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An example of Women's Identity in Popular Music
Through the claimed feminist and singer/songwriter, Beyoncé Knowles.
But first ...
Let's talk about this thing called "feminism"
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is the author of the book titled "We Should All Be Feminists," which is mentioned within the following Ted Talk video. She clearly labels herself as a feminist and shares her own personal experiences as to why that is:
Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi. We should all be feminists. Vintage, 2014.
In short, it can be defined as ...
(Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi. We should all be feminists. Vintage, 2014)
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a Nigerian novelist, nonfiction writer and short story writer. A MacArthur Genius Grant recipient, Adichie has been called "the most prominent" of a "procession of critically acclaimed young anglophone authors [that] is succeeding in attracting a new generation of readers to African literature".
en.wikipedia.org · Text under CC BY-SA
Adichie clearly labels herself as a feminist and says so within the first few sentences of her book (Chimamanda Ngozi, 2014). Although, Adichie has everything to do with distinguishing women's identity and flawlessly defining what "feminism" is- how does this woman tie into the original topic of popular music ?
Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter is an American singer, songwriter and actress. Born and raised in Houston, Texas, she performed in various singing and dancing competitions as a child and rose to fame in the late 1990s as lead singer of R&B girl-group Destiny's Child. Managed by her father, Mathew Knowles, the group became one of the world's best-selling girl groups of all time. Their hiatus saw the release of Beyoncé's debut album, Dangerously in Love (2003), which established her as a solo artist worldwide, earned five Grammy Awards and featured the Billboard Hot 100 number-one singles "Crazy in Love" and "Baby Boy".
en.wikipedia.org · Text under CC BY-SA
Adichie Chimamanda Ngozi's definition of feminisim was featured within the infamous Beyoncé's video titled "Flawless". Both women have completely different careers with Adichie being an author/storyteller and Beyoncé being a singer/songwriter and yet the two together create one empowering video. A video that is based solely on feministic views as to what is expected of the female gender, i.e. social ideologies.
The video below will visually present these feministic ideologies within today's society:
Video 1: The original video titled "Flawless" by Beyoncé from YouTube (Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IyuUWOnS9BY).
Video 2: Lyrics to video 2 for the listener to appreciate better (Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=17hPCHLMpyM).
Ideologies presented in these lyrics include:
The male possesses the female
The female is inferior to the male
Women can easily be manipulated
A woman is expected to aspire to marriage
However, these anti-feminist ideologies can all be reduced to a common theme- "gender roles". A gender role is a set of social norms dictating the types of behaviour that is considered acceptable, appropriate, or desirable for people based on their actual or perceived sex or sexuality (Yuval‐Davis, 1993). Gender roles are what is "expected" of a specific gender, in this case- the female gender. Although, many of these ideologies or gender roles may not be as obvious within today's modern society, they still do exist. With reference to the first ideology presented in Beyoncé's video, the male possesses the female, she presents the social norm that society tends to label the female as a possession of the man. She is an item or token that makes the male looks good. Typically, this is what society assumes the role of the female is in a relationship. The second ideology that Beyoncé presents in her video is that the female is inferior to the male. In other words, we tend to label the male in a relationship as the "boss" or the one who is in control. Typically, according to Yuval‐Davis, this is because the male gender assumes the role of being the stronger gender and the one that has more power (1993). The next is that women can be easily manipulated. As Adichie's words portray in this video, "We teach girls to shrink themselves- to make themselves smaller. We say to girls, "You can have ambition but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful. Otherwise you will threaten the man" (2014). Her words sound almost as though they are disciplinary or threatening. As though she is talking down to the female and telling that this is what is expected of you. Lastly, this ideology of a woman is expected to aspire to marriage. This is one is still very common, even within today's modern society. Females assume this gender role that they are the ones that their main goal in life is to find a man and marry them (Nicolson, 1993). Women are expected to bare children and stay home and take care of them while the man is at work. Women are expected to aspire to marriage and not fulfill their dreams or attain a career. Overall, these are the types of gender roles and ideologies that still make this sense of "gender equality" imbalanced, and Beyoncé's video "Flawless" creates this sense of awareness for the public to acknowledge. Clearly, she is portraying feministic thoughts through her lyrics with the assistance of a distinguished feminist, Adichie in order to make an impactful statement.
So, is Beyoncé a Feminist?
The answer is a definite YES.
As quoted by Beyoncé from "Pitchfork" ...
" We need to stop buying into the myth about gender equality. It isn't a reality yet " (Battan, 2014).
"Today, women make up half of the U.S. workforce, but the average working woman earns only 77 percent of what the average working man makes. But unless women and men both say this is unacceptable, things will not change. Men have to demand that their wives, daughters, mothers and sisters earn more—commensurate with their qualifications and not their gender. Equality will be achieved when men and women are granted equal pay and equal respect.
Humanity requires both men and women, and we are equally important and need one another. So why are we viewed as less than equal? These old attitudes are drilled into us from the very beginning. We have to teach our boys the rules of equality and respect, so that as they grow up, gender equality becomes a natural way of life. And we have to teach our girls that they can reach as high as humanly possible.
We have a lot of work to do, but we can get there if we work together. Women are more than 50 percent of the population and more than 50 percent of the voters. We must demand that we all receive 100 percent of the opportunities."
- Beyoncé Knowles (2014)
In conclusion ...
(Introduction to Beyoncé's concert that promotes feminist, Adichie Chimamanda Ngozi's spoken words prior to her performance found on Youtube)
It is obvious that as a woman, Beyoncé identifies herself as a feminist within modern-day popular music. Beyoncé's feminism primarily focuses on sexual empowerment which allows her to convey the contradictions in female roles. She wants to motivate her audience towards female empowerment, but also empower herself throughout the process as she is of the female gender herself (Kumari, 2014). Her song lyrics featuring Adichie's spoken word have gone world-wide famous and have been presented at her concerts and heard on radios everywhere. Her music is her art form in how she wants to impact the world and girls around the world. Thus, Beyoncé is an excellent representation of feminism in pop culture and an example of how women's identity is represented in popular music.
Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi. We should all be feminists. Book. Vintage, 2014.
Battan, C. “Read Beyoncé’s Essay on Gender Equality”. Pitchfork. Web. 2014. Retrieved from: <http://pitchfork.com/news/53563-read-beyonces-essay-on-gender-equality/>.
Kumari, A. "‘You and I’: Identity and the Performance of Self in Lady Gaga and Beyoncé". Journal of Popular Culture, 49 (2), 403-416. (2014): Doi: 10.1111/jpcu.12405.
McKinney, K. "Why 2015 was actually a terrible year for women in music". Fusion. 2015. Retrieved from: <http://fusion.net/story/245850/women-in-music-2015/>.
Nicolson, Paula. "Motherhood and women’s lives." Introducing women’s studies. Palgrave Macmillan UK, 1993. 201-223.
Yuval‐Davis, Nira. "Gender and nation." Ethnic and racial studies 16.4 (1993): 621-632.