Beyoncé: Female Body Language and Power

Beyoncé. A woman acclaimed for her curvature, her womanly body that defies the norm. The truth is that Beyoncé is relatively average, standing at 5 foot 7 inches and weighing 130 pounds. But it is Beyoncé’s presence that expands beyond that of the average emaciated celebrity. Energy radiates from every facet of her being, in performance and photograph. Her body language, along with her lyrics are sending a message: I exist, I matter.
According to nonverbal communication expert, Albert Mehrabian, 55% of influence is acquired through body language, and as the third wave of feminism grips the nation, influence is of the utmost importance. Current social constructions of body language put women in the position where they must be contained and small. For example, a woman is taught from an early age to cross her legs, sit up straight and take up as little space as possible as she moves through the world. This “feminine” body language as Philosopher Sandra Lee Bartky observes in her article, “Gender and the Body Language of Power,” portrays powerlessness. Executives and people in positions of power are more relaxed and spread out than their subordinate counterparts, who are usually nervously rigid. In fact, in laboratory experiments, Psychologist Andy Yap conducted a study and found that people told to take up more space felt a sense of powerfulness and had a disposition to steal, cheat, and violate traffic laws in a simulation.
Beyoncé Knowles may not be large but she takes up space. With her wide stance and a hand on her hip, the singer is reclaiming female movement. Journalist Joonji Mdyogolo writes in her article “Beyonce’s Perfection Has Limits,” “Beyoncé is mesmerising because she’s a heady mix of female prowess, with her empowerment anthems, and feminine force, which appeal to those of us underwhelmed by some of the dividends of feminism so far.”
However, many have concerns regarding Beyoncés choice in movement. Following the 2014 Grammys, critics labeled Beyoncé’s dancing style as being overly sexual and inappropriate for children. A UK newspaper even called her a “whore” in its post-grammy headline. Comments on the performance questioned the difference between her performance and the Miley Cyrus twerking scandal at the Grammys the previous year. In an online article, an anonymous writer, with the screen name, “the betches” claims that the key difference between the two stars is the energy that goes into the sexual movement. “Miley portrays her sexuality in an extremely immature way.” They write. The difference in reaction to the two stars reiterates this point, making female sensuality powerful is more than reenacting sexual movements onstage. It is a craft. While Miley acts out submission to a man onstage, Beyoncé makes herself her husband’s equal, moving around the stage as he stands, claiming the space as hers. It should come as no surprise then, that Beyoncé is part of the campaign to end the use of the adjective “bossy,” claiming, “I’m not bossy, I’m the boss.”

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