Beyonce’s Brand Of Feminism: How She Made The F-Word Accessible
Sure, the “I guess” makes her sound a little apprehensive, but why would a superstar like Beyoncé want to risk polarizing her fanbase by aligning herself with a movement that in its fourth iteration still leaves such a bad taste in people’s mouths? Bey even asks the mag: “Why do you have to label yourself anything? I’m just a woman and I love being a woman.”
But by daring to say the word-that-must-not-be-said, Beyoncé has done something other female pop stars — namely Katy Perry, who last year poo-pooed the idea of being a card-carrying feminist — are too afraid to do: use the F-word.
Of course, Beyoncé is not like the feminists of the late ’60s and ’70s. She’s not going to burn her bra or write the follow-up to Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique anytime soon. She can, however, ask “Who runs the world?” and get any female in a two-block radius to respond with a resounding “Girls!” even if they 100 percent believe it or not.
The thing is, Beyoncé’s road to feminism isn’t all that different from Gloria Steinem’s.
Steinem started out as a young reporter from Ohio who donned a bunny costume to expose the harsh conditions of a Playboy Club in 1963. She didn’t truly find feminism until her 30s, which led her to found Ms. Magazine and became one of the most significant faces of Second-Wave Feminism. There were certainly feminists more radical than Steinem, but her visibility and accessibility benefited her message in that it allowed it to be heard widely.
Likewise, Beyoncé’s brand of modern-day feminism is something the average independent woman can get behind. It focuses on basic ideas like equality, mental and financial autonomy. Whereas past incarnations of feminism have been perceived to be synonymous with man-hating, Beyonce is a happily married woman with a baby, all while holding down a (more than) full-time job.
Beyoncé started out in Houston working hard under the tutelage of her dad to rule the charts one day. By the time she was a teen, she was a household name with Destiny’s Child. Even then she was already taking power into her own hands.
“You know, when I was writing the Destiny’s Child songs, it was a big thing to be that young and taking control,” she told GQ. “And the label at the time didn’t know that we were going to be that successful, so they gave us all control. And I got used to it.”
Her message of female empowerment became more focused with her solo career starting with her debut, 2003’s Dangerously In Love and peaking in 2008 when she became Sasha Fierce — an alter-ego, which she’s since ditched, that allowed her to stop being polite and start getting real. With “Single Ladies,” she easily became every girl’s best friend sending a clear message of strength: you’re better off without him. This led every reporter to ask her with a straight face: “Do you consider yourself a feminist?”
Steinem, like Beyoncé, was apprehensive at first about becoming the face of feminism, but the fight for equality trumped her uneasiness. Last year, Bey broke it down for GQ, who named her Miss Millennium, explaining why equal pay for equal work — a staple fight of feminists everywhere — was something she felt strongly about.
“You know, equality is a myth, and for some reason, everyone accepts the fact that women don’t make as much money as men do,” she explained. “I don’t understand that. Why do we have to take a backseat? I truly believe that women should be financially independent from their men.”
Just like she sings on “Run The World (Girls),” she’s “strong enough to bare the children and then get back to business.” Since having baby Blue Ivy, Beyoncé’s been even more vocal about the strength in having a vagina.
“It comes from knowing my purpose and really meeting myself once I saw my child,” she told Vogue UK. “I was like, ‘OK, this is what you were born to do.’ The purpose of my body became completely different.”
To have Beyoncé talk about the power of motherhood may seem to reinforce the traditional domestic values of women, but it’s a win for women everywhere. Giving birth is the most inherently female thing a woman can do, and Bey makes it sound like a super power – super power men will never ever have. She’s not pressuring women to go barefoot and pregnant. Instead, she’s talking about the power she gained from giving birth and how it’s shaped who she is today. Mama Beyoncé is even more in charge of her life and career than regular old Beyoncé.
But more important than her repping for all the working moms out there, having Bey on your side means there’s an audience ready to listen to anything and everything she has to say. Of course, with such a big platform, everything she says or does is highly scrutinized.
Recently, some (namely Rush Limbaugh) have tried to rain on Beyoncé’s feminist parade calling her out for being a hypocrite on her new song “Bow Down,” which features the line “bow down, bitches,” claiming it is anti-female and revokes her previous “Single Ladies” message. They’ve got it all wrong though, Bey is calling out her male and female haters, letting them know, she’s not resting on her laurels. “I took some time to live my life,” she sings. “But don’t think I’m just his little wife.”
She’s also made it clear that calling her upcoming tour, The Mrs. Carter Tour, is not a submissive move, instead it’s just a loving nod to her hubby, Jay-Z.
“I feel like Mrs. Carter is who I am,” she said. “But more bold and more fearless than I’ve ever been.”
No matter how Beyoncé chooses to identify herself, she has always represented for all of the single (and married) ladies out there. It’s just nice that she’s finally putting a name on it.