Just as people like to forget that Beyoncé had to slum it with Sisqo for a while back in 2000, so too, do they like to brush aside a little song called “Cater 2 U” from Destiny’s Child’s final album in 2004, cheesily titled Destiny Fulfilled.
Because it was ten years before the The Mrs. Carter Show World Tour, (when the word “FEMINIST” served as the backlighting for her stage) and Beyoncé had yet to be positioned as Beyoncé, she was amenable to belting out such lyrics as, “Let me help you take off your shoes, untie your shoestrings/Take off your cufflinks/You want to eat, boo?” And while, sure, those ardent defenders of Bey might try to argue that this was really more of a Michelle Williams vocal heavy track, there is no denying Beyoncé was at the helm of most “decision-making” for the group.
The video doesn’t help much to promote Beyoncé’s current brand of feminism either–though at least it’s not a complete precursor to the kitchen and living room-related interactions between Betty and Don Draper that would take place in 2007. Instead, it’s Beyoncé, Kelly and Michelle sitting in fetal positions naked with each other during the intro as they croon, “My life would be purposeless without you”–a far cry from the current Beyoncé sentiment of “Boy bye.” As the trio prances about making Vanna White-esque gestures indicating their serviceability, a lone man in the desert watches them while licking his lips salaciously. Separately, each woman performs her own display of obsequiousness. For Beyoncé, it’s swaying her hips in a bathing suit on a diving board while wielding a yellow wrap. For Kelly, it’s writhing around on the hood of a car. Michelle manages the least “accommodating” pose in spite of having some of the more disgustingly retro lyrics being left to her stead, merely caressing herself on a chaise lounge.
Together, they dance about in dresses that look as though they were designed by Adrianna Papell. But unlike, say, Tweet or Ciara, they aren’t dancing for themselves but for the benefit of a man, the breadth of who they’re “catering to” expanding to two other men by the middle of the video, equally as lip-licking in nature while watching them.
This grotesque foray into a bygone era is in direct contrast to the strategic shift in Beyoncé’s career by 2014. After evolving into a self-proclaimed feminist, she insisted,
“I’m not really sure people know or understand what a feminist is, but it’s very simple. It’s someone who believes in equal rights for men and women. I don’t understand the negative connotation of the word, or why it should exclude the opposite sex. If you are a man who believes your daughter should have the same opportunities and rights as your son, then you’re a feminist. We need men and women to understand the double standards that still exist in this world, and we need to have a real conversation so we can begin to make changes.”
And yet, Beyoncé wasn’t aiding in the establishment of any changes by releasing the audio and visual monstrosity that is “Cater 2 U,” but rather, setting her own definition of feminism back at least sixty years. As Destiny’s Child brags about how they would “do anything for [their] man,” it’s evident that Beyoncé was clearly living in a guileless fantasy world pre-being cheated on by someone as ugly as Jay-Z. Echoing the inward thought processes of a dog, the declaration, “I got your slippers, your dinner, your dessert and so much more/Anything you want, just let me cater to you,” makes it impossible to look at the now iconic image of her with the word “FEMINIST” projected behind her and think anything other than “HYPOCRITE.”