Why Beyoncé is a conservative icon

There is no more powerful voice for marriage outside a church or mosque

3 May 2014

9:00 AM

3 May 2014

9:00 AM

When Time pictured an underwear-clad pop star on its cover, hailing her as one of the world’s most influential people, it looked like a crass sales ploy. But in Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, they had more of a point than they seemed to realise. Time had asked Sheryl Sandberg, the head of Facebook, to praise the singer for joining various do-gooding campaigns — but this is the least of her achievements. Beyoncé’s real potency lies in her status as a poster girl for a new conservative counter-revolution taking place among the young.

It may seem, from a distance, that she is just another striptease chanteuse singing about her bottom and using its contours to sell her music. ‘This woman knows about young girls getting pregnant in the African-American community, now it’s about 70 per cent out of wedlock,’ growled Fox News host Bill O’Reilly this week. ‘The “empowering” stuff is just so much garbage’ This may have been true of other singers, who built their careers on equating feminism with promiscuity. But it is emphatically not true of Beyoncé, who can claim to be the strongest pro-marriage voice outside a church or a mosque.


Queen Bey, with king

She is, without doubt, an advocate of female empowerment — but she defines marriage as the fulfilment of that empowerment. The critics who complained about her raunchy dance routine with the rapper Jay-Z at the Grammy awards (right) missed a rather important point: the two are married. She is evangelistic about marriage’s virtues. When playing at Glastonbury in 2011, she asked girls with naked ring fingers to protest to their boyfriends on the spot. ‘Ladies,’ she instructed, ‘put your hand in his face.’

Her outlook is informed by a Christianity that is not confined to Sunday worship but permeates her life. She is from a Methodist family; the name of her old band, Destiny’s Child, is taken from the book of Isaiah. In a recent fly-on-the-wall documentary, she is seen referring to Jesus more often than most British clergymen. ‘Look at this beautiful nature, that God created, that I’m about to jump into right now,’ she says, before a swim. ‘With my friend, that I love: my husband. Yes! Thanks be to Jesus.’ When she became pregnant, at an inconvenient time in her career, she told a video diary that she can only guess ‘what God is trying to prepare me for’. After she miscarried, she recorded a song about the joy she had felt upon hearing the heartbeat (‘the most beautiful music I ever heard’).

To be sure, she dresses scantily and enjoys playing the pop provocateur. But she chose the Daily Telegraph to disclose the difference between what she calls the ‘crazy, over-the-top personas’ she creates on stage and her own life. Before meeting her husband, she had only one boyfriend and, as she told the newspapers, ‘We didn’t live together. We didn’t… you know. That was my only experience with a guy, and since then I’ve only had one other man in my life: Jay.’ (His life before marriage is, however, another story.)

Some American musicians wear celibacy rings, sing about the Gospel and stand athwart the prevailing culture. They are, by and large, preaching to the converted. But Beyoncé sends her message from a global pulpit. ‘Don’t think I’m just his little wife/Don’t get it twisted,’ she sings in a new song, ‘Bow Down, Bitches’. To reinforce this point, she called one of her recent tours the ‘Mrs Carter Show’ and has just announced that she will be performing a new 16-concert tour with her husband.

Shelley once declared poets ‘the unacknowledged legislators of the world’, because their work was taken to heart by people who would never listen to a syllable of a political speech. The same is now true of popular music. Beyoncé’s exhortation for men to ‘put a ring on it’ is hardly Shelley, but it is perfectly clear. She incurs the wrath of American conservatives because her own politics are Democrat and pro-gun control. She raised $4 million for Barack Obama and sang at his second inauguration ceremony — but half of David Cameron’s cabinet would have done the same, given the chance.

Rutgers University in New Jersey now offers a course called ‘politicising Beyoncé’; the tutor, Prof Kevin Allred, calls her work a ‘gateway’ to wider philosophical points. There is plenty to discuss, including her triumphantly reconciling the ideas of women’s liberty and matrimony. Her coming tour will, to be sure, feature plenty of dirty dancing with her husband — and that will earn the condemnation of the Bill O’Reillys of this world. But her message is that marriage is where the fun begins, not where it ends.

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  • Roisin

    Sounds like the Beyonce fanboy is desperately trying to justify his deeply unconservative tastes to himself.

  • Keith D

    ” Do gooding campaigns” ? Hmmm.
    Would this be the same girl that has a family of mink destroyed when she fancies a change of coat.

  • Augustus

    “Outside a church or mosque”?

    How about inside a hospital?

    “Hip-hop parents Beyoncé and Jay-Z were in lullaby land with their baby girl Blue Ivy Carter Sunday, but one new dad was fuming over the velvet rope in the maternity ward that kept him away from his twins.

    Neil Coulon, 38, of Brooklyn said the stress of his wife delivering two premature girls was tripled by Beyoncé’s bodyguards treating Lenox Hill Hospital like an exclusive nightclub. Coulon griped that he’s been repeatedly barred from the sixth-floor neonatal intensive care unit, once for 20 minutes, by the superstar couple’s private security. He said bodyguards wearing headsets even cleared the sixth floor waiting room, booting his relatives out.“Three times they stopped me from entering or exiting the NICU (Neo-natal Intensive Care Unit) and it happened once on Friday — just because they wanted to use the hallway,” said Coulon, a contractor from Bedford-Stuyvesant. They should have been more strategic about it,” he said. “These are children with problems in intensive care and you’re just going to take over the hospital like you own it? All I want is an apology.” Lenox Hill staffers, speaking anonymously, told the Daily News that Beyoncé and Jay-Z paid $1.3 million to seal off and redecorate a wing at the upper East Side hospital, in a super-strict effort to protect their privacy.”

    -Daily News

    So that’s where the fun begins. Morons!

  • EU thrall

    I wonder if you’re trying to build the box around the object?

  • Curnonsky

    Or could this be another example of members of the new aristocracy who make their money selling a fantasy of sex/clothes/glamour to the masses while practicing something very different themselves? And blathering on about God etc. is all well and good when you are treated like a god yourself, but frankly it sounds like nothing more than narcissism. God wishes he could enjoy the adulation of Beyonce and Jay-Z.

    Don’t forget that in the US black public figures are given wide latitude to express their religious beliefs in public; others, not so much (see football player Tim Tebow, for instance).

  • StephanieJCW

    Amazing that marriage is “empowering” for women yet just “meh” for men.

    I cannot think of one possible way in which I would be “empowered” by marriage and better of for just living with someone instead of marrying them. (And let’s not forget that single women have better mental health than married ones)

    Ok I can save tax in the event of one of us dying, if we’re married. And next of kin at hospital.

    That’s about it.

  • StephanieJCW

    “We didn’t live together. We didn’t… you know. That was my only experience with a guy, and since then I’ve only had one other man in my life: Jay.’”

    ??? Considering how notoriously private she is I would be surprised if she really said this.

    And on the point about her name…they both have taken each other’s surnames and are known as “Carter-Knowles”

  • anncalba

    Hang on, I thought I was clicked in to the Spectator, seems I was wrong, I’ve got into some kind of teenage girl fanzine by mistake.

  • you_kid

    I like this left field stuff, Fraser.
    I reminds me of when Louis Theroux went and met the Hamiltons.
    Lord almighty was that cringeworthy.

  • Grey Wolf

    Beyoncé / GayZ are conservative?
    Then you are Burke.

  • Bob Stauskas

    Since each of us derives most of liberty’s benefits from the use of liberty by those unseen, others’ liberty is just as important as our own.

  • paulus

    Lets be honest we all marry beyonce. But unfortunately poligamy isn’t legal. The conversation would be strange, to get rid of her husband….we have a warrent to extradite him to Russia and he will be in the Lubyanka within a day confessing to those 45,000 unsolved murders, and if he is scrubbed white you see he was a terry thomas impersonator aroud the Baltic region back in the 1980’s. and killing every fu£$%& with laughter and a nylon sock specially darned with some strange metallical wire.

    She is a love I will never know, a travesty of fate, a dream beyond dreams, a reality that must wait until the next life.

  • Bones and Behaviours

    Who cares about marriage? Nowadays its stacked in favour of feminists, it was rotted throughout before the gays were allowed to join in which is why such radical leftists ditched their own opposition.

    Marriage was historically only to secure a legitimate heir. Were not in Game of Thrones, it doesn’t matter.

    When there are no kids involved at all, the benefits for married couples mean recognition of marriage ammounts to a way of gaming the system. Why are so many childless couples married? Isn’t that a scam?

  • Mrs.JosephineHyde-Hartley

    At least marriage , being “till death do us part” has actually got a proper end. Unlike these new fangled zero hours contract things.

  • Igor Shafarevich

    A nation of merit is devoid of liberty because it is controlled by those choice architects who decide which tasks have merit, which chores should be performed, and who has the power to plunder whom.

  • Organix

    Since most knowledge exists as personal insights into ever-changing facts and circumstances, scattered among billions of people, it cannot be systematically organized.