MBA Lab: How Beyoncé makes market-based feminism work

She may want to be the face of feminism, but her lyrics tell a different story

Fruzsina Hughes, Mark Lazzaro, Marta Residori and Sarthak Shah are MBA Students in the new Customer Experience Design course at the Schulich School of Business at York University.

“Feminist: a person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.”

The above is an excerpt from ‘Flawless’ – a song from Beyoncé’s latest self-titled album, featuring Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s lecture on feminism.

Beyoncé has certainly received much praise for her apparent reconciliation of contradictions facing women, namely how to succeed in a career while simultaneously being perceived as a sexual being and as a mother. Notably, Beyoncé has also written an essay on gender inequality emphasizing the importance of teaching men the rules of respecting women.

While it is praiseworthy that someone of such influence can bring women’s rights to the forefront of conversation, Queen Bey has also received criticism for anti-feminist activities in her stage performances, song lyrics, and her marriage to Jay-Z.

Their rendition of “Drunk In Love” at the 2014 Grammy’s will be etched in memories forever as a wet haired Beyoncé in a barely there outfit with legs splayed sung along to a particularly disturbing Jay-Z line depicting aggression against women. Jay-Z’s very identity in hip-hop music is founded on undeniable contribution to, and profit from, blatant sexism and objectification of women.

Beyoncé may actively want to be the face of feminism, but she is allegedly not responsible for penning a single one of her songs promoting female empowerment. However, any such inauthenticity is masked by the brand Beyoncé, ultimately forgiven by many fans and critics. Could this be because her type of feminist persona is not adhering to traditional norms at all, but is a carefully designed market-based one, used to captivate entire generations of women?

How does market-based feminism differ from traditional feminism?

Society understood the threat to female empowerment to be political and systemic – entrenched in traditions, institutions, legislation or networks favoring inequality. Meanwhile, market-based feminism is one rooted in emotion and morality – how a woman should operate in her “market,” in other words her world, to pursue happiness through a monogamous relationship with her (heterosexual) partner. As such reinforcing the implied moral order of the market as a whole.

Beyoncé is seen to be engaging in this kind of feminism in placing her six-year marriage always alongside her image – through public appearances together, musical contributions to each other’s careers, and notably through their recently completed On The Run tour, which styled them as a modern-day Bonnie and Clyde.

In all this, Beyoncé celebrates monogamous love as something that can be kept fresh, sexual and inspiring, standing the test of time and endless external scrutiny. Only an emotional brand is able to combat and overcome this. The beauty of her brand is indeed in its multi-faceted representations of women – a full spectrum of possibilities: fierce and coy, sexual and elegant, youthful and wise.

Being the face of traditional feminism thus would not have worked for such an emotionally diverse artist and woman. Beyoncé is not just one thing to anyone. And, note – emotionality is not perfection, it is incredibly human and fallible. So while traditional feminism also displayed as many differing shades of feminism as there were feminists, their code always enforced equality.

Similarly with market-based feminism, Beyoncé might ruffle a few feathers in dress sense and lyrical integrity, but never does she threaten that which is most important to her market-based feminism: finding and loving one’s partner until death do us part.

Brands Articles

PepsiCo and InterCon Hotels execs embrace ‘The Many’

C2 Montréal invites brands to discuss how they're putting consumers in charge

Wonderbra pushes modern look in new campaign

77-year-old brand aims to attract new consumers with fresh imagery

How Google’s ‘agency for agencies’ tells brand stories

The managing director for The Zoo opens up at C2 Montréal

AmEx influencer campaign travels north of expectations

Social and acquisition teams band together for the company's latest campaign

Shinola’s expansion into Canada gets a PR boost

Detroit-based manufacturer looks to settle in Toronto with help from ASC Public Relations

Canada Goose to open Toronto, New York retail stores

The luxury outerwear brand is investing in its first-ever standalone locations

Thinkingbox looks to grow globally with new funding

Vancouver-based digital production studio lands its first outside investor

Belairdirect heads to medieval times in its new campaign

The brand is going back in time to show how easy insurance has become

Etsy’s Chad Dickerson defines the brand he wants to build

The maker marketplace's CEO talks growth and good business practices