Leave it to Queen Bey to take something as polarizing as feminism and make it — gasp — marketable.
On Monday, Beyoncé wrote an essay on income inequality between men and women. She wrote, "We need to stop buying into the myth about gender equality. It isn't a reality yet." The essay was her first feminist move of 2014, and it was pretty great. In 2013, though, she was one of several pop stars to turn feminism into part of a marketing strategy. That may sound sinister, but it's not — we should be glad she's done it.
2013 was Beyoncé's year. From her Super Bowl performance to the surprise album drop, Bey topped even Hova and has definitively proven that, yes, women can indeed have it all (though it is obviously hard work).
But not only did she outshine everyone else in the game, she also made it clear that her feminism is a driving force behind her success and hasn't hidden her life as a woman from the press. Quite the contrary. She's opened up about her miscarriage, alluded to Jay-Z's former indiscretion, and spoken openly about her life as a mother. Beyoncé humanized the female perspective on a world stage, and she made powerful music about being a fully-realized woman.
She isn't the only one making big waves in pop music with her feminism. Lily Allen and Miley Cyrus also took to the air waves to spread their viewpoints and messages on the topic. And the world listened because, increasingly, a feminist stand from a pop star in the spotlight often elicits major Internet discussion.
Miley Cyrus took a more sexualized, overt route to express her brand of feminism — twerking away the naysayers. When asked about her views on feminism, she told BBC Radio 1's Newsbeat, "I feel like I'm one of the biggest feminists in the world because I tell women to not be scared of anything."
Lily Allen, on the contrary, released a feminist anthem called "Hard Out Here," directly mocking Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" and alluding to Cyrus' in-your-face approach to pop music. Her anger about the state of the genre (especially its sexualization of young women) comes across in the song, one line of which states, "I won't be bragging 'bout my cars or talking 'bout my chains / Don't need to shake my ass for you 'cause I've got a brain."
There are many different ways to be a feminist, and all the surrounding controversy has made it a hot topic within pop music. Songs or artists that appeal to or irritate the larger feminist community also wind up getting more attention and, ultimately, more money. After all, Miley Cyrus was retweeted more times per minute than Beyoncé while Katy Perry made waves with her empowering "Roar."
Feminism has become part of many female pop star's marketing strategies (and this doesn't mean they aren't genuine feminists), a way to get Jezebel to write about you — and all of their viewers to talk about you. It's a way to get people to purchase your music both out of enjoyment and support.
Beyoncé's surprise album sold almost 830,000 copies in its first three days, available exclusively as an iTunes download for $15.99. And before that, Miley Cyrus' Bangerz netted the biggest sales week for a woman in 2013.
But this isn't a bad thing. It's a great thing. As 2014 ramps up and we get ready for new songs, albums (looking at you Angel Haze) and controversy, remember this: Feminism as a marketing tool is a positive development — even if you don't necessarily agree with Miley Cyrus' type of feminism. What Miley, Lily Allen and especially Beyoncé have done is put feminism on blast, forcing us to talk about what it really means to be feminist.
And, like all ideologies — including liberalism or conservatism — feminism is a sliding scale. It's different for everyone, but its messages are empowering regardless of who you are. Now, we've found a way to give mass audiences a way to hear and discuss it. And to pay to support it.