Is There Room For ‘Flawless’ Feminism?

Beyoncé - Flawless marketing lessons

*Photo taken from Beyonce CD art work*

On Friday, December 13, 2013, singer Beyonce released her self-titled album strictly on iTunes. She sent fans into a downloading frenzy, as the actual hard copy of the CD was not available until a few weeks later. One of the album’s songs, “Flawless”, was touted as a bonus track on the album. “Flawless” features Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie as well. However, Chimamanda is not featured in the sense that she was in the studio with Beyonce recording her part of the song. Her featured section is actually a collection of unaltered snippets from her TEDx speech that she gave in April 2013, speaking about feminism and its misconceptions. The song also features an old audio clip from an episode from Star Search, in which Girls Tyme (a precursor to Beyonce’s former group, Destiny’s Child) competed. The snippets of the Star Search TV show and most importantly the speech from Chimamanda highlight remix culture and exactly how it’s being used in pop culture today.

Beyonce’s song “Flawless” was originally titled “Bow Down” and features the harsh lyrics “…..Don’t forget/Respect that/Bow down bitches/H-Town vicious”.  This isn’t quite the message that Ms. Adichie originally gave during her talk, “We Should All Be Feminists”.  She’s a Nigerian author and female activist, who has been recognized for her literary works well before Beyonce’s “Flawless” was even thought of. She uses title feminist boldly and does not understand why people in today’s society are often refer to it in a negative context. She embraces feminism and equality for women (and everyone else for that matter) full force. Although the song gives credit to Chimamanda and her speech, there has been no word on what her opinion of Beyonce’s use of her speech is.

The music industry specifically has thrown out a lot of backlash for those participants and users of the remix culture. Ironically, many musicians, including Beyonce, are taking part in this phenomenon. Remixing involves taking a piece of another culture, song, movie, speech, etc and mixing it in with a song. Many artists see this as copyright infringement of their work (if not used by permission), despite the exposure that the remixed version of their work may bring them. However, to their defense, who wants to miss out on any potential earnings of a successful song? In relation to Beyonce’s “Flawless” song, the question isn’t one of copyright infringement, but of faulty interpretation (being a strong, feminist woman vs. telling “bitches” to bow down). Could Beyonce’s example of remix pop culture present a flawed (pun intended) view of feminism, or at the very least one that Ms. Adichie (and other feminists) never intended?

Working Bibliography

“Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie On The TEDx Talk Beyonce Sampled and Why We Should Forget Feminism’s ‘Baggage’”, Huffington Post.

“Meet the Feminist Writer Beyonce Samples on Her New Album” US News

“We Should All Be Feminists: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie at TEDx”

The Feminine Mystique. Friedan, Betty. 1963

The F Word, Contemporary UK Feminism


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