Tracing Beyoncé's Feminism: Can A Female Feminist Be A Married One Too?

How does a woman – an intelligent, opinionated, financially independent woman – make a success of marriage? Don’t ask Beyonce, the jury’s divided on her sisterhood 

Namrata Zakaria
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Tracing Beyoncé's Feminism: Can A Female Feminist Be A Married One Too?
Don’t ask Beyonce, the jury’s divided on her sisterhood 

All eyes are on Queen Beyonce as the singer has been touring Europe and the UK for a month now. Everyone seems to be a fan, heck, even Priyanka Chopra queued up for the American star’s Renaissance Tour in London.

Beyonce’s wardrobe, meanwhile, deserves some serious spotlight – with luxury labels like Loewe, Alexander McQueen, Fendi, Stella McCartney and Mugler customising catsuits and corsets for her dazzling performances.


Despite her sexy sizzle, Beyonce has long been considered a role model for women. For starters, she’s a black woman, embracing her blackness, with the world at her feet. Her songs are anthems of sisterhood and self-love, they are called ‘Single Ladies’, ‘Independent Women’, ‘Me, Myself and I’, ‘Upgrade U’.

The gorgeously empowering ‘Lemonade’ album was a homage in itself. And how can we forget her performing in front of the word ‘FEMINIST’ at the VMA in 2014. It was almost her mea culpa, she was too shy to call herself a feminist just a few years before in an interview to Vogue.

Her performances deserve kudos too. Beyonce is a fierce dancer, her movements are strong and assertive hip-hop styles that encourage women to be strong and assertive people. She is deliberately not feminine, but powerful.


Beyonce and feminism

American author and Washington Post dance critic Sara Kaufman has praised the “ferocious physicality” of the singer and the athleticism she brings on stage. For example, she drops her back down low and pulls herself up with the finesse of an Olympic athlete, except she does it in high heels.

But, is Beyonce a feminist?

The jury is divided on this one. Beyonce has severed ties with two notoriously toxic men: her father Mathew Knowles, and Sir Philip Green, the Topshop owner with whom she launched an athleisure line Ivy Park. For all her songs of empowerment, Beyonce famously called herself “Mrs Carter”, by her hip-hop and rap producer husband Jay-Z’s last name.

publive-image Image of Beyoncé's closing act of MTV's Video Music Awards 2021, her performance of “Flawless” in front of a screen on which the word “FEMINIST” glowed.

She’s also claimed to be hugely inspired by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the Nigerian feminist behind the celebrated essay “We Should All Be Feminists”. In fact, Beyonce has even borrowed some of her lyrics from the essay, with permission of course.


But Adichie has also distanced herself from the superstar: “Her type of feminism is not mine, as it is the kind that, at the same time, gives quite a lot of space to the necessity of men. I think men are lovely, but I don’t think that women should relate everything they do to men. Did he hurt me? Do I forgive him? Did he put a ring on my finger? We women are so conditioned to relate everything to men.” 

Meanwhile, news is out just this week that Beyonce and Jay-Z have just shattered real estate price records in California by paying US $200 million for a Japanese minimalist genius Tadao Ando-designed mansion in Malibu. The fabulous property was owned by art collector William Bell, who bought it for 14 million in 2003.

Beyonce’s stardom, and her hyper-successful career, seem to have taken her away from the struggles of women of the real world. Her marriage, despite rumours of tumult every now and then, shows the singer playing vulnerable and needy for her husband’s affections. Have we forgotten her sister Solange Knowles' elevator fight with Jay-Z over a rumoured dalliance? Beyonce would certainly like us to forget it.

Is being a feminist equal to being a man-hater? Certainly not. But it certainly does mean not bowing down to patriarchal conventions or pandering to the male ego.

Indra Nooyi was reprimanded by her mother on the day she became CEO of PepsiCo. Nooyi has recounted how she came home early to break the news to her family when her mother told her to “leave your crown outside” and go and get some milk instead. I cannot understand why this story is romanticised as some signal of work-life balance. On the contrary, it tells women that no matter how successful they are in the office, they still have wifely duties to meet at home. Ugh, just ugh.

I have a friend who runs her own successful businesses, while her husband takes care of the kids and the kitchen. Often when I’m invited over for a casual dinner and I ask what we would be having for dinner, I’m just told to ask her husband instead.


It was so refreshingly unusual, it made me fall in love with my friend a little bit more. Except when they argue, it is always her simpering and ‘re-masculating’ him to a patch-up.

Another friend has enjoyed much freedom at home. Despite being married into a  conservative family, her husband and in-laws always encouraged her to work (a double income is always welcome). But when she had a baby, all caregiving was her responsibility alone. The husband never changed a diaper or rocked the baby to sleep.

How does a woman – an intelligent, opinionated, financially independent woman – make a success of marriage then?

By being a little deaf, a little mute and a little blind, of course.

Views expressed by the author are their own.

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Feminism Beyonce