Monday, December 8, 2014

Feminism And The Beyoncé Paradox

By Johanna Boedenauer
Junior Reporter
NORCROSS, Georgia, U.S.A. – Most people don’t realize they’re feminists. Perhaps writer Lena Dunham, who created and stars in the hit HBO series “Girls,” said it best in a 2013 interview with news website Metro, “Do you believe that women should be paid the same for doing the same jobs? Do you believe that women should be allowed to leave the house? Do you think that women and men both deserve equal rights? Great, then you’re a feminist.”
Since the very first Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, N.Y. in 1848, all the way to Gloria Steinem and the new wave of feminism, we’ve made great strides in the realm of female rights.
In fact, there are more self-declared feminists and activists in the media today than ever before. Not only that, but feminists are no longer confined to offensive stereotypes that put activists in a box.
A modern day feminist can take many forms – one of whom is the illustrious Beyoncé herself.
As a self-proclaimed feminist, the award-winning 33-year-old singer and actress stunned the music world a year ago by releasing her fifth studio album completely unannounced. When word hit the stands, fans and fellow celebs across the globe barraged social networking sites with memorable reactions, one comparing Beyoncé to Santa Claus.
It’s reactions such as these that deem the Houston native one of the world’s most influential and successful women. There are, however, many who criticize the artist as being deceitful and fake.
Many of Beyoncé’s albums are adorned with ideas of equality and women’s rights. The song “Flawless” on her new album Beyoncé gave way to her inner female activist by including an excerpt from Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s speech “We should all be feminists.”
Originally broadcast on the media-outlet TED, Adichie’s speech sought to explain her own journey of feminism and what the expression genuinely means. Like so many women and girls, she too experienced the negative connotations associated with the word “feminist,” but continues on to eloquently express that there shouldn’t be.
In “Flawless,” Beyoncé swaps fancy techno beats and striking vocals for Adichie’s important message to humanity. She tells the world, “We teach girls to shrink themselves. To make themselves smaller,” noting that women who are “too successful” often threaten men. Adichie goes on to pose the essential question, “But why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage and we don’t teach boys the same?”
To be a feminist means to believe in the total equality of men and women alike – truly a reason I think we should all be feminists. 
From the official Beyoncé Facebook page, photo credit Robin Harper
Beyoncé as she appeared on stage this year in Birmingham, U.K. in the Mrs. Carter Show World Tour.
Bey, as many fans know her, takes on the beauty and fashion industry in her song “Pretty Hurts.” Lyrics like “South Beach, sugar free. Vogue says, “Thinner is better” demonstrate how our values lay in the wrong places. With this song, the happily married mother of one truly “shines the light” on how image and a materialistic outlook on life governs our self-worth and the way we perceive others. Her full disclosure of the industry’s apparent ugliness gives women (and men) the confidence to feel good in their own skin and accept any so-called flaws. According to Beyoncé, perfection is unrealistic, “Perfection is a disease of a nation.”
Beyoncé is by no means the exception to modern-day feminism in the media. Internationally famous stars like Taylor Swift, Lena Dunham, Halle Berry, Amy Poehler, Leighton Meester, Emma Watson and many, many more are stepping up and speaking out about equal rights for men and women.
With any luck, the rise of feminism in the media and a more positive portrayal of the issue will prompt people to realize that “feminism” isn’t a bad word.
It’s not about blaming men for suppressing women, starting violent protests, or taking over the world one sperm donor at a time; it’s about living together harmoniously and equally in every respect of the word. Beyoncé is one major spark for achieving just that. Her enormous sphere of influence is an astonishingly powerful outlet for showing young women, old women and men of all ages that the era has come for women to demand righteousness.
The star is most certainly a catalyst for the ascent of female power in the music industry, yet many argue that Beyoncé – who called her world tour “The Mrs. Carter Show” in reference to her husband Shawn Corey Carter, who performs as the rapper Jay-Z – shouldn’t be labeled a feminist.
Beyoncé is also a registered Republican, which to some is the greatest hypocrisy of her self-proclaimed feminism. Many of Mrs. Carter’s actions and supposed feminist views contradict themselves, such as her own beauty. To the world, she says, “Pretty hurts,” yet on stage her immaculate makeup, done-up hair and toned body give the opposite impression.
Despite the controversy surrounding Beyoncé’s feminist authenticity, her reach of influence is undeniable. She may be a phony, but the word “feminism” has undoubtedly become better known since her rise to fame.
I’m not entirely sure which most proves ‘Queen B’ to be an appropriate title for the megastar: the fact that she’s trying to expose the industry’s major flaws, that she’s received 17 Grammy awards over the span of 16 years, or that my laptop actually spellchecked the name Beyoncé.
This message is truly for men and women, girls and boys alike. As the name suggests, equality isn’t a cause that can be achieved by women alone. If we truly wish to see a change in the world, in our communities, in our neighborhoods and our homes, men and boys must step up, too.
If you’re a human being – if you think all people are equal, if you’re sane – you’re probably, very definitely a feminist.
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