This week, Beyoncé appears on the cover of Time‘s annual issue celebrating the 100 most influential people in the world. Besides Pharrell, she’s the only musician to make the “Titans” section of the list, alongside the likes of Fed leader Janet Yellen, Chinese tech mogul Pony Ma, and Hillary Clinton. As Bey herself says in a video from the cover shoot (below), it’s quite an honor “because it’s not about fashion, or beauty, or music — it’s about the influence I’ve had on culture.”
Sheryl Sandberg, a two-time “Titan” on the Time 100, writes the blurb on Beyoncé, sandwiching in a nod to her #BanBossy campaign in the process. “She raises her voice both on- and offstage to urge women to be independent and lead,” Sandberg opines in the brief and basic write-up. The match-up is not all that surprising. Beyoncé appeared in a #BanBossy PSA earlier this year, in which she asserts, “I’m not bossy, I’m the boss.” Her co-stars included Condoleezza Rice, Diane von Furstenberg, Jennifer Garner, and Jane Lynch.
Admittedly it was not a widely circulated commercial. The same cannot be said of Beyoncé’s latest encounter with Sandberg, which I imagine will number among her proudest moments this year. She’s on the cover of Time… with Sheryl Sandberg’s name sitting right underneath, nearly as large as hers. These two are forever linked publicly.
Is this a good thing?
In a broad sense, yes. It is positive to see one female leader connecting to another in a different field. Fight the patriarchy on multiple fronts, empowerment for all, that kind of thing. But Beyoncé does not need Sheryl Sandberg to legitimize her in this space. She’s been doing just fine on her own, educating and empowering young women who perhaps do not already identify as feminists. A public association with a polarizing feminist like Sandberg could tarnish the no-pressure, low-key feminism Bey’s got going on, which in some ways is more powerful than Sandberg’s position as the ultimate white, highly educated, corporate feminist.
Bey converts instead of preaching to the converted. Sandberg may be the talk of privileged business, media, and tech circles with Lean In, but I imagine you’d be hard-pressed to find a religious Midwestern preteen or an undereducated girl of color who discovered feminism via Facebook’s COO. Thanks to Beyoncé, young women who have never been empowered in their lives not only know who Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is, they’ve memorized her words. They’ve been shown that girls can run the world and still have supportive husbands who aren’t emasculated by it — in fact, those husbands find the power sexy. Beyoncé is the greatest living example of having it all.
Sandberg speaks to the people who already recognize that the world is not a totally equal place for women. Beyoncé speaks, in part, to those who have yet to experience that epiphany. To quote the latter, “Don’t get it twisted/ This my shit, bow down bitches.”