Feminism and Beyonce

Beyonce feminismHailed by husband and renowned rapper Jay-Z as ‘the greatest entertainer of all time’ at the 2014 VMAs, Beyoncé Knowles has become a significant cultural tour de force. Originating as a member of teen group Destiny’s Child during the 1990s, over the past ten years she has become a solo sensation with five bestselling albums.

These lyrics have often been noted for their self-empowering message for women, deriving from Beyoncé’s self-identification as a feminist (earlier this year, she wrote a brief article on gender equality outlining her stance). To coincide with this nature, she has developed many alter egos that complement her music as a method of expressing her feminism. Critics however, have contended this: from her cropped clothing to copious songs centering on romantic male interests, it is unsure whether the entertainer is actually a feminist.

Though, the definition of feminism is arguably subjective, and has become especially cantankerous in the contemporary age. In popular culture feminism has become the new “f- word” (yes, so bad it’s on par with Voldemort and it shan’t be named). Taylor Swift (though recently rectified), Kelly Clarkson and perhaps in a poor interview, Shailene Woodley refused to classify themselves as feminists. Woodley claims that she does not believe in feminism since it “raise[s] women to power, [and] take[s] the men away from the power” (though, her comments describing her thoughts on gender roles would likely label her what Emma Watson called an “inadvertent feminist”) The assumption that feminism is “anti-man” is damaging for the movement, and wildly pervades society. It is however, completely untrue. Author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie defines a “Feminist: [as] the person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes”, which is the accurate description.

Fans of our titular singer, will recognise this quote from its interpolation into the track “Flawless”, on her latest eponymous album, BEYONCÉ (2013). This album is (debatably) where the feminist identity of (the now) Mrs. Knowles-Carter is truly and proactively realised (2013). The opening track, “Pretty Hurts”, criticizes the media and fashion industries focus on female body image. By comparison, following songs far more aggressive in tone and lyrics, and the singer has been commended for their exploration for female sexuality and monogamous relationships. “Partition”, specifically the latter part of the song, describes the female protagonist as an active participant in sexual intercourse, an alter ego Beyoncé has named Yoncé. This theme is revisited in “Drunk in Love” and more explicitly, “Blow”, that details the pleasurable nature of cunnilingus for women.

Other posts in this series include: Beyonce’s third album and identity, Sasha Fierce and her marriage through lyrics.