The words feminism and sexism have been thrown around a lot this weekend.
Beyoncé leapt onto the stage, in characteristically dramatic fashion, and belted out her song “Flawless” while quotes from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TEDxEuston talk flashed up on the screen behind her.
Since Sunday night’s performance, however, criticism of the singer has erupted forth with volcanic intensity, to assert that her outfit, marriage to Jay-Z and some of her lyrics undermine her “feminist” message.
Here’s why they don’t.
The awards this weekend have been a mixed bag when it comes to the portrayal of women and you only need spend a few minutes watching a mute Sofia Vergara, twirling on a podium at the Emmys to see why.
But to say that Beyoncé’s rather fabulous, glittery leotard and her “provocative” dancing undermine her message, is illogical and really quite dull.
Firstly, there is a difference between Vergara, who was used, in a questionable decision by scriptwriters, as a prop, and Beyoncé, whose presence is insistent and whose message is louder than a roar.
Secondly, perhaps people need to have another read of Adichie’s quote.
She rails against a society which “[teaches] girls that they cannot be sexual beings in the way that boys are.”
We’d say that, against a backdrop of objectification by scriptwriters, good ol’ Queen Bey donning her leotard and strutting her most excellent glittery thang all over wherever she darn well pleases is quite a delightfully strong statement.
She’s sexual, she owns it, good on her.
Face of Feminism
Beyoncé might not be your feminist ambassador of preference, but she certainly is one, and a powerful one at that.
Bey-Bey recently penned an open letter to boys and girls everywhere, petitioning for equal pay for both sexes.
In it she said: "Men have to demand that their wives, daughters, mothers and sisters earn more - commensurate with their qualifications and not their gender.”
Considering that Beyoncé topped Forbes’ Celebrity 100 list this year, making her one of the most influential public figures globally, we’d say that makes her a pretty strong voice in the feminist sphere.
As many have been saying, it actually doesn’t much matter what some of the details are – her bolder song lyrics, her open letter or her choice of outfits – because the very idea that she’d have the word “feminist” emblazoned on her stage, at a moment when millions of eyes were watching, is enough.
As Rebecca Traister said in the New Republic, it shows that "attention to gender inequity is alive, revived, and that it is powered today by a broader, more diverse, more youthful and far glossier energy than it has been in the past four decades".
Taylor Swift Said It Best
As is often the case, Taylor Swift has put it all quite succinctly.
In an interview with the Guardian, T-Swizzle thanked screenwriter and actress Lena Dunham for drawing her attention to what feminism really means, especially in a modern context.
She said: “As a teenager, I didn’t understand that saying you’re a feminist is just saying that you hope women and men will have equal rights and equal opportunities.”
“What it seemed to me, the way it was phrased in culture, society, was that you hate men. And now, I think a lot of girls have had a feminist awakening because they understand what the word means.
"For so long it’s been made to seem like something where you’d picket against the opposite sex, whereas it’s not about that at all,” she concluded.
Essentially, feminism is an incredibly simple concept – it is the belief in social, economic and political equality.
Those who complicate it by trying to determine who can and cannot be a feminist, and under what conditions feminism must exist, do more to undermine the message than Beyoncé ever has.
Your mums, your sisters, your colleagues are all allowed to be feminist, but also any good man in your life – your dad, your brother, your boyfriend, your best mate should all believe in equality too.
And the great thing about this pop industry moment we seem to be enjoying, is that people like Bey-Bey and T-Swizzle are paving the way for this to happen.
What did you think of Beyoncé's VMA performance? Let us know in the comments below.