Why Beyoncé's Latest ‘Feminist’ Move Was So Problematic

C'mon, Bey, you can do better.
Kevin Mazur via Getty Images

During her performance at the Made In America festival this past weekend, Beyoncé introduced her song "Diva" with UFC fighter Ronda Rousey's "Do-Nothing bitch" speech.

And it was, well, empowering. Kinda. Not really. Mostly, I wish it had been.

Bey used a recent interview of Rousey's in which the mixed martial artist responded to body-shamers who called her "too masculine." (Scroll down to see a clip of the performance.) Written on the main screen in big, flashing letters, Rousey is quoted saying:

I have this one term for the kind of woman that my mother raised me to not be and I call it a 'do-nothing bitch.' The kind of chick that just, like, tries to be pretty and be taken care of by somebody else. That's why I think it's hilarious, like, that people like say that my body looks masculine or something like that. I’m just like, listen, just because my body was developed for a purpose other than f**king millionaires doesn’t mean it’s masculine. I think it’s femininely badass as f**k. Because there’s not a single muscle on my body that isn’t for a purpose. Because I’m not a do-nothing bitch.

As a card-carrying member of the Bey-Hive and a supporter of Rousey as a fighter, you'd think I'd be yelling all the lyrics to "Diva" and dancing in circles after watching this performance. But it left the feminist in me quietly cringing.

It frustrated me that Bey presented Rousey's quote in almost the same exact fashion that she did feminist writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's quote, which is featured in "***Flawless," during her On The Run tour. That quote defines feminism as "the social, political and economic equality of the sexes." It's factual, powerful and wholly uncontroversial (unless you're an Internet troll).

Bey likely had good intentions. On first listen, Rousey's quote feels like it was meant to challenge cultural ideas which tell women our bodies are first and foremost for the consumption of men. But when you actually listen closely, the interview is fairly woman-shamey. Hearing it paired with "Diva" left me feeling a bit gross.

Who exactly is this "do-nothing b*tch" that Rousey rails against? Is she the stay-at-home mom or housewife? Is she the hip-hop honey in rap videos? Is she the sugar baby who sleeps with older men to fund her education? Regardless, what does calling other women "do-nothing b*tches" really accomplish? It's certainly not empowering, and it certainly does nothing to combat the larger issues that create a society where athletic bodies like Rousey's are judged as less than.

Rousey has broken down barriers as a fighter. She's the current UFC Women's Bantamweight Champion, an undefeated mixed martial artist and she won an Olympic medal in judo in 2008. She even called out Floyd Mayweather on his infamous domestic violence charges. She's a role model for any little girl out there who hopes to one day dominate an MMA cage.

And that's awesome. But.

Rousey has made transphobic comments and her recent book My Fight/Your Fight has some racist undertones. She is by no means a feminist role model and her words should not share the same pedestal as Adichie's.

As a long-time follower of Beyoncé feminism, I'm disappointed.

A lot of men and women are talking about feminism who probably wouldn't be if Queen B hadn't broadcasted it in her music and on the VMAs stage. But we need to understand Beyoncé feminism for what it is: A watered down, widely digestable version of feminism. It's not always perfect, but it brings feminist dialogue to a wider audience. It also means that we should speak up when Bey's brand of feminism doesn't do its subject matter or its audience justice.

If Beyoncé is going to be seen and not heard, she needs to choose the words she broadcasts much more carefully -- especially if she's tying her message to the feminist movement.

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