From the first sounds of Destiny’s Child, I was hooked. In high school, I memorized every run and ad-lib. With windows rolled down in my A/C-less ’84 BMW, I would scream all of the words to “Survivor,” a song that described the core integrity and strength of a woman who refused to bow down to her offenders’ ploys.
When Beyoncé embarked on her solo career, I supported her as though she were my dear friend. Her work ethic was unparalleled. She was strong and self-made. . . yet in interviews she revealed deep humility. She had a fierce presence and a humble spirit. I loved her resilience as as strong African-American businesswoman, entrepreneur, and philanthropist. Musically, she’s incredible. Her vocal precision is flawless. Her songs are energizing. It’s no surprise she was named one of TIME‘s most influential people in 2014.
When she came to Dallas, I had to go. After the concert, which was the most amazing production I have ever experienced, her “top secret” album dropped. The first few songs seemed celebrative and harmless. Then “Drunk In Love” hit airwaves, celebrating the couple’s drunken sexcapades through their house. While this was slightly questionable, the shock waves really hit when Beyoncé’s husband Jay-Z stepped up to the mic. After revealing way too much to us about his interpersonal pleasures with his wife and partner, the mother of his new daughter, these lyrics left me nauseous:
“Beat the box up like Mike in ’97 I bite/I’m Ike Turner, turn up, baby, no, I don’t play/Now eat the cake, Anna Mae! Eat the cake, Anna Mae!”
Let me decode this for you. He references beating her “box” up like Mike Tyson in ’97 when he bit Holyfield’s ear off. Sounds like a winner, ladies. Equally disturbing is his reference to Anna Mae (Tina Turner’s maiden name) in which Jay-Z likens himself to Ike Turner in a horrific domestic violence scene in the film “What’s Love Got to Do with It.”
As one of the most influential people in our culture, Beyonce’s lyrics matter. What she says about women, sex, and abuse impact our society. Beyoncé isn’t just accepting her husband’s misogynistic lyrics…they’re her lyrics on her album. This is her mark, her song, her legacy to her daughter. On other songs, she is the one singing “slap” and “bite”…literally asking for it.
Even more disheartening is Beyoncé’s status as the face of modern feminism. Beyoncé boldy flashed the word “FEMINIST” at the MTV Music awards, even as she sings lyrics asking for abuse. Since she’s the one exploiting herself, she’s asserting her own control. The message is: “It’s ok if I want someone to hurt me, as long as I give him/her permission. It’s my choice.”
Beyoncé recently stated, “it’s not about music or fashion, but the influence I have had on culture.” Herein lies the problem. You cannot create artistic expression that promotes violence against women unless you are willing to accept the inherent responsibility. You can’t be a voice for voiceless women by singing at hospitals and giving away millions in charity if you’ve earned these millions through concerts and songs that exploit women.
So why does this keep me awake, pounding away on my keyboard long past midnight? Music is powerful. Lyrics can be culture-shifting. Beats that exploit and objectify women fuel the demand for gender violence…the number one factor in global poverty. Yes, the sexual abuse of women and children outweighs malnutrition, unsafe water sources, lack of medical care, and even natural disasters.
As the founder of Jesus Said Love, a nonprofit ministry that reaches women in the commercial sex industry, I see the effects of this culture every day. 89% of women in the commercial sex industry said they wanted to leave but had no other means of survival. One of our veteran dancers told another dancer, “This business steals your life and soul and everything you have to your name”. She’s still dancing.
66-90% of our women have been sexually abused as children. 70% of women who are trafficked are done so through the commercial sex industry. 98% of the top 50 porn films showed verbal or physical violence against women. The average age of entrance into sex work is 13 years old.
So if one of culture’s most wealthy and influential women promotes the commercial sex industry, then what’s the incentive for my women who want so desperately to leave this industry?
“But wait, Beyoncé’s not in the commercial sex industry! She’s a self made entrepreneur! She’s not condoning sex trafficking!”
Not outwardly or maybe even intentionally. However, she’s a multi-millionaire rocking the global stage while esteeming the commercial sex industry both lyrically and conceptually.
If you follow Christ, you can no longer ignore the issue at hand regarding the subjugation of women in our national and global society. The USA ranks as the No. 1 producer of pornography and strip clubs. Texas alone boasts the top city for human trafficking, sending our world the loud message: “The land of the free and home of the brave is fine with the exploitation and objectification of women.”
We have a responsibility to take a stand. I ask you now to join with me and many others in signing the FREE HER Manifesto, ten statements aimed at helping the individual awaken hope and empower change in this area. Men and women alike must unite to fight against gender violence by decreasing the demand for aggression against women and children. This affects what we view, what we listen to, how we speak, what we buy and how we conduct ourselves as humans, bearing the very image of God. Stand up, speak up, and sign FREE HER now!
Emily will be speaking in Plano October 9th at Q Commons and No Need Among You in Austin, TX October 15-17.
Emily received her B. A. in Communications from Baylor University. While at Baylor, Emily participated in various opportunities to serve the marginalized and lead worship. This began her passionate pursuit to “put feet” on the songs she was singing. In 2003, while leading worship at a conference for women exiting the sex industry, these two worlds collided and Jesus Said Love was born. Emily continues to lead worship around the country with her husband, Brett. They have three children: Hattie, Lucy and Gus.