How Beyoncé Became a Global Social Icon

Its refrains resonate in each demonstration of the collective “We All” against sexual and gender-based violence. Regularly, however, the positions of “Queen B” are questioned and debated. Contradictions that make Beyoncé a “imperfect figure of feminism”, according to Keivan Djavadzadeh, lecturer at Paris 8 University whose specialty is rap, popular music and their links with gender issues: “And it is not at all a criticism to say that, it is simply to consider that its apparent flaws are also what reinforces its power of identification.

His R’n’B debut with Destiny’s Child

At the turn of the 2000s, Beyoncé began with Destiny’s Child, in an R’n’B register where we see her sexualized and seductive. We are at the time of girl bands and “girl power”. Her physique clashes with the standards of the time in terms of celebrating the body of women. “We were more on models of femininity which were thin and white bodies”describes the professor of information and communication sciences.

The singer went solo in 2003 and, with success, came criticism: that of straightening and blonding her hair, even of lightening her skin, in which her detractors see “a form of erasure of what makes the specificity of the black body”, analyzes the author of

hot, cool & vicious (Amsterdam)

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At the time, Beyoncé did not claim to be a feminist and also rebelled against those who urged artists to take a stand. She continued her career with her album “Four” in 2011 in which she introduced a more militant dimension. “We have for example for the first time, in music videos, black women who appear, with afros, raised fists, describes Keivan Djavadzadeh. But the word feminism is still not pronounced.

“Queen B” is caught in sometimes generational conflicts: sociologists and feminist activists like bell hooks [qui insistait pour qu’on écrive son nom sans majuscules]reproach him for the image sent back to young girls, and the fact of encouraging them to maintain unattainable standards of beauty.

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2013: the turning point

2013 is a defining moment in his career. She is chosen by

barack obama, the first black American president to sing the national anthem at his inauguration. In December, she released a new album in which she samples the Nigerian writer

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, author of a noted TED talk. In the process, she performs in front of a giant neon representing the word Feminist on the stage of the MTV Awards. His commitment is transformed into “Black feminism” with the album “Lemonade”, while the movement

Black Lives Matter shake America. She sings about the love of her children’s frizzy hair. She also chants freedom there with Kendrick Lamar, on “Freedom”, which will become one of the anthems of the demonstrations following

the death of George Floyd, in 2020.

The “quiet quitting” in “Renaissance”

Beyoncé is a woman and also a mother, a wife, that of Jay-Z. The success of the couple is ostensibly displayed at the Louvre, on the occasion of a spectacular clip shot in the most famous of French museums, produced for an album that the spouses co-sign in 2018.

In “break my soul”, the banger of his album “Renaissance”, Beyoncé addresses the “

quiet quitting”, one of the most discussed notions of 2022, which refers to the desire of the younger generations not to devote all their time and energy to work. The singer, however, embodies the success of a career on all fronts, physical and artistic excellence, material success. “Some people see Beyoncé as a feminist imposture because, precisely, she would be too rich, too powerful, and she could not be a feminist, describes Keivan Djavadzadeh. When other people will say: ‘But it is also, precisely, a black woman who manages to climb to the top of society. Everyone has their Beyoncé in short!

Seizing the evolution of societal discourses, Beyoncé embodies the era, even if it means being accused of “feminism washing”. And these debates make him a global social icon. The artist condenses on his person and his trajectory so many issues that it interests the academic world, starting with the “cultural studies” and the “gender studies” in American and then European universities. In 2022, the École Normale Supérieure is offering a seminar dedicated to it.

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