Open Season on Mrs. Carter

ImageIs anyone else really sick of people ragging on Beyonce, or is it just me?

I’m not saying you have to like her music, or like her as a person, but let’s take a look at her accomplishments:

There’s plenty more where that came from, but even if there wasn’t I would say that Beyonce Giselle Knowles-Carter is a very accomplished, multi-talented, influential and admirable person.

This is one of the reasons why I get particularly annoyed when I happen to come across things like this letter that Rakhi Kumar has written to Michelle Obama about Beyonce not being a good role model for her daughters, Sasha and Malia Obama.

Rakhi Kumar’s complaint starts with her objection to one of Beyonce’s outfits at the Mrs. Carter World Tour, which apparently consists of a sheer bodysuit with the nipples showing. Because I haven’t been to the show, and because there are people commenting saying that her nipples were not showing, I won’t comment on that. But I will say that it’s a bit ironic that Kumar was so bothered by the costume and the ‘misogynistic implications’ that it represented, because the fact that Beyonce’s performance was belittled to what she was wearing can be read as misogynistic as well.

Also, a sidenote: Why do people have such a problem with nipples? Last time I checked, all humans, regardless of gender, had nipples? What about them makes them overtly sexual? They are used FOR FEEDING CHILDREN. As soon as nipples are revealed, they are instantly assumed to be there for a man’s gratification, and if they are revealed for breastfeeding, it’s ‘indecent’. Feeding infants naturally is indecent now?

But I digress. My point is, automatically rendering any woman’s body parts overtly sexual… sexualizes women. And apparently, women aren’t supposed to be sexy in order to be good role models. Or at least that is the case according to Rakhi Kumar.

At one point in the letter, Kumar says:

Beyonce, performing in sheer body suits, nipples displayed, mouth open, high heels and sheer tights, shaking her butt on stage, can no longer be held by world leaders as an icon of female success.

Because for as long as she is, we are feeding a demonic myth that women must make themselves sexually available to enjoy ultimate success.

This is a debate that comes up a lot in discussions about rape culture. There is an idea that women who wear revealing clothing are ‘asking to be raped’ or ‘asking for sex.’ Because apparently women don’t dress for themselves- they dress to attract or repulse men. So by wearing clothing that is revealing, Beyonce is making herself ‘sexually available.’ I wish it was obvious to people why that is an extremely flawed philosophy, but apparently not. So just to make it clear: women are people. People should have the right to wear what they want and not be judged for it. As far as I’m concerned, a woman should be able to walk down the street naked and not have someone touch her without her permission. If a man can walk down the street shirtless and we can just assume he’s hot, and a woman can’t because that’s indecent exposure and she’s inviting rape, that says more about our assumptions and who we are than it does about the man and woman in question.

Kumar also says later on in the letter:

And it’s time that young girls were sent a different message. A more refined, intelligent message. A message that engaged them at the level of their intellect and potential because implicit in our message to them should be the acknowledgement that they are naturally brilliant and that we believe that they are capable of everything -without ever having to undress to achieve their success.

I’m sorry, since when is someone’s intellect based on their appearance? Because Beyonce isn’t wearing enough clothing for your standards, she isn’t smart or strong or capable? Beyonce won every single award she has because you could see her nipples through her bodysuit?

Kumar even points out that Beyonce is the one who chooses to do it! You don’t have to agree with Beyonce’s choice, you don’t have to like it. But to tell the First Lady of the United States that she is not choosing the right role models for her children because you don’t like Beyonce’s clothing is absurd. The fact that Kumar refuses to acknowledge Beyonce’s talent as an artist and musician because of a sheer bodysuit is playing right into the idea that a woman can be defined by what she wears. And the fact that Kumar feels the need to criticize an aspect of Michelle Obama’s child-rearing reminds me of Jaclyn Friedman’s piece last year on GOOD, telling Beyonce and Jay-Z how to raise Blue Ivy Carter.

In a broader scope, I tend to feel icky when people feel the need to tell influential, successful Black people how to raise their children. I also don’t like the idea of Beyonce being judged by her outfits, because I feel like Black women are simultaneously oversexualized and desexualized, and that there is another anti-Black political message in judging what Black women wear and what effect that has on their body and their sexuality. But that’s another post for another day.

I conclude this by saying: Leave Beyonce alone! Let her live her life and celebrate her accomplishments the way she wants to, please stop overcriticizing every little thing she does. No one is a perfect human being- that includes celebrities, and that includes her. Before Kumar judges someone else for not being a good role model, she should make sure she is one too- and so far, I’m not feeling the messages she has for young women.


Unsolicited Advice from a Black Woman: To Jaclyn Friedman

Dear Jaclyn Friedman,

Beyonce Knowles', showing off her baby bump!

Recently, I read your piece “Unsolicited Advice for Blue Ivy Carter: Growing Up As the Girl of Beyonce and Jay-Z,” on GOOD, and I walked away feeling perplexed. I know who you are. You’re a pretty well-known feminist author, from Boston, Mass. You wrote and published Yes Means Yes: Visions of Sexual Power and a World Without Rape a few years ago. Keeping these facts in mind is what led me to become perplexed in the first place, because I’m sure you wrote this piece as your way of helping, not hurting, the newest addition to the Knowles-Carter family.

If there is anything that we’ve learned from Forbes’ “If I Were A Poor Black Kid,” by Gene Marks, I would hope it would be that when White people talk down to Black people about what they  SHOULD do with their lives, without actually knowing what it’s like being said Black people firsthand, problems ensue. And yet, here  I am, reading your “unsolicited advice,” wondering what on Earth made you think it was a good idea to write a letter to a Black baby that is barely a week old badmouthing her parents, and telling her how to “properly” assert her sexuality in a sexist world.

This is a problem that many Black people have with the mainstream (read: very White) feminist movement; intersectionality is not taken into account nearly enough. I understand that Blue Ivy, as a girl child*, will have to deal with issues of sexuality as she grows up. But unfortunately, not only will Blue Ivy’s sexuality and related choices be complicated by the infamousness of her parents, but because she’s going to grow up a Black woman. The sexuality of Black women in America is much more complicated. Throughout history Black women have been hypersexualized- we suffer from higher rates of rape, Black people’s “endowments” are used to dehumanize them, and our sexuality is often controlled (for example, see: forced sterilization) and shamed by White people. So, telling Blue Ivy how to navigate her sexuality is problematic at best. At worst, it’s entitled, and indicates that you think you know best.

You should know all of this by now.

On to the next piece: I’m not really sure where you get off telling people, especially Black people, how to raise their children. I sincerely hope you did not think telling Blue Ivy about her parents’ shortcomings (in your eyes) would benefit your career. I know you aren’t totally ignorant, because you did say this:

Some people are going to expect you to act like a “perfect lady” at all times (they will all define this differently), asking you to single-handedly extinguish centuries of cultural stereotypes about black women being sexually incontinent. Others will jump on any evidence they can find to “prove” that you’re destined to live up to that stereotype. Either way, to millions of people, you won’t just be Blue Ivy Carter, human being. You’ll be an Ambassador of Black Girlhood, and later, Black Womanhood.

And that is absolutely true. But you don’t earn any brownie points by pointing out Jay-Z’s misogynist lyrics (because of course only Black rappers are misogynists- it’s not like it happens in other genres or with other races. Oh wait…), or by shaming Beyonce’s “Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)” because you don’t approve of using the symbol of a diamond ring to symbolize commitment. The fact of the matter is, it’s none of your damn business, and Blue Ivy is not your child.

You have a tremendous amount of privilege as a White woman, even if you are a woman (and therefore don’t have male privilege). Please keep this in mind the next time you feel the need to indicate that you would be a better mother to a Black child than her actual parents, or to tell a Black child how to assert her sexuality properly.

Click here to read another fantastic (and better written) post about this very subject.

*As of now, we only know that Blue Ivy was born with a vagina. We don’t know yet that they identify as a girl, it’s too soon to know that. This article was written assuming Blue Ivy is a cisgender girl, which should not be considered the default. 

Edit: Jaclyn Friedman has apologized for her column:

This column has received some strong criticism, and rightly so. It erases the long, damaging history of white people (specifically white women) telling Black women the “right” ways to be sexual, as well as how to raise their children. Worse, it contributes to that dynamic. This was far from my intention in writing it, but intentions aren’t magic. I was wrong.

Obviously it would have been far better if I’d understood all of this from the get-go, and not written the column. The best I know how to do at this point is to offer my deep, sincere apology, commit to donating the fee I’ll receive for this column to SisterSong, and redouble my ongoing efforts to understand and undo racism, both within myself and beyond. These efforts take many shapes, but one specific approach I’ll be focusing more energy on is increasing my reading and listening to women of color who work on sexuality issues.

(I’m publishing this here as GOOD has a no-retractions policy.)

Rihanna – Talk That Talk

By Keir Bristol

Rihanna - Talk That Talk

Rihanna - Talk That Talk

This post is part review, part love letter. If you don’t like the album though, you should totally keep reading. It may not convince you to like it, but at least to appreciate it for what it is.

One of the reasons why I love this album so much is because I can identify with it. As a 22-year-old girl figuring out what she likes and who she is, playing the field and trying to find someone who will understand her, be her partner, and… um, please her when necessary, this is a go-to album. It’s not an album where I’m forced to try to understand how someone else lives, without knowing first hand how it feels (Drake, I’m looking at you). But more than that, Rihanna is able to say what I’m thinking but may not have the courage to say.

If White women are the N****rs of the world, what are Black women?

If White women are the N****rs of the world, what are Black women?

Some of you may be familiar with the fiasco that went down at Slutwalk NYC where a white woman arrived with a sign that read: “Woman is the Nigger of the World,” and a woman of color had to ask her to take it down. To make matters worse, Slutwalk NYC did not exactly deal with the issue in the most graceful, apologetic way. This was aggravated by the fact that many people of color were already skeptical about Slutwalk because of the way people of color are labelled growing up. To be clear, many women of color (as well as people of other genders) are considered sluts, not because of how often they have sex, how many sexual partners they have, or how they dress- but because of the color of their skin. Historically speaking, women of color have been used as sex slaves for men in power, not to mention that women of color are more likely to be raped and are often considered hypersexual because of their body types. When these concerns were brought up while Slutwalk was still a newborn movement, they were not properly addressed. And then someone decided that since John Lennon gave them the go ahead, this sign was acceptable.

I digress. The reason why this is relevant, is because Rihanna could easily be called a slut or a whore for this album, if not for her often provocative dress and her skin color. The same way women of color are slut-shamed for these things, in addition to committing the crime of not being White. But listen to the album, and then ask yourself: does she care?

She doesn’t. She’s empowered, not belittled. And that’s why the album is great. 

Video still from "We Found Love"

Video still from "We Found Love"

The first single, “We Found Love,” featuring Calvin Harris, only fueled the singer’s claim that the Loud era was continuing. The song and video was allegedly a psychedelic look into her abusive relationship with Chris Brown, which ended shortly after he battered her after an awards show. The video features Rihanna and Dudley O’Shaughnessy in a passionate relationship, where the good is just as strong and influential as the bad, and leaving is the hardest of all. The lyrics of the song only reflect those feelings Rihanna croons desperately, “As your shadow crosses mine / what it takes to come alive / it’s just the way I’m feeling / I can’t deny / but I’ve got to let it go.” Watch the video here.

The second single, “You Da One,” is a bit of a return to Rihanna’s Carribbean roots. With an annoyingly-catchy sing-along chorus, she concludes, “My love is your love / your love is mine.” The next single is a mystery, because the album is chock-full of potential (eventual?) hits. A popular contender is “Cockiness (Love It),” in which Rihanna uses racy wordplay in her sexy Bajan accent. “Suck my cockiness, lick my puss-uasion,” she sings, before she chants, “I love it / I love it / I love it when you eat it.” She went there. On the subject of eating, my favourite off of the album would be “Birthday Cake,” produced by the-Dream, except that it’s cut off at 1:18. What a pity!

Talk That Talk Extended Version Cover

Talk That Talk Extended Version Cover

The only feature on the album is Rihanna’s mentor, Jay-Z on the title track “Talk That Talk,” but don’t worry: she didn’t need any more that that. This album is about her, and you won’t forget it. “Where Have You Been,” is a hyperactive dance track with a touch of dubstep, while the mellower “Drunk On Love,” samples “Intro” off of the Xx’s debut self-titled record. “Drunk on Love,” actually sums up what seems to be Rihanna’s view on love- intoxicating, powerful, stupifying, and a universal desire. 

The extended version of Talk That Talk includes “Do Ya Thang”, “Fool In Love”, and “Red Lipstick.” The latter was recorded over Chase and Status’ “Saxon,” but has a totally different feeling than the song Nicki Minaj had written for her for her fourth studio album, Rated R. Rihanna trades her superstar braggadocio for a sexual anthem that fits so well into the rest of the album. In fact, this is definitely her most consistent album to date.

Rihanna’s sexuality and empowerment are evident in this album, and it’s simply inspiring. With every song, you see another part of her and another part of yourself. Talk That Talk is an album that what have you caught between saying, “Did she really just say that?” and “I know how that feels!”

Review of The Cool Kids’ new album

Review of The Cool Kids’ new album.

What’s Hot in 2011 | College Magazine Blog

By Keir Bristol

2010 brought us fantastic releases from Kanye WestJanelle Monaethe Arcade FireDrakeand more. What is in store for 2011?

Read the rest at: What’s Hot in 2011 | College Magazine Blog.

Kanye West’s Beautiful, Dark, Twisted Reality

By Keir Bristol

Kanye West’s fifth studio album was released last Monday- on the same day as Nicki Minaj’s Pink Friday. At this point I don’t know who sold more, but I do know that West has to be raking in the chips right now. I’m not a big fan of ‘Ye in terms of how he is depicted in the media (or on his personal Twitter account) but I cannot deny that he is a musical genius, and not only in the terms of rap and hip-hop.

My Beautiful, Dark, Twisted Fantasy

My Beautiful, Dark, Twisted Fantasy

Enter My Beautiful, Dark, Twisted Fantasy. It’s a dark album that seems to be based more on West’s reality rather than Fantasy. You can tell that West’s production has truly developed since The College Dropout. The beats are more intricate- West uses piano and Bon Iver samples to spice up his signature auto-tune and sarcastic one-liners such as “No more drugs for me / p***y and religion is all I need.” It’s totally different from his other albums, but still clearly Kanye’s style- he’s a varied human being.

But all of the production doesn’t take away from the fact that in a shallow way, West seems to bare his soul on this album. It’s a “take me or leave me” vibe, in which he’s very open about his flaws, especially when it comes to his relationships with women. The second single, “Runaway,” is a perfect example- West seems to be afraid of commitment and yet is afraid of losing his current girl, because it doesn’t take a whole day to recognize sunshine. But just as quickly as he admits his flaws, he dismisses them in the same rush. And don’t expect any less misogyny on this album, either.

To take a break from the bleak reality of West’s love life, the star-studded record features from Bon Iver, Pusha T of Clipse, Nicki Minaj (who steals the show on “Monster”), Jay-Z, John Legend, Kid Cudi, Rick Ross, Raekwon, Prince Cy Hi, Swizz Beatz, Dwele and the RZA. West keeps good company.

West is also taking his artistic talents to other elements of his work as well. The alternative covers for the album, all done by George Condo, can be found here. Condo says that they are, “an attempt to bring depictions of religious figures to the modern world.” The official cover was rejected by some stores who were apparently offended due to sexual explicity…

Alternative Cover Art for "My Beautiful, Dark, Twisted Fantasy"

Alternative Cover Art for "My Beautiful, Dark, Twisted Fantasy"

“Runaway” has a 35-minute film, which also serves as the music video [watch “Runaway” here], not to mention the “moving painting” that West had put together for the lead single, “Power.”

"Moving Picture" made for "Power" by Kanye West

"Moving Picture" made for "Power" by Kanye West

Other stand-out tracks include “Who Will Survive In America,” which extensively samples Gil Scott-Heron’s “Comment No. 1”, the rap-ballad “Blame Game” featuring John Legend, and the next single, “All of the Lights,” a song about exposing everything – even the ugly stuff – in life.

My Beautiful, Dark, Twisted Fantasy secures any doubt that anyone may have had that West wasn’t original and that he couldn’t take some bits of everything and make them into coherent popular music. Even if you don’t buy the album, you need to at least listen to it.

Rating: 4/5 stars.

Music Notes Sept. 1- Sept. 7 | College Magazine

By Keir Bristol

Lady Gaga
Wednesday, September 1 –
Paste Magazine suspends their print publication due to “struggles of mounting debt,” according to their official statement. Their online edition will continue. Read more about it here.
For those of you who are jonesing for new Lady Gaga as much as I am, listen to some new Lady Gaga songs, as heard live on her Monster Ball tour! Click here! You & I sounds a little country, but you know once production is done, it will be Lady Gaga‘s signature pop sound, while “Living on the Radio” sounds like her “Brown Eyes” meets “The Fame.”
Thursday, September 2
Cee-Lo Green drops his new music video for his latest single, “Fuck You.”
Friday, September 3-
Belle & Sebastian drop three new singles. Listen to them here!
Pavement is reuniting for a performance on Jimmy Fallon, and they are screening new guitarists for the gig. Check it out here!
Saturday, September 4-
Kanye West drops another new single, “Devil In A New Dress,” and dedicates it to Taylor Swift as another apology for THAT incident at least years VMA’s. Listen to it here!
Sunday, September 5-
ATP New York 2010 launched Friday, September 3 and ends today; features artists like Iggy and the StoogesSonic Youth,Explosions in the SkyRaekwon and more.
Monday, September 6-
Rihanna Daily chronicles new single and album title announcement on Twitter.
Bajan superstar Rihanna announces “Loud” as her new album title, drops new dance single “Only Girl (In The World)”. Read about it here.
Tuesday, September 7-
The xx beat out Dizzee RascalFoalsLaura Marling and more for the Mercury Prize.
Listen to Kanye West‘s new single “Monster” featuring Rick RossJay-ZNicki Minaj and Bon Iver (and listen to Nicki Minaj slay everyone with her rhymes, if you haven’t already).
Listen to of Montreal‘s new album “False Priest” on NPRClick here.
And, check out Lady Gaga‘s newest Japanese Vogue Cover below. How do you think PETA feels about it? Read about it here!
Lady Gagas Meaty Vogue Cover
Click picture for sources, Rihanna Daily pic made by Keir Bristol.

Music Notes Sept. 1- Sept. 7 | College Magazine.