Is Beyoncé benefiting the image of feminism?

It’s the year 2014, and feminism is becoming much more widely spoken about in the media.

It’s the year 2014, and feminism is becoming much more widely spoken about in the media. In May of this year the twitter hashtag #YesAllWomen opened people’s eyes to the everyday sexism and misogyny that women experience, showing that feminism is still very much needed in modern-day society.
Despite this desperate need for change in the equality of the sexes, the negative image of feminism still remains. However, a slow change is coming through popular culture. There are women within the music industry who are attempting to break down the negative stereotype that feminism holds, with Beyoncé being the most contentiously spoken about across social media and even amongst respected theorists. 

Anti-feminist celebrities

In the past, many women in the music industry have publicly spoken out against feminism. High-profile celebrities, such as Katy Perry, Lady Gaga and Kelly Clarkson, have denounced the idea of feminism and said that they do not see themselves as feminist. They set the image of feminism as being an ideal that is simply against men, rather than for the equality of the sexes.
These women are hugely influential for the commercial image of feminists, and have contributed to the depiction of feminism as merely women complaining and demonising men. 

Beyoncé fights back

In December 2013, Beyoncé’s self-titled album brought forward her view on feminism, with her actively tackling the stigma that had been created by her female peers. This album criticises the beauty standards set for women, and in her track ‘Flawless’ Beyoncé samples Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s speech on feminism, which clearly defines what it is to be feminist.

It was Beyoncé’s performance at the MTV VMAs, with the word ‘feminist’ flashing behind her and Chimamanda’s definition of feminism also being displayed, that set the scale of Beyoncé’s power to bring change. Because Beyoncé is a huge role model for young girls everywhere, her VMA performance in front of millions is slowly but surely helping to remove the stigma attached to feminism.

Her image is both that of a wife who loves her husband and family and of an empowered sexualised woman, and because of this she is successfully removing the idea that ‘man-hating spinster’ is synonymous with ‘feminist.’

Criticism of the imperfect feminist

However, despite Beyoncé’s best efforts she has come under strong criticism, and not just from social media. Famous feminist bell hooks criticised Beyoncé earlier this year, calling her a ‘terrorist’ and stating that Beyoncé is doing nothing but creating an impossible standard of beauty for young girls.

On top of this huge criticism from such a great name in feminism, the reaction from online feminists was also not hugely positive. Many accused Beyoncé of ‘hypocrisy’ in her portrayal of herself as a feminist; by dancing around scantily-clad and singing ‘bow down bitches,’ she has been seen to do little to endorse the idea of feminism. 

But should all this criticism be focused on Beyoncé? She may not be the perfect image of a feminist – and she is still problematic – but her efforts are more positive than those of Katy Perry and Lady Gaga who refuse to accept feminism at all, so it seems unfair that these women did not receive the same scale of public backlash.

Beyoncé’s goal of simply defining feminism for young girls should be enough; she is using her commercial image within music to create change. She may not be the ideal image of a feminist, but she is the first marketable feminist that there is for young girls, and this is something that should be praised, not just criticised for its flaws.

Unlike the other artists mentioned, Beyoncé is doing something for feminism, if only to give it validity in the media and create discussion around it. Regardless of the implications, this can’t be viewed as anything less than progress for feminism.

What do you think? Have your say in the comments section below.

Main Image: Google Images