The Grumpy Giraffe

Critiques on social and education issues

Beyoncé: the Sexualization of Feminism; and Men’s Rights Movements

Feminism has come a long way, and it was actually quite ugly. Currently, the image of a feminist from popular media has resorted to a conventionally unattractive, fat, man-hating tomboyish woman like this:

Feminism is making a comeback, but not in the prettiest way possible. The Internet has branded all feminists under the term “feminazis”: angry feminists who want to rip men’s heads and burn bras. Universities are starting to introduce feminist and sexuality studies, which may seem like a positive step for feminism: the leading educational institutions are paving the way for society to embrace feminism and equality for the sexes.

But that seemed to garner only an image of an educated, unconventionally attractive, fat, man-hating, tomboyish woman who have loads of student debt.

Why isn’t feminism taken seriously? Have people forgotten about Nellie McClung? The reason is mostly because radical feminists provide the juiciest material for the press. Radical feminists are in every gender movement, as it is with all other fundamentalists, such as Men’s Rights fundamentalists.

Another juicy type of feminism is Beyoncé. She is ironically seen as a sex symbol and the goddess of female empowerment, as seen with her other name Sasha Fierce. But it can be easy to see why she is not seen as a feminist (or rather, 90% sex symbol, 10% feminist). Although, it seems like her being black has helped her propel into the image of a feminist: her success as a black woman has been overlooked, so it may seem that we are appreciating her success as a woman, leading to the image of feminism. After all, if a white woman were to do the same things she did, would she still be considered a symbol of female empowerment?

Even if she did this?

This gif alone is probably every feminist’s worst nightmare: dancing in a corset at a sports event that appeals mostly to men, and hinting at sexual innuendos with the act of licking her thumb, combined with the bedroom eyes.

A popular argument defending her feminist image may be that in a patriarchal society (not saying it is strictly and completely patriarchal, but it is still dominantly so), sexualizing the female body is the easiest and quickest way to earn a living, so what’s a woman to do? Supply and demand, baby.

Which would be fine if she was thinking of doing something to support gender equality with the money earned.

The constant sexualization of Beyoncé, like her signature move with opening her legs, does not put her in a better light with the feminists.

To denounce feminism even further, she portrays a little of the man-bashing feminism that most of us are afraid of, but in harmonious melody and catchy rhythms, such as in the emotionally-wrought “If I were a boy”, implying that men are insensitive brutes. For those who have not listened to her hit single, the song is about the persona’s lover not paying attention to her, and not listening to her needs. One must beg the question, “Can it not be named ‘If I were my man’?”

This leads to my next argument denouncing the importance of Men’s Rights Movements. According to the Oxford dictionary online, feminism is the “pursuit of equal rights between the sexes”, meaning that it is not propagating female rights as more important than the rights of men.

A current trend called Men’s Rights Movement(s) (MRM) has been budding in all corners of the Internet. However, solely from the name itself, it is clear that men’s rights are much more focused on than equality of the sexes. Further research into the synopsis of MRM reveals that it does what its name inspires to do: focus on men’s issues.

I do not wish to portray the image of a man-basher, but haven’t men been in the spotlight for a few centuries too long? Even Marie Curie had to share her 1903 Nobel Peace Prize with her husband and Henri Becquerel. This Nobel committee had originally wanted to award only Pierre (her husband) and Henri, but one of the committee members was an advocate of women scientists, hence someone had to fight for her eligibility to the prize. Her research on radioactivity and radiation saves millions today, yet she was refused entry into the French Academy of Science solely because she was a woman.

It is time to focus on gender equality. Feminists are not asking to focus the spotlight on women, but on policies that can close the gender gap. Feminism aims to balance the sexes so that a grown man is not seen as a pedophile in a kindergarten room, or that a woman is not seen as a sexless dyke if she chooses to enter construction work.

Much of feminism today is humanist and aims for equality as a basic right, and some progressive feminist movements are aiming for equity too. Bra-burning is no longer a typical hobby (if it ever was!). However, the problem with MRM is that it is still in the progress of becoming dominantly humanist. There are too many MRM members who are in the fundamentalist phase of saying, “Look at me! I have problems too!”

Men’s rights are important too, and should definitely be addressed. A male should feel safe seeking professional help if he was a rape victim. A male should feel comfortable and confident entering the nursing profession. These are important issues, but because the focus on men’s issues (and not on resolving gender issues between men and women) is so heavy, MRM is easily seen as an excuse to rehash chauvinism, which destroys both the intents of MRM and feminism.

There are many types of MRM and feminism, but hopefully they can converge instead of having gender-based groups with misleading names. Gender egalitarianism may soon catch on, especially with the current trend of being inclusive with the LGTBQ community. There are more than two genders identified, so gender egalitarianism may be more suitable for the 21st century.

And that is why Beyoncé is not exactly portraying a feminism that should be taken seriously. Dancing in showy clothing, particularly a corset, to appeal to the audience who is largely (heterosexually) male is not exactly how feminists want to be portrayed. She may be a humanist feminist herself, but she needs to show it. She is a very influential female on the Hollywood scene, much like Oprah and Taylor Swift, but she and other influential women need to harness their social capital to lead change.

She already has many fans. The next step is to promote feminism without such a heavy emphasis on sexualization. Perhaps gender egalitarianism can be the next social trend.

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8 comments on “Beyoncé: the Sexualization of Feminism; and Men’s Rights Movements

  1. tawnybill
    March 2, 2013

    You, my friend, obviously (from reading this) are a very wise person, weather male or female is strategically unimportant.

    For ‘Peace’ to be the result, honesty and integrity are of utmost importance.

    Exercising good judgment makes you ‘trust worthy’ in my eyes. Your boldness in stating the case clearly and concisely will earn you deserved respect from the ‘respectable’ as I aspire to be.

    With many thanks, and heart felt trust;
    Kind regards,
    Willy Ens.

  2. busydarling
    March 2, 2013

    Great point.
    I think the most important thing is to know what we’re teaching our young girls….

  3. Pretentiously Modest
    March 2, 2013

    Showing off her body and dancing is definitely NOT the reason Beyonce shouldn’t be taken seriously as a feminist. It’s her right to choose. Any feminist who thinks less of her because she’s “sexy” isn’t really a feminist at all – because (s)he is judging her for her own choices. That’s not what feminism is about.

    • The Grumpy Giraffe
      March 2, 2013

      I wasn’t saying that showing off her body and dancing mean that she shouldn’t be seen as a feminist. Being sexy is different than appealing to the heterosexual male crowd in a sexual manner.

      If the money she has earned is used to raise awareness of feminism and to lead social change in gender equality, I would consider her more of a feminist. But for her to be associated with female empowerment while she continually sexually objectifies herself under the gaze of heterosexual men is ironic at best. *That* isn’t what feminism is about.

      Feminists can be sexy too, but they actually do something to advance the movement. Beyoncé does not seem to have done so. She could have easily harnessed her social power to lead positive change.

    • be real
      March 27, 2013

      It is okay to be sexy but all her image surrounds around sex- Every video and performance she is half dressed. If anything Beyonce is a sexualized symbol for deagrading women into just being sex Objects. A woman who makes as much and commands as much power does not have to subject herself to such cheap parlor tricks”. You are right she chooses to.

      Being a constant sex object and women empowerment are totally opposite. But everyone level of morals is not the same. I will say one thing beyonce as a lady under her father but ever since Jay-z she has been pimped out. Ever since the Bonnie and Clyde video she has been half dressed. Being sexy and portray a pole dancer is 2 different things, tho.

  4. CheriSpeak
    March 1, 2013

    Great article, but I have one beef here…your statement, “The constant sexualization of Beyoncé” ….Beyonce` is her own person…she does have a say in what she does and how she is portrayed…so the sexualization of beyonce is her own doing.

    • The Grumpy Giraffe
      March 1, 2013

      Good point. Which is another reason that further convinces the public to see her not as a feminist, but merely a sex icon. Hopefully she chooses use her social capital to advance female empowerment.

      • Ketan
        March 2, 2013

        Perhaps CheriSpeak might be taking issue to your implying being a sex symbol and a feminist are somehow mutually exclusive. Personally, I do find sexualizing (a kind of objectification) dehumanizing and teasing kind of seduction not meant to end in sexual acts as insincere and dishonest at many levels, which I am against. But I’d find such attempts at seduction equally wrong irrespective of the gender of the seducer.

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This entry was posted on March 1, 2013 by in politics, society and tagged , , , , , , , .

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