While I understand the whole “female anthem” bit, as both an expression of woman power and as a performance piece, I don’t believe for a second we should neglect any opportunity to deconstruct and dissect the images fed to us in this day and age of celebrity worship and mass manipulation by the media. In other words, regardless of the theme or the source, if we want to avoid being subliminally seduced and consumed by the thing we think we are consuming, we must always ask the question: what are they really telling (selling) us?
So what are we being told? … shown? … sold? Is it that girls (women) must be as vulgar and violent as men to run the world?
Visually, I get the “female sex is power” thing … the flashing of thighs … grinding of hips. No pop diva’s dance video these days would be complete without such displays it seems. But a few of those movements comprise an easily recognizable lexicon of body language that evolved within a distinctly masculine context, one specifically aimed at the entertainment and seduction of men. Think, strip club.
If women conquer the world with their bodies based on their sexual power, is that not comparable to men ruling with theirs by brute force?
What does this say about a woman’s intellect or spirit that she cannot conceive of power except in physical terms mostly defined and dictated by men? … that they must go to war like men to seize power from men? … that ultimately they must behave like men? This point is punctuated in the video in a manner that seems laughable at best. Instead of the gesture of defiance for which it is intended, the flashed middle finger (even censored) comes across as a punk-ass move unworthy as a display of real woman power given its phallic symbolism.
Verbally, the pseudo-cursing in the lyrics is more a distraction than shocking—it operates as a kind of female form of self-castration that abruptly cuts off speech and tongue. In this case what is not said signifies weakness not strength, as even the implied vocabulary is borrowed from men.
Beyonce’s dystopian Queendom also is devoid of nature and natural beauty (with the exception of a horse, a bull, a lion, and the two hyenas, which inexplicably are chained and controlled in a rather un-Mother Nature-like manner). Nor does it convey any sense of feminist aesthetics or even feminine style. That’s not to say the set should have been draped in frilly pink curtains, cluttered with piles of Christian Louboutin shoes, or decorated with Barbie Dolls (human or otherwise). But what are we to make of a landscape littered with junk and debris other than it looks like the aftermath of a battlefield? Is this telling us that for women to triumph they must perform a common male rite-of-passage of mass murder and razing civilizations to the ground? If this represents the triumph of women, it is a Pyrrhic victory. It also is a reaffirmation of the spirit of the patriarchy, which in this case simply has been replicated and reconstituted in drag.
I also get “the girls just wanna have fun” thing. But where is the fun? From a musical standpoint the track is dull, monotonous, and uninspired. Its strained efforts at minimalism isn’t even minimally groove-worthy. And while I can relate to the choreography inspired by the Mozambican kwaito dance group Tofo Tofo (two members of which were flown in to appear in the video), in this particular context the herky-jerky movements of the opening routine look to me like Riverdance meets Pinocchio.
Before closing I think I should make it clear I’m no Beyonce hater. I like a lot of her music and videos. This one, however, left me more than puzzled. I think I’ve listed most of the immediate questions that popped into my head after viewing “Run the World (Girls).” Oh … wait … there was one more … is Beyonce’s hair getting blonder?
While I continue to ponder the gender and sexual implications of this megastar’s latest release (perhaps wasting far too much of my time (and yours) on this lackluster video in the process), Amber (Nineteen Percent) in the second video below (the video rebuttal, you might say) has a take on it that definitely is worth viewing. She brings an insightful womanist perspective to the table that is essential to any serious discussion we might imagine we’re having about Beyonce’s video in this space that is cyber.