The Elephant in the Room: The evolution of Beyoncé as a feminist

I want to start out by giving credit where credit is due. Pentatonix, which recently graced our campus with its presence, released a mash-up of Beyoncé’s work through the years, titled “Evolution of Beyoncé.” If you haven’t heard it yet, be sure to check out it out. Pentatonix’s mash-up inspired me to also examine the evolution of Beyoncé, but from a feminist standpoint.

The evolution of Queen Bey. (AP Photo)
The evolution of Queen Bey. (AP Photo)

When Beyoncé was interviewed for the May issue of British Vogue in 2013, she was hesitant in labeling herself a feminist. Her exact response was, “That word can be very extreme. But I guess I am a modern-day feminist … But I am happily married. I love my husband.” Clearly, she possessed a not-so-subtle discomfort with the term.

I attribute this to the fact that she, like many others, wasn’t aware of the true definition of feminism. An indication of this is that she ended her response by saying that she was happily married and loved her husband. This carries the implication those two traits and feminism are mutually exclusive. This is entirely false. However, with the recent release of her new album, it’s evident that Queen Bey has come a long way.

I find nothing more admirable than Beyoncé’s blatant embrace of the term feminism in her song “***Flawless.” She incorporated a portion of Nigerian activist Chimamanda Ngozi Aidchie’s 2012 TEDxEuston conference titled “We should all be feminists.” Beyoncé brought Aidchie’s perfect definition of feminist, a person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes, to a never before reached public platform.

In “Pretty Hurts,” Beyoncé critically examines the consequences of the unattainable societal standard of female beauty. She’s on point when she says that obsession with reaching perfection is “a disease of a nation” and “it’s the soul that needs the surgery.”

Beyoncé has also stepped forward as a feminist outside the realm of her music. She penned an essay titled “Gender Equality Is A Myth” for The Shriver Report, a multi-platform project of A Woman’s Nation.

I don’t claim that Queen Bey is “***Flawless” in regard to feminism. Just like anyone else, she has her critics. Some berate her pornographic poses, while others commend her sexual empowerment. Others call attention to the fact that many of the music videos are made to be experienced through the male gaze and that in “Pretty Hurts,” she’s the exact embodiment of what her lyrics are chastising. I, myself, am uncomfortable with certain contradictions.

The details are ultimately up to your interpretation. But one thing is certain- we must “bow down” to Queen Bey for bringing feminism into mainstream pop culture.

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