Since the late 1800s, feminism has worked to advocate for (certain) women, fighting for equality, access, and diversity. There’s been progress, setbacks, and stagnation, but one thing is clear: most women do not identify with the word “feminist,” even if they share its core ideologies. There’s been a shift in the definition of women’s empowerment and the contemporary agenda for achieving equality. Not only are most women tired of the hardcore oppression and patriarchy rhetoric, but also they’re ready to embrace their bodies and sexuality in public way. Simply put, 20-something-year-old women are ready to showcase the multidimensionality of womanhood: we can be intelligent, independent, powerful, family-oriented, and sexy without having an identity crisis.

Enter Beyonce, one of the most talented, career-driven women that has ever graced the music industry. She’s a multi-platinum selling artist, songwriter, entrepreneur, wife, daughter, sister, and oh…she can also dance like no other. Ignoring all of the previously listed positions that Bey occupies, most people simply deem her a gyrating, sex symbol. And frankly, all of the traditional feminist criticism of her “Who Runs The World (Girls)” video is just another example of the disconnect between intellectual theory and real life.

It is no secret that black women need more diverse representation in the media. Yes, it seems that every pop culture icon, actress, or singer can fall into the “hypersexualized” category. But truthfully, what does Beyonce represent as a whole, as a multidimensional human being? Taking bits and pieces of her is the same as reading a chapter of a book and claiming to know the whole story.

Beyonce’s “Girls” video is an anthem for contemporary women that aren’t afraid of being powerful, driven, smart, and sexy. We can hold our own in the workplace, and later in the evening, pull out our garter belts and work it for our partner.

Essence Editor Demetria Lucas critiques Beyonce’s video, writing:

“A mind is a terrible thing to waste and so is a perfectly good video that doesn’t match the song. Despite the declarations in the lyrics (and the unrelated hotness of the video), it’s a still a man’s world, and it will always be as long as women think their vaginas are where their power lies.”

I’d have to disagree. Lucas’ commentary implies that powerful women cannot bask in their sexuality, femininity, and confidence without jeopardizing their authority. Like Lucas, women pushing the traditional hypersexual critique have been focused on the “male gaze” for far too long.

Have you ever noticed the reaction of most women to Beyonce’s music in a dance club? It’s as if all the men in the room disappear and the women group together, dancing with their heads held high and empowering each other with every hip twist and hand wave. Almost every woman can feel some sort of empowerment from Beyonce’s music and it doesn’t take away from her power the next day when she runs the emergency room at a major hospital or leads an executive board through a complicated marketing plan.

When Beyonce sings about girls running the world while busting African-dance-influenced choreography and swiveling her hips, it should remind all women that it’s okay to run this mother f***er and still appreciate our breasts, move our hips, and showcase our multidimensionality (and sexiness) in a public way.

Beyonce’s video provides one more signal that women need a new movement. Can we finally declare first, second, and third wave feminism as history? Has the fourth wave of feminism finally arrived?


  1. Wow oh wow…no wonder women (especially black women) don’t get along. Instead of uplifting and applauding each other we look for the quickest way to tear each other down! How is this song or artist named Beyonce hurting YOU personally? Why such hostility and anger when all she is attempting to do is make a LITTLE bit of light in the anti-black woman media we have to be inundated with in this country?

    I mean, I can google at least 20,000 articles degrading black women. But as soon as one woman makes a song empowering us she’s public enemy number one? Oy, your thinking is twisted.

    But good thing I already know the answers. It’s because only an INSECURE, SELF LOATHING “woman” finds ways to talk bad about another woman. And nothing hurts them more than seeing a REAL woman with self confidence.

    And these are the same trolls who wonder why men think they can treat us like doormats…

    • Paints

      In my view, this song refers to ALL women, not just black women. What, because Beyoncé is black, she can only speak for black women? In the details you’ll notice there are many women from all over the world in this video. This post and these comments are discriminating and degrading in themselves. Yes, this video and song may be inspiring but is it really helping us to move forward? No! The way in which we discuss these matters is so important. Or else, we’re just going in circles. Beyoncé is no exception. She’s reinforcing gender roles and discrimination. Aren’t any of the feminine qualities women AND MEN offer to the world valuable? Why not embrace those? The wardrobe and the gestures are enticing, but they allude back to the Roman Empire and Imperialism. Really? Women want to embrace that? I thought the idea was to move forward, not backward, not to stand still. And the only traces of femininity I see are those which objectify women as sexual and primitive beings (animals only put on the planet to reproduce).

      Feminism is criticized because it places blame on men and on the system in which men are seen as in control. It also sees women as a victim, implying that women lack control and are helpless. In actuality, and we all know this, women are incredibly capable of living life to the fullest, creating, inspiring, changing and supporting peoples, places, ideas, and things. Feminism was born out of a necessary revolution which created a dignifying space for women in society. We can build upon the hard work of the women before us.

      Edna makes good points….”girls”!

      Maybe it’s not about being black or white, a woman, a man, but more so about being yourself, making your own decisions and always considering the consequences, about how the smaller and larger picture are related. Beyoncé’s song and video are powerful, but how? Why? Asking questions is important. I’m glad she and her producers made this video because hopefully it will get us talking about these issues (because we’re all smart and capable of NOT taking things for their face-value). I also hope that in the near future, videos like this one will not be made. But that is high order for pop culture and the media.

Comments are moderated, please be respectful. View our policy.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Read previous post: