How Beyonce’s Feminism is Degrading to Women

Nine months.

Sex sells; so does the idea of empowerment to women.

As the author of The Dadabase, I have made it clear that my mission is to positively re-brand fatherhood.  In part, what that means is that I am attempting to undo the negative imaging of dads due to both A) lousy, absent, abusive dads throughout history and B) idiotic bozo examples of fathers in sitcoms and other media particularly during the 1980′s and 1990′s.  It means I focus on the good dads out there and that I choose not to paint men in a negative light.

I am equally passionate about women not being degraded in society, as well. Admittedly, that’s a harder subject to address, for the fact I am a guy writing a blog that is primarily read by women- I have to be careful not to be seen  as a bigot or a sexist.

The way I am wired causes me to see the world differently than women and I’ve been noticing something I just have to point out. Sure, I am putting myself in a vulnerable situation today, but I am choosing to be brave enough to acknowledge the irony in what is often viewed as empowerment to women.

Therefore, the best and most popular example I can think of is the beautiful, talented, and very intelligent artist, Beyonce. I invite you to watch her latest hit video on YouTube by clicking the pink link below; you may remember this video from when it premiered world-wide on the most recent season of American Idol:

Run the World (Girls)

From a man’s perspective, here’s how I interpret the meaning of the video:

Beyonce and a bunch of her scantily clad friends are in a battle with a group of dudes armed in riot gear. In the style of classic Michael Jackson, Beyonce and her crew stun and defeat the men simply because of their hip dance moves, plus a whole lot of sexual imagery.  In the end, Beyonce removes the badge from the leader of the dudes, signifying that the girls beat the boys in the battle.

So ultimately, in my skewed perspective, the lesson learned from the video is that women can be more powerful than men by influencing them through sexuality; in particular, by wearing little clothing and doing plenty of body thrusts. (Cleavage shaking is a must!) As for women using their intellect, well, it’s not really about that. It’s actually about overpowering violent, sexually frustrated men by seducing them with the female body.

Challenge my analysis, please. Show me how this sort of imagery is empowering to women. Because in my testosterone triggered perception, this attempt of empowerment to women is actually degrading to women instead.

The way a woman dresses obviously sends a message to a man. I invite you to go to Google Images and type in “Beyonce 4″ and try to imagine what message is received by men when they see the album cover of her newest release, which contains “Run the World (Girls).”

I’ll give you a hint: It’s not, “Wow, I have a new respect for women now, but not at all in a sexual way. Women are strong, intelligent, and deserve the respect of men.”

So why am I singling out Beyonce, arguably America’s most influential pop star among young women right now? Why not point out the obvious “sex sells” marketing strategies of Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, or Ke$ha?

Because people actually take Beyonce seriously. By far, Beyonce truly influences people beyond her music. She herself encompasses the idea of empowerment to women.

Notice I used the phrase “the idea of.”

For me, this is the wrong kind of feminism; it’s ineffective and damaging. Using sexuality to promote the independence of women is simply self-defeating.

Believe it or not, I am a huge supporter of empowerment to women. Knowing that across the world, there are girls and women who are sold into the sex trade, forced into abusive marriages, and deprived of education, I simply see that as hell on earth. Meanwhile in America, young girls are being taught through example by their pop star role models that flaunting sexuality is the key to having power in this world.

Call me a sexist, but I say that true empowerment to women has nothing to do with enticing men through sexuality. In fact, I say that’s the greatest threat.

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  1. by Jim W

    On August 28, 2011 at 11:01 pm

    I’m glad you brought this up. I found the Beyonce video rather disgusting. The problem is modern marketing is very sexually-focused. If it’s not about sex, it’s about money or power.

  2. by L

    On August 28, 2011 at 11:27 pm

    Have you read the book The Marketing of Evil? You might enjoy it. Great book, disturbing though and hard to process some of it.

    Great article, as always.

  3. by Nick Shell

    On August 29, 2011 at 6:06 am

    Thanks Jim. You’re right about modern marketing.

  4. by Nick Shell

    On August 29, 2011 at 6:07 am

    I’ve never heard of that book, but I definitely need to check it out!

  5. by Emma

    On August 30, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    Good point! I won’t challenge your analysis but I will challenge your title. I would never identify this as “feminism” but I would argue that part of the issue is that feminism is so skewed and defined differently by many different groups. If you define “feminism” as the advocating for equal rights for men and women, then great! We’re on the same page. But this video is not an example of that (to add to your point).

    Whether Beyonce (or her fans) think this is feminism or not, I don’t know. That is the real issue, in my opinion.

  6. by Leslie

    On August 30, 2011 at 6:55 pm

    This article is right on. Feminism is about gaining equal respect for women in society, and honoring their unique strengths. This cannot be achieved by exploiting their sexuality or by portraying them as aggressive or violent – we need to acknowledge women for the good they bring to the world, just as we do the men who bring good to the world.

  7. by Nick Shell

    On August 30, 2011 at 7:26 pm

    Emma, I like your name. The funny thing is, I agree with you about the word “feminism.” And I don’t agree with the title either. But I am aware of the perception of the word “feminism” as it relates to pop culture. So for lack of a better word, I figured it was the best way to grab the attention of the average reader.

  8. by Nick Shell

    On August 30, 2011 at 7:29 pm

    Leslie, thank you so much. I’m glad to hear that I was “right on” about a topic that involves my opposite gender, which tend to not know much about :)

  9. by @nakisnakis on Twitter

    On August 31, 2011 at 7:04 am

    I consider myself a feminist with a capital F and agree with Emma that there are many different types of feminisms.

    I love Beyoncé’s “Run the World (Girls),” particularly the following lyrics*:

    “I’m repping for the girls who taking over the world
    Have me raise a glass for the college grads”

    “How we’re smart enough to make these millions
    Strong enough to bare the children
    Then get back to business”

    As for the music video, most of the dance sequences–especially the first one that starts at :50–are about the movement and choreography.

    I also like how the “persuasion” verse ends with a scowl at 2:27.

    Plus, she has an all-female band.

    Thanks for sparking this conversation!

    *Lyrics via:

  10. by Emma

    On September 1, 2011 at 5:50 pm

    Thanks Nick, I like it too! And yes, you’re right, it did grab attention. Worked for me.

  11. by MEI

    On September 13, 2011 at 1:27 pm

    I think the video can be read in another way, as a reclamation of female bodies and sexuality. It takes tropes from music videos previously done by males (as you noted), and turns them on their head. I read it as saying “We are here and we are fierce and we are wearing what we want to wear and dancing how we wish and you, men in riot gear, can’t police that or control that.” Her seizure of the badge may represent her seizing a man’s power over her sexuality, and saying “I get to do this for me and other women, not for you.”

    You say “The way a woman dresses obviously sends a message to a man.” This is intensely problematic, because it implies that it is ok for a man to mistreat a woman because of what she is wearing because she “obviously” knew it would send a message to him. Beyonce doesn’t have to nor should she care what “message is received by men” when they look at her. Because it’s not her job to please men. Because women don’t owe men modesty or submissiveness. Your analysis has strong overtones of condescension toward women who choose to, let’s say “femme it up” by wearing less clothing, high heels, or moving their bodies in certain dances. It is one of the fundamental rights of a woman to be able to wear whatever she wants to wear and remain free from harassment or violence by men. You do not get to tell women how they should or should not dress. You do not get to tell them what clothes make them “empowered” and what clothes do not. You do not get to tell them what movements of their bodies are acceptable or not. To imply otherwise, that somehow by wearing certain clothing or moving in a certain way, a woman is not acting as you, a male, wish her to behave, is oppressive and anti-feminist.

  12. by Nick Shell

    On September 13, 2011 at 9:41 pm

    Thank you for your reply. I totally get what you’re saying. Here’s the problem, no guy is going to agree with the way you read the message of the video. I still believe that the overall message that most people (male and female) will get out of the video is this: A woman’s true power is her sexuality. Less is more; clothing that is.

  13. by Kenzie

    On February 7, 2013 at 6:45 pm

    Really, they couldn’t get a WOMAN to write about this?

  14. by Mia Brown

    On April 8, 2013 at 6:13 pm

    I agree with you totally in this blog, I also agree with Emma and Leslie but I feel personally that in today’s society alot of women whether they be entertainers , public figures or just regular working class women define women s empowerment as a competition against men but that is most definitely not what it stands for We as women will never be on a mans level because when GOD created man he created us as his mate I am a huge womens advocate/youth counselor by trade and an up and coming radio talk show host and my husband is a bail bondsman I make more money than he does but he is the BOSS the man of the house the king..I love being a woman I do not in any shape form or fashion want to be compared to a man in any area I feel as though Beyonce’s ego has been so boosted and put on a pedestal by the media that she feels as though she can say and do anything and its right even if she does contradict herself alot in her lyrics its so bad that if anyone goes against anything she says they get ridiculed and shunned I personally feel as though these female singers today are just entertainers their not role models but if you have the look, body, moves, money etc your a role model that’s just the way a role-model is defined in today’s society..not only that Beyonce claims to be this big advocate for womens empowerment but what charities has she contributed to that support , motivate and encourage,battered women, teen pregnancy, women s college funds, womens sex education, womens self esteem she’s not out here advocating for young women to stay in school, she’s not telling young girls how if they work hard they can be successful Beyonce only speaks about Beyonce’s empowerment, honestly I feel like these female entertainers are the reason alot of young ladies are self destructing the message they are receiving is you have to have a certain body shape and look to be noticed which is why you have young girls under the age of 21 talking about wanting plastic surgery and that females are better than males and how we should strive to be better than them which is why alot of women are without a man because they want to be the man and this is not womens empowerment

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