Opinion on Beyoncé and the new approach to her music videos is very much divided these days.
There has been a lot of talk that Beyoncé has succumbed to female sexualisation within pop culture and is doing what a few other female celebrities have also been doing – getting rather fleshy for the camera and shoving her bits in our face. A large number of fans and feminists are outraged that Beyoncé has resorted to such measures.
For what has happened to Beyoncé? What is the sudden need for her to resort to this sexualisation of herself? It’s just odd, right?
Not exactly, no.
A few days ago after watching her video for Partition, I was feeling disappointed that Beyoncé – who usually promotes female empowerment and strengthens women through her songs – was essentially defecating all over what she’d previously stood for and represented to the world. I was furious that a female who had embodied grace and for me, a more classy form of sexiness, was now reduced to parading around in minimal clothing and representing herself in an explicitly sexual way.
However, a Beyoncé music video marathon made me question my own view, and left me wondering: why are people finding her new persona so hard to accept?
If we take a look back at Beyoncé’s previous music videos, it is evident that her attitude and persona were extremely sexual even back then, and an older and mature Martha only picked it up yesterday. Her lyrics, attire and whole demeanour essentially represents a seductress lying in wait. Here’s a few shots of her more subtle (in Beyoncé-world) sexuality:
(Note: The videos do all the talking, so I urge you to spend a minute or two actually watching them to get an idea of the point I’m making. Go and browse YouTube).
These stills show that Beyoncé has always been somewhat sexual, and sexualised. The videos for Naughty Girl, Deja Vu and Dance For You show her in this way. Did we pick up on her overt sexuality and need to be sexy and raunchy back then? If not, then why are we suddenly raving about it now? Where lies the boundary for giving someone a telling-off for female sexualisation? For Beyoncé could have been told that she was over-doing it then too, and the same issues related to female exploitation in the media applied back then as well. We could have easily said “tone it down love, because it’s a bit too much and you don’t need to make videos like that, it’s sending the wrong message”. I don’t think anybody did.
What’s even funnier is that in the music videos that relate to Beyoncé singing about empowering women, such as Irreplaceable and Best Thing I Never Had, she is again sexualised and adorned in suggestive outfits which to me, seem slightly odd and unnecessary considering the context of the songs. Have a quick look below:
Was there a need for her to be represented in such a sexual manner? I don’t think so, but it happened before, and it’s sure as hell happening now.
So why the big shock about her new persona? Haven’t we been exposed to it for a while now? Didn’t you see it coming?
In my view, Beyoncé and her overt sexuality have been in the public domain for years. It may not have been as explicit as it is now, but its been around and people must remember that she is not the innocent broken-hearted girl character all the time. If anything, the victimised and innocent female is an image we’d like to construct for Beyoncé, but this is an artist who has done female empowerment-through-slaughtering-men and now is doing female-empowerment-by-normalising-more-explicit-sexualisation-of-herself. A part of me feels that Beyoncé is simply reminding women that heartbreak and love loss because of horrible men is one thing, but that falling deeply and madly in love, having a swell sex life and revelling in your sexuality is another – and that’s it’s okay to do so. Could this be a form of feminism and female empowerment in itself?
That being said, it continues to really upset me that a role model for so many female girls has also begun to take such an extremely explicitly sexual approach to her recent music videos. These 3 or 4 minute music videos are enough to give people the wrong ideas. The only message I’ve gained from Partition is that Beyoncé has lost any sense of originality. Many young girls and women will watch these videos and believe that the route to success is succinctly sexual. Many men will watch and gain the impression that that women are objects, placed in front of them solely for their sexual gratification. As Beyoncé sings “I just wanna be the girl you like” in Partition, I feel she is enforcing the wrong kind of values and sticking her middle finger up to everything that feminists have (and still are) fighting for.
For me, Beyonce is only fuelling the view that women in the limelight (and even outside of it) must bare all in order to be successful or establish their identity. It’s the wrong message to be giving women and I firmly stand by the view that she is not helping to shed women of this age-long weight. Beyoncé is now leading the race in who can sexualise women the best and who can be successful as a result. This is everything that shouldn’t be happening for us.