The “If I Were a Boy” trend in music

At the time of Beyoncé’s song’s release, Ciara was asked about their song’s similarities. She said, "The song is different, but it does have the same concept as mine." Beyoncé’s track was written primarily by a woman, while Ciara’s was penned with a team of mostly men. But Beyoncé’s video inspired feminist perspectives to spring up, especially in relation to "If I Were A Boy" in juxtaposition to "Single Ladies" and "Cater 2 U," songs about marriage and loving a man so much you’d worship him.

Said Beyoncé of "If I Were a Boy:"

I didn’t write it, but that song is so perfect. It’s so refreshing. It’s definitely something that will last forever. I felt like I was singing for every woman in the world. I feel like I’m an artist who says a lot of the things in my music that women want to say or need to hear. Fans always tell me, "You got me through this argument with my boyfriend," or, "Because of you I was strong enough to stick it through."

And while the song might strike a chord with some women who deal with disrespectful men, there seems to be much more wrong with what Beyoncé presents than what help she can give. Salon.com’s Tracy Clark-Flory says:

The message isn’t exactly new: Boys and girls are different, and boys treat girls like shit. But this video is especially irksome because it masquerades as an empowered attack on rigid gender roles while only reinforcing them. The idea here — just as with Ciara’s "Like a Boy," which, OK, I secretly love — is that the only power a girl has in a relationship is to act like a boy, instead of redefining "the rules" or refusing sucky relationships.

And Judy Berman commented in the same article:

I can’t even tell what this song and video are trying to say. Is it that there aren’t female cops? That women don’t go out for beers with their friends? That we’re not allowed to ignore phone calls from men we’d like to avoid? That Beyoncé is a jealous, lonely hausfrau type who gets no respect from men?

So what does it say about us, then, as gay women if we enjoy these gender-playing music videos because it gives us the opportunity to see Beyoncé and Ciara out of their stilettos and glitter and in a pair of slacks and cap on their heads?

The recent addition to this genre is UK pop singer Jessie J‘s single, "Do It Like a Dude." The song itself is quite simple:

I can do it like a brother / Do it like a dude / Grab my crotch, wear my hat low like you

The video, however, employs many more ideas. But there are no men in this music video. In fact, it seems ripe with women of various gender-identities. Besides the women kissing, there is the masculine dancing from Ciara’s video, but with additional scenes of these butch-esque women playing poker, fighting, scowling and smoking cigars. If it weren’t for the singer’s overtly sexual dancing and grabbing of her body parts, it might actually be somewhat of a good video. Instead, it comes off as a bizarre promise that Jessie is tough, but she is tough and still sexy. So sexy, she will show it all of, even in a room full of really butch women: One of these things is not like the other.

To what do we owe this trend, that seems to only be picking up popularity in different genres and countries? Likely the continuing ideas of gender stereotypes, and the willingness of women to sing these songs that men wouldn’t dream of performing. What would be more radical and enjoyable are songs about female empowerment that feature them in masculine or androgynous attire. But that, I fear, is too threatening to the social ideal of how they want to be seen. They prefer to be seen as less-privileged, and willing to put up with it.

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