Friday, July 25, 2014

Feminist Friday: Beyoncé

I think we all knew this was coming. I saved the best for last and I am so excited writing this because we are going to see the On the Run Tour on Sunday!!!! I digress..

Beyoncé Knowles-Carter is an American singer and actress. Beyoncé is from Houston, Texas and became famous in the 90's as a member of Destiny's Child.

Beyoncé has a writing credit and a producing credit on many Destiny's Child songs, including some great feminist anthems. "Independent Women Pt. 1" came out in September 2000 (when Beyoncé was only 19) as part of the soundtrack for the Charlie's Angels movie. The song praises women who are independent financially, able to support themselves, and "always 50/50 in relationships." "Survivor" came out in 2001 and tells the story of someone moving on (and thriving) after the end of a bad relationship/despite setbacks. "Bootylicious" came out later in 2001 (when Bey was 20) and is a super body-positive song in which the female singers know their self-worth and declare "I don't think you can handle this" and "I don't think you're ready for this jelly." (Not even being ironic, I think this song promotes a great attitude about loving yourself and your body.)

Following the disbandment of Destiny's Child, Beyoncé pursued a solo career, continuing to crank out hits with a feminist message. "Irreplaceable" is about a woman who knows her self-worth and isn't going to put up with a bad relationship anymore, "If I Were a Boy" is about a woman wishing she were the guy in the relationship so she could get away with behaviours that society sets a double standard for, like "Drink beer with the guys and chase after girls. I’d kick it with who I wanted and I’d never get confronted for it." "Single Ladies" is again about a woman knowing her self-worth and refusing to be undervalued by the person she's in a relationship with. The song values marriage/commitment but also celebrates the freedom of being single. And of course, "Run The World (Girls)" declares that girls run the world.

At the 2009 MTV MVA's Taylor Swift's "You Belong With Me" beat "Single Ladies" for Best Female Video. Kanye West interrupted Swift's speech to declare that Beyoncé had the "best music video of all time." Later that evening when "Single Ladies" won Music Video of the Year, Beyoncé gave up her speech to let Taylor Swift have the moment that Kanye stole from her. (you can watch it here.) This moment really showed how classy Beyoncé is, as well as what a role model and support she is for other young women in her industry.

In 2011 Beyoncé severed professional ties with her father (who had been her manager since she was 9) and began managing herself. But what I really want to talk about is the latest album. Beyoncé dropped her self-titled album without any kind of promotion or announcements on December 13, 2013. Beyoncé said, "I just felt like I don't want anybody to give the message of when my record is coming out. I just want it to come out when it's ready and from to me the fans." The album debuted at the top of the US Billboard charts, making her the first woman to have her first five albums debut at number one. The album sold over 800,000 copies worldwide in the first three days. It was released as a visual album, with a music video for each of the fourteen songs and a bonus video.
I think one of the reasons this album is so popular is because it's not how people are releasing music these days. There were no singles, the entire album was released at once following Beyoncé's vision because she is in charge of her own empire. I think the other reason for its popularity is that it is so personal.This album portrays all sides of Beyoncé, showing her as a complete person, which is not a view of celebrities (especially women) we often get.

"Pretty Hurts" talks about the pressures women feel to be physically perfect and the harm that can cause. "No Angel" talks about loving somebody's imperfections because you are also imperfect. "Jealous" talks about feelings of insecurity in a relationship. "Blow" and "Rocket" talk about female pleasure (and not in an overly-sexualized/male-fantasy kind of way but by placing the woman in a position of power.) "Heaven" talks about the loss of a loved one." "Blue" is about motherhood. "Flawless" is about feminism and inverting societal expectations of women. "Partition" and "Drunk in Love" talk about sex and marriage. "Grown Woman" talks about how far she's come and how proud she is to be in charge of herself and her own life. 
When discussing her different pseudonyms over the years, she says, "Yoncé is Beyoncé. Sasha Fierce is Beyoncé. Miss Carter is Beyoncé and I'm finally at a place where I don't have to kind of separate the two any more. We're all one. It's all pieces of me, just different elements of a personality of a woman because we are complicated." and i
n watching/listening to the album you get to see different sides of Beyoncé, and what it means to her to be a woman, mother, wife, sister, manager, singer, dancer, person.

Beyoncé put out an amazing series of videos on youtube discussing the album. In this one she says, "just because you become a mother doesn't mean you lose who you are." She talks about writing "Partition" shortly after the birth of her daughter as a way to act out a fantasy of being intimate with her husband again. This song and video have been criticized as being anti-feminist because of lyrics like "Take all of me, I just wanna be the girl you like" and images of Beyoncé dancing burlesque for her husband in the video, but those people are obviously missing the point. Feminism is about equality and women being whoever they want. Beyoncé took her husband to a burlesque show for his birthday and she said, "I remember thinking, 'damn, these girls are fly.' I just thought it was the ultimate sexy show I've ever seen and I was like, 'I wish I was up there, I wish I could perform that for my man,' so that's what I did for the video." How empowered is that?
Bey also said, "I know finding my sensuality, getting back into my body, being proud of growing up, it was important to me that I expressed that in this music because I know that there are so many women that feel the same thing after they give birth. You can have your child and you can still have fun and still be sexy and still have dreams and still live for yourself."

In "***Flawless" Beyoncé samples the amazing TEDtalk "We Should All be Feminists" by author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. This song is also criticized sometimes because of the lyric "Bow down, bitches." The three stars at the beginning of the title represent the three stars Girls Tyme (before they were Destiny's Child) received on Star Search when Beyoncé was a star short of a full score and a record deal. In this video Beyoncé talks about what a defining moment that was for realize that you can work hard and still lose. The song expresses confidence, and anger, and basically calls out haters, telling them to bow down, and referring to them as bitches not to be sexist but to show the pure emotion. The song also encourages women to accept themselves the way they are (even if they wake up in a bad mood) "Ladies, tell 'em 'I woke up like this, I woke up like this.' We flawless. Ladies, tell 'em. Say 'I look so good tonight.'" It is a very empowering song, and has helped promote Adichie's amazing TEDtalk to spread the word on what feminism really is and help clear up misconceptions. 

Earlier this year Beyoncé wrote an essay about gender equality which you can read here.

Beyoncé is an icon because she is extremely talented, but she is an inspiration because she shows not that it is possible to "have it all" but that it is alright to be more than one thing. It's okay if you don't fit into a box, or conform to anybody else's ideas about you. It's okay to be a mother, a wife, a career woman, an artist. It's okay to feel sexy, jealous, in love, grief-stricken, angry, excited, loved. It's okay to be a celebrity and a person, it's okay to be a woman and a person

This is the last post of this series, I hope you've enjoyed it.

Check back next week because I might post some pictures from the On The Run Tour!

1 comment:

  1. I had a feeling this would be the topic for the week, haha. Great theme for the month! Enjoy the show!