I’ve read a ton of very intelligent blog posts about how not-feminist Beyoncé actually is since the release of I Am…Sasha Fierce, with the regressive gender roles imagined in the two lead singles “If I Were a Boy” and “Single Ladies.” Best? Emily Gould’s:
It’s a feminist anthem! Well, sort of. If you want it to be. It’s a classic post-breakup eff you about being “up in the club” and dancing with another guy to make your ex jealous — “I could care less what you think,” ‘Sasha’ sings, which is always a funny kind of line because, hello, you are making it clear that you’re just acting this way for the dude’s benefit. (cf: “You probably think this song is about you” or “Thanks to you, now I get what I want.”)
(Also, I would add: “I could have another you in a minute”.)
I read them all, and I thought, meh. I mean, they’re right, but since when was Beyoncé supposed to be an uncomplicated feminist icon? She’s always been contradictory. This is the woman who gave us “Independent Woman” but she also gave us “Cater To You” and “Upgrade U.” (The latter is a great song that is offensive in at least 2 or 3 different ways, none of which is really negated by B’s adorable Jay-Z impression.)
Anyway, Bitch Magazine pointed me to the video for the track that I thought of every time someone raised the whole issue. I’m not saying it obviates the problems with her other songs, but “Diva” certainly complicates them.
Also, I kind of love it. That white dress with the crazy paint stains running down the front is reminiscent of the stuff Gaultier made for Victoria Abril in Kika, which is a pretty hearty fuck-you to notions of woman as nothing but objects of visual pleasure.
As Ehren Gresehover points out, it pretty much visualizes Beyoncé’s claim that “a diva is a female version of a hustla.”
In the video (which dropped just before Christmas), she borrows more than just the figurative swagger of male hip-hop stars for her dance moves, and ends it by literally exploding a metaphor for the way women are usually treated in rap music: a beat up pimpmobile full of female mannequin parts is set ablaze by Beyonce’s cigarette as she turns her back and walks away. It’s not a pretty image, but Beyonce seems to be saying that being a successful woman in the music biz isn’t always about being pretty, either.
But that closing image isn’t just exploding a metaphor, it’s taking back the power Jay-Z had in “Crazy In Love,” the song which launched her solo career.
The visual metaphor here is that Beyoncé’s so crazy in love that Jay-Z lights her car on fire, basically blowing her up. Of course, since music videos don’t have to have narrative logic (thank goodness!) she’s still there to dance in a fur coat and body suit while he raps about how much money he has, so it’s okay.
Who’s blowing up cars and walking away without looking back now? In real life, B married Jay-Z, but Sasha Fierce is doing it all on her own now.