Destiny’s Child was one of the most popular girl groups in the late ’90s and early to mid 2000s. Since I was born in 1999, I didn’t enjoy the music of Destiny’s Child in real time, but the group’s music is still relevant today, and their hit songs like “Say My Name” and “Bills, Bills, Bills” have made their way on to several of my shower playlists. For today’s feature, I’m not asking if the music of Destiny’s Child is good – there is no doubt about it – but if it is feminist.
Feminist is a tricky thing to define, and it means something different to every person. As a Women and Gender Studies major at UNC, I strongly believe that true feminism is intersectional. This means that, while women support women, they also acknowledge how other factors like race, gender identity, sexual identity, ethnicity and more can work to oppress others. Intersectional feminists work to support all oppressed groups.
Today, I’ll be doing a deep dive into some of Destiny’s Child’s biggest hits from their compilation album to discern if the group is feminist and, more importantly, intersectional.
“Independent Women, Pt. 1”
I mean, can it get anymore feminist than this? “Independent Woman” was written for the 2002 Charlie’s Angels movie, and was then put on to a Destiny’s Child album. The title spells it out; this song is all about women being independent. The group sings that “if you try to control [them], boy, you will get dismissed” and that these women are “always fifty-fitfy in relationships.” They go on to sing that they depend on themselves. The music video is pretty great; there are many POC background dancers and extras, as well as imagery thoughout the video of Kelly, Michelle and Beyonce standing up for themselves and rallying together.
“Survivor” is another Destiny’s Child classic. This song speaks to the resilience of women, singing in the first verse that while an ex-lover, friend, possibly band mate, thought that they would be weak, broke, helpless, sad and stressed without them, Destiny’s Child is actually better than ever. Despite the empowering lyric, “I’m a survivor; I’m not gon’ give up,” the camera work in the music video leaves much to be desired. Kelly, Michelle and Beyonce are constantly objectified in the video, espeically in the beginning, when there are slow-mo panning shots of each of the women’s bodies. I don’t know how much input the three women had, but I wish there was more focus on the women’s strength and less on sexualizing their bodies. Nevertheless, the song itself is empowering and a wonderful way to remind yourself that you are a strong woman.
“Say My Name”
I couldn’t make this list without “Say My Name,” which might be my favorite song from the group. This song was recorded and the music video filmed with the four original women – Beyonce, Michelle Williams, LaTavia Roberson and LaToya Luckett. The four women sing about confronting their lover after picking up on clues that their partner is cheating on them. While the lyrics aren’t as obviously feminist as “Independent Woman” and “Survivor,” the song is about women believing in their intuition, sticking up for themselves and confronting a man, which is bound to be intimidating. Near the end of the music video, the four women join, showing solidarity in their friendship.
“Say My Name,” might have been a strong contender for my favorite Destiny’s Child song, but “Girl” might just take the cake. In the music video, Beyonce and Michelle console Kelly, whose partner is cheating on her. This song is all about being there and supporting your friends, and women in general, which I think is at the heart of feminism. The hook of the song, “I’m your girl, you’re my girl, we’re your girls/Don’t you know that we love you?” perfectly sums up the comraderie and power these women find in each other, and hopefully what women find in their allies in real life.
What’s the Verdict?
Based on these four songs, I would say that Destiny’s Child is a feminist girl group. They have many images of power and solitude, and they always seem to be supporting each other. Though their music videos sometimes objectify their bodies, that is probably the fault of the music video director, and not the women themselves. My one critique is that all of the music videos I watched for this post (there were about 10 songs that didn’t make the list) were heterosexual. I wish there would have been more diverse representations of sexuality. On the plus side, their music videos tend to be very diverse, even outside of having black background singers and extras. I think divese representation is hard to come by, and Destiny’s Child ensures that there are several racial groups represented. While feminist, Destiny’s Child isn’t always intersectional. Destiny’s Child was wonderful for representing women, but always keep in mind that there is room for improvement in everything.