You kind of changed my life today. For years I’ve been a proud member of the Bey Hive (where my ring at!?), but today was different. Sheryl Sandberg had it all wrong when she said her corporate “faux feminism” (h/t bell hooks) book Lean In was “sort of a feminist manifesto.” That something is sort of anything means it is less than that which it claims to be. A “manifesto” that speaks to the privileged and does nothing to deconstruct the structures that created that privilege is the enemy of any equality movement. It doesn’t speak to or make a case for the empowerment of everyone.
So, if we’re going to talk about feminist manifestos today, let’s talk about Beyoncé.
In “Flawless,” Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie questions the double standards we impose on young girls and women. “But why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage and we don’t teach boys the same?,” she asks. You say, “I took some time to live my life/But don’t think I’m just his little wife.” Owning that equal space in marriage is so important, and so is owning your space outside of it. Your insistence for the world to accept the compartmentalization of your roles- independent woman and wife- shines light on the fact that men are not wed into the same dualities and questioned when one role takes precedence over the other. It’s never that we depart from one role-you can be a wife and a woman, but you are first and foremost a champion for yourself.
You speak of being a “Grown Woman.” This track. THIS. Is everything. Reiterating that, hell yes! “I’m a grown woman/ I can do whatever I want.” That “I can do wrong if I want” is an important point because it directs us away from the idea that women must try to have it all, BE it all and EARN it all. We’re all imperfect beings. That we can make mistakes and own them is integral for our growth. We need to be more unapologetic (h/t to Rihanna) and not be so worried about walking outside of the very impractical lines that spell “gender roles.” Owning our space and agency makes us better sisters, daughters, friends, mothers, teachers and wives. It makes us grown women.
And then there’s “Blow.” OH BOY. I heard this album just got some people pregnant. I feel you, girl. Someone’s gotta “turn that cherry out.” This is not “Crazy In Love” right here. This is some heated, hot SEX MUSIC kind of stuff. And it’s awesome. It’s real. It’s valid. It’s what women think. Are you listening, guys?!
I love “Jealous.” It’s real and honest. Sometimes we’re afraid to admit we’re jealous. Being vulnerable is scary. Being in love and vulnerable at the same time is really, really scary. Ambiguity is scary. But there is less fear in being honest and owning the large space that feelings take up. Jealousy is also something women are socialized to feel towards other women. There are so few spaces for us at the top that it’s hard not to be jealous when you feel like you’re living in a space that doesn’t suit you. Especially if you want something more than what you have. “Sometimes I want to walk in your shoes/ Do the things that I never, ever do.” The desire to temporarily occupy a foreign space is so common. I sometimes think I’d want to be a man- just for a day. I wonder how much easier things would be.
As you said in “Pretty Hurts,” “TV says bigger is better/South Beach, sugar free/ Vogue says/ Thinner is better.” Idyllic expectations of women are perpetuated by dominant power structures that don’t need to adhere to such demanding and impossible restrictions. I mean, when was the last time you saw a mainstream male model get labeled as ‘plus-sized?’ We categorize the value of beauty based on irrational and irresponsible ideals. Pretty really does hurt and “perfection is the disease of a nation.” That women have to do everything right and be beautiful on top of that- it just doesn’t work.
This album has moved me. It has empowered me, much like the rest of your music. I was in middle school when I was singing “Independent Women” in the shower and pretending I was one of your back-up dancers. “Irreplaceable” got me through a break-up because I thought, shit, I can do better than this.
I really do want to write more but your album is calling. The BeyHive is buzzing tonight and I’ll keep singing your songs and praises.