane about this whole conversation is the weight we’re expected to place, within the feminist movement, on fucking twerking. It’s a sexy fucking dance move. Give it a rest.
Also, saying the words “twerking isn’t feminist” disempowers exactly no one. Is Beyoncé somehow less powerful because someone said twerking isn’t a feminist act? Do you even know what power is? Like, are women going to escape male violence by twerking? Does a feminist saying that twerking isn’t empowering prop up the system of patriarchy? That doesn’t strike me as very logical, considering that it isn’t Feminists Against Twerking who have been holding us down under that glass ceiling and making child porn and beating us up in our homes and whatnot all these years.
No one is “policing” anyone’s behaviour and no one has said that, in order to be a feminist, everything you do must be a feminist act. No one has said Beyoncé can’t be a feminist or that if you twerk you lose your feminist card. So just relax, have a sip of that drink, and power up your brain. This isn’t rocket science, this isn’t controversy. If the notion that twerking isn’t liberation gets you this riled up, you need to start paying more attention.