'Burn the patriarchy to the ground': Feminism in music videos topic of Women's History Month presentation

Category:  News
Wednesday, March 20th, 2019 at 6:14 PM

“I am going to talk to you today about things that are a little uncomfortable,” said Dr. Rhonda Matthews, associate professor in the history, politics, languages and cultures department. What followed was a panel discussion, titled “Burn the patriarchy to the ground,” which focused on music icons, black womanism and the evolving definitions of woman, man and family.

On Wednesday, March 13, Edinboro University hosted its annual High School Day, and EU would use this occasion to celebrate Women’s History Month. The day allowed for students, both college and high schoolers, to participate in various lectures and activities surrounding women.

Matthews touched on popular culture and controversial issues, along with the message Beyoncé Knowles and Jay-Z shared in their recent albums: “Lemonade,” “4:44” and “Everything Is Love.”

Matthews defined six terms at the start of her lecture: gender, sex, womanism, feminism, patriarchy and intersectional.

Matthews explained how, while gender and sex are often used interchangeably, gender and sex have different definitions.

The ‘Boro professor defined sex as a biological construct, consisting of primary and secondary characteristics. Primary characteristics are genitalia, and secondary characteristics are body hair, breasts, the broadening of hips and the deepening of voices.

Matthews defined gender as a social construct and then capitalized on the established ideology that females are nurturing and soft while males are strong and not emotional. She would use the controversial hot topic, Brett Kavanaugh, to demonstrate that these constructs are not always true.

“All you had to do was watch Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing to know that shit ain’t true,” Matthews said. “We have in our society evidence that gender doesn’t in fact apply to everyone and yet we persist.”

Gender isn’t the only construct we follow in popular culture, but patriarchy as well, explained Matthews.

“Patriarchy is a social system that constructs the ways in which we act...a social system that is predicated upon and rewards maleness and all the characteristics associated with it. In a patriarchal system, anything that is considered male is prized...everything that is not is considered substandard,” Matthews explained.

She then gave the audience an example of a small  patriarchal act, being that most people have their father’s last name, and if their parents are married, their mothers do as well.

Feminism, which Matthews defined as an ideology that gender and sex are equal, was combined with the basic objective being the equality of the sexes.

She made the audience question feminism, as she explained intersectionality. This includes race, sexuality, ability and religion. “When you are going back to examine equalities and inequalities, you have to examine it from a much broader perspective than feminism does. Outside of gender: race, and sexuality,” she explained.

Matthews finished her definitions with a brief look into womanism as “an attempt to fix what feminism was leaving out.”

“You got all the background,” Matthews said as a segway into Beyoncé and Jay-Z. She continued, explaining the motivation for Beyoncé’s album, “Lemonade.” After months of speculation, Beyoncé confirmed that within her album’s text her husband had cheated on her.

“What ‘Lemonade’ did,” Matthews explained, “was it took us through all the steps of that process: finding out, grief, reconciliation. From beginning to end there is a concept. This was a turn for Beyoncé in this album for a discussion of politics.”

In the “Lemonade” music videos, Beyoncé used her platform to take a stance on Black Lives Matter and used tracks like “Sorry” and “Formation” to comment on the role black women play.

“4:44” was Jay-Z’s response album to “Lemonade.” It was an album that included a confession of guilt and admittance of fault for the cheating. However, it was significant, according to Matthews, “because it talked about what she was talking about” politically. He opens the discussion up for Black Lives Matter in his music videos, such as “Story of O.J.,” and the role black men play.

“Everything is Love” is the collaboration album after the cheating scandal. Similar to “4:44” and “Lemonade,” this album’s music video capitalized on gender roles and Black Lives Matter. Matthews referenced the video for “Apeshit,” which was filmed in the Louvre.

“We see black people where we usually don’t see them,” Matthews explained, as “Apeshit” shows black men and women around the museum as the pieces of art. This is all while women are comforting men in some scenes, changing the construct and showing men as weak and women as strong.

Matthews encouraged the audience to “be curious” about what’s around them, because she believes popular culture plays an important role in our society.

“Popular culture does all kinds of things for us. It delivers messages to us that, if we are not paying attention, we just passively ingest.”

Anisa Venner-Johnson | eupnews.spectator@gmail.com

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