Monday, February 17, 2014

Can Beyonce have her cake and eat it too?

Since the release of her self-titled album Beyoncé has been placed on a feminist pedestal, so to speak.  The video for the song “Pretty Hurts,” the moral of which is “perfection is the disease of our nation,” depicts Beyoncé as a vulnerable pageant contestant.  Her song “Flawless” samples Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED Talk, “We Should All Be Feminists.”  Despite these powerful messages, there is one lyric on the album that does not sit well with me.

In the song, “Drunk in Love,” Beyoncé collaborates with her husband Jay-Z.  It is without a doubt one of her most sexually fueled songs to date.  The couple explicitly describes their sex life, but it is Jay-Z’s verse where you can find the troubling lyric: “I’m like Ike Turner, turn up/Baby no I don’t play/Now eat the cake Anna Mae.”

The line references the 1993 biopic based on Ike and Tina Turner’s relationship, “What’s Love Got to do With It?”  In one scene, after experiencing the satisfaction of hearing her own song on the radio Tina, born Anna Mae Bullock, meets Ike in a diner where he has purchased her a cake to celebrate the newfound success.  After she says she does not want any, Ike forces the cake into her face yelling “Eat the cake, Anna Mae.”

Ike and Tina Turner’s relationship was infamously tumultuous.  She has said her 1968 suicide attempt was because it was the only way she believed she’d feel free.  She ultimately had corrective surgery on her nasal septum due to the number of times he had beaten her.  He is quoted in a 1985 Spin interview saying “Yeah I hit her, but I didn’t hit her more than the average guy beats his wife...If she says I’ve abused her, maybe I did.”

A London-based radio station had the lyric removed saying it displayed the “promotion of domestic violence against women.”  I was surprised to hear the lyric during Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s Grammy performance (which aired during the eight o’clock hour) and even more surprised to see Beyoncé sing along with it.

In a world where two women a week are killed by a current or former partner and eighty-five percent of survivors know their attacker prior to rape or assault, we must do whatever we can to keep this topic serious and make a conscious effort not to trivialize the act.  Often times, we expect an artists’ work to reflect their own lives.  I’d love for this to open the floor for more conversation and eventually a statement from Beyoncé on the matter.  I can’t imagine giving my partner the okay to reference a man who seems completely unfazed by abusing his wife on something that has my name attached to it.  As this choice has me dumbfounded, I am begging to ask Beyoncé “Why?”

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