Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Beyoncé

Beyoncé has become the primary figurehead for appreciating and empowering black women within the realm of pop culture. In all of her music, she uses her own defining experiences based on race and gender to establish a sense of honesty that resonates with others, effectively gaining followers that worship her for expressing how they feel. Lemonade, the visual album, tries to reach an even greater audience by offering an alternative to monolithic representations of feminism and women. The different sources Beyoncé draws upon, such as Pipilotti Rist and Zora Neal Hurston, validate the fact that there are several facets of feminism, while her deliberate inclusion of multiple generations, fashions, and music genres make her argument more universally felt. I’m very impressed by this emphasis on expanding the definition of feminism to encompass what is best for all women. I believe that if this conclusion is understood, then it can also be said that the western version of feminism, as we touched upon last week, shouldn’t be pressed upon eastern cultures and religions. It’s not to say that those countries can’t be educated about gender equality, but it speaks to the necessity for conversation, not assumptions. 

“My love was stronger than your pride” is one of the lines that really struck me as I was watching the album. The statement seems to reinforce that women should settle for less than they deserve, as though such a relationship is a competition and the woman’s love has defeated her partner’s pride, except her partner’s pride is never actually addressed. This separate narrative of Lemonade that focuses on forgiveness can certainly be seen as empowering: it’s the embrace of a woman’s ability to make her own decisions. Yet, I find that it still contradicts the notion of equal responsibility in relationships as her partner’s love isn’t forced to be just as strong as hers. I also hesitate to accept appropriation and subversion as tactics that drive change, only because they tend to steer issues at hand away from a solution. The transformation of the word pussy, for example, is fascinating; President Trump objectifies and sexualizes women, but women clap back by embracing the label and wearing hats that resemble cat ears. I see the vindictive pleasure of turning his own words against him and taking confidence from them, but it doesn’t attack the root of the problem. The people who objectify and sexualize women aren’t going to care about hats that have pointy corners, just as those who need to respect women, especially women of color, aren’t going to watch Lemonade and suddenly grasp the importance of normalizing race and gender. Reflecting more on the purpose of appropriation and subversion, however, it’s evident that among those appropriating and subverting a kind of camaraderie is formed which can offer support and therefore empowerment. In my opinion, this is how Beyoncé leads. She doesn’t attack the patriarchy or protest against society’s double standards—Beyoncé calls likeminded women together and guides them to seize their own individual power. 

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