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Run the World Girl: In Defense of Beyonce

OK, first things first: I am a Beyoncé fan. However, fandom aside (well, sort of, because you can't ever really throw fandom aside) I must say that I'm surprised by all of the negative pushback Bey's latest video, "Run the World (Girls)," is getting. Not because it's a perfect video with a flawless, amazing message (it isn't), but because so many people are fired up about it. On the one hand, this pushback is terrific, because it means lots of people are talking about race and feminism and doing a close read of a music video, which doesn't happen all that often. On the other hand, this pushback is a bit harsh and asks more of a pop song and pop singer (whose heart I believe to be in the right place—more on that in a minute) than is perhaps fair.

Beyonce, outside with flames behind her, stands up straight in a white feathered dress. The words 'Run the World (Girls)' are behind her in white text, as is her name.

Much of the criticism I've seen of "Run the World (Girls)" has been about how girls do not, in fact, run the world. This is true, of course. Girls don't run the world, and girls and women are oppressed all over the globe. However, this line of criticism also employs a literal interpretation of a pop song, which, unless you're willing to claim that Lady Gaga unethically promotes casino gambling, doesn't totally work. Lord knows I love to analyze song lyrics, but saying that because women don't actually hold power no one should sing about women holding power is kind of like saying that since we don't all live in a Rhythm Nation no one should sing about that either. Young girls singing along to a song about running the world is, to my mind, preferable to them singing along to a song about wanting a man to fill you with his poison or about "cuffing" a woman so she won't cheat on you (both of those messages are present in songs from this week's Billboard Top 10). In fact, I'd say it's preferable to them singing along to most pop songs, since most pop songs contain off-putting sexist messages about how girls should do anything but run the world.

Again, this is not to give Beyoncé a feminist pass and say that her song, with its focus on female empowerment through sex and money, or her video, with its focus on female empowerment through sex and money, should dance on by without criticism. However, Beyoncé's been served a gigantic slice of the criticism pie lately. After all, of the five most popular songs in the US this week (it should be noted that "Run the World (Girls)" is not one of these songs) three of them have videos that promote sexism and gender weirdness in some way ("E.T.," "Give Me Everything," and "Just Can't Get Enough"—Lady Gaga's new single "The Edge of Glory" doesn't have a video yet and the fifth song is Adele's "Rolling in the Deep" which has an awesome non-sexist video) yet I haven't seen those videos get anything close to the kind of blogosphere scrutiny Beyoncé's video is getting. Why is that, I wonder?

I don't know why exactly, but I have a few thoughts (and then of course I'd like to hear your thoughts too). Beyoncé, more than many of her pop star contemporaries, concerns herself with gender roles and women's issues. Most of her hit songs are about being a woman and negotiating women's roles in heterosexual relationships, for better or for worse. Sure, B often ends up equating having power with having money, but that's likely what her experience as a mega-rich woman has been, and it's certainly a common theme in her industry (see: just about any song where someone sings about having money). She's no feminist scholar, but she is a woman who uses her considerable platform to talk about women's issues, at least the ones that concern her and that she thinks might concern her audience (these include: standing up for yourself, making your own money, walking away from someone who treats you poorly, going out on the town with your girlfriends, achieving your goals, and so on). While I don't think that Beyoncé should be our next choice to head up the Office of Global Women's Issues, I for one do appreciate that she foregrounds the experiences of (some) women in her music. It's more than we get from most pop stars, yet I think it's also part of the reason Beyoncé—who considers herself a feminist, in a way—gets more flak than most pop stars.

We sort of expect sexist content from 50 Cent, Britney Spears, and Chris Brown (all of whom are currently topping that aforementioned Billboard chart) but since Beyoncé sings about feminist issues and and works with influential women like Michelle Obama and even Oprah, we have different expectations. And maybe we should, because as feminists we have high standards and we want our pop culture to live up to them. But maybe we should also remember that from within the gigantic pop culture industrial complex that makes women feel like shit about themselves a lot of the time, Beyoncé is trying to say something positive to and about women. Hell, she's trying to say that girls can "run the world"! Is that really so bad, all things considered?

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Comments

39 comments have been made. Post a comment.

Considering that the top

Considering that the top songs concern poison aliens and the Ike Turner of hip-hop/pop, I don't mind Beyonce's message as girls/women running the world. Even if we don't presently, it doesn't hurt as as inspiration.

Certainly a nice change from all the sexist garbage we hear on a daily basis..."ready for abduction" indeed Katy Perry.

This is a nice article and

This is a nice article and made me reconsider my instinctive reaction to the video. I'm still concerned about the gratuitous stockings-and-crop-tops unclothedness which to my mind does more than equate sex with power, it equates a particular form of sexiness with power. I'd rather conclude that the song doesn't deal with feminist issues at all - it's just kind of theoretically devoid, if catchy.

"...kind of like saying that

"...kind of like saying that since we don't all live in a Rhythm Nation no one should sing about that either"

Kelsey Wallace, you are hilarious *and* insightful.

totally seconded <3

totally seconded <3

Reviving Neoliberal Girl Power

I would still problematize this seeming revival of neoliberal girl power in this song - as it does nothing to promote collective or indeed, feminist based social change, but rather focuses (yet again) on individualizing power via female consumption. I would also question/challenge feminists to watch the easy slippage in language from "girls" to "women" - there are in fact, significant differences in girls and women's experiences of inequality, access to power structures, and their ability to claim voice publicly or for politicized purposes.

Yes, absolutely!

Good points, Emily! I totally agree with you that this song and video contain problematic elements, and conflating girls and women is definitely one. My point with this post was more to question why it is that Beyoncé is so heavily criticized when the messages in her songs are arguably less problematic than those sung about by many other pop stars.

____________
Kelsey Wallace, contributor

Ask me about our Comments Policy!

Well, "Who Run the World?"

Well, "Who Run the World?" has been getting a lot of media attention in feminist circles in regards to its subject matter. Neither Katy Perry nor Chris Brown have made any attempts to empower girls/women with their current (or any) hits. When someone seemingly claims a feminist identification, I assume my fellow pop culture freak feminists are interested in examining whether/not that identification can help or hinder the movement.

Feminism or denial of female oppression? Hmm,

(just tried to comment and i'm not sure it went through, if this is a duplicate please delete!)

"Lord knows I love to analyze song lyrics, but saying that because women don't actually hold power no one should sing about women holding power is kind of like saying that since we don't all live in a Rhythm Nation no one should sing about that either."

I don't think that analogy is fair considering the implications of promoting a post-sexist society are considerably more negative than promoting a "rhythm nation." Most pop music serves to justify andor deny oppression, this song can easily fall into the latter category.

That being said, I grew up on Destiny's Child and Beyonce was instrumental in fostering my proto-feminist ideas. It's interesting, though, that my 14-year old socially adept, cheerleader sister (armed with a few hand-me-down young feminist handbooks of course) takes issue with the "Run the World" song ("yeah, but girls don't run the world..."). And you can bet I'm THRILLED. While I'm sure there are younger girls taking away the same proto-feminist ideas from Beyonce's new hit as I did from, say, "Survivor," I don't see why she can't be a little more explicit if she IS trying to communicate a "feminist" message.

For some reason I'm thinking of the opening lyrics to Christina Aguilera's Can't Hold Us Down:

"So what am I not supposed to have an opinion? Should I keep quiet just because I'm a woman? Call me a bitch cause I speak what's on my mind, guess it's easier for you to swallow if I sat and smiled."

I never thought I'd be yearning for that brand of girl power but I'll take it over "Who Run the World?" any day because it expects more of our girls. "Who Run the World?" almost seems to me like an attempt to shield them from the harsh sexist reality of the world they live in.

At the same time I often give anyone props for saying anything about girls running anything! So, as is the case with most feminist issues in the mainstream, I find myself saying "eh, I'll take it..."

I'm definitely with you on,

I'm definitely with you on, yeah, girls may not run the world, but can't we freakin' sing about it?? I would much rather hear that than many, many other messages out there (some outlined above).

I do, however, have a problem with women's only real power as being sexual power. And, I'm not even saying that sexual power should never be used (a whole different topic for a whole different day), it's just that it's not the ONLY one that I saw depicted. I'd like to see some other representations of women and representations of strength in there, too.

I did feel especially weird when they saluted the men in the end. That hardly fits a stereotypical view of claiming power.

Clarification

Dern it! In regards to sexual power, I meant to say that it was the only power I saw depicted. I initially said it was "not" when I shouldn't have and flipped my whole argument around.

Though I agree with many of

Though I agree with many of your points, maybe the pushback against this song/video is a start -- or at least I'd like to think it is. Maybe it's the beginning of pointing out that so much of the pop media we consumer everyday is misogynistic.

As for criticizing people's "literal interpretation of a pop song" - I don't think that a valid argument against the pushback. As if people haven't continuously and literally interpreted songs that call women nothing but hoes and tricks, label men and women alike as pussies and bitches, and have integrated this language into their everyday lives. At least this literal interpretation of Run the World actually makes for some productive conversation that goes beyond a simple pop song. I mean, how often is the inequality between men and women (especially in lyrics) talked about in pop culture?

Major Lazer

Well it took 2 years for mainstream pop to adopt the sounds of !!!!Major Lazer!!! http://youtu.be/g2nmgcVbfKE . Other than that, who cares what Bey's is saying all I see in that video is an awesome choreography... Plus I stopped listening to Bey's and Destiny's Child lyrics when they came out with ever subservient "Cater 2 you." http://youtu.be/juqws1LIH-I

The Problem With Women's "Empowerment"

While it seems like a lot of males have a problem with this video because girls do not "run the world", that is not my main gripe with it. (In addition to it being ridiculously repetitive and derivative) This song, along with Single Ladies before it and Bills, Bills, Bills way before that, all paint a picture of a woman who is unsatisfied with her relationship with men due to their inability to provide everything while asking nothing in return but the occasional pity sex. To me, they all seem to be saying, "You're a woman, if you have a problem with a man then he must be a scumbag cause you are always right and men are always wrong, especially if you can shake your ass real good." My real problem is that although this is just music to be meant mostly for entertainment, many women listen to the messages in these songs and think, "Yea, screw men. Why should I ever have to cook or clean or sew or support my man in any way." It even sets up a mindset where women should be ashamed to accept any traditional female roles other than looking sexy and using that to get your way. I'm not saying that all women should aspire to be housewives, or that they have no business being in the workplace, just that having an entire society of women trying to live up to these ideals of woman's empowerment will inevitably lead to the outright deterioration of the American family. The big irony here is that I do think women can run the world, but it's not going to be achieved by trying to become men and leaving behind any semblance of what might make them an outstanding wife or mother. If you ask most successful families who runs the household, they will say the woman, but its not because of her yearly salary or how good she looks in a two-piece. It's frustrating that more and more women believe that it's a cop out to do anything for a man, or to put their family before their sense of women's liberation and empowerment. I'm not telling women their only option in life should be to try to be a great wife or mother, just that that option shouldn't be taken off the table, and can be just as fulfilling (if not more so) as a life spent trying to prove to men that everything they can do you can do better.

A few things...

I disagree that this song, or any of the previously mentioned Destiny's Child songs boil down to a mere "anything you can do I can do better..." Not all girl-power or female empowerment songs are about out-manning the man. Rather, it is in some aspect celebrating women, and this particular song, while problematic on many levels, is a nice alternative to the much more pervasive bitches and hos lyrics that rock the top 40 radio stations.

Additionally equating this with the role of women in the American family ignores major class and race issues. In many cases women simply don't have the finances, support, or option to fit into the very narrow idea of the American family, which is built on a long legacy of privilege. Take Bills, Bills, Bills:

now you've been maxing out my card
give me bad credit, buying gifts with my own ends
haven't paid the first bill
but you steady heading to the mall
going on shopping sprees
perpetuating that you be ballin'

Yes, the more memorable chorus says pay MY bills, but the substantive focus of the song is a man relying on the money of his girlfriend to live the balln' life. It raises important issues of money and gender dynamics, specifically between men and women of color. While I don't believe it is my place to really comment on those dynamics, it is important to recognize that most of those bitches and hos songs are performed by men of color and imposed on women of color. In the case of the (white) American family, a woman can be privileged enough to choose to embrace or reject that "role," but when women like Beyonce are the pop culture embodiment of those lyrics, they have more important "roles" to push back against and present an empowered alternative.

When I come across arguments

When I come across arguments such as this, I often wonder: Would this person argue just as vehemently that a man should be willing to take the role of "wife" and "mother"? (those terms being meant to denote a role, rather than a gender distinction.) This is not an issue of the break-down of the proverbial, idealized "American Family" - that thing everyone is supposed to yearn for but never finds and has never, in reality, experienced. The problem is: When women make the decision to forgo their "tradtional role," it leaves a gap in the traditional family structure. They can no longer be the fulltime driver, caregiver, house cleaner, psychologist, cheerleader, lover, hostess. Most women do become wives, most become mothers, AND most work. When they add working outside the home to their lives, something must be sacrificed in the home. That superhuman wife-mother-provider-woman cannot exist. If men want to crow about the loss of the "American family" maybe they could try filling the gap - meeting their female partners half-way, help find the work/life balance in their homes, sacrifice aspects of THEIR careers, being a fully present parent. I'm sure this argument is offensive to people, but I speculate that men who are doing their part will understand my point.

Actually I agree

I actually agree with both of your arguments, mostly to the point that expecting a woman to be the "perfect" mother and wife, while also probably having to work in our modern society is totally unreasonable. And while you're right, I would not argue as vehemently about how a man should be willing to take all the roles of "wife" and "mother", I also agree that there should be a generous amount of meeting halfway. Furthermore, the amount of misogynistic music aimed at denigrating women is absolutely atrocious, and a song like "Run the world" has every right to be put out there and celebrated(well if it were any good musically in any case). One of the main flaws in that argument is that Beyonce really is trying to promote women's empowerment with her songs, whereas I highly doubt the majority of idiotic "bitches and ho's" anthems are really trying to make a political statement.
However, I think both of you are making a similar point to the one that I was trying to make. A relationship is a two way street, and both parties have to be held accountable for it. Just because a man, "didn't put a ring on it" doesn't mean that he's a worthless freeloader or similarly that the woman deserved to receive a gift. My problem is not that these songs glorify women, but that they essentially champion narcissism, distrust, and promiscuity, while simultaneously attacking women who may otherwise feel fulfilled in their family life. The biggest hole in my argument is that in regards to this song and video, this issue is most certainly a lot more about race and class struggles than it is about gender inequality, and the truth is that largely, men aren't doing their part, which is the kind of environment that spawns the themes of these songs. I guess what I'm looking for in my songs about female empowerment(and I'm confident Beyonce will be the first one to say that this song is supposed to be more than a mindless club track to rock your hips to), is to put the responsibility on women as well, rather than simply blaming incompetent or misogynistic men.
Furthermore, to poke more holes in my own argument, I come from a family where my mother was essentially the "perfect" mother in a traditional family sense, in so far as cooking, cleaning, being supportive, driving everywhere and sacrificing her own life so she can best take care of my father, sister, and I. My father is a doctor, and so could provide for my family without my mom having to work if she so chose, and while this has given me a disproportionately large ego, it probably left me unprepared for life in a lot of ways, expecting too much out of people, especially women.
Lastly, I must admit that my animosity towards this song largely stems from my utter disgust of Single Ladies, its dominance of the '09 Grammy's, and how much Run The World seems like a lazy attempt to cash in on the same type of song.

Its not that there is

Its not that there is anything wrong with being a wife and a mother. Or a husband and a father. And there's nothing wrong with one partner taking a break from work to look over the couple's children, as long as both parties accept the short- and long-term implications of non-employment. Its just that men are usually not required to even contemplate choosing between career or family, being a father or being an artist, being strong and self-contained and appearing attractive to potential mates, or being perfect in the eyes of others. Women, however, are constantly bombarded with guilt and shame for choosing what they want over what the society expects of them, plus for not being perfect.

P.S. And trust me, I run my household because I bring in a fat paycheck and because I am a wife and a mother. All are equally important. I had it the other way around in my youth and would never go back to depending on anyone for my cash.

Careful!

A relationship is a two way street, and both parties have to be held accountable for it. Just because a man, "didn't put a ring on it" doesn't mean that he's a worthless freeloader or similarly that the woman deserved to receive a gift. My problem is not that these songs glorify women, but that they essentially champion narcissism, distrust, and promiscuity, while simultaneously attacking women who may otherwise feel fulfilled in their family life.

and

I guess what I'm looking for in my songs about female empowerment...is to put the responsibility on women as well, rather than simply blaming incompetent or misogynistic men.

While I get what you are saying, all of your arguments are undercutting female empowerment for the sake of a positive portrayal of men. It doesn't mean he's a worthless freeloader or similarly that the woman deserved to receive a gift is simply a double punch against women. No, women don't inherently deserve a gift, but she has a right to walk away if the man does not want to make a commitment. And why is it a problem if the song does promote promiscuity? Women have a right to engage their bodies and sexuality as they see fit. On the flip-side, would you be willing to argue the other 90% of male-dominated songs promote promiscuity? There is a big difference between leaving an un-fulfilling relationship that lacks commitment and having the inherent right to coax multitudes of women to sleep with you behind your wife or mistress' back.

These songs instead speak to women having more say and choice when it comes to how they enter and leave a relationship. Considering most pop songs celebrate men being a freeloader or not needing to commit in any way to their girlfriends, etc., again Single Ladies is a nice alternative regardless if you like the song itself.

the issue is that it shouldnt

the issue is that it shouldnt be female and male and each should assume their respective roles, it should be love and respect eachother and pull ur weight to support ur family, this whole woman stay at home is bullshit but ur right, so is ill just use my body to get what i want...sex has become a form of power and has moved away from the idea that it is an intimate form of connecting further with ur partner...also women are just falling for another marketing campaign-"oh well if u dont want to be housewives then u can be sex symbols, there are so many products in that" so we re just induced to buy buy again, if ur using sex then there's a whole lot of accessories that go along with that!

yep

I really appreciate you taking a step back from the "lies" video and appreciating what Beyonce is doing on a larger scale. I think there's also something to be said about how race factors in to the "Run the World" critique too. While I don't necessarily agree with everything it says, this comment on Dodai's Jezebel post is pretty relevant to this post as well: http://yfrog.com/h4b4etnj

Who has given birth to every

Who has given birth to every human on this planet? Women. If you're referring to the political, economical or social realms, men run this world through war. Yet if we're talking about the living world, well, every living thing came from a female and every human was born of a woman. Historically, men have gained and maintained power through violence and war (Obama has us in three wars now, and Libya is, what, the fourth?). Yet, the world is changing. Spasming. War is antiquated and miserable. In "Run the World (Girls)," Beyonce's ambiguous use of "Mother..." growls for the power of the woman to be recognized and respected. Beyonce' works within the existing structure of entertainment and brings powerful pro-female messages to our young women. As a teacher in the South Bronx, my students adore Beyonce' and her music. They get it. They don't speak as a faux erudite bantering over a may lase of topical anecdotes.These Girls have no problem hearing the Pro-Woman message through the glitz of the entertainment. Perhaps some of the readers have confused the message with the delivery. I'm grateful Beyonce' is boldy entertaining us all with her consistent message of, "Women are powerful, I'm powerful, and you, woman (Girl), are powerful too."

Run this Mutha

Run the World is a really catchy song. I don't like it though. Maybe if I had heard it without the video I might have liked it better. All I could think while watching the music video was "Could women rule the world without looking so sexy/come hither?" I don't think it's fair to come down on the LIES video for deconstructing the song and analyzing it, since many feminist blogs are dedicated to disecting pop culture until it gets "literal." Maybe I'm biased though, I really liked the LIES video's presentation. I'm all for singing about empowerment, but Who Run the World doesn't do it for me, though I do like Beyonce and some of her other songs.

LIES

Anonymous,

I like the LIES video too, and I'm certainly all for feminists dissecting pop culture. What struck me was how many people responded to the LIES video by jumping on the anti-Beyoncé bandwagon when I think there's more to it than that.

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Kelsey Wallace, contributor

Ask me about our Comments Policy!

I don't think this song can

I don't think this song can fairly be compared to 'Rhythm Nation' because in that song, everything is spoken of in terms of what COULD be. It's an call to action, to change the imperfect world we live in. Whereas 'Run the World' seems to assume that women don't face discrimination and oppression around the world, and makes no suggestion to make that a reality.

Actually, I hadn't realized people were taking the song so seriously. Personally, I just saw it as another light-hearted catchy pop song. But I guess because 'Run the World' seems to downplay the issues that women face today by pretending they don't exist, it hits a nerve for a lot of people. It seems like a cruel farce when compared to the real world.

"three of them have videos

"three of them have videos that promote sexism and gender weirdness in some way"

What is "gender weirdness"?

Weirdness

Turtles,

You're right, the phrase "gender weirdness" is not exactly technical :) What I meant by it is that all three of the videos I linked to contain prescribed gender roles that made me feel weird (hence, weirdness). For instance, in the Pitbull video, he sits on a couch fully clothed while women in bras dance around him in the background. Also, to be honest, I'm pretty sure I decided on the word weirdness after watching the Katy Perry video, in which she is dressed up as a kind of moth/alien but is still presented as a stereotypical female. It's pretty weird.

My point was mainly to highlight the ways in which nearly all pop music videos contain sexism. Hope that helps to clarify!

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I see, thanks for the reply

I thought "gender weirdness" meant "messing with gender norms in some way" and I was like, "why is a Bitch editor complaining about that?"

come on!

Ok I'm sorry what you are saying is extremely problematic because Beyonce isnt actually bringing in any real feminism to the table all she is doing is exploiting her market of young women with superficial slogans that appear to support strong independent women. When in fact Beyonce is still using the language of patriarchal society. Just look at the video! What are the girls wearing?? They are still dressed in rediculously skimpy outfits (underwear more like) and seem more under the male gaze as sexual objects than as independent women, she is promoting the idea (that numerous post-feminist magazines advocate, especially Cosmopolitan) that a strong and sexually secure woman equals a woman who buys a whole bunch of stuff to doll her up for a man!
and dont get me started on the race issues that she brings up!!! she is embodying every single stereotype of black sexually promiscuous women! with all the symbolism of animals and animalistic aggression ! she is just conversing in the same old racist discourse that has been around for centuries!
equating feminism to make-up, clothes and money is simply disgusting and is an insult to real feminists out there!

Fair enough

Bira Bira,

You're right that the "Run the World (Girls)" video contains problematic elements and I didn't mean imply that I feel otherwise or that this is what modern feminism should look like. I wrote this post mainly because I was interested in the overwhelmingly negative response a video and song about women was getting, especially when we rarely give that sort of attention to music videos (save for Lady Gaga, I guess).

That being said, as a feminist I don't feel insulted by this video. I think it could be better, sure, but I also appreciate the effort Beyoncé makes to address some women's issues with her music. As far as the pop canon is concerned, we could do (and have done) much worse.

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I guess, its just we keep

I guess, its just we keep saying that, oh for pop music its ok i dunno it seems that we should demand more from pop artists as they are the biggest influences..i mean her fans are mostly young teenagers and young women and although she is trying to address women's issues it feels that she is just ticking the boxes of what it means to be a pro-women's rights (we dont say feminist now hehehe)

the problem is that many young women believe that feminism is old and outdated and has no place in the world today and then a video like this comes out and it seems that the only right that we have now that we didnt have then is that we can freely use our sexuality and wear shiny outfits and we're cool with that....

i like beyonce too for the most part, well i respect her for working her ass off and getting far but as a Black Woman she needs to start addressing properly the issues of race and gender and stop just using it as a marketing tool..

A performance by bell hooks

A performance by bell hooks could stir the soul for those who would watch and Listen. The 12 -17 year old female would not watch. If she's lucky, an 18-24 year old female might know who bell hooks is from college reading.
The entertainment world will always be the glitzy entertainment world! Dear Purist, come down from your (overpriced) Ivory Tower and see what the real world has; roll-up your sleeves and join the work, yourself, if you believe so strongly that things need to change.

Sick

I am really tired of women hating on nudity. I fully understand the implications of a scatily clad female- it's titillating- men (or other women, sure why not) can't help themselves! I heard this argument in grade school re: the dress code and why in 100 degree weather us gals could not wear tank tops (that extra inch of skin would drive the boys to discraction- it would become an unsafe learning environment).
We were born naked. The shorts and skirts that are in vogue are ass grazing as it is. Why don't we just all go naked and call it a day? No more guessing games, no more hating on one another for it. I mean, there would be this awkward adjustment phase, but we'd all get used to it, and then we could stop blaming women for their garments, doing the whole "she asked for it" thing. I truly don't understand how what one puts on in the morning impacts so many people outside of the workplace. Ge over it, stop sniveling, and realize we all have anatomy. Love each other anyway.

Well said!

I think that about sums up my thoughts. Thank you m'am, well put!

Yes more of this please :D

As a mother of two small children this subject is something I think about a lot. Its all well and good now while the kids are small and at home with me a lot of the time. I can blast Kate Bush , Joanna Newsom, Joan Armatrading to my hearts content and my kids seem to like it because I do. Soon though they will be at school away from me and open to attack from all the media BS. I love Beyonce . I think she puts on a good show and makes catchy songs. I am an adult however and as adults we can watch things and know that they are just performance and not real life. This is what bothers me so much about her songs and videos because they masquarade as being all about independence and being your own person but seriously isnt this all undermined when the singer is writhing around in pretty much nothing. All this said what would I rather my little girl shouting that she'Runs the world' or ' Come here rude boy, boy, can you get it up? Come here rude boy, boy, is you big enough? Take it, take it, baby, baby Take it, take it etc'. Arrrghh this has got me all fired up ....more stuff like this for my head please.

Double standard

If Bitch Magazine's tagline is "a feminist response to pop culture" than it seems disingenuous to say "On the other hand, this pushback is a bit harsh and asks more of a pop song and pop singer...than is perhaps fair."

You could say that about anything you routinely critique. Simply replace "pop singer" with "Disney movie" or "women's magazine." After all, those are all just different forms of entertainment, right?

Now, granted, although I appreciate Beyonce's work ethic I still see her as vastly manufactured with a trying-too-hard image. I truly love pop music and I believe it's as real as any other art form. But Run the World was written by/with four men. Again, I don't take Beyonce that seriously and I tend to believe she's more manufactured than she presents herself.

As for Katy Perry's E.T., the only song of hers I like, I think it's blatantly clear that whole song is a metaphor, or at least has a consistent theme that you'd be hard-pressed to equate "infect me with your poison" with something more sinister.

Honestly, I wouldn't want to hear my children sing any of these songs.

re: girls run the world

for me, the song speaks more to having (particularly young) girls celebrating an achievement that is yet to occur. It's not quite as simple as "women don't run the world," but since they don't, a song/video like that, equating sex+money with power, is another distraction from feminist ideology. if you think about how many women don't actually believe they are subjugated in any way, it's particularly problematic. i would probably feel considerably different about the song if it were instead, "girls CAN run the world." OR if the song had different content that wasn't about sex or money, and the video had clothed women, while she said "girls run the world," i could deal with it. but the combination of all of that is too much for my pretty little feminist head to take. also, the girls part....i prefer being called women.

21st Century Girl

I found that Willow Smith's song and music video for her song 21st Century Girl had a better feminist message than Beyonce's (and Willow is only 10!). I highly recommend the video and I think it would be interesting to see the video disected here on Bitch. The video takes a while to start, but it happens in a sandy landscape. An older woman is cultivating something and it happens to be Willow, who comes out of the sand. The old woman whispers something in her ear. Cue Willow running in the desert with wolves and other girls. The girls get to work raising a city together while willow sings. Shots of girls skate boarding and riding bikes are seen. Toward the end of the video, Willow whispers into the ear of a small female child, passing on the message of strength given to her by the older woman. The video ends with the toddler running to build her own dreams. But don't take my word for it, check it out!

I agree that the title and

I agree that the title and mention of the song are being critiqued too harshly. Girls/Women do not by any extent of the imagination run the world. And I'm also a huge fan of Beyonce, and feel that her heart is in the right place.

My problem with the song is how she blatantly states that "her persuasion can rule a nation" and alludes that her sexuality is where she holds her power. That is just feeding into stereotypes and tropes that powerful women should be working to dissolve.

I understand that the music industry is pretty sexist, and that there are many artists creating worse music. I just wish there was an artist would stand up against the record industry and refuse to perform lyrics that strengthen stereotypes.

Waaaaay Too Late

Yes, I am a few months late on the game and no one will probably ever read this but perhaps a few more will be on the same boat I am...

So clearly the video and the song's entire message is problematic and in the pop industry, the more meaningful outlet of theme will be through the video, but there is a lyric in the song that stands out to me:

"I'm reppin' for the girls who taking over the world
Help me raise a glass for the college grads"

My main beef about "feminist" pop music is it very rarely substantive and almost always about physical appearance. More recently, it is that EVERY GIRL is beautiful in pop music (see "Who Says" by Selena Gomez) and while this is not a terrible message per se, it is still perpetuating superficial themes. Beyonce is not necessarily saying, "Girls are hot! That's the secret." When looking at the lyrics, there is no mention of any sort of superior beauty. As someone who generally keeps track with top 40 songs and has recently stopped working in a retail store ( a certain major intimate apparel store rhyming with Astoria's Regret, where every song played was about feeling beautiful and not needing this man because there are so many other men who will love me for my generic physical characteristics), hearing a song with lyrics about women being smart, going to college, bearing children, and general kickassness with ZERO implications that oh yeah, we're hot too because that is the most important contribution is pretty awesome to me.

Furthermore, the song is about ladies celebrating ladies! That is always great. Let's think of all the pop songs putting down other women. Beyonce can go on be a very successful business woman and be an extremely impressive dancer and singer and I think she is awesome for that. And despite the materialistic themes in the song, I like to think that she thinks I am awesome for going to college and getting an English degree that will certainly not make me millions. But I am a girl who definitely runs my own world.