Critiques of black women and capitalism without first properly locating their position with the capitalist system are incomplete, disingenuous and pointless. Discussions about capitalism and who benefits from the existing social structure cannot be flat. They must be intersectional and take into account the varied ways in which capitalism affects people at different levels of society. Everyone is against capitalism when black women demand payment of the money that they worked for, but is happy to support from the ground up, policies and legislation that would funnel wealth back into the hands of the most wealthy.
The backlash to both Beyoncé's Formation and Rihanna's Bitch Better Have My Money indicate a racial bent in the opposition to the fair valuation of labour. In the video for BBHMM, Rihanna and her women of colour #goonsquad kidnap and torture the wealthy white female wife of a white man who is later revealed to be an accountant who stole Rihanna's money. At the end of the video, it is heavily implied that Rihanna dismembers and kills "The Bitch," as he is styled. Opposition to the imagery largely centered on violence enacted on the white woman as a means to harm the "true" culprit, the white man. What these critiques did not acknowledge was their implicit assumption that the white female character was not also complicit in the theft of Rihanna's wealth. But as Lauren Chief Elk points out in her work with Yeoshin Lourdes and Bardot Smith surrounding GYMTW:
"White women are the biggest beneficiaries of white men's historical wealth. When we begin to really dissect what pay inequality means we have to look at it intersectionally. When thinking about wealth redistribution it's important for white women to look at their position to women of color, and examine how for generations they have also exploited us and gained huge advantages off us."
Many people took issue with the line "I just might be the next Bill Gates in the making" in Beyoncé's Formation, citing it as a reflection of Beyoncé's desire to simply replicate systems of oppression through capitalism pioneered by white men. But a black woman possessing the kind of capital that Bill Gates does is so far and away from what the capitalist system imagined for itself as to be a mini-revolution in its own right. As far as I am concerned, wealth transfer to black women in a capitalist system is reparations.
Beyoncé and her ilk have never been about promoting the capitalist system in itself, but rather upending it by putting wealth into the hands of the people doing the actual labour that keeps the world turning; that is, largely women of colour. The argument that black women who monetize their output are simply slaves to the ills of the capitalist system is akin to the idea that activists shouldn't be paid for their work. Since when is one required to sacrifice themselves at the alter of their ideals in order to remain ideologically pure?
Nah. Bitches gotta eat.
And this is not to say that the capitalist bent of Beyoncé and Rihanna's feminism does not deserve critique. But if a woman's intellectual, emotional and physical output is valuable enough to be sought after and reliably desired, then why shouldn't she be paid for her services?
As Yeoshin Lourdes stated with regard to the monetization of emotional labour:
"In a capitalistic society, money secures power and safety. Statistically, women engaging with men in any capacity is an unsafe venture. If a man wants me to open myself to risk so he can consume my time and energy, but he is unwilling to offset tat risk in substantive terms? Without question he is a liability. Next. And while there's no guarantee a man who pays won't be violent in some way, it does eliminate men who are a certain deadweight."
In other words, actual quantifiable dollars can help offset the harm that men (and by extension the institutional systems that they control) enact upon women of colour. Denying them access to this capital under the guise of misguided critiques of the capitalist system only reinforces the very system that directs wealth away from the most vulnerable women.