King Bey: Beyonce’s History of Gender Non-Conformity
Much has been said about Beyonce referring to herself as “King”. Most of the conversation around her decision to do so has fallen into two camps: Beyonce is reaffirming patriarchy by referring to herself as a “King” or Beyonce should be allowed to call herself whatever she wants. I recognize that both camps make a legitimate argument, but I would like to merge them. I don’t think that it is an either/or matter as some others do.
This isn’t Beyonce’s first time at the gender-bending and gender non-conformist rodeo. In my opinion, Beyonce has always been drawn to masculine expression. In the videos for her songs “Lose My Breath” and “Upgrade U’, Beyonce dawns men’s clothing and mixes feminine expression with masculine expression. She can be seen dipping into a swagger that we traditionally associate with maleness and masculinity.
On her 2008 album, “I Am Sasha Fierce”, one of the first singles off that album is titled “If I Were A Boy”. In this song Beyonce lyrically imagines what it would be like to be a male. Even though the song sticks to mostly to patriarchal notions of manhood. However, it once more represents Beyonce’s seeming fascination with masculine identity.
Historically speaking, Beyonce isn’t the first woman to refer to herself as “King”. Pharaoh Hatshepsut, an ancient Egyptian woman, ruled as a man. A National Geographic article explains,
“Early reliefs show her performing kingly functions such as making offerings to the gods and ordering up obelisks from red granite quarries at Aswan. After just a few years she had assumed the role of “king” of Egypt, supreme power in the land. “
It is absolutely true that historically women have often had to situate themselves into masculinity and maleness in order to be taken serious. Given that patriarchy is the prevailing social concept in many of our societies, it makes sense that the female quest for power and legitimacy has often relied on women embracing a masculine gender expression.
However, it can also be said that gender non-conformity has consistently been one of the ways that we dismantle patriarchy. By recognizing that gender roles aren’t fixed, rigid, and impenetrable we challenge the patriarchal notions that tell us otherwise.
Posted on February 5, 2013, in Breaking It Down!, Feminist Thought, Gender Expression, History and tagged Beyonce, gender bending, gender non conformity, patriarchy. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.