Beyonce's 2014 VMAs Performance Made a Feminist Statement That Was Both Important and Flawless
Before Gwen Stefani and Snoop Dogg announced the recipient of the first award of the night, Stefani took the time to point out, "This year, the ladies are taking over." Now, to be fair, we can recount several VMA moments that proved ladies dominated this year, but I think we should just go ahead and give Beyoncé the crown. Again. Beyoncé has had one hell of a year, going from great to goddess for the first real time in her career. (How many artists do you know who can release an album with no promo and no warning that will breakdown iTunes from the number of people trying to download it at once?) However, Beyoncé used her iconic status to highlight feminism during her 2014 VMA performance and that is too important to miss.
From start to finish, Beyoncé's 16-minute medley of all the songs from her Beyoncé album was a historic event that people will be talking about for years to come. Beyoncé prefaced her performance by welcoming all of us to her world. What is her world made of? We expected her music, we expected her gravity-defying dance moves, we maybe expected her husband and daughter to make appearances in pictures, videos, and in person, but who saw a giant, glowing screen broadcasting FEMINIST coming? In fact, the whole stage went dark, casting Beyoncé into shadow, making sure that the word FEMINIST was all the entire world watching the VMAs could see.
If you haven't figured out by now that Beyoncé is a feminist, then you must not listen to her, like, ever. At any given opportunity, Beyoncé is discussing how her feminist beliefs inform her music and Beyoncé was held up by her as a feminist album due to its frank discussion of a topic that's often swept under the rug or shamed: female sexuality. Beyoncé's star status is at a level that is practically godlike right now, to the point that the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards are being jokingly referred to as the "BeyMAs" and some fans are even discussing how kind it was of Beyoncé to allow MTV to show an awards ceremony before her concert.
And what does Beyoncé choose to do with her insane level of fame? What does Beyoncé choose to display to the world as just as important to her as her music and her family? What does Beyoncé consider an inextricable part of her identity? The fact that she is a feminist and, more than that, the fact that she is a damn proud one. In a world where celebrity role models are still recognizing the meaning of the word feminism, in a world where some celebrities refuse to identify with the "f-word" at all even as they're saying blatantly feminist things, Beyoncé is reclaiming the word and encouraging her fans to reclaim the word as well.
Beyoncé's last album sold over 3 million units worldwide. Take a moment to imagine what it means for over 3 million people to see Beyoncé highlight being a feminist as a good thing, as a universal thing, as a thing that everyone who is a fan of her (or not a fan of her) should consider part of their personal identity as well. Imagine what it means to hear so many celebrities you adore and admire deny being a feminist like it's something shameful or hateful — like it means hating the opposite sex — and then having someone like Beyoncé use her fame and influence to tell you that's not true and that being a feminist is nothing to be ashamed of. That the word feminist is nothing to be ashamed of.
Imagine all of that and you'll understand why Beyoncé really crushed it at the VMAs Sunday night. Her performance was one of her best and her reign won't be ending anytime soon, if the Internet's reaction is anything to go by. However, the fact that she took the time to highlight a movement that is so often dismissed and vilified, without being heavy-handed enough to alienate people or distract from her performance, is why Beyoncé is the queen. If there's one thing that her VMA performance proved, it's that sometimes Beyoncé really does wake up flawless.
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