Beyonce has always positioned herself as a harbinger of feminism in the music industry. Through her songs, she delivers messages addressing the so-called female inequalities in the society. In her song “Pretty Hurts,” for instance, she starts with a simulation of a pageant where the host asks her what is her greatest aspiration in life. She replied that her greatest aspiration is to be happy, which could be translated to the attainment of a woman’s satisfaction regardless of other’s opinions. Prior to that, she hit it big with her “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)” smash. It has been an anthem for the assertion of women against the double standards of society, which reduce women to being mere objects of desire.
Nicki Minaj has been making waves with her songs about women domination. In the most manipulative way, Nicki tries to shift the trend wherein men become the sexualized object, which is in contrary to the usual connotation pegged at women. The assertion of sexuality has become a widespread trend in mainstream music today, where women declare control through the attainment of their sexual desires, as they please.
It’s not only Nicki Minaj who has been milking the benefit reaped from the sexualized women framework. Several other artists do this. Jennifer Lopez has also been doing this in her more recent works. In “I Luh Ya Papi,” she showed in the video that a woman could also treat men as mere objects who can satisfy a woman’s sexual desires. Her recent teamup with Iggy Azalea in “Booty” is another ramification of the desire to shift the trend of commodifying women in the industry.
Then again, does it help that women today create a scenario putting them on top of sexual control? The historiography of music videos would tell us that, for the longest time, women are demoted as mere flat characters in male music videos. They are always in their bikinis dancing around lustful males. The culture of the commodification of women has been the takeoff point of the movement to alleviate such conditions. There has been a massive paradigm shift resulting to female artists’ celebratory creation of music where they can freely assert their individualities.
The seemingly revolutionary notion of this paradigm shift becomes the problem. Feminism should not be inaccurately used to denote an expression of individuality, nor can it be used as a manifestation of sexual liberty. For instance, Marxist feminism looks at this phenomenon as part of class inequality, which implies rich males appropriating women’s bodies because of their class position and the capitalist economy taking advantage of this phenomenon.
Males, although their sexual control is trying to be overthrown by women, are still the more powerful stakeholders in this situation. Although women have claimed control, power is still not transferred to them. When Jennifer Lopez flashed her butt in her video, did she benefit at all? Definitely, it did not do any harm on the side of men.
Feminism is a lifestyle that should be a result of a cultural revolution, where mindsets will be changed. Feminism is not an expression of individuality, but rather a collective aspiration for women to be freed from subordination. It’s a lifestyle that should go beyond minimalist ideologies and lip servicing. It’s rather fallacious to label an artist as a feminist when she only sings about it, but does otherwise in her videos and concerts.
Having said all these, let it be known that this is not a fight by women against men. By employing the Feminist Political Economy Framework, a perspective on equality will be utilized giving equal footing to the desires of women side by side with the interests of men. The power relations in this scenario will be addressed using this framework. It considers the interactions that happen between the sexes in their quest for their own liberties. This power relationship will be analyzed in the context of power structures and the economic factors that come along with it.
Therefore, next time that we feel pride in Beyonce’s assertion of her feminism, let us think again if it is for the collective aspiration of women. The next time Nicki Minaj or Iggy Azales dance their way around men, be it another call for the abolition of subordination. Next time Ariana Grande sings “Love Me Harder,” when in fact the lyrics of the song leans more towards f*** me harder, think again. Mistaking these assertions of sexual liberty as finally the freedom of women against patriarchy in society is not the way to address the problem.