Mrs. Carter shocks women with marriage tour

Sasha Fierce: Beyonce performs at the US SuperBowl © Getty Images

She is one of the world’s most successful female stars, admired for her empowering musical messages. But Beyonce’s latest tour is named after her husband. A step back for feminism?

The list of Beyonce Knowles’ achievements makes exhausting reading. One of the biggest-selling artists of all time, she is the only woman to headline Glastonbury, and can earn $80 million in a single year. Tracks like ‘Single Ladies’ are among the most popular songs of the last decade.

But this international superstar has a life away from the spotlight, too. Back in 2008 she married fellow superstar Shawn Carter, and the couple now have a daughter. And today, being Jay-Z’s wife seems crucial to this once single lady’s identity. This year, she will perform around the world under her husband’s name, in the Mrs. Carter Tour.

The name has had a mixed reaction. Some think it a touching tribute to the singer’s marriage. Others suggest it could be an ironic publicity stunt. But some pundits are annoyed. The tradition of adopting a husband’s name, they say, dates back to a time when a woman lost all rights to her man on marriage. How could a successful and famous star celebrate such dated ideals?

The criticism may not surprise Beyonce. Many cultural commentators have a special fascination with her success, and what it says about women – especially black women – in society. One US college even runs a course on Beyonce and the ‘grand narrative’ of her ‘life, her career, and her persona.’

Is Beyonce a feminist icon? Her songs have certainly been praised for their empowering messages. As well as a singer and performer she is a songwriter, producer and businesswoman. And the she has spoken openly about the problems women face.

‘Equality is a myth,’ she recently told GQ magazine. ‘Women should be financially independent... Let's face it, money gives men the power to run the show.’

But such ‘girl power’ is not straightforward. In the photographs accompanying that GQ interview, the superstar pouted provocatively at the camera, in heels and leopard print underwear. Do such stylings jar with Beyonce’s claim to be a feminist?

Independent woman?

Absolutely, say some. If girls ran the world, Beyonce wouldn’t be posing in her bra for cash. Her performances shout about female empowerment, then make a mockery of it with hyper-sexualised imagery. When a so-called feminist icon takes her husband’s name more seriously than her own, women still have a long way to go.

But others disagree. So what, they say, if Beyonce wants to strut around in skimpy outfits, or call herself Mrs. Carter? Feminism, they say, should be about supporting women whoever they are, and however they choose to act. That means accepting all kinds of contradictions and flaws – not excluding people that don’t fit one idea of what women should be like.

You Decide

  1. When women get married, it is still common for them to take their husband’s names. Is this a sign of inequality?
  2. Is Beyonce a good role model for women? Why / why not?

Activities

  1. Imagine you are the manager of a world famous female singer. Design the publicity for her tour, bearing in mind the image you want to project.
  2. Create a timeline of female musical stars.

Some People Say...

“Every woman should be a feminist.”

What do you think?

Q & A

Why should I care how one person acts?
Some would agree. Stars, they argue, exist in the realm of fantasy. They shouldn’t represent what people should actually aspire to. And besides, they might add, Beyonce can do whatever she wants – no-one should be able to dictate how another person dresses or behaves.
So why should I care?
There is another argument: people that are in the public eye influence what we expect from men and women. They set standards for behaviour, reinforce stereotypes and encourage us to look or act a certain way. If these stars do have an influence on how we feel about ourselves and the world around us, then perhaps they do have a responsibility to project a positive message – and perhaps we have an interest in trying to make sure that they do, too.

Word Watch

Shawn Carter
One of the world’s most successful rap stars, Carter, or Jay-Z, is responsible for albums like The Blueprint and Watch the Throne. Like many hip hop artists, he has been widely criticised for perpetuating sexist attitudes in his work. After the birth of his daughter, Blue Ivy, it was rumoured that Carter had turned his back on misogynistic language that often appears in his material, but the star denied the claims.
Ironic
The idea the tour name is a publicity stunt is backed up by the fact that both Beyonce and Jay-Z adopted the name ‘Carter-Knowles’ after getting married.
Empowering messages
With Destiny’s Child, Beyonce performed songs like ‘Independent Women’ and ‘Bills, Bills, Bills’, which praised financial independence for both men and women. As a solo artist, ‘Girls (run the world)’ and ‘If I Were a Boy’ were also praised for their feminist messages.
Black women
In recent feminist theory, many thinkers have become interested in how individual women are shaped by different types of oppression, or other influences in society like class and race. This idea is called ‘intersectionality’. Many writers think an awareness of these varied influences means people should be more tolerant of differences within the feminist movement.

Subjects

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