Is Beyonce a Feminist?

beyonce_super_bowl_2013_halftime_performance_show_new_orleans_main_18gueij-18guek9 A recent article in features several pop culture icons who have said, “I’m not a feminist, but . . .” The list includes musicians such as Katy Perry and Lady Gaga. One female artist that this list does not include in Beyonce, who has very clearly stated that she is a feminist.

Beyonce’s performance at the 2013 Superbowl that literally blew out the stadium’s lights is clear evidence that Beyonce is a feminist. Her band consisted entirely of female musicians. The bulk of them are women of color. Many women in the music industry will tell you that this is very rare. Giving so many female musicians that kind of exposure is something I would classify as a feminist act. Moreover, Beyonce has stated over and over again that she believes in equality and helping girls realize their potential.

However, some people argue that Beyonce isn’t a feminist because she has taken her husband Jay-Z’s last name.
Beyonce had her baby Blue Ivy in January 2012.

“I feel like Mrs. Carter is who I am, but more bold and more fearless than I’ve ever been,” she said. “It comes from knowing my purpose and really meeting myself once I saw my child.

Really? If someone takes on their partner’s name they’re not a feminist? That’s the strongest argument you’ve got? What about Hillary Clinton? Hillary Clinton in an outspoken advocate for women’s rights. She took her husband’s last name. Hillary is the reason I claimed the feminist label in high school. I voted for both times that she ran for President, and I will always consider her a role model. If your only argument about claiming the feminist label has to do with changing your last name, you need to get a clue about what feminism means.

An article over at The Guardian makes a similar argument.

Beyoncé is a force of nature, she sang Independent Women and Survivor and Irreplaceable, her band is all women, she’s pro-gender equality and anti-gender wage gap, she supports women through charity work, she does things that people so often identify as feminist-y – and so we load her down with our own expectations and identify her as a feminist icon and then hold to her to arbitrary standards as if she signed up for them herself.

This isn’t just about Beyonce. Feminism means different things to different people. Just read the bios of the Feminists for Choice bloggers. We all define feminism in different ways. So I open up the conversation to you.

  • What does feminism mean to you?
  • Are the qualifications for someone to call themselves a feminist?
  • How did you decide to call yourself a feminist?
About Serena:
Serena is a freelance writer who enjoys baking, protesting, and playing with little dogs.


  1. Beyonce is a feminist due to the fact that she hired amazing female musicians at the top of their game who are major players in the industry aside from their work with Beyonce. Regardless of who Beyonce is married to, she’s working in an industry that demands heteronormative beauty and also loves to criticize her choices due to jealousy or whatever else. As a mentor of mine said to me “Play the gigs, pay the bills.” and that’s what Beyonce is doing all by herself, not with her husband.

    • Serena says:

      Jessie, thanks for commenting. I think you make a good point about Beyonce’s “fashion choices.” But the more important point is that Beyonce is helping other women in the industry by hiring very talented musicians to be her band. How many other artists have done that? There were plenty of artists at the Lilith Fair who had dudes playing the drum for them, etc. I’m not saying that this is all or nothing. I just think we ought to cheer that someone with as much pop culture clout as Beyonce is embracing the feminist label.

  2. Serena says:

    Hi Joanna,

    How do you define “basic feminism?” The term “feminism” doesn’t mean the same thing to all people. I think you make an excellent point about having good role models. I also agree that many people who embrace the the feminist label aren’t enacting what I view as feminism. But it’s a start to have someone with as much exposure as Beyonce claim the feminist label.

    I’m really interested to hear how you define feminism. I love hearing every feminist’s point of view on that.

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