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Beyoncé Wants You to Watch This TED Talk About Feminism


The TED talk “We should all be feminists” by Nigerian-born writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is several months old. But seeing as how Beyoncé sampled it in her new song “Flawless”—from that surprise album that came out today out of nowhere, IDK, you might have heard of it—now is a very good time to bring it back.

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  • Lady Commentariat

    It’s a great TED talk. There was a really interesting Twitter discussion about this today w @Colorlines — definitely worth checking out.

  • Anonymous

    I’d just recently seen something about this on Colorlines. The song is my jam BTW.

  • Anonymous

    Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is awesome – as good or better than this TED talk is her talk on The Danger of the Single Story. It’s really great. I wish everyone on earth would watch it:

    http://www.ted.com/talks/chimamanda_adichie_the_danger_of_a_single_story.html

  • Lady Commentariat

    YES! Such an awesome talk.

  • Anonymous

    TED is a platform for pigheaded PC propaganda. No anti-feminist, MHRM or genuine liberal perspectives are permitted there. One would imagine after listening to feminist nonsense that males are the oppressed disposable sex the world over, that women commit huge rates of domestic violence, rape, and child abuse, and that women by virtue of biology hold superior sexual power.

  • Anonymous

    This is precisely why there are so few great women.

  • Calum Syers

    Oh, go suck a lemon.

  • Cowtools

    Sounds like someone’s bristling with half-baked knowledge from books he has read.

  • Cowtools

    Great video! I will definitely use it in my class next year.

    Shame it had to be sampled on a Beyonce album. What’s next? Miley Cyrus sampling Tavi Gevinson? Ugh.

  • Tiger Park

    Good god the amount of problematic things in this comment.

    It is not a ‘shame’ that a MASSIVE mainstream pop artist puts an incredibly succinct and important piece of feminist dissertation into her song. Beyonce’s reach is IMMENSE, and any person (especially young girls) listening to the song ‘Flawless’ for a sick beat and some harsh lines suddenly having Adichie’s words clearly ringing in their ears? That is immensely valuable.

    Also? Let’s remember that both Beyonce and Adichie are BLACK FEMINIST women, aka women that are constantly sidelined (and ACTIVELY DERIDED in numerous hugely racist and hypocritical screeds) by many mainstream white feminists and their followers. The context and importance of this sampling is NEVER going to be the same as your ‘comparison’ to Miley/Tavi (both of whom are teenage/young 20s white women vs. middle-aged established black women – surely you see how infantilising this is?). This comparison will not stand.

    WoC, but especially black women, are pushed out of feminist circles by the majority/loudest white women, and many WoC who do believe strongly in feminist tenants/values refuse to take the moniker of ‘feminist’ because of that constant active alienation, coded racist language, and utter devaluing of them as people, full stop, by these media-dominating white feminist voices.

    So, in closing? If you don’t dig pop music, whatever, but it is NEVER a shame to inject intersectional feminism into the mainstream, and who better than Queen Bey?

  • Cowtools

    Fair point. My comment was tactless. And, like I said, that video is excellent and should be seen by as wide an audience as possible. If being sampled in a Beyonce song allows for that to happen, well then I guess she has accomplished something of worth.

    You’re correct: I can’t stand Beyonce’s music. But I also can’t stand they way she is judged differently to Miley or the Spice Girls or any other mainstream pop performer. She doesn’t write her own songs or play her own instruments. She has an army of songwriters, producers, artisans, trainers, corporate overseers & market researchers who all craft her music, videos and entire image for her. She’s not a musician, she’s a brand.

    That video was insightful, genuine and deeply personal. It wasn’t just a series of empty slogans and rallying cries, like the kind of straw feminism that ‘men’ like Tracheal above imagine feminism to be. That video was powerful because it cut to the heart of what makes feminism a vital force for progressive change for women (and men) everywhere.

    So yeah, I think it’s a shame that it had to become part of the Beyonce marketing machine, to be turned into just another facet of her brand. Meanwhile, female singer-songwriters who work hard everyday to craft honest, heartfelt music – the kind of women who don’t have a rich husband or a father who works in the business to help them – go unheard.

    But then, TBH, if Beyonce hadn’t sampled this video, I might not have heard it. So, what do I know…?

    To sum up: i don’t have a problem with the video reaching a massive audience. I have a problem with the fact that someone like Beyonce is the way to reach a massive audience.

  • Quiz

    A beautiful and inspiring talk about feminism in a ironical and humorous way.

  • Quiz

    A beautiful and inspiring talk about feminism in a ironical and humorous way.

  • Tiger Park

    IMO it sounds like your problem has more to do with the mainstream industry hype machine, but to conflating it with Beyonce directly is still really problematic. Nearly all of her most avid detractors amongst feminists are by white women, and it is always targeting HER specifically when plenty of other white women artists got their big hits by nepotism and contacts and wealth.

    People keep trying to take Beyonce’s agency and successes away from her (it was her daddy, it was her hubby, it’s her company, it’s her writers, it’s her marketers etc.), as if she were some inanimate person with no agency with her success or a voice in her process. She has PLENTY of say – if even Miley Cyrus can go around saying she wants her record to ‘sound black’ and end up with her twerking minstrel show, BEYONCE can certainly say ‘I want to put a strong message of feminism in my next record’.

    Again, I am going to ask you to re-examine your dislike of her specifically and put it into context of Beyonce being a Black woman – how black women are infantilised, dehumanised, hypersexualised, and simply Ignored by white mainstream feminism and why she is disproportionately and viciously criticised for being sexy/sexual, successful, and Priding Herself when those same qualities are noisily praised amongst white women.

  • Guest

    Created an account just to say I would like to start a fan club in your honor because thank you for summing up everything that is the problem with mainstream feminism that is dominated by white women. It’s about time that someone starts calling them out on their BS.

  • Anonymous

    Created an account just to say I would like to start a fan club in your honor because thank you for summing up everything that is the problem with mainstream feminism that is dominated by white women. It’s about time that someone starts calling them out on their BS.

  • Ashe

    I LOVE THAT TALK. Gets me every single time.

  • Ashe

    *holds this comment close to my chest*

  • Ashe

    hahahhahaha you’re criticizing beyonce for doing what almost all mainstream artists do in order to make a living and reach a large audience

    ahaghaha ha a

    let’s criticize guillermo del toro for hiring and overseeing sculptors, cinematographers, actresses, actors, assistants, accountants and designers, instead of doing it 100% by himself like a REAL artist

  • ampersands

    Her music might not be your cup of tea, but don’t reduce her to a pawn. She’s one of the most professional working musicians out there, someone who makes countless choices every day that effects hundreds of people around her. Furthermore, there’s nothing more insulting to a professional musician than to be told that if you didn’t write the music, you’re not an artist. Is a violinist not an artist? Is an opera singer not an artist? Furthermore, is an actor not an artist? Singing, just like playing an instrument or acting, is an artistic craft, and you have to recognize that the music would not exist without her voice.

    Also, I really dislike your use of “someone like Beyonce.” She’s a noted, self-proclaimed feminist, who just dropped an album explicitly about feminism and the reclamation of female sexuality. Why can’t someone in a position of cultural power use that power to proclaim something they believe in? Also, if you don’t think Beyonce works hard…you’re not engaging with her or looking into her life whatsoever. There’s a reason there haven’t been any scandals involving her for her entire career–because she’s a consummate professional who works hard and takes her position of power seriously. She’s judged differently than other pop artists BECAUSE she doesn’t abuse her position of power; instead she uses it for good. She doesn’t slap black women’s asses in her videos; she samples black feminists and talks about her own sexuality in a frank, empowering way. So, yeah, she’s judged differently, because her actions are different.

  • Ashe

    This makes me so happy I could just sprout giant feminist wings, fly into the air, and zap the patriarchy with rainbow eye lasers.

  • Anonymous

    She womansplains better than Joss Whedon.

  • Sessifet

    Created an account here to thank you for making me confront my prejudices with regards to Beyonce. I needed that kick up my self-righteous arse.

  • Cowtools

    Directing a film and making music are not the same sort of artistic endeavour, any more than, say, being a sculptor and an architect are. And also people working on a film get credit.

    And my point is that there ARE musicians who make their music themselves. Ani DFranco for one. PJ Harvey for another.

  • http://anna.balasi.com/ AnnaB

    She is so brilliant.

  • Ashe

    People working in music get credit too. Sure, a lot get shoved behind-the-scenes the bigger the project, but…that literally applies to ANY field of work.

    There are musicians who make music all by themselves. This is true. That’s not the point you were making-you used classic hipster vocabulary like ‘corporate’ and ‘brand’ to describe a woman whose work and activism is inspiring and groundbreaking.

    You also criticized her for not playing her own instruments or writing her own songs (everyone’s gotta be a one-man band, huh?). Whole lotta snobbery there.

  • Anonymous

    You really shouldn’t talk about a singer with statements that are just flat out not true and act like they are. You are not a fan so you should admit you have no idea about Beyonce’s career. Because Bey is the only black woman – and actually one of very few women – to have won the ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) songwriter of the year award. Beyonce IS a songwriter. She has actually been recognized for this talent. She is known for taking complete control of her projects and her image – and she is not a creation of some record company executive (granted she has that luxury that many young singers don’t have right away with their solo career like Beyonce had). Yes, pop music does have its fair share of those who have their songs picked for them, written by someone else, who are made up into a sellable package that is envisioned by someone else. But Beyonce has never been that class of artist, your ignorance as to this shouldn’t surprise you since you are not a fan, but it also makes me wonder why you are even commenting in the first place with statements you have pulled out of thin air and are acting like they are statements of fact.

  • Anonymous

    What an incredibly beautiful woman. I feel so blessed to have watched this. I laughed. I cried. I was inspired. Doesn’t get much better than this, what an excellent talk. There are no words. Perfection.

  • Gary Keyes

    Here-here, well said!

  • jocelyn

    It’s great that Beyoncé’s song can lead more people to see this excellent speech.

    However it is disturbing that she in the same song sings “Bow down bitches” and that she has her husband comparing himself to Ike Turner when he abused Tina Turner on her album.
    More on that:
    http://www.blackgirldangerous.org/2013/12/defending-beyonce-black-feminists-white-feminists-line-sand/

  • Anonymous

    I was pretty unhappy about him referencing an actual event of domestic violence that almost killed Tina Turner, seemly in reference to a sex act(?) It was at BEST incredibly tasteless and insensitive and at worst horribly sexist and mocking victims of domestic violence. Really mars my enjoyment of the whole album. Don’t see why that was necessary.

  • Distance Left

    Hasn’t TED basically been shown up as an echo-chamber for the rich and ‘nice sounding ideas’, for a start, which is why I’m surprised this isn’t the usual standard of nonsense.
    Perhaps ‘Humanism’ might work better for everyone and end half of the general arguments, that come along with self identifying with a one sided ideology, like feminism.

  • Anonymous

    “Meanwhile, female singer-songwriters who work hard everyday to craft honest, heartfelt music – the kind of women who don’t have a rich husband or a father who works in the business to help them – go unheard.” SMDH…. You just credited all of Beyonce’s hardwork and success to the men in her life. I guess you don’t know that she was part of Destiny’s Child when she was a teenager. I guess you don’t know that she (along with the other group members) wrote their own songs. I guess you don’t realize that she was wealthy in her own right BEFORE she married Jay-Z. Her father didn’t work in the entertainment business. He sold Xerox copiers. He managed his daughter’s group Destiny’s Child, in order to protect his daughter and her friends. It’s also the reason why her mom worked on making their costumes.

    Just admit it….. something about Beyonce bothers you and it has NOTHING to do with your pseudo-critique of the music industry.