Is Beyoncé Helping or Hurting the Girl Power Movement?
Beyoncé. Love her or hate her she is an undeniable force in the entertainment world. I’m no Bey Stan (though I love her work), but anyone that knocks this woman’s hustle and work ethic is just a smidge on the bitter and jealous side. The woman works…and hard. Some would go as far to say that Beyoncé is a role model. A positive image for little girls everywhere with dreams bigger than their neighborhood, an example of what determination, hardwork and a little divine intervention will get you. She usually stays out of the foolywang scandals that come across blogs each day, her image is mostly squeaky clean, she runs her own business, is apparently happily married and now has the kid to boot. Who wouldn’t see her as an example of all things Girl Power?
Hadley Freeman from The Guardian, that’s who.
Recently Freeman penned an article titled “Beyoncé: being photographed in your underwear doesn’t help feminism,” in response to King Bey’s highly gawked cover story with GQ magazine that was released recently. In it Beyoncé talks about being powerful and how she thinks it is ridiculous that women are still earning less than their male counterparts. She encourages women to run their own show and strive for financial independence from men. Sounds good, and Freeman even agrees…to a point. Freeman says:
“Knowles is right: it is ridiculous that American women earn 77 cents to every dollar earned by men. This is almost as ridiculous as, say, a self-professedly powerful female celebrity (“I’m more powerful than my mind can even digest,” announces Knowles) complaining about men defining sexiness in a men’s magazine in which she poses nearly naked in seven photos, including one on the cover in which she is wearing a pair of tiny knickers and a man’s shirt so cropped that her breasts are visible.”
Hmmm, never thought about it like that as I was screaming “YESSSSSS BEY….WORK!!!” at the top of my lungs when the cover was revealed. I mean, Oprah is one of the most powerful women in the world and even during one of her many slim periods, she never took to a magazine cover in nothing but Steadman’s boxers and a smile. So why do the Beyoncé of the world feel the need to prove their “power” in this way? Shouldn’t their work, clothes on, be enough of a showcase? Freeman agrees saying:
“It’s one thing to submit to this attention-seeking nonsense if you’re a C-list reality TV desperado trying to get on the cover of Nuts; it’s another if you are professedly one of the most powerful women in the entertainment business who has no need of such tactics. Knowles rightly hates the fact that women are humiliated by being paid less than their male counterparts. But they are similarly humiliated by being fed the message that it doesn’t matter how successful, powerful or smart you are – all that matters is how sexually available you are willing to make yourself look.”
Though I’m all for owning your sexuality and don’t think a magazine cover negates all that Beyoncé has done, the author does have a point. If we’re going to scream “Equal rights,” “I’m more than a sex object,” and other pro women sentiments at the top of our lungs, shouldn’t we also make it a point to let our work do the talking and not our boob shots? If Beyoncé is correct in saying men shouldn’t define sexy, then wouldn’t it have been just as sexy for her to pose for GQ fully clothed in some waist snatching outfit instead of panties to prove that she’s the baddest? There are plenty of other powerful women who appear in magazines and never once have to take their clothes off for their presence to be recognized and respected, so why does she?
Then it hit me…because she’s Beyoncé.
While Freeman’s points are most certainly valid, I think where she goes wrong is that she used Beyoncé as an example, as a role model. Of all the powerful women, Beyoncé is who she chose. A woman whose job it is to be sexy, to be available, to be the fantasy of every bee in her hive. Beyoncé shouldn’t be the Girl Power role model, she shouldn’t be an example of the feminist movement and how far it has come and still has to go. She should be Beyonce. A sequins wearing, lace front flinging, p-popping all across your stage and music charts superstar, not your or your daughter’s idol. If you want an example of how far the feminist movement has come, there are countless other women, fully clothed women, that Freeman and the rest of us could point to.
As usual we expect a bit too much from normal humans who are simply here to entertain us. Is King Bey the perfect example of feminism gone right? Maybe not. But what she is, is a glimmer of hope for some little girl out there dreaming big. And while we shouldn’t encourage that little girl to pin all her hopes and dreams on Beyonce’s image, it’s definitely not a bad place to start.