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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Modern Bey Feminism: Does pretty hurt feminism?

Hannah Strumwasser
Hannah Strumwasser

In 2012, People Magazine announced that Beyoncé was the “Most Beautiful Woman In the World.”

As a feminist, I would argue that women should not be judged on what they look like, and thus should not worry about society’s (or People Magazine’s) beauty standards. But this is all much easier said than done, especially when Beyoncé’s flawless face is staring at you in the grocery store.

In her latest album, Beyoncé examines the idea of beauty and how it is formed and encouraged by the society we live in, specifically in her song “Pretty Hurts.” The music video shows Beyoncé as a pageant contestant, preparing for the competition, picking out outfits, throwing up in the bathroom and then losing the pageant. The video is a clear criticism of the beauty ideals that our society encourages women to strive for. Beyoncé sings, “We try to fix something but you can’t fix what you can’t see/ It’s the soul that needs the surgery.”

While Beyoncé criticizes this form of beauty, I don’t think she is saying that beauty is bad. What she, I and feminism believe is that self-worth should not be based on the value that others place on your beauty.

Another one of her songs, “Flawless,” touches on the idea that women should embrace the way they look, as Beyoncé claims “I woke up like this.” This song gives women the power to love themselves for who they are, and feel confident with the way they look naturally, because it emphasizes the idea that women don’t need to change to be beautiful.

While Beyoncé’s music and videos seem to promote the idea that women should find themselves beautiful, I would argue that Beyoncé also plays a part in the unrealistic beauty ideals that are transmitted to women through the media.

Her music videos are the epitome of glamour, and her makeup and wardrobe play a large part in her self-expression. In her documentary, she can be seen wearing hair curlers in the hospital bed right before she gives birth to her daughter.

With the advent of “selfie vehicles” — Facebook, Instagram, etc. — some have criticized Beyoncé for the pictures she shows to her fans. There is no way anyone looks that perfect all the time, but Beyoncé seems to suggest that it is possible.

While this dichotomy between singing about self-love and promoting unattainable ideals of beauty can be difficult to understand, I see the beauty aspect of feminism as just another choice that women should be allowed to make — makeup or no makeup, hair done or not, women should be able to choose what makes themselves feel beautiful, not forced by society to conform to them.

What if you slip up? Is it OK to shave your legs? What if you like putting on makeup?

I argue that none of that makes you any less of a feminist.

In the well-known feminist book The Beauty Myth, author Naomi Wolf asserts that “the enemy is not lipstick, but guilt itself; that we deserve lipstick, if we want it, and free speech; we deserve to be sexual and serious — or whatever we please; we we are entitled to wear cowboy boots to our own revolution.”

In her documentary, Beyoncé included many personal videos when she was at home, in bed or in front of the mirror, clearly wearing no makeup and truly being herself. The interview that is woven throughout the documentary with clips of her celebrity life features an all-natural Beyoncé, sitting on her couch with jeans, a T-shirt and minimal makeup.

Beyoncé is happy to embrace her natural beauty and encourage others to do the same, suggesting that you can be a powerful and successful women and blow-dry your hair. If you are aware of the pressure that society inflicts on women to be a certain kind of beautiful, you can make decisions regarding your appearance based on what makes YOU feel good, not what will get you on People’s list of the most beautiful women in the world.

Basically, if you choose to wear makeup or high heels, you should do it  because these things make you feel good and sexy and wonderful. Your motivation should not be based on the idea that blow-drying your hair makes you more beautiful. There are days when we style our bangs so we can face the day with a kick-ass attitude, and there are days when it feels just as good to let it air-dry, frizzies and all.

Just remember, ladies, we flawless. And if you want to wear nail polish sometimes to feel that way, that’s OK.

If you’re looking for someone to go to the Beyoncé/Jay-Z tour this summer, HANNAH STRUMWASSER can be reached at hstrumwasser@gmail.com. 

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