#FLAWLESS: the Yonce-fication of America

Flawlessness courtesy of Beyonce.

Flawlessness courtesy of Beyonce.

Editor’s Note: We like to keep profanity, violence, and misogyny to a minimum at Progressive Pupil, but ‘Yonce said some things that need address. There is some strong language to follow. 

“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”

 

These powerful words from feminist and author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie have become an anthem for women’s liberation and empowerment in Beyonce’s song Flawless. The I woke up like this anthem started a short-lived craze of women posting selfies in online forums like tumblr as a showing of self-love. These women appear to feel empowered by the pride, inspiration and permission Beyonce has given them to be themselves. This selfie phenomenon would have more clout if Beyonce’s pictures were less than perfect – we see enough images in the media of unattainably perfect looking women.


The documentary
America the Beautiful describes how damaging those images can be to women and their self-esteem. According to the documentary Miss Representation, teens spend 10hrs and 45 minutes a day exposing themselves to these images through mass media. Though I agree with Beyonce’s view that the way women are viewed and valued must change in this country, and though I don’t doubt her good intentions, the next set of lyrics make me question her methodology and the lens in which she views modern-day feminism.

 

“I know when you were little girls

You dreamt of being in my world

Don’t forget it, don’t forget it,

Respect that, bow down bitches”

 

“Bow down bitches, bow bow down bitches…”

 

These lyrics are the Mr. Hyde accompanying the Dr. Jekyll displayed earlier. I’ve heard this song once, and these are the only lyrics I remember, repeating in my mind over and over weeks later. According to Miss Representation, “Girls get the message from very early on that what’s most important is how they look, that their value, their worth, depends on that, and boys get the message that this is what is important about girls…we get it from advertising, films, television, shows, video games, everywhere we look.”  This not only includes objectified images of women, but the language used to describe them. It’s bad enough when vulgar descriptions of women come from men, but I believe it is much more damaging to the female psyche when they come from admired, self-described “feminists”. The documentary also points out that women’s intellect is not valued, and women in power are “treated like shit” in the media. This lack of respect for powerful women sends a deeply rooted message to both men and women which negatively affect our ability to gain positions of power.

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2 Comments

  1. strange Capitalization and Other Coporate horrors

     /  September 9, 2014

    I always find myself tripping over the same line — of a feminism that strives to make apparent the ways in which perspectives of women are molded and reinforced by society, and the freedom a woman has to choose how to express herself and her sexuality, regardless of whether this expression conforms to normative society. To me, it seems that the market is what sets Beyoncé’s case apart; it seems likely that, rather than determining her own self-image, there has been one created for her, one that enables her expand appeal nationally, rather than in isolation. But then again, is it not her prerogative to make money in the way she wants? (This is more a question for me, not as an argument to this piece)

    Because I do love Beyoncé, though, I will offer that perhaps the “bow down” line can be read in light of the part of Adichie’s quote that says “We raise girls to be competitors — not as jokes or for accomplishments, which I think can be a good thing.” Perhaps, when Beyoncé tells us to bow down, she is simply exerting the professional and artistic status she has earned through years of pushing herself to be the top female artist in the industry. Perhaps she is asking all of us to recognize her power and her talent, and challenging us to enter a competition not of looks, but of strength.

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  2. Alison

     /  September 9, 2014

    I always find myself tripping over the same line — of a feminism that strives to make apparent the ways in which perspectives of women are molded and reinforced by society, and the freedom a woman has to choose how to express herself and her sexuality, regardless of whether this expression conforms to normative society. To me, it seems that the market is what sets Beyoncé’s case apart; it seems likely that, rather than determining her own self-image, there has been one created for her, one that enables her expand appeal nationally, rather than in isolation. But then again, is it not her prerogative to make money in the way she wants? (This is more a question for me, not as an argument to this piece)

    Because I do love Beyoncé, though, I will offer that perhaps the “bow down” line can be read in light of the part of Adichie’s quote that says “We raise girls to be competitors — not as jokes or for accomplishments, which I think can be a good thing.” Perhaps, when Beyoncé tells us to bow down, she is simply exerting the professional and artistic status she has earned through years of pushing herself to be the top female artist in the industry. Perhaps she is asking all of us to recognize her power and her talent, and challenging us to enter a competition not of looks, but of strength.

    Like

    Reply

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