I am really tired of white, male bigots telling women what their “obligations” are. In an interview on his show Monday with Russell Simmons, Bill O’Reilly accused Beyonce of falling short of her obligation to be a role model, particularly for women of color. You can watch the video above to see exactly how things went down. Now it should be a surprise to no one that knows me that I stan for Beyonce. But I am not writing this article as a fan. This isn’t about being annoyed that someone said something mean about Beyonce. I am writing this article as a woman, a feminist, a student, and a consumer of media.
My question after watching this interview is directed at the big man himself: what is your duty exactly, Mr. O’Reilly? As a person with a national platform and a whole lot to say, do you not also have an obligation to be a role model? So what kind of message do you think sexually harassing your female co-workers sends? Oh wait, you don’t have these obligations, because you’re a man. It seems only women have these “responsibilities to teach” you speak of and that’s a little twisted don’t you think? Because if you think Beyonce expressing her sexuality in the back seat of a limo WITH HER HUSBAND in a video that is part of a larger anthology is somehow promoting unwanted pregnancy (?) and makes her a bad role model, I would LOVE to know what you think of yourself. Because from my vantage point, what you promote is the notion that women are less than and that men have the right to tell women what to do with their mind, body, and power. And I’m far more concerned with the promotion of those ideals.
What Beyonce did on December 13, 2013 was nothing short of legendary on multiple levels, but especially in regards to the status of women. She is the head of a multi-million dollar empire that doesn’t move an inch unless she says so. She is not a sex object under the male gaze. She is the heroine. She is the active voice. She is the boss. She is the creator of art (yes, Bill, ART) that has freed women and given them the encouragement to just be. Be the woman you want to be and don’t let any one tell you you’re wrong or less than.
The “Partition” video you so inaccurately trashed, Mr. O’Reilly, is not “exploitive garbage.” That video is a fantasy Beyonce held within her mind during a time when breastfeeding her newborn and recording her album were filling up the hours of her day. It is a memory of being young and free. It is a celebration of her marriage and the intimacy her and her exclusive partner of 12 years share even after having a baby and ridiculously successful careers and fame and money and power. It is a testament to the hard work she put into getting her body back in shape after giving birth. But most of all, this video is a big F U to everyone who says that women, feminists in particular, can’t be sexual and can’t embrace their sexuality; that women shouldn’t show their bodies, even when it is their creative decision to do so (but if they’re half naked in a male artist’s video and they are there simply as props for the male agenda, then that’s OK); that women who become mothers are supposed to spend their lives in captivity and never express themselves again. Beyonce, or any woman for that matter, does not have an obligation to be a role model for anyone. She is not responsible for teaching the children of the world. The only person Beyonce has an obligation to teach is named Blue Ivy Carter.
So if you want to call a woman who has done wonders for feminism, has continuously empowered women through her art, has proved what successful women of color can do, and is a living example of having an egalitarian relationship, a bad role model, than I have to point the finger back at you, Mr. O’Reilly. Because according to your logic, you have an obligation to be a good role model for young, white boys. Are you using your platform to teach them to be respectful, empowered young men who stay away from the back seat? I didn’t think so.