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B. Carter released a new track this week that set the twitterverse a tizzy. The song “Bow Down” was somewhat of a departure from the noble female empowerment image that has been a staple of her career in recent years. Her frequent and liberal use of the word “bitch” offended some. Also many felt the aggressive nature of the track and the message of basically “All Hail Queen Beyoncé”. Now everyone from Keyshia Cole (who admittedly has her own ax to grind with B) to Rush Limbaugh has an opinion.
But can we validate the premise of the argument of her detractors for a second? Beyoncé has become a pop phenomenon. And she has many many hits throughout her storied career dating back to Destiny Child’s ‘Bills, Bills, Bills” ( a song by four teenage girls mocking a man for trying to date them without being able to support them financially), to “Crazy in Love” to “Irreplaceable”. There’s probably too many to name. The argument that “Bow Down” is a deviation from her pro woman agenda is “technically” valid. If you want to assert that the content of her songs was the driving force of her image.
“Bow Down” is offensive to some because it implies that she is somehow above other women. It’s not a particularly positive message from that perspective. And of course if I saw things from that perspective I wouldn’t be wasting my time writing this because you have all heard that argument since Monday. The honest truth is this: Beyoncé is as much of an icon as her husband. Jay-Z’s lyrical content full of unrepentant criminal violence, unchecked egotism, blatant materialism, misogyny and debauchery do absolutely nothing to damage his status as an icon. So why should Beyoncé stating her true beliefs that she is above and beyond others in her field damage her image at all?
[ALSO READ: WOW! Rush Limbaugh Puts Beyoncé Down Over “Bow Down”]
When you are an icon the content of your work matters less and less. Want proof? How many of you have actually watched an Elizabeth Taylor movie or listened to a Cher album? But they’re icons right. When was the last time you sat down to watch an episode of The Simpsons? (Sometime in the late 90’s right) Still the show is iconic. Beyoncé is such a great singer, dancer and entertainer that we instantly forgive her failures. No one talks about her god awful acting in that Austin Powers movie. Clips of her or any of her Destiny’s Child’s sisters tripping and falling on stage are viewed once or twice (or sometimes for hours in a continuous loop), laughed at and instantly dismissed. Being an Icon doesn’t mean being infallible. It does mean being loved and accepted by an extremely passionate fan base “Flaws and All” (see what I did there).
Honestly, I don’t find anything particularly feminist about the content of her music in the first place. It’s mostly standard chick R&B stuff, relationship crap and some dance music thrown in for good measure. Her iconic status has always been about her ability to do what she does well. Not just well…. extremely well. The only people who have a legitimate gripe in this “Bow Down” situation are people like me who don’t like the quality of the song. If you think the execution of the track is weak, technical stuff like the beat, the lyrics, the tone etc etc. that’s different than saying “She shouldn’t say things like that”. Most R&B singers, indeed most women aren’t feminists. And in that regard Beyoncé is no different. Her telling “bitches” to bow down isn’t as hypocritical to me as the false humility her image consultants tried to sell us. So just to be clear on this icon yes, feminist no.