When you think of the word “feminist,” who comes to mind?
A thought provoking article in the latest issue of EBONY explores how the Internet, particularly social media, has played a large role in expanding and including the feminist image firmly within the Black community. With the media’s barriers to entry having been drastically lowered thanks to the bullhorn effect of #BlackTwitter and other strength-in-number tactics that are impossible to ignore, so individuals of all genders are eagerly stepping up to the mic.
“Black Twitter” is routinely buzzing with debates that go beyond the trite Mars/Venus politicking and instead finds women and men engaged in deep conversations about how gender impacts equality, access and freedom,” writes EBONY.com Senior Editor Jamilah Lemieux.
“Is feminism simply the latest hot topic, or are we witnessing the beginning of a new Black liberation movement?”
At the crux of this examination is Beyoncé and her recent self-titled album, an art work that has been widely disputed and celebrated for its unapologetically sexual and women-focused subject matter.
Lemieux claims that the star’s public engagement with the word “feminist” has led to “rapid-fire discussion” and “dynamic dialogue” on platforms like Twitter and Facebook. The most notable moment of explicit feminism appeared in “****Flawless”, a southern hip hop track featuring a powerful sample from Chimamanda Ngozi Adighie’s TEDx talk “Why We Should All Be Feminists.”
With much of the recent thought pieces around pop star feminism having been inspired by Mrs. Carter’s seemingly sexual awakening, Lemieux also makes sure to credit a number of influential Black women musicians who paved the way for Bey, such as pop phenomenon Janet Jackson, Blues godmothers Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey, the fierce folk tunes of Odetta and rock goddesses Betty Davis and Grace Jones.
There’s also the new school of “boldly Black feminist thought spreading via big and small screens,” Lemieux added in reference to CNN’s Marc Lamont Hill, MSNBC’s Joy Reid and Goldie Taylor and the a host of other brilliant scholars, professionals and activist women of power who have taken to digital platforms to advocate gender equality.
But, the most interesting wave of Black feminists who have emerged in the digital space are those women traditionally marginalized and restricted from mainstream discussion.
Brittney Cooper, assistant professor in the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies at Rutgers University and Crunk Feminist Collective co-founder told EBONY that she thinks “Black feminism is in one of the strongest moments it has seen in a while.”
“From Melissa Harris-Perry on MSNBC, to Laverne Cox on ‘Orange Is the New Black’ to Beyoncé…we have prominent Black women identifying publicly with the term,” said Cooper. “There is also a robust crop of young Black feminists online who keep pushing the conversation forward, doing activist work in communities and generally taking no prisoners when it comes to racism and sexism.”