Beyoncé Feminism intersectionality Kim Kardashian
No, Kim Kardashian and Beyoncé Are Not the Same3/15/2016
by Kimberly Foster @KimberlyNFoster I quite enjoy Amber Rose’s take on contemporary feminism and sex positivity. She takes ideas that ofte...
by Kimberly Foster @KimberlyNFoster
I quite enjoy Amber Rose’s take on contemporary feminism and sex positivity. She takes ideas that often seem sterile and academic and translates them for easy consumption by people who might not be well-versed in feminist theory.
Amber’s work is important, but theory has its place. Theories name important interventions in conventional thinking, and thanks to social media, they now reach broader audiences.
But based on some of her recent comments it seems that Amber needs to spend more time with an important one: intersectionality.
In a recent interview with The Daily Beast, Amber compared the treatment she and Kim Kardashian West receive to the scrutiny, or lack thereof, Beyoncé endures.
“They come at me and Kim so hard because I was a stripper and she had a sex tape,” she says. “We all love Beyoncé, but she’s on stage half-naked and twerking all the time, yet people say, oh, she has talent so she’s able to do that.”
Amber went on to reiterate one of white feminism’s most infuriating talking points, “…at the end of the day we’re just women—we’re all women—and we should all embrace each other.”
Amber is talking about the ways the she, Kim and Beyoncé commodify their sexualities. The mandates of patriarchy require men be the only ones to profit from women’s bodies, and these women defy that notion. But Amber’s comparison lacks crucial considerations of race and class and how their intersections shape women’s lives.
No, we’re not all the same.
A woman liberated from a fidelity to restrictive social mores will inevitably incur wrath. Beyoncé is no different. Not only has Beyoncé not been shielded from slut-shaming, she’s subject to misogynoir and respectability politics at every turn.
You’re simply not living in reality if you believe that Beyoncé does not get backlash for her public sexuality. For example, last year Louis Farrakhan urged Jay Z to make his wife cover up. His words underscored how Black women are expected to be the moral centers of their communities, leaving us no space for pleasure or expression.
These sorts of comments may come from different audiences, in part because she is one of the biggest music stars in the world, but they are byproducts of a societal ill the entertainer cannot escape.
Comparing Kim Kardashian West to Beyoncé without taking into account the thing that has allowed Kim and her entire family to prosper despite her leaked sex tape is an inadequate feminist analysis. Whiteness is always working in Kim’s favor. It needn’t be repeated that the riches and visibility she’s achieved post sex tape are simply unfathomable for a Black woman or a woman of color.
Amber further muddied the analytical waters by taking to Twitter to explain that she was actually talking about classism.
But that’s not it either.
Comparing one incredibly rich Black woman to another incredibly rich white woman does not make a case. And though her attempt to find common ground with Kim is admirable, Amber is not treated like Kim and never will be.
Kardashian West grew up in a cushy Southern California suburb and, last week, bragged about cashing an $85M check from her video game. Beyoncé’s wealth makes her life much easier, and it does, in fact, matter that she’s acquired it in a different way.
The importance goes back to the “twice as good to get half as much” adage Black elders often reference. Since she was a child, Beyoncé and the keepers of her career have meticulously managed her public image. She is often celebrated for her work ethic and accomplishments, and she’s still torn down as she continues to navigate the cultural landmines of racism and sexism to achieve some amount of artistic and sexual freedom.
Clearly, Amber meant well. But women don’t win when we downplay our very real differences and their social consequences to fend off misogyny. Invoking Beyoncé’s exceptionalism simply did not do what she’d hoped.
Instead she highlighted that a feminism that lacks a rigorous intersectional analysis is, ultimately, worthless.
Kimberly Foster is the founder and editor-in-chief of For Harriet. Email or Follow @KimberlyNFoster