You stan like a girl: The problematic feminization of the Beyhive

Today I came across a headline from The Root about a potential Jay-Z and Beyonce collaborative album. The headline was as follows: The Beyhive’s Hysteria Over News of a Possible Beyonce and Jay Z Album.

Thus far, I’ve kept pretty much quiet about my theory that the Beyhive has been unnecessarily feminized. It’s something I began to think seriously about after Drake dropped his infamous line: “Girls love Beyonce.” But this headline immediately struck me as further evidence that the Beyonce fan has become synonymous with woman. And that gendering has prompted sexist assumptions about the women who like Beyonce’s music (and rendered Beyonce fans of other genders invisible). 

The word “hysteria” itself evokes a certain sexist history. The term was first used to describe a medical condition caused by “disturbances” (cramps, labor, and childbirth) of the uterus. It was later used to connote female sexual dysfunction. Etymologically the word hysteria means “of the womb.” Although today it is commonly understood to mean “uncontrollable emotion or excitement,” those gendered undertones have followed hysteria into the present day. Because emotionality has also been stereotyped as a female characteristic, “hysterical” is often used to describe actions or people we identify as feminine — ie. “crying hysterically.”

Not only did the use of the word hysteria in The Root’s article further confirm my theory, it explained it. I have two explanations for the feminization of the Beyhive (aside from the obvious fact that Beyonce is a woman and sings about women’s experiences) and hysteria is an important piece:

  1. R&B music, the genre that Beyonce dominates, has been positioned as inherently feminine against the hypermasculinity of hip-hop and rap. The fact that a potential Jay-Z and Beyonce collaboration would blur these gendered genre lines is the reason for dismissive responses like this one from a Jay-Z fan who doesn’t want to be associated with the birds” of the Beyhive.

  1. Beyonce (and other popular artists) prompt an emotional response from their fans. The public display of emotions like joy, happiness, excitement, inspiration are all associated with “hysteria.” Understanding the Beyhive as “hysterical” is a way of delegitimizing their investment in Beyonce’s career–positioning their fandom as inferior to a fandom framed as sexual attraction or a more “genuine” appreciation of musicianship.

Under this rhetoric, joining the Beyhive is essentially stanning “like a girl.” Stanning with more emotion and less rational knowledge and cool-headed excitement than, say…football fans. *side eye*

Obviously, the Beyhive is not completely composed of all women, even if guys like this go to her concert. But even if that were the case, it wouldn’t mean that we’re irrational beings. We have diverse (and pretty damn good) tastes in music and art. We are not inferior fans, incapable of controlling ourselves at the mere mention of Beyonce’s name.

Avatar Image Sesali is a sucker for a Beyonce thinkpiece.

Feministing's resident "sexpert", Sesali is a published writer and professional shit talker. She is a queer Black girl, fat girl, and trainer. She was the former Training Director at the United States Student Association and later a member of the Youth Organizing team at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. She received her bachelors in Women's and Gender Studies from Depaul University in 2012 and is currently pursuing a master's in Women's, Gender, and Sexuality studies at Georgia State University in Atlanta. A self identified "trap" feminist, and trained with a reproductive justice background, her interests include the intersections of feminism and: pop culture, youth culture, social media, hip hop, girlhood, sexuality, race, gender, and Beyonce. Sesali joined the team in 2010 as one of the winners of our So You Think You Can Blog contest.

is Feministing's resident sexpert and cynic.

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