by Rebecca Evans, Hollaback! Baltimore Blogger
“Bow Down Bitches/I Been On,” Beyonce’s newest single since “4”, has received quite a lot of criticism from the blogosphere since it’s release, and a number of surprising sources, including Keyshia Cole, Wendy Williams, and Rush Limbaugh, who I’m only mentioning for comic relief, because seriously, what possessed him to think his opinion on this mattered?
Beyonce has been on the receiving end of a lot of feminist criticism lately, particularly for her provocative wardrobe choices (which is funny because I’ve seen Lena Dunham’s boobs 5+ times on “Girls,” yet she’s “the modern American feminist.”)
A snippet from the song:“I know when you were little girls, You dreamt of being in my world. Don’t forget it, don’t forget it, Respect that, bow down bitches. I took some time to live my life, But don’t think I’m just his little wife. Don’t get it twisted, get it twisted, This my shit, bow down bitches.”
Okay, the phrase “Bow down bitches” has never had positive connotations. I get that. And these are puzzling lyrics coming from a woman who has spent her entire career saying some variety of “us girls need to stick together.” Then there’s the fact that Beyonce named her upcoming tour, “The Mrs. Carter Show World Tour.” It feels a little bit like Beyonce is not only abandoning us, but also calling us bitches. I see where most of the criticism is coming from, and it’s not completely unjustified.
But we have to consider the context here. This is a woman who said in her 2013 HBO documentary “Life is But a Dream;” “I’m always thinking about women and what we need to hear. It’s difficult being a woman. It’s so much pressure. We need that support and we need that escape sometimes.” This is a woman who tours with an all-female band, and has made a living off songs like “Independent Woman,” “Survivor,” “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It),” and “Run the World (Girls).” So much of her musical output has been focused on empowering women.
Also, people have been breathing down her back a lot lately. On top of the outfit slut-shaming at the Superbowl, Beyonce was criticized for lip-synching to the national anthem at Obama’s inauguration, and has been called out for her “diva behavior.” Back in 2012, after she revealed her pregnancy, she was accused of hiring a surrogate mother to protect her figure. Maybe the “bitches” Beyonce is referring to are the hateful perpetrators of these unnecessary criticisms. If so, I’m going to have to jump back on the Beyonce bandwagon and agree: Back OFF, bitches.
Then there’s the thought that maybe we shouldn’t be reading so much into this. Male R&B and rap artists frequently release ego-driven songs demanding their admirers and fans bow down – why is it such a big deal when a female artist does the same? The Internet is in a frenzy calling Beyonce everything from an egomaniac diva to lacking in humility. I’m not sure they would be saying these things if she were a boy (see what I did there).
Beyonce is frequently referred to as America’s biggest female recording artist, sex symbol, and businesswoman. She cut business ties with her father a few years ago, and became her own manager, because it was complicating their relationship, and she needed independence. “It’s bigger than the record. It’s bigger than my career.”
A lot of people are arguing that every single Beyonce release should not be subject to this feminist critique, because Beyonce only recently (and reluctantly) confirmed that she is a “modern day feminist.” Here’s my response: In a world of bubble-gum-shallow-as-a-puddle-size-twos, I’m going to cling onto any hope I can find. Beyonce gives us inspiration, and an example of a modern American woman who isn’t afraid to speak her mind and sing her face off, all while wearing lingerie and high heels. She’s proof that you can be powerful and sexy and not have to turn in your feminist card. Even when she’s gyrating on the edge of the stage, she’s in control, and refusing to be objectified. Beyonce is the sole owner of her sexuality and empire. Now back off and bow down.