– by Julianne De Souza
Being a feminist is great, but it can be frustrating at times. There’s that minor thing called ‘the patriarchy’, and there’s the people – including high-profile celebrities who carry enormous influence – that constantly ridicule and belittle you. What’s up with that? Is the idea of social, economic and political equality of the sexes really that confusing, extreme and impossible to achieve? You wouldn’t think so, but the dialogue that has surrounded feminism for as long as it has existed begs to differ.
Confusion and misinterpretation have led the term ‘feminist’ to be synonymous with other terms such as ‘man-hater’, ‘prude’, ‘slut’ and ‘crazy bitch’ (to name a few). This is why we need to take a moment to appreciate the miracle that is Beyoncé, also known as The Queen. Her recent performance at the MTV Video Music Awards was not so much a glimmer of hope as it was a blaze of optimism and raw female power.
But first, let’s take a quick moment to cover some background information. While feminism has made leaps and bounds in the past decades, the past few years have been disheartening as numerous female celebrities have consciously distanced themselves from the f-word. When asked whether she considered herself a feminist, Taylor Swift answered, “I don’t really think about things as guys versus girls. I never have. I was raised by parents who brought me up to think if you work as hard as guys, you can go far in life.” Nice avoidance of the question there, Taylor.
When asked the same question, Shailene Woodley responded with a similar answer, “No, because I love men, and I think the idea of ‘raise women to power, take the men away from the power’ is never going to work out because you need balance… And also I think that if men went down and women rose to power, that wouldn’t work either. We have to have a fine balance.” Watching this apparent trend of denouncing feminism is both frustrating and worrying. Inaccurate depictions of feminism as a hateful movement that cannot co-exist with a love for men is particularly damaging when coming from celebrities such as Swift and Woodley who carry serious clout among young female audiences.
Enter Beyoncé. In the short time span of sixteen minutes, she took the liberty to spell out the definition of ‘feminist’ and debunk its various surrounding myths. By performing a medley of songs from her most recent album, Beyoncé took us on a journey through the various manifestations of feminism.
‘Drunk In Love’ is basically about having sex – a topic that, when discussed by a woman, is usually a fail-safe way of being labelled a slut. ‘Mine’ discusses the insecurity that Beyoncé experiences in her marriage with her Jay-Z, a surprising subject considering the couple are usually intensely private and self-contained. ‘Blow’ explicitly talks about female pleasure. In ‘Partition’, Beyoncé sings about wanting to please her man, physically and emotionally. And, for the pièce de résistance, ‘***Flawless’ contained the iconic image of Queen Bey’s silhouette positioned majestically in front of sky-high letters spelling out ‘FEMINIST’ (just in case you’d missed the point). In ‘Heaven’, she tearfully sings of her love for her daughter, Blue Ivy. Lastly, ‘XO’ is dedicated to her fans and her loved ones who have helped her reach her incomparable level of success.
This performance was more than just a reminder that Beyoncé is one of the most talented singers, dancers and performers around. It was an exploration of the many different sides that make up the Beyoncé that the world sees: sexual yet dedicated to her family, confident yet insecure, self-loving yet humble. By showcasing her complexity and subsequently owning it, Beyoncé is giving the ultimate lesson in feminism: you do not have to compromise who you are in order to be a feminist. Just because you are an independent, sensual woman does not mean that you cannot simultaneously be a doting, dedicated mother and wife. Take a lesson from Beyoncé and be both if that is what your heart desires! Or be just one of them, if that’s what you want! Switch between the two, depending on your mood! It’s up to you.
Yes, you can wear provocative clothing and be a feminist. Yes, you can dance suggestively with a pole and be a feminist. And, yes, you can be a devoted mother and wife and still be a feminist! Sure, none of these affirmations are particularly relevant to me, an uncoordinated teenage girl with a very dormant love life. However, Queen Bey’s teachings are applicable to every facet of one’s life; whoever you are, you can – and should – be a feminist. The only prerequisite is a desire for freedom and equality.