Hey ladies! Did you know that the “girl power” sentiments espoused in popular songs are often just hollow declarations designed to sell records? In other news, water is wet and hot stoves will burn you. But you know what? Let’s hear the woman out.
In a recently posted video rant, Youtube user NineteenPercent uses Beyoncé’s new single, “Run the World (Girls)” as a jumping off point to discuss all the ways in which girls do not, in fact, run the world. In this oft-funny and animated speech, she uses lyrics like “Some of them men think they freak this like we do/But no they don’t” and “Make your cheques/come at they neck” to highlight all the ways in which women and men are still incredibly unequal in areas like sexual empowerment and equal pay for equal work.
I know it’s not really a pop singer’s job to expose these harsh truths, but that’s not what the rant is about. By using a well known song as an entryway into serious feminist issues, she makes her ideas more accessible to those who might not have much experience with feminist theory, and who might not even understand why we need feminism in the first place. NineteenPercent, I like your style.
I was also inspired to dig a little bit deeper into the song’s lyrics to find this gem of retrograde thinking:
“My persuasion can build a nation/In this hour, our love we can devour/You’ll do anything for me”
All right, Lady Macbeth. I will totally kill the king for you. Then maybe you’ll be driven to suicide by guilt, hence receiving the punishment society demands for all women who use their sexual power to get what they want.
It seems like Beyoncé isn’t actually lying here at all, but espousing an earlier version of female empowerment whereby, lacking other options, women used their feminine wiles to persuade men to do their bidding. Think Joan Harris’ early sixties proto-feminism versus Peggy Olsen’s late sixties actual feminism. It’s not surprising that Queen B has never straight up called herself a feminist; this would go against the sexy girl power she advocates and cross the line into demanding that we make some real progress as a society. I could write a whole lot more about how uncomfortably conservative and heteronormative a lot of her lyrics read to me, but I’ll stop there for now.
In conclusion, sure, many of the video’s points are obvious. But in order to make any progress towards a society in which all genders get to collaborate equally in “running the world,” we need to get more people on board with the feminist movement, and this can be as simple as dissecting the lyrics of a song that’s familiar to them.