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?

  • 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.

  • cherie

    85% are not.. ok some of us are still just getting by. We are still thinking with other pussy. in hope of a man willing to enter it. half of us will not and do not clean, or cook if there’s no man around. Ms. B is a hard working person, now adding mother to on her plate. she showing millions of young and older women we do run this world, because some of us have for get. Pussy is very powerful!!. But we the women have for gotten how to use this gift. And when men say It’s not very thing, you remind him. They have kill their brother’s for it, buy cars to get it, diver to the poor hoods from their nice homes for it, cheat on their wife and women for it. She is just reminding us stop for getting whom we are and stop hating one another, because we are all women pretty or not a 10 in the face, We all have one thing that’s “P”so yes my sister she is doing her thing more than many of us are. Shes not saying she is the queen Of women she is just saying remember who you are and what we have done and what we must still do. You have the power it’s your “P” not just your education. they don’t see that intel much later on. If you are willing to let them get to know you better before they get the “P”

    P.S. not hating on what you said. just given you something to think about.

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