Thursday, March 2, 2017

When the patriarchy gives you lemons...

It wasn't until watching the full visual album and seeing Beyonce's grandmother speech for her 90th birthday that I realized where the title Lemonade came from.  Women have always been subject to the "lemons" of life: suffering, pain, invisibility, exclusion, etc.  Beyonce's album is a response to that.  She has decided to take all the pain associated with womanhood, especially black womanhood to create a "sweet" aesthetically appeasing visual album which takes time to explore these issues -- her very own Lemonade.

Throughout the entire movie I was encapsulated by its imagery and riveting sounds .  The vivid colors, the intriguing scenery, and the harmonic resonance all pulled me in.  Beyoncé intentionally does this so her audience pays attention to what it is she has to say.  Consumers may come to bump to her music or be enchanted by the visuals but they will eventually stay for the message.

Nardone's lecture brought to my attention aspects of the visual album that I would not have noticed on my own -- rather she gave a name to it.  Mainly,  I was particular intrigued by Beyonce's use of "appropriation and subversion".  She purposely takes a common assumption and completely flips it on its head.  This was most noticeable in "6 inch heels" with the men being the prostitutes and Beyoncé and other women soliciting their services. This drastic shift in gender norms is not specific to just Lemonade, in a song of her's entitled "If I Were A Boy" she does the same thing: she imagines for herself a life where she was male--the one who was free to do what she wants in a relationship  (https://youtu.be/AWpsOqh8q0M).  Beyonce's use of appropriating and subverting is well done because she points out to us the ridiculous nature of these traditional gender roles society has created.

I was really struck by the Audre Lord quote and bell hooks' view that the existing power structure cannot be destroyed within the confines of their rules.  In my opinion, this is simply false.  In fact, I think the only way change can occur is by working within the system.  Beyoncé's use of sex appeal as the center of attention for much of the album is on one hand an embrace of her femininity but also an acknowledgement that sex sells.  She knows that this is the most effective way to get her message out there.  She is also a woman who is confident in her body and has no problem being so.  Her decision to be raunchy does not diminish her feminism but rather enhances it.

I think the Lemonade album also deals a lot with the notions of visibility and intersectionality.  For much of history and even today, black women are invisible.  Their struggles are not acknowledged, their beauty goes largely unappreciated, and their stories go unheard.  Beyonce's Lemonade album calls attention to that.  Black women of all ages and shades are the forefront of this piece.  She calls attention to their struggles with the mothers, daughters, and sisters of slain black men and she calls attention to their culture with depictions of their style and neighborhoods.  Beyoncé rejects "white feminism", the feminism that acknowledges only the struggles that privileged white women face rather than being aware of the struggles of all types of women, and instead embraces intersectionality by showing the multi faceted nature of black women both in America and abroad.

There is no doubt in my mind that Beyoncé is a feminist.  Though many may disagree with how she has decided to get her message out there, her message of inclusion and hardship amplify perspectives of feminism that largely go unheard.

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