THE BEYONCE DEBATE
Thanks to the Gabrielle at the Octavia Foundation for providing the food and drink for this event.
Martha(18): well the dance is really sexualise the male gaze is entertained, the men in the video are passive. The women have so much power over them because of the sexualised nature of the dance. The are men so drawn in by the sexualisation that they become passive,
that they don't even realise how much they disempower themselves.
Simone(19): I enjoyed the video because of the dancing only, wasn't really interested in the lyrics. .
Eileen(20): They're using sex to get that they want, showing off their bodies. The whole video is geared towards the male perspective, the dancing sexual and the costume sexual. The women are using their bodies to get what they want by dancing like that, to gain power, to the belittlement of men who just stood there, didn't really do anything. And the words that you will do anything for me because of my sexuality shows that women have so much power over them because of their socialisation. It's like the belittlement of their power and they don't actually realise it. If anything it actually sexualised the meningitis that the only way to make them back down is by being sexual.
Michelle (19):Ok so if we had a lot of clothes on and dance around a group of men like that, they'd probably be laughed at us and as women we have more manipulative powers than men in general, we have more manipulative skills. She's trying to persuade us that we run the world and women in general have more manipulative power over men.
Zena: so by using certain manipulation tools
Michelle(19): she is trying to persuade us that women run the world, by using powerful dance moves, the way she is dressed...
Zena: ok let's stay with this for a minute. So women have tools to be manipulative. What tools do we think we have too manipulate men
Merle(37): tone of voice, hair...
Ayo(39): flicking, flaunting their long hair, fake hair (laughter)
Martha(16): their body language.
Tanya(18): its less acceptable for a man to upset a woman than it is for a woman to upset and man. Society puts pressure on men to treat women better because women are more emotional so it means we use emotion to manipulate men and using all your womanly assets like the breasts,
the bottom, some of the we words use, the way we construct our sentences.
Merle: (37)There is no lyrical content, no lyrical substance in this video.
Eileen(20) the construction of sentences and using your emotions combined that, we have more of an understanding of other people's emotions, where as men tend to see things as black and white, where we can play on other peoples weaknesses because we can pick them up a little bit better.
Men are more animalistic (laughter)
Well, there's animalistic references in the video.
Yeah, what's the use of the animals in the video? The lion, the dog...?
Martha: (16)it's a Hyena
Eileen:(20)keeping them on a leash, on a lead,
Tanya(18): Then we are told that we cry because something has upset us although it is a natural thing to cry, every one can cry...
Zena: and its a nice emotional release
Tanya(18): when we told them we quietly are told we are using our emotions to get our own way
Zena: Does it, crying have to be loaded though? Can't it be, I'm feeling this thing and I'm not frightened to show it? The word 'manipulation' is so loaded with negative connotations, and the fact that we can use understand other people's emotions, can't that be an asset for compassion instead and the ability to use them, to know that we can use is turned against us.
Tanya(18): they can be used in negative way. That doesn't always mean that's always the case though.
Eileen(20): When I look at this video, in the first place a lot of the imagery is a man's perspective or the symbols inside the video are very masculine.
Zena: so you feel it's not "feminine" language that is used in this?
Eileen(20) No, i don't. Its like she's at the top of the music industry and they (men) run the business but because she feels she runs the music industry, kinda at the top of her game, she feels she can run the world.
Tanya(18) Everyone should be equal, one gender shouldn't rule another gender, like one race shouldn't rule another race. Everyone should be equal.
Donna(17)I don't understand the video at all the video. Its confusing. There are too many things flying around in it.
Merle(37):The video is about her more than anything else, than to do with women or girls the way she's has placing us, and that is dangerous. We have been conned into believing that would that it is a wee thing when really it is amazing I have seen worse from than this video
Eileen(20):l have seen worse from Beyonce like the Video phone one. That's the worst video.
Merle(37): Maybe Beyonce's mum has passed on things to her that she has stacked in her head, respect wise and, Jay-z also he also had his mum. To guide them in a way which could be in positive or negative
Like in the saying behind every successful man is a strong woman and vice versa. So its not that girls that rule the world. Its big women. Beyonce she's is about 32 now, she comes across as younger but she's 30+. In Destiny's Child, they were just children, they were much younger.
Eileen(20): Beyonce was 15 and her sister is about 28 now so Beyonce is not in the same age group.
Ayo(39): It feels as though, if she wasn't a 30 year-old woman in America, not successful, not famous not married to Jay-Z, working in a shop or a bank these things of running the world would never even come into her head. The situation she has found herself, in the fame, the money and as a celebrity ratings have enabled her to have this voice so who is Beyonce? Who is Beyonce?
Michelle(19): She is an artist, she is an actress and a model. She's a business woman so you have to have some sense of business acumen about the industry you are in and that this definitely isn't a girls world.
Ayo(39): This is Beyonce's world, she has created a whole stage with beautiful girls and fireworks and men standing behind her. I would feel quite cool, I would feel like I was running the world too if i had all that behind me.
Zena: Also the camera angles, the shots make her look very powerful, as they are positioned from below looking upwards as if she's looking down on you, and also her being in front of the rest of the women, make her look like a leader.
Eileen(20):The two men are dancing in front of her and she is behind but then it's like they are still backing her up at some point, their faces are I cut off so we don't even see faces, we only see her.
Ayo(39):I like the individual video, but the beat of the song and the dancing the music is aggressive and it makes the women feel aggressive. The marching and army and military it makes you think of war and it's used as a backing track to say we run the world. I find it aggressive. Especially with the way it refers to all of those regimes of the 70s and 80s of people taking over and beating down civilians and so forth.
Michelle(19):The beat also sound like Afro beat, a fusion of garage tracks and funky house.
Donna(17): Yeah, she's jumped on that (frowning). It's like she's taken those beats and added the marching. I've heard beats like this used in other tunes like bashment and Afro beat and a whole range of music. It sounds alright in that context but it sounds a bit too messy really, too much going on...
Eileen(20): The references are there too, the water cannons, the way that they are made to salute is very fishy. The images behind her, the backdrops are so oppressive, that was what made me concentrate. It resonated down within me later, that right now it makes me feel concerned because it's pointed at young women and girls for me.
Donna(17): That video has no impact on me because I don't look up to her as a role model because of a model has to be somebody in my life that is talking sense.
Tanya(16): But that has to do with your upbringing. I think she is a role model. She doesn't have to affect everybody but things like your upbringing and background might change your opinion. Say your mum isn't always around, if she's out all the time and all you're doing is watching TV then you will be looking up to Beyonce, and you might believe you run the world...
Michelle(19): but little kids will follow everything they will see on TV, like the Power Rangers; my little brother likes them and my sister watches TV and she's dressing inappropriately and her mom is telling her not to dress like that but she's copying what she sees
Donna(17): There are young girls who are doing that, going out like that which is completely sexualised. It's is showing the wrong idea.
Eileen(20): It is a little bit irresponsible because Beyonce has come back from a nice churchy background, big family, lots of money, she can afford to be like that.
Merle(37): There are some young girls that don't have that background and don't have that support and they will be looking to grab what they can to feed their influences, their attitude and opinions, they pick up what feels right them, whether they live around positive people or not. It's what like you said, its what makes you feel good and if you don't feel like you belong somewhere you might belong to a group of people who make you feel good but aren't necessarily good for you.
Zena: It's an interesting debate though. To think about how people might perceive you and the decisions that an individual, or young girls might take by seeing somebody who looks like Beyonce, being influenced by her.
Tanya(16): It does depend on your age as well.... Who will like this is video will depend on the age of who's watching it.
Michelle(19): yeah but, you could be 19 and still be influenced by that video and feel like you run the world so it doesn't really have anything to do with age.
Zena: What about the tv programmers who give them coverage? Take Nicole Scherzinger from the Pussycat Dolls, did you see what she was wearing and the song she was singing on Britain's Got Talent -the final? Seemed a little inappropriate at prime time family viewing time.
Michelle(19): Same as Rhianna on the X factor, the way she was dressed was also in appropriate; prime time waiting for the results of the Britain's got talent but they're all the same...
Eileen(20): They're all kind of the same. Where is Lauren Hill? .
Donna(17): and Nicky Minaj. All sex sex sex
Eileen(20): but they all belong to the Freemasons anyway and that's controlled by men so it has to do with wealth. Beyonce has a lot of money, so she feels she can tell us that women run the world.
Michelle(19): I think when I heard this song, i thought it was a lot more positive....when I just heard the song without watching the video to go with it. Now I don't feel the same way about the song. I wish I hadn't seen the video .
Eileen(20): And we are in times of protest. It's like the 80s all over again a lot of people are protesting, its crazy. This isn't girls versus boys this is civilian versus a corrupt government. So glamorous girls, glamorous videos of boys versus girls is not the real picture its just a distraction...
Zena: In the Green Light video there are other girls who dance in the video who are big girls and when they're moving they're strong they're powerful. That's more of a representation. Where as this one, they all look too perfect, the same size, the same heights...
Eileen(20): in all of her videos everybody in her band were women.... around that time of the Green Light video time,
Ayo(39): That was the business woman with a strategy, who is thinking ahead, what the plan was to be leading up to.
Zena: I personally feel there is a kind of mutual abuse going on here. She's incredibly talented, she can sing, she's hard-working, she's beautiful and that's a perfect combination to have in the music industry...
Merle(37): But she is selling an illusion. She is part of a bigger machine and she is getting what she wants out of it and the industry is getting what they want out of her. So yes, i see what you mean about mutual abuse. They're both making their money and there's us the consumer, the little man/woman at the bottom, gulping it all down, the consumer taking it all in . We are being manipulated as the consumer.
Donna(17):The trailer is worse though. I don't understand the trailer.
Merle(37): Did she really have control over this video?
Michelle(19): In the trailer she is all dressed in white and she's all goddess like. What's that about? Is it like she is the goddess on the horses back and she is dressed in white bringing a kind of apocalypse.
Eileen(20): The imagery on the chorus is blatantly Freemason at the highest politics. Freemasonry and the military are in the same umbrella - people who control who are in high society who say yes to war, a society we don't hear about. These references are simply relevant to a war that is going on now and a war that has always been. She's not a peace fighter she's moving around with these people, she's not a Martin Luther King.
Zena(40): What do you think of the images that she's using in this we've got china on the rise and South Korea on the uprise, so what do you think about the images she's selected to use in this video?
Michelle(20): There's a lot of Chinese words in the scenes, she's jacking an idea and making a commercial idea for her own usage. She is using it to her own advantage and making it a commercial thing
Merle(37): She's taken a bigger picture of the world and made a commercial and sellable product out of it.
Donna(17): The trailer is more militant where as the whole video is more sexual. She's jacked a few things, there's not much in it that's her own She's trying to fit in too many parts in there. It feels messy. She's taken from the bigger picture elements of the world, all the elements of important things happening in the world to make her own video. It's what makes it messy. She's not saying anything constructive.
Zena(40): What do you think about when she speaks about having the baby and then going back to business - what about business empowerment and family values?
Merle(37): The priorities have gone all askew. It feels like a case of "oh well, fuck you", which is the kind of approach I hear young women a lot.... I wanted to come along because I am intrigued by Beyonce, I have two children who have grown up with her so as she has got older and they have gotten older, and I have seen her grow from what was a young woman, a young girl who was a good dancer, who was part of a group, to becoming quite a powerful and significant symbol of womanhood, not just the 'black woman', but of Womanhood. And I'm concerned because her message and this particular song gives off a message of "fuck you", I'm going to take over this world in my terms and our terms are aggressive and those terms 'are we don't care. It feels like "well you fucked us, so we'll fuck you."
Ayo(43): its like you've done bad to us so we are going to do bad to you. They use the same language, the same use the same tactics of the men she's tell she runs the world to. were not going to present ourselves as balanced they're not going to use compassionate a kind of language.
Merle(37): I am concerned because her message of doing this on our terms and our terms are aggressive and violent, translate into 'we don't care who you are we'll kick you down." That's what I'm reading between the lines and that concerns me. I'm around young women and I'm seeing them detached from some of the other elements of themselves that make them into who they are. So their whole being is almost one dimensional. We don't see her as a whole being all the time, we don't see the sensitive side and don't see the caring nurturing side of her. We don't see her relationship side either, which I think is quite significant because she is in a relationship. There's been all kinds of talk about whether this is a business relationship, or a signed agreement terms.
I got very concerned when I saw the video because I thought what am I left with. Not a good feeling, if I am tuning into this. With it coming into my senses on on a regular basis. What is it doing to me that's what I was my feeling. As a woman, as an older mature person, as someone who has looked at the music for a long time what I thought was I'm very concerned and disturbed by it. Even the speed at which it works out it. If you're the type of person that works with the mind, you'll be self aware the speed at which the images come at you on a surface level and then, the messages that are resting in them, you react to them a little bit later. In that video where you have things coming at you so fast, where there's a lot happening in a couple of seconds, and you're kind of left with this while feeling and for a lot of people they just carry on with their normal day after absorbing all that stuff? I find that a little bit awkward. I found it extremely militaristic and animalistic, and then theres the sexualisation of the women and the animalisation of the men... I found it quite scary.
Zena: Okay three of our young women have had to leave but I really would like to get to the bottom of how those who find meaning and engaging with Beyonce and this video are feeling empowered. These young women who I listen to it now are going to be older at some point, so we need to think about how they are absorbing is kind of information. That's one of the reasons I wanted to do this kind of workshop. I don't mind if you like this kind of music or this video, if you love it, love it, that's fine. But at least know why you're loving it. For example you (re michelle) said you really likes the dance which is great. That's very clear
Michelle(19): But then some people say obviously I'm drawn into it because I like the dance and the beat. And then they say that it's influencing me. But I don't think it is because I'm not really listening to what she's saying, I don't really take it in. I'm only liking it because I like to beat and the dancing.
Donna(17): I don't really like her but I do like the dancing.
Merle(37): If I take off my big woman brain I can understand why they feel empowered by it. One - the women are leading, they are in control, the language says I am in command, the body language is assertive, on the surface there's everything in there that would have you walk away thinking "yep, I feel good". Unless you understand how to unpack it, there is nothing in there that says you are less than a very powerful human being. What happens when you get to my age is that you then understand the messages that are coming through and you understand the various campaigns about women, representation and imagery that happened many years ago and what those messages say to women and men. Then you come back to this in the 21st century and think "wow, it's bringing back all the same imagery that women fought against 40 years ago, where we'd march down the street saying we don't want to be seen like this. But its using them(images) and saying that we are now in control, like 360° turn. So it's like what she's saying it we are going to take what you thought was negative about us before and turn it into something positive. We're going to roll on the floor, we're going to act like animals, we are going to be the tigeress, but we going to do it on our own terms. That's what I get from this video. I think it's dangerous though....personally, I think it's dangerous
Michelle(19):And I still don't think it's an age thing because we're talking in a similar fashion.....
Eileen(20): yeah I'm a support work and studied mental health and and I've always been the youngest in my class so sometimes it's felt a bit awkward but when I'm supporting these young girls who love that, i feel like I can't tell them "oh, you can't think that because-" it's not my right what I get is that they don't think that deeply on it, not on a deep scale, they don't know the Freemasons or if they do they don't really know the relevance of it , although they don't know how they feel about it or the deeper messages,. They've been brought up with the actual kind of sexual imagery and music so they don't look deeper and they just think that that's the way the world is so they just like it. They accepted on what it is. If all music had a powerful message., Then I think it would be different. But that's the industry. That is the industry. This isn't just a one off . the whole music industry is like this. Rhianna's is much worse, with the devil symbols. Like the song Judas, you know. There's much worse videos out there. So these girls they just don't think I'm a deeper level. It just is. That's what I find with the young girls.
Zena: So what you're saying is there was no one intervening, there is no analysis of things as they were a 40 years ago for women and a feminimst movement. And today people are just dealing with the image and the superficiality of things.
Vicky (20): Look at how tight she is with Obama, like, she sang for Michelle and Obama and a lot of young black girls that I help I love Obama. He's supposed to be a very positive political figure.
Ayo(43): I beg to differ but...(laughter)
Eileen(20): I don't agree with it either but I can't say that to these girls because where they're coming from this is great, you know.
Ayo(43): But I agree with a lot of what you (Merle) are saying. People like Beyonce are all sending out the same message - we can do for ourselves, we don't need men. I find that such a contradiction, though, in terms of their private lives where many of them are settled on a long-term relationships, except for Rhianna who was in an abusive relationship. Now that, for me, raises are whole lot of issues in terms of what that says to young women. But, yes, what they are all saying is that we can do for ourselves, we are independent women, training themselves as being able to buy their own clothes and pay their own bills we don't need you and this is
Eileen(20): I'm a bit different though. I'm quite political, I like big political figures but some parts of my generation just don't follow that
Zena: but the question is what do we do with the young women who do follow Beyonce who are following you say?
My concern was that there are not many young women who are engaging with the world on a deeper level because as far as they're concerned this is the world presented to them so this is the way the world is. We need to hear more on their perception of the world so that we can engage them to go beyond "shallow water swimming," shall we say.
Merle(37): We want them to go a little bit deeper so that they can work in a much more holistic fashion as you said before, this way you can help them to unpack the world and engage with the world on a deeper level, connect with people, with the world, and themselves, in a way that makes them feel that they are more whole human beings.
This way they engage with a part of themselves and they don't know about , or are unaware of. For me I get a little bit concerned when videos such as this gets swallowed so easily because I think Beyonce was just working hard and it was just about the stars and what is all the rest about the costume changes the imagery , the animals on chains the scenery the other images, what is that all about why?
I can understand you wanting to make this video and do this via hard-work. What I don't understand is the rest. If you are making these conscious decisions, why you need all of this
Michelle(19): But that could be a matter of opinion. Maybe she liked the concept that someone designed for her and she knows just why she had those things in the video
Merle(37):Speaking frankly I am concerned about on a deeper level the health of these children's mind some of them are. Some of them are displaying on stable behaviour.
Eileen(20): It is a mental health issue.
There are some young people who do not know how to deal with some of the deep issues that reality confronts them with. Videos such as this only enable them to look at things on a shallow superficial level and when reality hits them with some of the problems that they may encounter in real life, they do not know how to deal with them.
Michelle(19): It is very symbolic, that's why it would be hard to explain to them is hard to explain to them that she's not such a great role model because they will just explain it away. They will not see what we are seeing. I mean, music is very influential.
Zena: So there's some kind of desensitisation going on. I feel young people are bombarded by so much of this kind of quite bubble gum but heavily symbolically loaded culture of imagery that their immunity to being indoctrinated is low. They almost fall victim to an infectious 'soundbite sized' mode of communicating ideas and to the aggressive, misogynistic, consumerist and narcissistic symbology it carries. We see it manifest in what we feel is a desensitised ways of being. And its all coming at them in a fast deluge the idea of sitting down to discuss it and reflect would never cross their minds.
So the question is when more complex and deeper things happen to them how are they supposed to react and respond if they only engage with the world in a superficial regurgitated fashion.
Eileen(20) yeah its like they have no time to work out how it makes them feel.
you just go from one to the next. And maybe that's why nthey're not thinking about it all that's part of the reason why they're not thinking that deeply into it. The culture of information means you don't really take things on all the time on a conscious level. Young minds are like blank canvases quick to absorb and move on to the next course. And then I hear you take in and then maybe regurgitate in some shape or form – without even realising.
Merle(37)There was also the issue of mental health there is unstable behaviour on the street which to them is normal day that because they are being told that this is such as Lance says videos is normal here and that they don't have to worry about things but then real life happens to them and there's plenty to worry about how do we get them to be able to have a sense of responsibility about themselves so they are able to deal with them so the sense of command
Michelle(19) Its like my sister she cannot tell the difference between being able to have a sense of command and respect herself in her voice and being aggressive.
Ayo(39) but that's also a mixture of a lack of interpersonal skills. That's like being able to connect with another human being and be able to see to be able to feel some kind of empathy for another person there.
Zena: It's an interesting one because although you speak of a lack of interpersonal skills that is a way of being I hate young girls at the bus stop calling each other bruv". Its like there's no language that they have for themselves. The language they had amongst themselves seem very masculine. They are calling each other "blud", "bruv".
This got me thinking where is the language for young girls where is the language for women to be able to communicate and talk to each other and know that we're meeting as women in that space is that a special for us that men do not have because men have their space but do we.
Michelle(19) but then I think that's the way it is for them. They believe that is the norm. I do think there is a real detachment from deeper parts of themselves. There was one young girl who I saw in the checkout queue behind this old lady probably in the 70s, and was slow at packing her shopping, and this girl said "oceans hurry up I need to catch my train. I'm not being rude but you need to hurry up so I can catch my train." Patient and she was saying it quite rashly she said I'm not being rude but she was. There was a sense of detachment. This girl only knew what she wanted. Rather than help the old lady pack bags, she would try to rush her on.
Ayo(37) I hear a lot of people who talk about this detachment but I also hear a sense of fear. I often hear people talk about it being a jungle out here, then it's very hard out on the road, but I don't hear a sense of what it's like in the home.
Eileen(20) yeah I work with a lot of young people who come from very hard backgrounds.
Michelle(19) but they also a lot of them but don't but they still behave like that outside of their homes. They still feel that is the norm.