The Parthenon

Ladies and everyone else, tell ‘em

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






‘Flawless’ as a feminist anthem

Advertisement

The word “flawless” is arguably one of the most important in today’s popular culture. It has transitioned from a term simply expressing something without fault to an empowering declaration of personal strength and confidence.

In a regular column about the effects of language on contemporary society for New York Times Magazine, Parul Sehgal breaks down the word, taking it from its cultural inception in drag jargon to its reincarnation through Beyoncé lyrics.

“Late in its life, ‘flawless’ has taken on a joyful, political function,” Sehgal wrote. “It’s a way of declaring not just your beauty but also the fact of your existence with pride.”

Originally used as an underground word to describe the inability to see through a drag queen’s makeup, the term as shifted to a triumphant declaration of human beauty. But as Sehgal points out, it avoids the sexism often associated with terms such as “beautiful,” “comely” or “immaculate.”

“It’s a word for integrity and excellence of execution,” Sehgal wrote.

Today, arguably thanks to the Beyoncé influence, “flawless” has taken on an air of power. The pop superstar’s feminist anthem “***Flawless” features gritty lyrics proclaiming her message of strength, an excerpt from Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Ted Talk and a video of 12-year-old Beyoncé with Girl’s Tyme on “Star Search” as they lose the contest but keep their heads high.

Thanks to the song, the commonly used word has now become a way for its user to declare herself or himself as an unbroken and indestructible force in the universe.

In Seghal’s article, she describes several images captioned with the word:

“A much-shared photograph of a woman in a hijab with dramatic, winged eyeliner is captioned ‘flawless;’ so is one of Rihanna on a New York street, wearing a tight white skirt and holding a bright blue umbrella. A teenage girl shows off her ‘flawless’ braids. A young woman embraces a pregnant friend in a hospital room: ‘Fixing to have a baby & still flawless.’”

A much-shared photograph of a woman in a hijab with dramatic, winged eyeliner is captioned ‘flawless;’ so is one of Rihanna on a New York street, wearing a tight white skirt and holding a bright blue umbrella.”

— Parul Sehgal

Though the list lacks gender diversity, it represents the importance of the word. It can mean all of these things and more, all while empowering the people depicted and the millions of others who use it to be their flawless selves.

“‘Flaw’ once evoked a shard,” Seghal wrote. “Now ‘flawless’ has come to mean plainly, powerfully, something unbroken, something defiantly whole.”

If nothing else it a statement proclaiming to the world a person’s confidence and value within himself or herself.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Leave a Comment

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a gravatar.