Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Erin Harper: Would Beyonce Really Empower Her Daughter by Telling her that ‘Girls Run the World’?

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by Erin Harper, Your Black World 

When Beyoncé announced her pregnancy at the Video Music Awards, I could not fight the urge to join the masses in discussing the new addition to the Knowles-Carter family. I originally felt guilty for giving the announcement any cognitive energy; however, because I study and work with adolescent African American girls, I could not help but to imagine what lessons Beyoncé, one of the largest media influences on African American girls, would teach her own African American daughter, particularly since she recently released Run the World (Girls), a song that has been called a “girls empowerment anthem” by the media.

After reading the lyrics to Run the World, I began to feel sorry for little Jaymajesty. Although I believe Run the World is a great calorie-burning wedding reception jam, I would hate for this to be the only message of girls empowerment Jay gets from her mother. Aside from screaming the word ‘girls’ 70+ times, and inserting a few buzzwords and catchphrases (e.g., college grads, buy it for yourself), I question how much Beyoncé is actually empowering girls with her lyrics. Imagine Mama Bey sitting down with Jaymajesty for a talk about what it means to be an empowered woman by quoting her lyrics from Run the World. The conversation might go something like this:

Jaymajesty, sit down baby. We need to talk. Who run the world? Girls. We run this motha. Yes we do. Some of them men, including your daddy, think they freak this like we do, but no they don’t. Make your cheques come at they neck, disrespect us no they won’t. I want to make sure you are in the club rocking the latest. You will buy it for yourself, and get more money later. I think I need a barber, because none of these hoes can fade me. Your mama is so good with this, I remind you I’m so hood with this.

Mama Bey continues (as Jaymajesty looks at her with a blank stare):

Now, Jaymajesty, when you go to school, I want you to do something that makes one of the boys really mad, and then say to him, “Come here baby, I hope you still like me, If you hate me, f*** you, pay me. Boy you know you love it, how we’re smart enough to make these millions, strong enough to bare the children, and then get back to business. Well, baby, I think that’s about it. Now mama has to go to work and roll around on the floor in her leotard. Now give mama a hug. Mmmmmmm. Houston, Texas baby!

Like Jaymajesty, I was left bewildered and confused by Mama Bey’s girls’ empowerment speech. Because Jaymajesty attends a great school, she was able to critically analyze her mother’s lyrics and realized that the speech (song) probably would have given her a temporary feeling of empowerment had she not listened closely to her mother’s message. Like Zoe Peterson, author of an article on adolescent girls’ sexual empowerment in the March 2010 issue of Sex Roles, Jaymajesty then questioned if “feeling” empowered and “being” empowered are the same.

The answer to Jaymajesty’s question is complex, particularly because there are countless definitions of girls’ and women’s empowerment. The United Nations defines women’s empowerment as a construct with five components:  women’s sense of self-worth; their right to have and to determine choices; their right to have access to opportunities and resources; their right to have the power to control their own lives, both within and outside the home; and their ability to influence the direction of social change to create a more just social and economic order, nationally and internationally.  Peterson and other experts generally agree that that there are multiple dimensions and degrees of women’s empowerment, a view that requires that we do not dismiss subjective perceptions of empowerment. I agree with Peterson, thereby acknowledging Beyoncé’s definition of empowerment as her personal view shaped by her experiences. I also understand that Beyoncé is an entertainer and probably does not lunch with Patricia Hill Collins to discuss the interlocking systems of oppression between tours. Nevertheless, I think before we label Run the World and similar songs anthems of empowerment, we should examine the lyrics and question how they might empower young people. I believe it is valuable to send girls messages through music about independence and demanding respect in a society that often degrades women and judges their value by the men to whom they are attached. However, if we tell young women to demand respect from men while manipulating these same men and calling them “hoes”, then not only are we sending mixed messages; it is possible that we are actually disempowering boys and little Jaymajestys everywhere.

What do you think?

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Actualy beyonce said none of this "Niggas" can fade me not *Hoes* so this whole easy loses a lot of credit

Kellshorn said...

Ok so this is just really an unnecessary post! These people are here for entertainment purposes only!!!! And just the mere fact that this article continues to tell me to imagine this and that, makes me wonder why is this even on this blog? I mean, police officer rapes a woman in his patrol car, Obama and Tom Joyner, then this speculation about a mother and a daughter that don't even exist!!! Erin you point the finger too much for me!!!

Anonymous said...

I thought it was funny although I know it wasn't meant to be. I get your point especially the last paragraph. Instead of picking out only Beyonce for your topic let's have look at all the women who're supposed to be role-models. All the entertainers who don't care about their young audience but only about the money they make.

Anonymous said...

Alright,good article, and I wish the best for the child. I just singularly hope she does not teach the child to use the inappropriate term; "conversate!" This is not a word for Christ sake, and she actually managed to copyright this ignorance...

Anonymous said...

Actually, actually has TWO Ls and two versions of the song were released. Niggas and bitches could have both been left out. You sound ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

Kellshorn get a since of humor and appreciate this author's witty way of bringing issues to the forefront for people who might not otherwise think about these topics. People like you are the reason we cant fix anything. NEEEEEEXT!

Anonymous said...

The song is whack. To the people who commented about references to "nigga","hoes",&"bitches" missed the point of this article/blog all together...
From what I gather, the author is not necessarily addressing the fact that Beyonce utilities the derogatory words; but moreso, the message that Beyonce is sending to the youth. The focus is on the statements that were made in the song while referring to niggas & bitches!
Think beyond what is printed in front of you people...! The point is; if this is a young girls anthem, it should reflect a positive image sans the negative overtones of a superficial way of life or derogatory labels.

Kellshorn said...

I have an awesome since of humor but this is not humorous to me! Just like you have the right to like this I have the right to not like it! What does me disliking this have to do with me preventing positive progress? I was stating my opinion, isn't that what commenting is all about?

LaMonica said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
NewsTalkerLP said...

Ok, I get what the author is attempting to state here however I feel like she's reaching. Madonna did far worse things all in the name of female empowerment and I don't recall anyone contemplating how she'd raise her daughter, whom she had out of wedlock with some random dude she never intended to marry. I think the mother and the entertainer are 2 separate entities and if people raised their own kids, what Beyonce says on a record wouldn't be that important. Furthermore, I think how she lives her life - career established, husband first, then baby - is a much more relevant example to young people than the silly lyrics she may put in a song. If I recall correctly, Tina Turner did whole lot of shaking in miniskirts back in the 60s and 70s and she's now a legend. This anti-Beyonce argument was weak.