If you don’t know by now, you’ve been living under a rock.
Early Friday morning, Beyonce gave us all a heart attack when she released her self-titled visual masterpiece, Beyonce. And because we weren’t at all expecting it, we basically woke up in complete shock to messages like these:
Morning!!!! Have you checked on your edges since Bey & Blue snatched them last night?? Lol
— Reagan Gomez (@ReaganGomez) December 13, 2013
And really, whose edges didn’t Beyonce snatch? She’s sexy, fun, talented. She’s a visionary — the videos are not only aesthetically pleasing, they are stories built from images. Her voice, as always, is perfection. She proves, once again, that she is the greatest of her time in overall entertainment. But there was something else about this album that caught our attention — something that wasn’t there in 2003’s Crazy in Love or critically acclaimed 4.
It was a womanhood I hadn’t seen before. It was Beyonce’s emancipation from social chains, from criticism, from the lines media drew that illustrate her as something manufactured or “polished” in comparison to the alternative, her sister Solange. These are boxes, they are inaccurate and Beyonce crushed them, quite literally, in this new album.
And if you aren’t woke, as Erykah Badu would say, then you probably missed the message. Yes, the album is about sex. Yes, it’s about love. Yes, it’s even about Baby Blue. But Beyonce is really an ode to womanism, feminism or whatever euphemism you might use to describe the empowerment of women, but especially women of color.
Yep, I took it there.
And in a year that saw the internet invalidating the issues of women of color, excluding them from important conversations about feminism, and frankly, excluding them from feminism period (remember @Karynthia’s #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen and Michelle Cottle’s FLOTUS is a Feminist Nightmare), Beyonce came through with the power of Jesus Christ himself and did quite the opposite on a public stage.
Invalidated all those criticisms about what it really means to be a feminist.
By first asserting that she is a feminist:
Because if the internet is any indication, black women aren’t feminists and academic feminism (aka white feminism) is the only valid form. And if Beyonce critics have any say, the track “Flawless,” previously titled “Bow Down,” was completely anti-feminist for the use of the word “bitch.” But Beyonce cleared all of that up by inserting an excerpt from Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED speech about feminism.
Married with a Houston-inspired beat that will make the most conservative of us twerk, Adichie’s voice came through the speakers and took what was left of those edges Beyonce snatched:
“We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls, you can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful. Otherwise, you would threaten the man. Because I am female, I am expected to aspire to marriage. I am expected to make my life choices always keeping in mind that marriage is the most important. Now marriage can be a source of joy and love and mutual support but why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage and we don’t teach boys the same? We raise girls to see each other as competitors not for jobs or accomplishments, which I think can be a good thing, but for the attention of men. We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings in the way that boys are. Feminist: a person who believes in the social, political, economic equality of the sexes.”
That was a read, honey. So stop checking her feminism (black girls, white girls and yes, men).
Is Beyonce not invalidating every single inequality in this speech and every archaic idea of what it means to be a woman? It’s clear. Beyonce=Feminist. Any questions?
Feminists can’t be women who hold family/children paramount:
Remember when Politico’s Michelle Cottle wrote a scathing article criticizing First Lady Michelle Obama for her “soothingly domestic” campaigns, such as childhood obesity and being a “Mom-in-Chief?” Yep, that’s the article that called FLOTUS a “feminist nightmare” and suggested she let down her entire sex. Well the internet (and Melissa Harris-Perry oh so gracefully) tore that shit to pieces and let Cottle know a thing or two about black feminism.
FLOTUS isn’t a feminist nightmare for choosing to be a mother. She, in fact, is rejecting a common stereotype that has destroyed black families and didn’t allow black women to put their own daughters and sons first. Like Harris-Perry said:
The First Lady is saying, ‘You, Miss Anne, are going to have to clean your own house because I will be caring for my own’ and instead of agreeing that the public sphere is necessarily more important than Sasha and Malia, she has buried Mammy and has embraced being a mom on her own terms.”
And so has Beyonce. She’s outlined what ideas she subscribes to, clearly calling herself a feminist on “Flawless” (see above). But what is most important to her, above all else, is Blue Ivy. And being a mother does not strip women of that title. It does, however, strengthen it. How anti-feminist of a feminist to say that being a mom is anti-feminist. Maybe Cottle should listen to more Beyonce.
Feminists can’t be wives:
When Beyonce named her tour “Mrs. Carter,” feminists around the world cringed. How baffling. How anti-feminist. How subservient.
But just like Michelle Cottle’s belief that domestic issues like children are a feminist nightmare, it’s totally “Cottle” of you to believe that because Beyonce is celebrating her love, she somehow isn’t a trailblazer.
Let me break it down. Remember the “mammy” conversation we had above about black women not having the luxury of being mothers? Same goes for being wives. And this move on Beyonce’s part — putting her love for a black man who is equally supportive and in love with her on front street — is restructuring the idea of black families, placing value within that relationship and showing that it is not a myth. Sleep on that idea if you want. Beyonce is out here saving families.
But there’s something else that’s extremely feminist about the way Beyonce celebrates her marriage. It’s the idea that women have to play a certain role in a relationship…an idea that Beyonce is neutralizing every single time she does something like drop an album in the middle of the night with no promotion or warning. She might make Jay Z a steak at night and rock Blue to sleep, but she’s still making history, breaking barriers, and being a straight up bawse — proving one bawse move at a time that you don’t have to lose any parts of yourself to be someone’s wife.
Feminists can’t wear heels:
Remember when I said the internet went HAM on feminists this year?
Well, this happened. The Feminist Times editor Charlotte Raven argued that feminists shouldn’t wear heels because it looks silly. Here’s the exact quote:
“Can you be an atheist and wear a crucifix and a set of rosary beads?” The answer is simple. You can, but you will look pretty silly.”
Then there was this:
“We have the right to do stupid things, but feminism is there to try and stop us before we hurt ourselves, physically or psychically. I wouldn’t say to a victim of domestic violence, ‘well that’s your personal choice.’ I personally live with a man who doesn’t hit me but it’s cool with me if you have chosen not to.”
What in the entire fuck kind of twisted, narrow, ridiculous comparison…we just can’t.
And anyway, where in this image do you see any anti-feminism?
You don’t. Have a seat. But that point brings us to this…
Feminists (especially black) can’t be sexy:
OK, let’s just jump into this. There’s something wrong when Miley Cyrus can appropriate a subset of black culture that makes her “strong and sexy,” yet when Beyonce wears a jumpsuit that accentuates her curves, it’s inappropriate and oh-so-anti-fem. Let’s face it. This society doesn’t allow black women to celebrate their bodies (unless of course it’s overly and grossly sexual to the point of degradation).
Black women aren’t allowed to celebrate sex the way Madonna would. Black women are shamed for being openly sexual in fear of being a stereotypical hyper-sexual being. And shaming Beyonce for embracing her body and her sexuality in Beyonce is the most anti-feminist thing one could do. Is that not reinforcing the same patriarchy that aims to overthrow feminism?
Oh. I thought so. Go listen to “Rocket” and “Partition” and get back to me.
Black women can’t be feminists at all:
We talked about academic and white feminism before (see above). It’s that same feminism that finds it necessary to define (incorrectly) what pure feminism is. It’s exclusive. It shames. It insults. It spurred @Karynthia’s genius #solidarityisforwhitewomen and this tweet which encapsulates this entire post:
But Beyonce, whether you like it or not, is letting us all know — there are levels to this shit. Being a feminist doesn’t mean sacrificing family, being anti-men, or burning your bra (read heels). Being a feminist doesn’t mean you have to relate to the narratives of white feminism that we all know while refusing to acknowledge that black feminism is a different ball game with different issues. Being a feminist is about inclusion. Being a feminist is being every woman.
And if Beyonce can be a mother, a wife, an entertainer, a designer, an artist and a woman who owns her sexuality…I’d say that’s pretty damn pro-feminism.
Wouldn’t you agree?
GIF SOURCE: Buzzfeed | PHOTO CREDIT: Screengrab