What is ultimately at stake in the Tiffany diamond row? It isn’t Beyoncé’s ethics | Arwa Mahdawi

The backlash to the singer’s new advertising campaign has revealed a longstanding truth – that the whole diamond industry is hugely suspect

It doesn’t matter how rich, grownup or successful you might be, sometimes your mum still feels the need to come to your rescue. Tina Knowles-Lawson, AKA Beyoncé’s mum, has just had a very sharp word on social media with critics of her daughters’ new advertising campaign. Beyoncé, you see, has been getting some flak for wearing a 128-carat yellow diamond in a new campaign for Tiffany & Co. She is only the fourth person in the world to have worn this fancy diamond apparently, and she is the first black woman to wear it. Which is all very lovely, except the diamond has a dodgy colonial history and people have been accusing Beyoncé of helping to sanitise a “blood diamond”.

“How many of you socially conscious activist [sic] own diamonds?” Knowles-Lawson said in response to the controversy. “I thought so! Well, guess what did you go to try to check to see where the diamond came from? Probably not.”

Beyoncé’s mum makes a good point there, but I’m not sure she is really doing her daughter any favours with it. Knowles-Lawson is right that the diamond industry as a whole is hugely suspect. Diamonds are a capitalist’s best friend: they have a sordid history of market manipulation, unethical practices, false scarcity and canny advertising. But the rocks have become so romanticised, so embedded in cultural notions of romance, that a lot of people – even people who view themselves as ethical consumers – just ignore all that. That doesn’t mean Beyoncé doesn’t deserve criticism for her advertising campaign, however. There is a difference between passively engaging in the worst aspects of capitalism and actively promoting them.

Ultimately, however, the real issue here is not really Beyoncé’s personal ethics. It is the calculated way in which it seems that brands such as Tiffany’s use issues such as racial justice and women’s rights to try to burnish their reputations. The real issue is the way in which corporations want us to view progress as consisting of a more diverse 1% rather than a more equal society. Sorry, but as the backlash to Beyoncé’s campaign demonstrates, a lot of us aren’t buying it.

Contributor

Arwa Mahdawi

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Alexandra Burke: ‘I got asked to bleach my skin after X Factor’
Her career has taken her from pop success to Strictly and the stage. She discusses the pain of racist comments, the joy of duetting with Beyoncé – and the enduring influence of her late mother

Arifa Akbar

09, Aug, 2021 @5:00 AM

Article image
How Beyoncé’s Instagram pregnancy makes her a modern fertility goddess
The latest images from eight months of fabulous photo ops show the singer at her ‘push party’ wearing west African wax prints and a tie-dye bikini, with a henna tattoo on her naked belly

Lauren Cochrane

22, May, 2017 @2:53 PM

Article image
Get Back isn’t just about the Beatles. Here’s what it taught me about life today
There was much less plastic, much finer dressing and no time spent staring at screens - making room for extraordinary creativity

Adrian Chiles

09, Dec, 2021 @6:00 AM

Article image
From Beyoncé’s leotard to Bieber’s luxe-grunge – the stylists behind 2016’s biggest trends
Between them, three taste-makers have created the most-copied outfits of the year. So who are they?

Lauren Cochrane, Morwenna Ferrier, Priya Elan

19, Jul, 2016 @5:08 PM

Article image
Out of style: Will Gen Z ever give up its dangerous love of fast fashion?
As a generation, they care deeply about the environment and sustainability - but are also under pressure to change their wardrobe constantly. Which impulse will win?

Sirin Kale

06, Oct, 2021 @11:00 AM

Article image
Why do I hate nightclubs? They are for beautiful people and good dancers only
I endured the experience as an underage teenager so I could drink beer. But every club night since has made my heart sink, writes Adrian Chiles

Adrian Chiles

21, Jul, 2021 @2:32 PM

Article image
Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s Tiffany advert criticised by friends of Basquiat
Collaborators and friends of the artist are ‘horrified’ by campaign which features his painting

Priya Elan

07, Sep, 2021 @11:11 AM

Article image
Oh, Beyhive! Beyoncé’s superfans have a theory about why her hair is in braids
The singer’s new hairstyle means another album is on the way, according to her online fanbase – although they haven’t always got it right ...

10, Nov, 2017 @4:06 PM

Article image
The truth about fast fashion: can you tell how ethical your clothing is by its price?
To find out the true production cost of a garment is a tortuous process. Here is what you need to know to buy clothes with a clear conscience

Hannah Marriott

29, Jul, 2021 @5:00 AM

Article image
How Beyoncé’s Ivy Park made sportswear sexy
The singer’s fitness label rebrands bodycon by merging fashion and functionality. But can a gym-friendly version reclaim this unforgiving trend?

Morwenna Ferrier

12, Apr, 2016 @6:04 PM