Black Women Writers @ Southwestern University

An English / Feminist Studies / Race & Ethnicity Studies Course Blog

On Beyonce’s Flawless (feat. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie)

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Now, I understand I may be jumping the gun a bit here, but I was surprised to see a Beyonce video on the syllabus right next to Adichie’s TED talk; about equally so when Dr. Hoffpauir gave us the low-down on Nicki Minaj’s Anaconda video. That said, the way she analyzed Anaconda and turned it from the hypersexualized smut-fest of which I had made false assumptions into a commentary on popular culture and the systemic objectification of the female body blew me away, so here I am walking into Flawless by Beyonce with an open mind.

I’ll start by saying I don’t listen to popular music; it just ain’t my cup of tea. I do understand that Beyonce is a talented artist, and has millions of fans and record sales to prove it. I’ve never listened to this song beginning to end, so I’m walking in a bit blind, but this could make this whole experience more fun. I am aware of the lyrics, “I woke up like this… Flawless,” but that just about exhausts my knowledge on the subject. From this single line, I will make the leap to deduce what she is really saying, behind all her fashionable clothes, perfect skin and flawless hair: Be you. When she says she woke up flawless, I see her as telling the viewer of the video that however you are, you are perfect. You may not be society’s perfect, or the girl down the street’s perfect, but you are Beyonce’s perfect, and what’s more important than that? Ok, time for me to go watch the video and I shall return promptly afterwards to comment further.

I must say, after my first watch, Flawless didn’t seem like the overt feminist powerhouse anthem I was expecting. In the beginning, she does hip-hop’s typical “my city, my city, my city” repeat, followed by telling all the girls that looked up to her to “bow down” to Queen B, giving her the respect she deserves. She then moved to say how she’s not just a wife, and repeats “bow down bitches,” once again. She doesn’t mean bitch to refer to women, obviously, but rather everyone who’s below her (which is, let’s be honest, everyone. She is Queen B, after all). She then moves to tell ladies to be confident in how they look, cut off by a scene where Beyonce and Girl’s Tyme lose to a group of all males on a seemingly “battle of the bands”-esque program.

With all that in mind, I do rescind my previous statement regarding Flawless as a feminist powerhouse anthem; I really focused on Adichie’s words the next few run throughs, put them into the context of the video, and realized that it certainly was overtly feminist in the sense that it was empowering the agency of women over their dress and sexuality. To me, there is nothing better than having full agency to embody “your you”, or in other words, the most true self identity you can imagine. If there’s one aspect of existence that leads to equality faster than true self expression and tolerance of that expression, I can’t think of it. Once everyone can love each other for the unique people we are, we take leaps and bounds into uncharted territory for gender equality, sexual equality and racial equality.

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One thought on “On Beyonce’s Flawless (feat. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie)

  1. I also have mixed feelings about this song. It can be empowering for women (just turn it on and you feel like a queen), yes. However, even the book mentions, Ifem wishing Beyonce would show her real hair for once. Her natural hair. I don’t remember the page-apologies. So I think maybe she is exaggerating the idea of flawlessness and shedding light on the irony that she in fact no way in hell woke up like that?

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