Pretty Hurts

Music is one of the most influential media outlets of our era. Each generation has a “sound”; the messages that are found in the songs correlate with issues in society during that time period. When looking at the current music industry, Beyoncé is one of the most prominent artists of our time. Beyoncé talks to woman and girls alike about the hardships and labors of being a female. These messages transcend through various ages, races, and economic and social classes to reach the strict gender expectations imposed upon the female gender as a whole. There is one song specifically that draws attention the need for women to properly present themselves and appear. The music video Pretty Hurts is Beyoncé’s way of bringing to light girls being subject to increasing perfectionism. The world is our stage and the audience is made up of our peers.  The lyrics say “Mama said, you’re a pretty girl, What’s in your head it doesn’t matter, Brush your hair, fix your teeth, What you wear is all that matters” which is a theme we have found in many of the books we’ve read in class. This verse beginning with “mama said, you’re a pretty girl” giving Beyoncé a sense of youthfulness that goes along with girlhood by addressing her mother and placing Beyonce into a mindset of someone searching for approval and validation of her. Although the demands of women has changed though time, the theme of women needing to perfect their external appearance has been following every new generation of girls.



Jean-Jacques Rousseau was quoted in the keyword girlhood saying, “…She is absorbed in the doll and her coquetry is expressed through it. But the time will come when she will be her own doll”. I believe that Beyoncé’s song exemplifies the idea that as we grow up and grow out of playing with dolls, we then begin to change things in our own appearances, dressing ourselves up to meet societies standards. The scene in Little Women, Meg Goes to Vanity Fair, is an example of the transition time when Meg begins to dress herself like her sister Beth dresses her dolls. Although girlhood has changed significantly since Little Women was published, there are still many similarities that have stuck. Girlhood has a fundamental grounding in play, dress up and innocence. Channels such as Little Women and Beyoncé’s music show a timeless trend of what is means to be a girl. In the words of Beyonce, “my aspiration in life, is to be happy”.

3 thoughts on “Pretty Hurts”

  1. I think you did a great job of addressing the fact that change does happen and isn’t in itself a bad thing, but a natural process from girlhood to womanhood. Beyoncé does an excellent job of addressing the fact that the pressures that society puts on women often push them to extremes, such as using diet pills or vomiting as depicted in the video. As an influential female singer she has worked hard to create songs that empower women, which is in part why she is such a well respected musician.

  2. I think the fact that women are reluctant to change and more likely to search for validation and approval shows the harsh implications that society has on young women. The quote from the Keywords essay on Girlhood saying “but the time will come when she will be her own doll,” is particularly interesting and seems to set up a reoccurring theme for girls trying to fit in. Besides our family and other people we meet throughout childhood, a doll perhaps might be the first item that a girl would idolize, cherish and see as “perfect,” which we see becomes problematic for young women later on in life seeking the approval of society.

  3. I’m so glad that you talked about this issue! I do think that the ways which many girls are raised, in one way or another, teaches them to seek comfort and assurance from validations of others. I believe that this is especially evident nowadays with the increasing importance of social media. Take Instagram as an example, it not only redefined how a girl should look like in many ways, it also created an illusion that one’s worth is directly correlated with the amount of “followers” or “likes” one have. On the bright side, it appears that there are many public discourses (including thins Beyoncé song) that promote female self-esteem and self-love. With the increasing awareness of this issue, I think it will be really interesting to see how parents who agree with this issue would raise their children in a way that promotes self-esteem and validation that come from within oneself.

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