I don’t care for Beyonce at all, yet for some reason that doesn’t stop me from clicking on articles about her when they trend on my facebook feed. Before reading these articles, I had only known Beyonce as just another hot singer who was better at dancing than most the others. What I hadn’t realised was that, as this article proclaims, she had become the ‘new face’ of feminism and her actions are now constantly subjected to the scrutiny that such a mantle warrants.
The article describing (or perhaps even crowning) Beyonce with this title was written in disgust and protest of the provocative photo shoot that she participated in for men’s magazine; GQ. It’s author, Hadley Freeman, starts the article by discussing a lady who in 1972 ‘sparked the pervasive second wave of feminism that shaped the western world’, and ends by declaring that half a century after her work, the movement ‘should be running much better than this’; this seemingly being Beyonce posing for photos in a bikini on a bed.
These references to an old feminist seem like a neat way to tie an article together, while also it is of course the writer’s dream to finish something on the note with which it started. But making reference to the world’s old values and past plight of women it would appear is not so uncommon to those who wish to shake their sticks at our new figure of feminism, and upon reading Freeman refer to the past, I was instantly reminded of another article which had berated Beyonce for picking her husband’s name for her new tour (calling it The Mrs. Carter Tour) ‘despite it being 2013 and not 1066′. While admittedly this latter article is an intensely cruddy piece of ill thought journalism that for some reason ends with the reader hearing about how the author would like to go to Scotland at some point in the future, the fact that it too endows Beyonce with the supposed power to belittle all progress woman have made since not being able to leave yee ol’ spinning cloth shops of the 11th century, has left me annoyed and wanting to rebuke.
Beyonce is not a revolutionist for feminism, she is someone who has profited off feminism. That’s at least my two cents. She didn’t invent the idea of women paying their own telephone bills, she just sang about it, and at a time when the idea of women being independent had already been long since established and accepted. She sung a bunch of songs with destiny’s child that she didn’t write, and then went on to become a solo artist because she was by far the hottest of the three. Since then she has continued to make music about independent women because that’s what her market wants.
Now people are outraged because she has given into man’s evil intentions, and posed in airbrushed pictures that show off her hotness. It seems people have failed to realise that it is just her hotness that has been making her famous this whole time, just do a google image search on Beyonce and see what comes up, this is really nothing new. At heart she has always just been another figure showing off curves and facial figures ill-afforded by the vast majority of women, and through highly produced video after highly produced video, providing society with more unrealistic images of what their women should look like. She is successful because she is hot. Girls adore her because she is a symbol of independence while simultaneously being a smoking babe, like some female Disney protagonist. If you want to look at a real feminist symbol in the music world, why don’t you look at the undoubtedly much more creatively talented Missy Elliot? Who in spite of being dubbed too fat to make it in an industry that only employs the most beautiful of women, persevered to become one of recent times most successful and pioneering artists. In spite of all feminism stands for, I’m afraid it seems to me that the mantle for the face of feminism has ironically only just gone and been given to the feminist with the prettiest face.
Men wanted to see Beyonce looking a bit naked, and Beyonce probably wanted to show off her new after-baby body so posed for them. The GQ incident was just about people doing what they wanted to do. It’s funny that men’s magazines get all the attention and slack for corrupting young women’s ideas of their own body, yet no woman ever reads them. The problem is not that women are on the front of men’s magazines, but that they are on the front of every magazine. Those directed at men have a women as this is the object of man’s desire and so it will sell. Then those directed at women will also have a woman on the front, as women want to be like that woman on the front and, in doing so, become an object of man’s desire. In essence, these magazines – which only reflect our culture – are dominated by men’s desires, where the only desire of the woman is to be something that man wants. It is not the fault of GQ that women are made to feel insecure about their bodies; it is the magazines aimed at women who often won’t accept a female icon unless she is perfect and beautiful.
I imagine the solution does not lie in women stopping posing in sexy pictures for men’s magazines, but probably in a future where women’s magazines are more prone to getting men to do sexy shoots for them. Now, in a world where women are being allowed to express their sexual interests as freely as men, where the idea of women sleeping with multiple men is less and less greeted with dirty labels and judgements, I’m sure we will begin to see a rise in women-directed media more publicly showing and adhering to women’s sexual desires and, who knows, one day we may even have the female equivalents of detestable magazines such as nuts and zoo. Evidence for this trend already comes in the sudden and steep emergence of women as a substantial audience and consumer source for the porn industry, and also in more subtle cultural nuances such as the infamous ‘girls on tour’ groups who have now begun appearing at Magaluf, festivals, or anywhere with a surplus of alcohol and a party atmosphere, adopting the ‘lad’ mentality of getting smashed, chanting songs, and walking round sexually defiling and mistreating any member of the opposite sex that gets in their path.
This shift is already somewhere in swing, and during a brief perusing of Heat magazine once, I found that they did indeed have a 4 page spread of a half-naked guy, Joey Essex (From TOWIE), getting oiled up and photoed in various sexy poses. And as prettier boys are used to sell in the same way pretty girls are, and as buff boys are paraded across women’s magazines as much as boobied babes across men’s, I’m sure what will happen is that young men will just start becoming equally insecure about their bodies as young women. This is already starting to become the case as teenage boys are showing increasing concern about their body image, and eating disorders are drastically on the rise.
I fear the true effect of feminism in this regard will not be one that rids women of their insecurities, but instead one that only makes them shared also by men. And of course this is not the fault of feminism, it is the fault of the world’s desire being dictated by the idiot producers creating show after show about glamorous, glitzy and sexy lives, and all the idiot people who spend their whole lives watching them. And again just to stress; this is not a dig at feminism here, this is a dig at society… we are all getting fucked up and it would be damn unfair if one sex is made to feel more fucked up than the other, so yeah, bring on the vomiting bulimic boys, I’ve already put all my stocks in breathmints.
But just to be clear, what this definitely isn’t a dig at is Beyonce’s role in anything. She is completely irrelevant in the scheme of things and has had no effect at all of any kind on the feminist movement, and nor will she.
She’s not the face of feminism, she’s just some hot singer who can dance better than most the other ones.