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The Hard-To-See Feminism in Beyoncé’s Newest Song

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So about two weeks ago, Beyoncé Queen Of Mortals released a new single entitled “Bow Down / I Been On” on her Soundcloud. If you haven’t heard it, it’s worth checking out.

It’s a really interesting song, and it has been the target of much criticism both for its style and its substance. Old-guard Queen Bey fans have struggled to connect to a song that falls, in a musical sense, well outside the scope of what we’ve come to expect Beyoncé’s recorded music to sound like. Lyrically it is a self-promotional, anti-hater anthem that subordinates her female audience with one simple command: “bow down, bitches.” Feminists, fellow musicians, and even Rush Limbaugh (although for entirely different, and entirely offensive reasons) have come down hard upon this track and its purveyor for publishing a song that so directly and bluntly counteracts Beyoncé’s canon of pro-woman, pro-feminist music. And on the surface these critiques hold up: saying “bow down, bitches” to your female audience seems to work against a movement of empowerment and independence for women. But the song is more complex than that. Much more complex.

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