Beyoncé’s ***flawless VMAs act: feminism’s most powerful moment in pop culture

Earlier this week — the 25th day of August, to be precise — the world awoke to a remarkable, and powerful sight. As I lay in bed, bleary-eyed and dry-mouthed I went through my morning routine of checking Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Yet, this was no ordinary Monday morning. My feeds were ablaze with a very potent image, and I immediately sat up in bed. The scene was this: Beyoncé Knowles at the VMAs standing proudly in front of an enormous screen emblazoned with the word ‘FEMINIST’. The most powerful celebrity on the planet was sending the world a very clear and very poignant message.

Beyoncé, during an incredible 15 minute medley of her album at Sunday night’s MTV Video Music Awards, performed ‘***Flawless’; a song which samples Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s iconic and utterly inspiring TED talk ‘We should all be feminists’. 

We teach girls that they can not be sexual beings in the way that boys are. We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls “you can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful but not too successful otherwise you will threaten the man.” FEMINIST: the person who believes in the the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.

As I watched Beyoncé standing sentinel in front of the 8-letter F-word, I listened to the song that has become my anthem of late and I was moved. I had already seen the tweets and comments from the naysayers and eye-rollers of the world — one of which even held Beyoncé’s physical beauty as justification for her not being a feminist — and I, in turn, rolled my eyes even harder at them. I was in no doubt that I had just witnessed a historic moment for feminism. Why? Well, there are several reasons.

Feminism has in recent years been dubbed a ‘dirty word’; something proponents of gender equality sought to distance themselves from. Here Beyoncé stood in an act of defiance, reclaiming that word as something infused with beauty and power. As something to be embraced, and most of all, something to be proud of. Just as Germaine Greer reclaimed the C-word, Beyoncé was reclaiming the F-word.

Moments earlier, Beyoncé had performed a very sexy clip of ‘Partition’, in which she pole-dances flanked by beautiful dancers wearing nothing but g-strings and bras. It is no coincidence, then, that the ‘Flawless’ opened with “we teach girls that they can not be sexual beings in the way that boys are”. Not only was this a reclamation of the word, but a statement on the nature of femininity itself: that women, too, are sexual beings, and that feminists are pretty fucking sexy.

Furthermore, the fact that the most famous performer in the world stood up on stage to proclaim herself a feminist exemplifies how far we have come. Not only are we living in a world where feminism is no longer a shameful, hated word; this is a world where feminism is being celebrated. And it’s about time.

This is a woman with massive reach, who has the potential to teach young women to place value on gender equality, and to inspire other women to carry out similar acts of courage, and to proudly wear the badge of feminism.

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