Kritischer Eskapismus

Beyonce was by no means a feminist in 2002

1. Dezember 2014

Currently I am writing a paper about Beyoncé’s feminist approach in her latest album, which led me to an interesting journal article from Aisha Durham. In Check on it. Beyoncé, Southern booty, and Black feminities in music videos’ the author writes about intersecting discourses of racialized sexuality and gender. Durham highlights the particular constraints that exist for Black girls and women who also want to express their sexuality within a society where Black bodies are always already marked as deviant. As problematic as this might be itself, there is another thing that caught my attention while reading.


Does anyone remember the song ‘Nasty Girl’ (2002)? In Destiny’s Child’s music video Beyoncé watches ‘scantily-clad women on television, and later admonishes them in lyrics linking their style choices to promiscuity’, Durham claims.

Whether Beyoncé was simple a product of the globally successful Viacom company at that time or not, it is quite annoying to detect slutshaming in her (their) music videos. As if your choice of clothes would legitimize sexual assaults, so girl you better go and put some clothes on, ya (‘Her pants hangin’ low, she never says no. Everyone knows she’s easy’). For those of you who have not seen the video yet, I embedded the link and the lyrics.

You’s a nasty, nasty, trashy, nasty
Sleazy, nasty classless, nasty
Nasty put some clothes on, I told ya
Don’t walk out your house without your clothes on, I told ya
Girl what you thinkin’ bout lookin’ that to’ down, I told ya
These men don’t want no hot female that’s
Been around the block female, you nasty girl

Beyoncé advices these women to ‘put some clothes on’ because men obviously don’t want a woman that has been ‘around the block’. In the end the stereotyped women become transformed morally through fashion, getting their respectability back by adopting the style and dance performances of Destiny’s Child. It is interesting that, at no point, Beyoncé’s own sexualized image is implicated in the reproduction of working class femininity from her fashion choices and booty dances.

The back alley battle that takes place (Lose My Breath) between the so-called lady and the ghetto girl serves as a compelling metaphor to describe the simultaneous respectable and sexually accessible womanhood that Black female artists must perform. (Durham 2012, 41)

Discussing Beyoncé’s performances and videos from a feminist point of view, we have to keep certain things in mind. It can be hard for audiences to distinguish between Beyoncé’s own controlled and publicly expressed body-enjoyment, and the sexual power which might also be granted from male desire, which would not be feminist at all. Either way, Emerson (2002) counters that it is possible to describe simultaneous hegemonic and counterhegemonic performances that ‘reify the so-called hypersexuality of the Black female body at the same time creating ruptures in the way that Black sexuality is represented in the popular.’ Emerson (2002) admits that Beyoncé emerged during a period of negotiation and used her music videos to ‘construct a complex version of femininity that is in conversation with contemporary Black female stereotypes in hip hop, such as the respectable, race-loyal queen and the promiscuous, classless ho.’

Nasty where’s your pride, you should be ashamed.’ Nonetheless I really wished the 2014-Beyoncé would have given a statement about that, rather than integrating Ted Talks randomly to her newly invented feminist performance and saying things like ‘I have nothing to say, but I’m filled with so much gratitude. I just thank God for this moment’ at the end of the VMAs.

Will be continued.

  • Durham, A. 2012. ‘Check on it’ Beyoncé, Southern booty, and Black femininities in music videos. In: Feminist Media Studies, Vol. 12, No. 1

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  • Reply 26. Juli 2016 at 21:45

    I thought I was the only one annoyed and disappointed. Thank you so much for this xx

  • Reply Rita 7. Januar 2017 at 23:38

    Hello, is your paper available anywhere? I am writing a paper on a similar topic for University and would be greatly interested in reading yours. I found this page as I was initially looking for the Aisha Durham paper do you by chance know how to access this, I have been searching for hours but every website I find says it is unavailable.
    Sorry to bother you and thanks!

  • Reply BellaElena 27. März 2017 at 8:40

    I think it’s interesting to note that she is guilty of the fetishisation of the female body and in particular, the black female body. The claims to be feminist whilst her performances appear to be completely under the control of or for the benefit of men on one side of the scale and to claim superiority over other women at the other side – this is also littered through her lyrics. There seems to be little consideration of “sisterhood” whilst appearing desirable to men is centri-focal. I think that there is a lot of duality in Beyoncé ‘s messages – I’m a feminist whose primary focus is to provide titilation for men, you are a woman who provides titilation for men and are therefore not a respectable female. I produce an album to punish a promiscuous husband and prove I am a strong female, I stay with my promiscuous husband. I am a proud black woman who bleaches my skin, has cosmetic surgery to give myself a more European nose And wears weaves which provide me with European hair. The black panther performance seemed less about black empowerment and more about capitalisation off the back of black sufferance. I don’t know if this is helpful, but they are just a few thoughts I had. Also, if you are doing a paper on this it might be interesting to look at the authenticity of her feminism – where is the line between being empowered by your own sexuality and being enslaved by fetishisation and male titilation – could be good to look at some Nietzsche (papers on authenticity).

  • Reply M.I.A 30. Mai 2017 at 11:46

    What no one seems to remember is that Nasty Girl was written about what the media was saying about destiny’s child’s wardrobe in their music videos. That’s why the video has them looking like “nasty girls” at the end and the women that were changed to dress more modest are still dancing “provocatively”. From the very beginning of their career Destiny’s Child had always been pro-feminism.

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