Gender Performance in Beyonce’s “Run the World”

The music video “Run the World” by Beyonce not only displays vivid images of how sexuality and race plays a part, but another aspect that is present is gender performance.  The men who were in the begining of the video were obviously more feminine and show how Beyonce is diverse and embraces the homosexual community.  A number of her dance moves in the video are over the top and the presence of camp is visible.  A large part of Beyonce’s audience and supporters are homosexual and this is a way to include and entertain this audience in her performances. 

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12 thoughts on “Gender Performance in Beyonce’s “Run the World”

  1. I don’t consider myself as a feminist scholar by any means, but I thought Beyonce’s video was very pro-female, pro-gay, and I wanted to stand up and wave my little girl power/feminist flag.
    I like the idea of the setting in the middle of nowhere/everywhere, with women of different backgrounds (whites and other nationalities of color were represented here, not just black), wearing different colors, dancing together in their high heels. Yes, these women are objectifying themselves to a certain extent by wearing revealing clothing, but I felt that Beyonce and the rest of them women were taking control of their sexuality as a way to navigate themselves through the world.
    As much as I enjoyed this video, Critically, though, that asks the question: yes these women are beautiful, in unison, wearing their high-heeled boots and embracing who they are, but is this the only way for women in the 21st century to navigate themselves through the world? While I think this is representative of some women, it doesn’t represent all women. Not at all of us can look like Beyonce.
    One more thing, I like how this idea of “Girl Power” videos changed from that pink/bubbly girl group stuff of the 90s/00s, to how it’s taken on a more masculine, aggressive aesthetic.

  2. I think Beyonce’s video for Run the World is a good video, but I can’t help but think that this video is nothing original from what Beyonce has done in the past. I do appreciate the fact that she is attempting to empower females with this song, something I have not heard from her in a while, but I think it could have been done better through the video. For example, we see her wearing the same revealing clothing and demonstrating the same dance styles that she has done various times in the past. I think she would have made a much more powerful and revolutionary statement if she had stepped out of her comfort zone and done something completely out there, such as featuring women of different shapes and body types to demonstrate that indeed ALL girls run the world. The fact that this wasn’t the case reiterates the fact that Beyonce, just like pretty much all mainstream artists, have to resort to sexuality and socially acceptable forms of beauty in order to sell their music. Not all of it was bad, however. I did like some of the out-of-the-ordinary costumes/outfits she wore in the video, such as the that shiny, metallic-ish dress she wore and those very metallic pointy nails. They were definitely an attempt by Beyonce to step out of the box I think.

  3. I think that Beyonce’s video was definitely an empowering and feminist video, but just within the means of still being popular and uncontroversial. I love the idea of women being presented as ruling the world and men being ruled–I dont think that women should necessarily run the world alone, but I think that in our current times we need to be extreme to get the point across to such a wide variety of people. I thought it was great that Beyonce had women of different races equally being powerful (not as powerful as Beyonce of course, and in my opinion no one should ever be as powerful as Beyonce) in her video, and I thought the whole thing was great.
    With that said, I think Beyonce made a point with her video that was within reason of our societies’ wants. It would have been really neat to have women of all different types represented. For example, if there had been some plus-sized women, shorter women, not as attractive women, women with different styles, etc. I understand that as a pop star there are certain limits that are drawn, especially in regards to music videos. However, I think she could have gone further with representing more women than the ones she used in her video.

  4. The first thing I want to comment about this post is about making the assumption that because the men are dressed more femininely that they are gay and it caters to the homosexual community. I am currently sitting here with my gay friend discussing this and we both feel by making that judgement you’re making it seem like straight men can’t dress femininely which is not true. This is putting a rule on what each gender can do and that’s not what fashion is about. It doesn’t have rules if you are male, female, gay, straight, or bi. It’s not a fair assumption. When I saw those males I just thought of them trying to have fashion compared to what I believe most men do: pants and a top.

    Anyways, when watching this video I got a sense of empowerment. I am far from what I consider a feminist but I truly think of her as an inspiration to any person. She’s a hard worker and it shows in each piece she does regardless if the public approves of it. There was a comment made that this is not original however if you listen to her music starting with Dangerously in Love to B’day to I am…Sasha Fierce and then to 4, she has grown. I think most people think of Pop and R&B to all be the same like Britney Spears but if you sit down it’s all changed based on technology and different styles. Just as the music has changed her style is different, she’s no Madonna with dramatic changes but she’ll always be an icon for what she does.

    Although (Girls) Run the World is not among my favorite of hers, I think the video and it’s fashion stands for something wonderful for female and males.

  5. I just want to point out that the dance that was performed at the beginning was actually an African dance called Tofu Tofu. I don’t necessarily see the parallels between those dancers and femininity/gender performance. While I do agree that Beyonce caters to some members of the gay community in other videos, I don’t think that the dancing in the beginning illustrated gender roles/performance at all. It had a more cultural appeal. It’s apparent that Beyonce was influenced by those African dancers and elements of African cultures (emphasis on cultures because this video is not a representation of just one specific culture, it’s more of a generic or simplistic representation) were portrayed throughout the video (the hyenas, colors, dancing, etc).

    The video also had military aspects. These were shown through the formations of the dancers and them being in sync. I could see gender performance in that more so than the dancing because Beyonce played the role of the lieutenant (I’m sorry, I don’t know what else to call her but I’m just going to assume she was the leader, aka lieutenant. I’m not that familiar with the terminology in the military) and her dancers were her cadets. Considering that the military is mostly male dominated, this video clearly goes against that.

    As far as female empowerment, which I believe to be the dominant message of the video, I think it was a bit mediocre and quite contradictory. However, I enjoyed the video more so for the dancing than it’s message.

  6. I enjoyed the video! That being said, I refuse to believe that this video represents female empowerment. First of all, why are we running the world, girls? Why not we run the world, women? That alone speaks to the verbal language making me believe that this song is a mockery of female strength and confidence, Beyonce is a woman not a girl? Second of all, for us as women to run the world, why must it be juxtaposed as a statement against men? People keep making mentions of culture, and how she represents it within the video, but honestly there is not one race that really stands out to me through out the whole video as significantly different; everyone has long hair and is generally wearing the same outfit. If we really run the world, why not really represent your intellect, and strength with clothes on,not through burning cars and our backsides raised while we are prancing around in sand, maybe instead represent for the women in the parts of the world who are veiled and still walk with their heads held high. When I hear this song, I think of nothing but an empty anthem. We should all strive to run the world as women, with clothes on, within every culture. I have never seen a male anthem referring to men as boys, it just negates the whole anthem in itself! Like I said before I enjoyed the video, and don’t feel like it is meant to be analyzed from a political standpoint, and if so, it is seriously lacking!

  7. I feel like Beyonce’s song and video try to promote female empowerment, but ultimately, we see the same sexualization of women that is so common in our culture. We also see other cultures exoticized through the cultural appropriation of tribal dress and other purposefully culturally ambiguous things.

    This video, to me, is an example of a popular icon exploiting other cultures and other identities in order to appeal to a larger audience. The presentation of this song as being “girl power-esque” is frustrating, as the problematic representation of femininity and masculinity become celebrated instead of being critiqued.

  8. Although I appreciate what Beyonce is trying to do with this song, I agree with what others have said about some of the ways that women are sexualized in the video.
    However, I do think that it is somewhat empowering that the women in her video are of various races/ethnicities, and that these women are dressed in outfits that are not necessarily traditionally associated with their ethnic heritages. Along with this, some of the accessories that go with the outfits, such as the scarves and Beyonce’s head piece, seem to take fashion pieces that would otherwise probably appear extremely racialized and mixes them together with outfits and materials they are not usually associated with, which is interesting and seems to transform the way we read them and the bodies they are on in the video. Thus, in a way, there is a sense that the women in the video are all equal, even while they are all different. At the same time, though, I’m not sure what to make of the fact that most of the women are wearing lingerie…

  9. Who runs the world? I feel like this will forever be an arguement that will be raised between men and women. Going from “This is a Man’s World” and hearing a mans perspective on who is dominant in society makes this question on who runs the world and what reasons people have to back up their argument. In this particular Beyonce video, I was a bit surprised at the approach she took to describe this song. I felt that if she was using this song as an empowerment of women but she did not show images of strong women, instead she still wore skimpy outfits and danced sexually in the song. I think that the video would have been much more successful if she wore clothes as well as depicted more of what the song was saying. She could have done this rather than depicting women to only be good for their body and making the vieo about sex and the song would have had more meaning. The age old debate of “Who Runs the World”? is one that will never answered…

  10. Beyonce’s song ‘Run the World’ is catchy, on the radio and viewed over 110 million times one YouTube. It’s safe to say that she’s caught the attention of many people, whether it be from the title of the song alone, to the movement she displays in her video. On the topic of dancing, I view the dance choreography as a big ‘eff you’ to people who do not feel that women can be empowering, but then I fall back on ‘why does she have to be dancing in scantily clad clothing to prove this?’. She is able to show-up the men who are dancing alongside her and her crew while completing taking over them and treating the men as ‘dogs’. “Men are dogs” is a popular ideology that that media likes to portray, and I feel that she did this in the video. However, I feel that there could have been the same effect without the low cut shirt and dressed; would this then mean that I think that women who show off skin are not taken as seriously as those who are fully clothed? No; but it is clear that I have some aggravating ideas that cause fiction with another. Moving forward, the lyrics go on to talk about educated women working with careers, but the song is centered around ‘girls’. As another commentator wrote, I find it intriguing that she wrote this song intended (assumed) for a young adult (or older) audience. Her choice in titling the song is a bit confusing and, once again, genders the world. This society feels the need to organize people and things into categories, and gendering is probably the most heavily influential coding systems. Whether Beyonce meant to do this to cause a stir, is not known, but it definitely shows that the media (and the people in the industry) move two steps forward while taking three steps back.

  11. I really did not consider the moe “feminine looking men to be gay just because they were dressed that way…. In fact I just thought they were dressed that way to fit the style of the video…. If anything I appreciated the fact that this was a empowering video for women, where the men in the video were not overly masculine. as far a sexuality, when talking about the heterosexual woman, a lot of her power relies in her ability to depict her sexuality despite what society tells her to do. I am not sure if that’s why Beyonce choose to be more sexual (probably not) but I will take it as that (though I shouldn’t lol)

    I was a little disappointed that the video wasn’t more controversial, but a lot of Beyonce’s music persona has to do with attacking stereotypes on a small scale and merely scratching the surface so I was not surprised. How ever the song itself was very popular and could be a theme song for empowered women. The fact that it was so popular despite its lack of real substance on Feminism and women’s rights says a lot though….

  12. First of all, I would like to comment on the “homosexual dancer” judgement. The two men are African dancers performing the Tofu Tofu dance. Beyonce went on a worldwide search to find these men after seeing them in a YouTube video, but I don’t expect most to know this information. The video does not showcase her love for the homesexual community nor does it display examples of camp. My question for you is “what’s considered more feminine” after understanding the reasoning for the two men in the video? I agree with one of the above blogger’s that fashion isn’t about levels of femininity and masculinity, but it’s a platform to highlight expression.

    I’m a huge Beyonce fan. I understand the intended message of this video is “female empowerment”, but this isn’t the case. The lyrics is a great example of female empowerment, but the actual visual aspect sends a mixed message. I’m distracted by the seductive dance patterns and risqué clothing. The message I receive is that women can control the world with their sexuality. I do agree, women have all of the power in the world to control a man, but that’s another topic. The clothing in the video shows this emergence of culture. Make sense because she is trying to appeal to all of the girls around the world, but of course this is hard to accomplish since their are millions of women to represent. It’s kind’ve hard to fulfill such representation when you only have less than 5 mins to showcase, but great attempt B!

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