Is Beyoncé a feminist icon? New album reignites debate between black and white feminists

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First lady Michelle Obama has described Beyoncé as a “role model who kids everywhere can look up to.” Oprah Winfrey called her the “pre-eminent mistress of the universe.” Despite counting two of the most influential women in the world as fans, Beyoncé still has her detractors – particularly within the feminist community. And it seems, when it comes to the question of whether or not Beyoncé is a feminist role model, the dividing line is often one of race between her detractors and supporters.

Early Friday morning, the singer quietly released her self-titled “visual album,” leading to the singer’s best first-week numbers during her career. Beyoncé, which is available exclusively on iTunes for the time being, reportedly sold 617,213 copies in the U.S. iTunes Store and 828,773 internationally in its first few days. It broke the record for first-week digital sales of an album in the United States, and is set to debut at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top 200 chart.

Despite this rapt reception, almost immediately after the debut of her fifth studio album, the debate over Beyoncé as a feminist figure was reignited.

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