Rhythm, Roots & Research - Part V

upcoming & remarkable - a special series by talents on the rise

The Sexualized Identity

Dear ladies, in this week’s Rhythm, Roots & Research, we will discuss the third - and final - type of identity discovered in my research: the sexualized identity. If you haven’t read the previous chapters of #RRR, catch up here.

“We raise girls to see each other as competitors not for jobs or for accomplishments, which I think can be a good thing, but for the attention of men. We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings in the way that boys are” (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, 2013).

 Processed with VSCO with e3 preset


In 2014, during the MTV Video Music Awards, Beyoncé Knowles made one of her biggest media appearances regarding her feminist campaign - this campaign was called “Ban Bossy” and was focused on banning the word “bossy”; a wordwide campaign led by Knowles. During the showcase she performed a medley of almost all of the songs from the album “Beyoncé”. While performing, the quote “We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings in the way that boys are”, a phrase from Adichie’s speech in the song “Flawless”, appeared on the massive screen behind her after a series of explicitly sexual fragments during Beyoncé’s career. At the same time, the group of dancers who had been pole-dancing, across the stage. With this, Knowles and her team were making a statement.

The singer had been previously accused of performing “too sexual”, and this was their way to shut down the critics. The showcase ended with the word “Feminist” on an enormous screen, and queen Bee standing fiercely in front of the word. A quote from Slate journalist Amanda Marcotte on Beyoncé’s statement: “the VMAs statement was next level – an unusually mainstream flaunting of feminist pride in our image-driven culture. And man did it feel good”. Beyoncé’s show and accompanying campaign “Ban Bossy” was seen as a turning point. She delivered the first social political feminist campaign by a pop icon, which was an impactful achievement according to many feminist pop culture scholars. More information on the campaign you can find here.

 Processed with VSCO with e1 preset

a fur-wearing stripper

Although the word “feminist” appeared in caps on the screen during her performance,l and Knowles confirms her status as feminist in articles such as “Gender Equality Is A Myth!”, there has been lots of critique regarding her statement. The critique often refers to the supposedly contrasting sexual appearances of Beyoncé. The American liberal feminist magazine “Ms.”, decided to include Beyoncé on their Spring 2013, and in addition published an interview called “Beyoncé’s Fierce Feminism”. The cover was received predominantly negative by the magazine’s audience. Their Facebook wall became engulfed with harsh comments regarding the cover. According to their readers Beyoncé was “a fur-wearing stripper” and a shame for the modern feminist movement by calling women “bitches”. With the latter, they were referencing to her song “Bow Down, Bitches” (2013), released shortly before the interview. 

Regarding this critique, Hobson (2013) states the following: “When women like Beyoncé proudly proclaim feminism, they tend to invite more debates than affirmation” (2013, 25). The reason behind this, is that the celebrity status of the artist gets in the way of the serious political messages the artist tries to preach. Also, the fact that Beyoncé had not directly started proclaiming these messages when her career started, reinforces the idea that the preached feminism is solely a part of the marketing of the artist’s brand. 



Is the “sex-positive feminism” that Beyoncé preaches a “wrong” kind of feminism, or is the “traditional” feminism outdated? The previously mentioned feminist & author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie argues it is just a different type of feminism than the traditional one some people still hold on to. In the beginning of her 2012 TED talk, the author stated that to this day, she still has to defend her feminist status. This is because the general ideas about feminism are still very traditional. Feminists are often seen as angry man-haters, and feminism itself as a particularly Western phenomenon. In order to defend her status as a modern-day African feminist, Adichie - ironically - calls herself “a happy African feminist, who does not hate men, who likes lipgloss, and who wears high heels for herself but not for men”.Looking at both Knowles’ and Adichie’s feminist perspectives, we can conclude that although the traditional asexual feminism was seen as a negative movement, the modern sexual feminism is criticized even more so.

Next week’s we will discuss the first case study in which all three discovered identities have been researched, on female icon: Solange Knowles. See you next Wednesday for the next chapter of RRR!

- Maxime


BloG: Maxime Ten Brinke | Photography: Shenelva Booij | Creative Direction: Shenelva Booij