The February issue of GQ features Beyoncé on the cover. Dressed in nothing but a teeny tiny pair of knickers, and a crop top. Her pose gives a cheeky peek-a boo look at her underboob.
The images in this magazine, as well as the article itself prompted numerous responses, the most notorious being the Guardian online piece by Hadley Freedman. In her article Freeman claims that Beyoncé, who talks feminism in GQ, is diluting the feminist message by posing “nearly naked”. She goes on to further criticize Beyoncé calling her a ‘disgrace’ and a ‘hypocrite’
Now, I will be the first one to admit that these pictures are indeed, targeted towards the male gaze. This is GQ after all, a men’s magazine. Also, the fact that the photoshoot was done by the infamous Terry Richardson – a photographer who has been accused, numerous times, of sexual exploitation and misconduct of models, leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
However, to claim that Beyoncé posing for these pictures makes her a bad feminist/feminist icon is, in a word, bullshit.
The whole point of feminism is equality and freedom.
Freedom to do what we want. To be what we want, and yes, shocker, even the freedom to dress how we want. Beyoncé posed for these pictures under her own free will, she made the decision to appear in this particular magazine, dressed as she was dressed.
What Beyoncé wears, what I wear, what any woman wears is not an affirmation or a reflection of what her mind is capable of doing. It is not a determination of her stance on feminism.
It is patriarchy that preaches we can not, as women, openly love and celebrate our sexuality while at the same time calling ourselves feminists. It is a patriarchal society that links dressing in a more conservative manner with having more self respect, the whole modesty message that is repeatedly brought up to shame women.
Only in western cultures does this hold true. Around the world there are cultures where women go about their day naked, with nothing but a jewelry adoring them. These women have respect, within their community. Their bodies are not seen in a sexual light, instead seen as something strong and beautiful. Are they too a disgrace to feminism?
There are women out there, women like Ms Hadley Freeman, who are not only defined by what they wear, but are limited by it too. Such women then try to put their definitions and limitations on other women.
I believe that women are free to be sexy by their own standards and we should not condemn women for the choices that they make. Whether they choose to leave their house dressed in a pair of jeans that fit like a second skin, or they choose to pose for Gentleman’s Quarterly.