Beyonce is not a new name for anyone, so when an icon this big makes a statement, people listen. Beyonce established herself as a feminist during the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards when her background on stage said the word “Feminist,” as it matched with some of her lyrics in some of her songs that she performed. She wanted to make a statement and bring attention to the treatment of women. However, many people question Beyonce’s usage of the word “feminist” for many reasons. First, her newest album is hyper sexualized. She discusses sex and various sexual acts, and when she performs on stage, she dances in the upmost sexual way. During her Video Music Award performance, she was dancing on a stripper pole with her back up dancers. All of her dancers were in very skimpy outfits as was Beyonce, so many people question whether she is a feminist or just sexualizing women through her music, outfits, and dancing. This has been criticized by many people because she has labeled herself in this way.
The Eurythmics singer Annie Lennox commented on Beyonce’s performance and critiqued her for labeling herself as a feminist. “Lennox decried Beyoncé’s example as noxious to girls and young women who are fascinated by the “overtly sexual thrust” of her performances and declared her luxuriously sensuous persona “disturbing” and “exploitative” (The Huffington Post). Do you agree with this? Beyonce’s sexuality has created a split in opinions; she is a feminist and is comfortable with her sexuality or she is objectifying women by using her body and image by being sexual. In the next two videos you can see the differences in her sexuality with the different songs. In this first video she performs “Flawless” and “Yonce.” She is less sexual than the next video where she performs “Drunk in Love.” How do you feel after watching both videos?
Flawless and Yonce: http://youtu.be/SK4jYxmJD_o
Drunk in Love: http://youtu.be/QQVLgMRZuAU
In both videos, Beyonce uses her “flawless” body to grab your attention, so do you think this helps her case of being a feminist? After Beyonce did this performance, an academic class called “Beyoncé Feminism, Rihanna Womanism” was created at the University of Texas at Austin because of the amount of attention it brought to feminism. The professor (a professor of African diaspora studies) found that the most attention received by this were young black women, which is to say that Beyonce’s statement really did make an impact. The professor of this class explained that this is becoming a source of empowerment to women, that the lyrics “I woke up like this” is worth talking about. She also explained that Beyonce’s image is not just of sexuality and of extravagant items, but visioning that a black woman is worth all of this. Having this image of women keeps this belief alive, that women are worth everything and should be treated that way.
In class we have discussed society’s role in sexuality. It starts at a very young age, even at birth. Girls are always dressed in pink and given dolls to play with, and boys are dressed in blue and given trucks to play with. We identify their gender without hesitation, not taking into account all of the other possibilities that a person might have (such as being asexual, transgender, or gay). Sociologists suggest that sexuality is a product of society, that the conditions around us shape who we are and our sexuality. Because of this and our biological makeup, we are expected to act in a certain way: men are supposed to act tough and unemotional, and women are supposed to be sexy, emotional, and stay-at-home-moms. Because of this societal pressure, this might explain why Beyonce feels like she has to be sexual in her performances through her clothes, dancing, and lyrics. For a woman, sex sells. This is found through magazine ads, music, clothing ads, and shopping stores. Women are trained to think about wearing makeup, nice clothes, and acting like a “woman.” You can see this on the cover of a Sports Illustrated magazine, a perfume commercial, or in a Victoria’s Secret advertisement.
Sexualizing women is even found within the music industry, not just by the performers but what is in the music videos. In rap and hip hop songs especially, girls are in music videos as a way to serve as “eye candy” and to draw in more viewers because of their bodies. For example, the song “Do My Dance” by Tyga definitely takes advantage of this. This song is all about getting with a girl and sleeping with her. The music video has so many sexual innuendos that you cannot miss and portrays what it would be like to have sex with one girl in particular featured in the video. You can listen to the song and watch the music video with the link below.
Though most music videos feature women as the “girl to sleep with,” many female hip hop artists also follow the social script of sexuality associated with being a woman. In the song “Motivation” by Kelly Rowland, you can see how she uses her sexuality to fit with her song. The lyrics require a sexual music video but you there is still a difference between male artists using women in their music videos and female artists using sexuality in their videos. What role do you see women and their sexualities play in music or even, everyday life? What are your thoughts about Beyonce and how she presents herself, especially now that she has labeled herself as a feminist?