We adore Annie Lennox. So much so, that even when she's critiquing Beyoncé, we'll commend her gumption and keep an open mind. A public plea to The Beygency: please don't gird your loins just yet.
Lennox, who's set to release her first album in four years: a collection of covers called Nostalgia (out October 21), recently sat down with LGBT newspaper Pride Source, where she talked her legacy, grapples with today's music industry, and feminism. The latter topic was piqued when she was asked, as a longtime feminist, how she felt about the term "feminist" being reframed in contemporary culture.
"It's a process," she explained. "It continues to be reframed, and necessarily so, because people's relationship to the word has been a bit ambivalent over the last few decades. According to who you speak to, they don't sometimes quite know what to do with the word."
Lennox then recalled an eye-opening experience during her acceptance speech for the Barclays Women of the Year award in 2010.
"I was so touched to have this award," she said. "I felt like I'm with a certain kind of camaraderie here and we're all together in this room - 400 women from all walks of life - and I said at the podium, 'I'm proud to be a feminist; let's everybody stand up.' Half of the room stayed seated. It was such a hard moment for me because I realized that some women, many women, still have issues with the word and almost distance themselves from it because they're afraid it's synonymous with hating men."
Later on in the interview, Pride Source asked Lennox what she makes of Bey in light her MTV Video Music Awards performance, during which she proclaimed herself a "feminist." While Lennox is openly a fan of Beyoncé's work — she has previously named her one of her favorite singers — she was not impressed.
"I would call that "feminist lite," she said. "L-I-T-E. I'm sorry. It's tokenistic to me. I mean, I think she's a phenomenal artist - I just love her performances - but I'd like to sit down (with her). I think I'd like to sit down with quite a few artists and talk to them. I'd like to listen to them; I'd like to hear what they truly think. I see a lot of it as them taking the word hostage and using it to promote themselves, but I don't think they necessarily represent wholeheartedly the depths of feminism - no, I don't. I think for many it's very convenient and it looks great and it looks radical, but I have some issues with it. I have issues with it. Of course I do. I think it's a cheap shot. I think what they do with it is cheap and ... yeah."
We've applauded Beyoncé's feminist endeavors before, so we're not exactly nodding our heads yes to Lennox's criticisms. But if anyone has the right to hope for more from Beyoncé, it's Lennox, whose off-stage fight for gender equality is truly maximal. And let's face it, efforts like that of Watson, a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador, are going to have a more profound effect on society than splashing the word "feminist" on a jumbotron. This said, just because Bey isn't quite as far left on the matter, doesn't mean she's not duly helping the movement. She deserves credit, and as women, we can't lose by applauding each other as we take a stand, big or small.
While Lennox's words might sting at first, we think it could just as easily inspire everyone, not just Beyoncé, to do more. After all, Bey is clearly a fan of Lennox too as she invited the Eurythmics frontwoman to duet with her during her set at Glastonbury in 2011 (it unfortunately didn't happen due to a back injury Lennox had). Perhaps she might even take Lennox up on her offer to sit down and discuss the matter. Oh, to be a fly on the wall.