My professor and the other students in class laughed at me when I proudly announced that I was a “Beyoncé Feminist” but Beyoncé feminism really is its own philosophy worthy of the title.
Beyoncé is known for spreading a girl-power message with songs like “Run the World (Girls)” and the featuring of a feminist speech by Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie on the track off her latest album “Flawless”:
“We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls, ‘You can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful, otherwise you will threaten the man.’ Because I am female, I am expected to aspire to marriage. I am expected to make my life choices always keeping in mind that marriage is the most important. Now, marriage can be a source of joy and love and mutual support, but why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage, and not teach boys the same?
We raise girls to see each other as competitors, not for jobs or for accomplishments, which I think can be a good thing, but for the attention of men. We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings in the way that boys are. Feminist: a person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.”
In her captivating Nigerian accent, Adichie makes several important points about the realities of being a woman and the subliminal messages that are conveyed to girls. By featuring the speech on her track Beyoncé provided a platform that spread the important message to millions of listeners who may otherwise not be exposed to a feminist outlook, including, of course, millions of young and impressionable girls.
Unlike the feminists of yesteryear, however, Beyoncé is not apologetic for or ashamed of being sexy. In fact, I would call her a realist for understanding that feminine wiles can be used to a girl’s advantage. In “Run the World” she sings “my persuasion can build a nation” which I take to refer to the fact that the persuasive powers of mothers and lovers shape the world we live in and therefore even in the 100% male dominated societies of years past the persuasion of women shaped the world. In the same vein, later in the song she confidently asserts “you’ll do anything for me” reminding us women that if we play our cards right we can usually get our way.
What really sets Beyoncé feminism apart from the traditional variety is her unashamed valuation of romantic love. The girl-power feminist still puts out songs like the Destiny’s Child track “Cater 2 U” in which she sings that she’ll “do anything for [her] man” conveying the message that romantic relationships are valuable and worth making certain sacrifices for. Perhaps this attitude is why Beyoncé and her husband of seven years, Jay-Z, are an icon of wedded bliss.
Beyoncé is unique for being able to simultaneously play the role of prominent feminist and international sex symbol. Tracks like “Ego” and “Partition” make it no secret that the singer loves to get freaky. In a not-traditionally-feminist but totally empowering way Beyoncé spreads the word that there is no shame in girls liking sex, too.
Traditional feminism has been criticized for conveying to women that they have to do and have it all. Beyoncé feminism, on the other hand, can be considered a celebration of womanhood and reminds us all that we can do and have whatever our hearts desire and, hey, there’s no shame in looking good doing it or bringing a man along for the ride.