Modern Bey Feminism: Sexy feminism

Hannah Strumwasser

Hannah Strumwasser

The camera zooms in on a French manor in the countryside. It’s an average morning for Beyoncé as she eats breakfast and then dances sensually in a diamond bustier.

After watching the video for Beyoncé’s song “Partition,” there is no denying that Beyoncé is sexy.

But the motivation behind this sexuality has often been questioned.

Is Beyoncé an innately sexual being and merely expressing this through her music and videos? Or has society forced her into sexualizing her music in order to sell records? Or, is she consciously using her sexuality to make money?

Her newest visual album titled “Beyoncé” features 17 videos and not a whole lot of clothing. But I would argue that her videos do tell a story, and she’s not just being sexy to be scandalous (or profitable).

Unlike many women featured in the hip-hop videos of her male counterparts, Beyoncé uses her body to express herself and her music. While you may not experience love the same way as Beyoncé does in her “Drunk in Love” music video — namely, rolling around half-naked in the surf — this, apparently, is how Beyoncé feels when she spends time with her husband Jay-Z.

Each video is an individual piece of art, while still fitting together as a cohesive album. The videos have artistic value, and Beyoncé uses her body, clothing and makeup to give voice to an idea or plotline.

Beyoncé isn’t just shaking her ass on screen. Queen B is just as much of a dancer as she is a singer, and her videos include complex choreography that shows her talent as both a dancer and a performer.

But sometimes it is hard for me to watch Beyoncé perform without the feminist in me feeling a little uncomfortable. Specifically, her halftime show at the 2013 Super Bowl left me feeling torn, and wondering if that much sexuality was needed to catch viewers’ attention. Or maybe I just wasn’t ready for that jelly? (Please go listen to “Bootylicious” by Destiny’s Child if you don’t get this reference).

At first, I thought that I sometimes feel uncomfortable with the overt nature of Queen B’s sexuality because I was raised in a society that equates sexuality with negativity. But after looking at the halftime show as a specific example, I’ve realized that I felt most uncomfortable with this performance because it was so clear that she was using her body for something commercial, rather than expressing her feelings through her music. With millions of people watching and the TV network making billions off of the advertising sold, it was clear that Beyoncé’s body was being used as a commodity, not a version of artistic expression.

Whether or not Beyoncé is using her body to make money consciously or not, she has commented time and time again on her overt sexuality, expressing the fact that she is not ashamed of being a sexual being.

She also asserts that embracing your sexuality does not exclude a woman from other aspects of life. In an interview with Out Magazine, Beyoncé said, “You can be a businesswoman, a mother, an artist, and a feminist — whatever you want to be — and still be a sexual being. It’s not mutually exclusive.”

I see Beyoncé as being a feminist by choosing to do what she wants, and what will make her most successful. Everyone knows that sex sells, and Beyoncé has chosen to embrace that.

Beyoncé addresses the idea that “feminists hate sex” in her song “Partition.” A sample in the background goes, “Les hommes pensent que les féministes détestent le sexe, mais c’est une activité très stimulante et naturelle que les femmes adorent,” which translates to “Men think that feminists detest sex. But it is a stimulating and natural activity that women adore.”

The sexual nature of Beyoncé’s image also forces us to address the idea of sexuality as taboo in our society. In comparison to other countries, it seems to me that the United States sees sexuality as something much more scandalous than natural.

Sex is seen in a negative light in our “progressive” Western society, and sexual women are more often seen as “sluts” than women promoting the importance and acceptance of sexuality. It seems to me that Beyoncé is not using or rejecting her sexuality; rather, she is just being herself. Beyoncé’s brand of sex positivity gives women (and men) the opportunity to see a successful woman accept sex as a part of herself.

If Beyoncé can help women find and embrace their sexuality in a healthy way, then more power to her. There’s no reason that we can’t all express our sexuality over breakfast. Croissants and diamond bustiers for everyone!

If you know where to buy a diamond bustier, email HANNAH STRUMWASSER at hstrumwasser@gmail.com.

2 Comments

  • Sabonten
    April 23, 2014

    I once read an article addressing this when it comes to strippers. The issue isn’t about self-censoring one’s sexuality; it is that the belief in being empowered through sexualization masks the true agenda; that you are being used and further empowering those those that wish to gain from your supposed “sexual freedom”. It is the classic case of making someone do something by giving them a choice and the illusion of freedom, when the manipulator knows what you’ll “choose” anyway.

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