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Jordan Bolan

Jacob Craig
ENC 3021
October 25, 2015
In 2014 Beyonc released a visual album which included ***Flawless, a track that was
lyrically and visually an empowering feminist entity. The track became a hit song and provided
its audience a mantra: I woke up like this, Flawless. The video that accompanied the song was
in black and white and featured Beyonc partying in an urban location and executing her
signature provocative dance moves. This video is an example of a text that exemplifies Beyonc
as a recognizable figure that is relevant in multiple cultures and who represents those cultures in
her art.
Beyonc has been a culture icon since her childhood, which the video clearly indicates
when it opens on a clip of a young Beyonc participating in a competition with her performance
group, Girls Tyme. The video begins and ends with a clip from this competition, and serves to
introduce the idea of how long Beyonc has been in the industry and how she has been faced
with opposition, as the concluding segment shows when her girl group loses to a group featuring
only white males which seems comical juxtaposed to the talent of Beyonc (***Flawless). The
music video shows Beyonc performing choreography that was designed to showcase her

sexuality, which is interpreted by audiences differently, as either empowering or subjecting to her

and those she represents, especially black woman (Qureshi).
The song features a sample from the TEDx Talk, We Should All Be Feminists by
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. In the sample, Adichie identifies some of the inequalities between
the sexes, how the mentality of women has been shaped, and defines a feminist as the person
who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes (***Flawless). The
empowering lyrics and the sampled TEDx Talk have been able to spread a feminist message to
the masses, and in the article How to Reclaim the F-Word? Just Call Beyonc, the author
writes that Beyonc has given the term Feminism new life (Bennett). She is a familiar and
beloved part of pop culture and she was able to bring a feminist message into a culture that has
shied away and commonly rejected the term feminism, even concluding her VMA performance
with the word feminist alight behind her (Rosen).
The audience for the video is massive, as a pop culture icon Beyonc reaches an audience
of many different demographics. However, Beyoncs impact is felt to a greater extent in certain
communities, especially for African-American women. Beyonc is one of the most powerful
cultural influences, and her ability to represent woman and women of color in her industry is
important. This video emerged into a society that often criticizes the artist to be un-feminist,
some hold negative opinions about the style of Beyoncs performances, often these opinions are
based on sexist or racist sentiments. ***Flawless is a music video that features a woman who
has accomplished a great deal in her industry speaking to an audience through a multimedia
outlet, in order to share her perspective.
Rhetorical Theory

Due to the importance of Beyoncs art and this video in particulars influence on a female
audience it seems to primarily relate to the school of Womens Rhetoric. The school of Womens
Rhetoric has evolved through the ages and been built upon by many women who had to pave the
way for woman like Beyonc to participate in a form of rhetoric, and dominate a field that
influences so many different people. Women have had to struggle to claim their place in rhetoric,
but have found ways to take on the art for themselves.
As women started to demand greater education the influence of women in rhetoric
became stronger, with women like Mary Astell and Mary Wollstonecraft revolutionizing rhetoric
for their objectives in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries by forming a use of rhetoric to
demand greater equality and opportunities for women (Golden 140-146). In the nineteenth
century women began a greater system of utilizing rhetoric to promote their sex in society, with
schools teaching women elocution, writing, and practice of forming arguments (237).
Rhetoricians like Frances Wright made a stir in society for their radical ideas and actions through
rhetoric to try gain attention to inequalities and the ability women to contribute to society (238239). Womens rhetoric took up social issues just as feminism today expands to include equality
for all, so in the 1800s rhetoricians like the Grimk sisters, Elizabteth Cady Stanton and Susan B.
Anthony fought for abolition as well as advocating for equal rights (241-244). Womans rhetoric
involved pushing social customs and accepted norms, and the women who led this school of
rhetoric had to face discrimination and had to either bear the opposition or learn to manipulate
the system into their favor, as Frances Willard did. She as able to uphold the image of femininity
while expanding her influence as a woman by presenting her wish to expand womens sphere in
an appealing way to the conservative society (Golden 249).
Examine - How has Womans Rhetoric influenced Beyoncs work in the ***Flawless video?

Beyoncs ability to influence her audience in the music video ***Flawless is based
greatly on the school of Womans Rhetoric. The rhetoricians who brought women to the public
stage focused on how women could use their strengths to communicate with the public. For
instance, Astell recognized that her audience was obsessed with the standards of beauty so she
wrote on superficial subjects of beauty in order to catch their attention, while also strongly being
a proponent of the ideals of the mind which she was able to convey to her audience once she had
their attention (Golden 142). This strategy of using the superficial to entice an audience to give
their focus to material that can ultimately educate and empower with powerful rhetoric is a
strategy applied in the creation of Beyoncs brand and embodied perfectly in the multimedia
presentation in her music video.
Womens Rhetoric involved the liberation of women from societal norms, especially from
sexual oppression. Stanton attempted to change societal prejudices against womens sexualities,
especially those limitations that religion was placing on women (Golden 244-245). In
***Flawless the women and men are sexualized, but as there is an intersection of minorities
for the African-American women featured in the video, the social assumption that pertain to both
minorities are challenged. So when the choreography highlights a sexual, confident AfricanAmerican woman the concept of the degraded African-American Woman and the standard of a
conservative woman are both challenged and rejected.
The women of the nineteenth century starting creating a support system, and expanded
womens education to include more rhetorical skills, such as elocution. The music video
***Flawless is primarily able to convey its message through elocution. Beyoncs appeal as a
representative of women is not just through her speech for her style is of great importance. For
instance her hair, clothes, and movements all convey an image to identify with and admire

(Durham). She is using the aesthetic appeal to reach a wider audience and capture the attention
of multiple communities. She is scorned by both white and African-American fans as either
being to provocative or pleasing racist audience by assimilating too much in videos. There are
extremes to any audience but like the effective rhetoricians before, such as Frances E. Willard,
Beyonc uses her video ***Flawless to uphold what is appealing to the mainstream while
simultaneously being an important figure to the community she is representing. She is able to
expose a feminist mantra and visuals to the masses and is not only accepted but celebrated.
The woman of the 1800s had to struggle to establish their own ethos and getting their
works recognized. Fighting against discrimination the rhetoricians continued to speak and
publish works to be acknowledge and have their ideas recognized in society. The rhetorical skill
exemplified in ***Flawless is expressed through the rhetoric that surrounds it in the present
culture. The words she sings in the video, such as I woke up like this, have become wildly
popular and there exists rhetoric to even describe her and her performance. It is common in
society to say phrases such as Beyonc slays or appoint her the title of Queen, which are
rhetorical devices that have become popular in order to explain the validity of Beyoncs
influence, her ethos, and rhetorical prowess.
The sensory and verbal rhetoric that Beyonc employs in her video ***Flawless is
influenced by the rhetorical strategies from woman in the past. While the media has changed, the
strategies and obstacles parallel the female rhetoricians from past centuries. In ***Flawless,
the rhetorician had to appeal to an audience, convey her message in a manner that will be
memorable, and have the ethos to comfort the audience in allowing themselves to be influenced
by the rhetoric.

Works Cited
Knowles-Carter, Beyonc, perf. ***Flawless. Columbia Records, 2013. Video.
Bennett, Jessica. "How to Reclaim the F-Word? Just Call Beyonc." Time. Time, 24 Aug. 2014.
Web. 24 Oct. 2015. <http://time.com/3181644/beyonce-reclaim-feminism-pop-star/>.
Qureshi, Bilal. "Feminists Everywhere React To Beyonce's Latest." NPR. N.p., 19 Dec. 2014.
Web. 24 Oct. 2015.
Durham, Aisha. "Check On It." Feminist Media Studies 12.1 (2011): 35-49. Web. 24 Oct.
Rosen, Jody. "Beyonc: The Woman on Top of the World." The New York Times Style Magazine.
N.p., 3 June 2014. Web. 24 Oct. 2015.

Golden, James L., Goodwin F. Berquist, William E. Coleman, and J. Michael Sprouse. Western
Thought: From the Mediterranean to the Global Setting. 10th ed. Dubuque: Kendall Hunt,
2001. 140-249. Print.