Nicki Minaj’s opening number at the 2014 MTV VMAs felt, in many ways, like a direct rebuke to the horror show of Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke in 2013. She and her green clad dancers slithered across stage, twerking and grinding and singing her deliciously satirical “Anaconda” (at 2:00).

It wasn’t shots fired–that happened when Miley Cyrus finger banged a backup dancer with a foam finger. This was shots returned, and with sharpshooter accuracy.

Minaj showed up again in the latter half of the opening medley to rap her part of “Bang Bang.” Her dress may have come undone, forcing her to keep it together with some smooth hand moves, but that didn’t stop her from dancing with fellow performers Ariana Grande and Jesse J and laying claim to these VMAs.

This one was all for the ladies, and they were gonna knock the show dead.

Until Taylor Swift came out in a Beyonce knock-off singing about how we all need to just shake it off and let it go like ice-lobbing Disney queens.

Here’s the deal Taylor, I generally love your innocuous brand of pop as much as the next gal–especially when I pretend Hayden Panettiere’s* story in Nashville is based entirely on your real life, but lady, while “shake it off” is great personal advice it is pretty terrible advice to drop on the VMAs when a big portion of the country is marching in the streets and demanding accountability and change from their institutions of power. You know?

But folks. FOLKS. Guys and girls and every other gender. Beyonce was in the house to claim her due, hang out with her baby Blue and drop truths like a good Queen should and it didn’t matter how many milquetoast performers had preceded her. She was here to begin and end a pretty major conversation.

Beyonce Feminism 2014 VMAs

Imagine how many kids are going to see that? Maybe not live. Maybe not during the hundreds of reruns of the show MTV will do in the weeks to come. They might see it on the morning news or plastered across the front of their parents’ newspaper or headlining their favorite blog. Beyonce and feminism are going to be seeping into their brains. The two are going to be linked. Robin Thicke and rape. Taylor Swift and twee. Spice Girls and Girl Power.

Music, and music videos, have a profound impact on our perception of the world. They tell us what is cool or they tell us what is scary.

Feminism was become a dirty word in our society. Something decidedly uncool. People used to think no bras and hairy pits and butch lesbians.**

Now they’re going to be thinking about Queen Bey.

So next time someone jackhat says “why do we need feminism” you don’t even have to engage. You can just point to Beyonce standing in front of that word. If it’s good enough for her it’s damn well good enough for the rest of us.

*Good god it only took me two tries to spell her name.
**For the record I’m down with all three.

  • Pontifex

    I love that a pop star actually aligned herself with feminism. Especially after gals like Katy Perry have edged away from it. Probably because, “People used to think no bras and hairy pits and butch lesbians.*”

    Unfortunately, the impressionable young minds that will associate feminism and Beyoncé will also associate it with an English-voiced male defining it for them. After 8 minutes of women lying leg-spread on their backs, and twerking, and pole-dancing.**

    To me, that defines commodity feminism as much as any “Hail to the V” Summer’s Eve ad. Any feminist message should be welcome, but one that suggests that a woman’s true power is the ability to use her sex is a dangerous one.

    *Down for all three as well
    **Also, the women are all wearing single layers of silver spandex and the
    men are all in suits or multi-layered “street” clothes.