The More Successful I Become, The More I Need A Man

Since the late 1800s, feminism has worked to advocate for (certain) women, fighting for equality, access, and diversity. There’s been progress, setbacks, and stagnation, but one thing is clear: most women do not identify with the word “feminist,” even if they share its core ideologies. There’s been a shift in the definition of women’s empowerment and the contemporary agenda for achieving equality.


Not only are most women tired of the hardcore oppression and patriarchy rhetoric, but also they’re ready to embrace their bodies and sexuality in public way. Simply put, 20-something-year-old women are ready to showcase the multidimensionality of womanhood: we can be intelligent, independent, powerful, family-oriented, and sexy without having an identity crisis.

Enter Beyonce, one of the most talented, career-driven women that has ever graced the music industry. She’s a multi-platinum selling artist, songwriter, entrepreneur, wife, daughter, sister, and oh…she can also dance like no other. Ignoring all of the previously listed positions that Bey occupies, most people simply deem her a gyrating, sex symbol. And frankly, all of the traditional feminist criticism of her “Who Runs The World (Girls)” video is just another example of the disconnect between intellectual theory and real life.

Next month marks the 50th anniversary of The Feminine Mystique, Betty Friedan‘s hugely influential study that helped to spark that pervasive second wave of feminism that – for all its faults and stuttering incompleteness – shaped the western world as most of us know it today.

As a book it was – as Friedan was herself – a flawed advocate of women’s rights: Friedan had little apparent interest in women who were anything other than white and upper middle-class. Her homophobia became an embarrassment to the women’s movement. Her egotistical paranoia about being ousted as the face of the women’s movement was captured with wince-inducing brilliance by Nora Ephron in her 1972 essay, Miami.

I have wondered this many times–is Beyonce the Madonna of this generation? And if that is so, does Beyonce show us that we have made progress in women’s studies curriculum and thereby feminism to more effectively recognize the complexity of women of colors lives?

Whether it’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” or the Destiny’s Child classic “Independent Women,” most of Beyoncé’s catalog consists of strong female-empowerment anthems. So it’s no surprise that the singer considers herself to be a feminist.

In an interview with the U.K.’s You magazine, the pop star opened up about the importance of female companionship, not needing to hide behind Sasha Fierce and her much-talked-about baby plans.

“I think I am a feminist, in a way. It’s not something I consciously decided I was going to be; perhaps it’s because I grew up in a singing group with other women, and that was so helpful to me,” she told the magazine. “It kept me out of so much trouble and out of bad relationships. My friendships with my girls are just so much a part of me that there are things I am never going to do that would upset that bond. I never want to betray that friendship, because I love being a woman and I love being a friend to other women.”

Most recently, Beyoncé has certainly made her share of female friends in the industry. In the past year, the singer has collaborated with Lady Gaga (“Video Phone” and “Telephone”) and Alicia Keys (“Put It in a Love Song“).

While the singer might always have female besties, there’s one thing she’s cut out of the picture: alter ego Sasha Fierce. Earlier this year, the pop star revealed that she “killed” Sasha, and now she said the alter-ego absence is due to her newfound self-awareness.

I mean, of course Beyoncé is half-naked on the cover of GQ. Kinda like how she is in many of her music videos. Kinda like basically every other pop star today. And, it’s one thing to bemoan the fact the fact that the sexist objectification machine is so extreme that even women who are famous for other things, like, say, playing sports or being pundits, are often sexualized by others or sexualize themselves.

Even in the latter case, though, I’d generally recommend not being a judgmental, slut-shaming asshole towards other women, since, ya know, the whole point is that there is strong cultural pressure to conform to this expectation. But pop stars? Please.

Beyoncé’s image–which, yes, is damn sexy–is part of her multimillion-dollar career. Call me if Hillary Clinton starts doing strip dances for the Austrian ambassador or something, and maybe we’ll stage a feminist intervention.

No matter how anyone self-identifies, it’s far more interesting to look about what they’re doing and the ideas they’re supporting–whether they have a gender awareness and a commitment to equality. And in that regard, Beyoncé is killing it in this profile.

Last week the new issue of American GQ came out and it neatly encapsulated where western feminism is today. Inside, Knowles gives an interview that will probably be studied by future generations for lessons in both the loopiness of the 21st-century celebrity world and how hilariously far American magazine interviews have fallen since the days of, say, Gay Talese and Lillian Ross.

In this typical piece of puffery, Knowles shows off her “temperature-controlled digital storage facility that contains virtually every photo of her”, including one video diary entry in which she informs herself that she is going to listen to one of her own songs before having sex with her husband, which is one way to get in the mood, I guess.

But there is the GQ journalist assures the reader, more to Knowles than raging narcissism – she is a powerful woman with a defiant feminist streak. “Equality is a myth, and for some reason everyone accepts that women don’t make as much money as men do,” she rails. “I truly believe that women should be financially independent from their men. And let’s face it, money gives men the power to run the show. It gives men the power to define value. They define what’s sexy. And men define what’s feminine. It’s ridiculous.”

And, Knowles is right: it is ridiculous that American women earn 77 cents to every dollar earned by men. This is almost as ridiculous as, say, a self-professedly powerful female celebrity (“I’m more powerful than my mind can even digest,” announces Knowles) complaining about men defining sexiness in a men’s magazine in which she poses nearly naked in seven photos, including one on the cover in which she is wearing a pair of tiny knickers and a man’s shirt so cropped that her breasts are visible.

But, to complain about the sexualisation of women in men’s magazines may seem like complaining about the weather. But as Knowles rightly says in relation to the pay gap, the status quo should not just be shruggingly accepted if it is wrong.

In the past four months alone we’ve had Cameron Diaz bending over in a pair of mesh pants; topless Mila Kunis in leather trousers (while inside she writhes naked on a bed); Rihanna naked save for a mini leather jacket; Lana Del Rey also naked except for some jewelry.

It’s one thing to submit to this attention-seeking nonsense if you’re a C-list reality TV desperado trying to get on the cover of Nuts; it’s another if you are professedly one of the most powerful women in the entertainment business who has no need of such tactics. Knowles rightly hates the fact that women are humiliated by being paid less than their male counterparts.

But are they are similarly humiliated by being fed the message that it doesn’t matter how successful, powerful or smart you are – all that matters is how sexually available you are willing to make yourself look?

This reminds me of a feminist stance we’ve seen here recently–one that is basically waiting for the opportunity to tell someone else that their feminism, that they may or may not own, isn’t good enough. How ironic.

So, whose feminist standards are we holding her up to and why?

No matter how anyone self-identifies, it’s far more interesting to look about what they’re doing and the ideas they’re supporting–whether they have a gender awareness and a commitment to equality. And in that regard, Beyoncé is killing it in this profile.

But, of all the things we could possibly discuss about that profile, We chose to focus on the most boring one.  What she is or isn’t wearing.

And, of course, all women are going to get it wrong sometimes because the boundaries are moving targets and in the eye of the beholder. What’s cheeky in one setting or to one person is flirty in or to another.  So women constantly risk getting it wrong, or getting it wrong to someone.  So the consequences are always floating out there

We need to be clearer on the boundaries between owning our own sexuality, doing our job, and participating in what some call “attention-seeking nonsense.” And at what point do we acknowledge sex appeal as something that we can embrace?

There’s an assumption that either she’s too dumb to not realize that she’s being duped into stripping down for the patriarchy, or else she’s a just hypocritical narcissist who only cares about her fame. The possibility that she’s an extremely powerful woman who works in a sexist industry–one whose gender dynamics she quite clearly understands way better any of us–and is constantly navigating how to assert her own agency while resisting/accommodating/subverting the world’s expectations of her is not entertained.

Which is weird since that’s basically what all of us are doing every single day. We just don’t do it will millions of people watching.

Bey’s insistence on controlling her own image and her willingness to put in the work to do so via all that archiving makes people worry about her sanity–her ability to function in the world and capacity to actually experience life and process emotion–and, as we see here, gets her called a narcissist.

But this is the same person who has resisted the demand to bare all of the intimate details of her life in a way that tells me she is very much concerned with her personal well being and that we should trust her to make healthy decisions for herself. Plus, what would we call a man who was such a perfectionist like that? The hardest working man in show business? A genius? A boss? A role model?

We can’t ever really know about the pressures Beyoncé must face on a daily basis, but if there is one person in the world that I’d trust is making an informed, empowered decision whenever she displays her body, it’s Beyoncé. I mean, as the woman herself said–the thing about money is that it gives you the power to “define what’s sexy.” And I think it’s safe to assume that, at this point in her career, Beyoncé is defining sexy–not the other way around.

Live and Learn. We All Do.

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About julia29

Hi. My name is Julia El-Haj. I am a Hall of Fame Athlete, an MBA, Professional Certified Marketer, Certified Youth Fitness Trainer, a Specialist in Sports Nutrition and a licensed Real Estate agent. I gave up my "seat at the table" to be home with my 3 children because that's where I was needed most. I blog about everything with Wellness in mind.
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2 Responses to The More Successful I Become, The More I Need A Man

  1. Pingback: My Favorite Female Empowerment Songs | Brown.Babee

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