When Beyoncé performed in front of a screen emblazoned with ‘FEMINIST’ in giant wording during her Mrs Carter world tour and to a bigger audience at the MTV VMAs, people had plenty to say. TIME magazine described it as the moment “a word with a complicated history [was] reclaimed by the most powerful celebrity in the world”. Annie Lennox, on the other hand, called it “feminist lite”.
In a rare interview, Beyoncé has now explained her aim in using the word in her performances for single “Flawless” which conveys a feminist message in its own right by sampling the TED talk by Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie calling for gender equality.
“I put the definition of feminist in my song and on my tour, not for propaganda or to proclaim to the world that I’m a feminist, but to give clarity to the true meaning,” she tells ELLE magazine. “I’m not really sure people know or understand what a feminist is, but it’s very simple. It’s someone who believes in equal rights for men and women.”
The 34-year-old said that when going by the definition of the word, she doesn’t understand why it has negative connotations and why it can’t also include men.
“If you are a man who believes your daughter should have the same opportunities and rights as your son, you’re a feminist. We need men and women to understand the double standards that still exist in the world, and we need to have a real conversation so we can begin to make changes.”
The singer also addressed criticism she received from conservatives over her latest song and video “Formation” and her politically charged performance at the Super Bowl.
Though the single was roundly received as a celebration and empowerment of black culture, the video for the song, which features a New Orleans police car submerged in flood water and a young black child dancing in front of police officers who later surrender their hands, was labelled by some – including the former Mayor of New York – as an “attack on police”.
An “ant-Beyoncé” protest was also organised in New York City, although only three people reportedly turned up.
The singer clarified the meaning of the song and stressed there is a difference between being “anti-police” and being against police brutality.
“Anyone who perceives my message as anti-police is completely mistaken,” she says. “I have so much admiration and respect for officers and the families of officers who sacrifice themselves to keep us safe. But let’s be clear: I am against police brutality and injustice. Those are two separate things.
“If celebrating my roots and culture during Black History Month made anyone uncomfortable, those feelings were there long before a video and long before me. I’m proud of what we created and I’m proud to be a part of a conversation that is pushing things forward in a positive way.”
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