I was delighted at the news and purchased it as soon as I could...listening to it all day Friday at work while I was processing a mailing. (Big thank you to Queen Bey for putting that album out when I had what would have been an otherwise boring day before me.)
If I were to summarize album in a few words, I'd choose catchy, beautiful, and feminist as hell.
Let's take a look at just a few songs...
First up we have a ballad, "Pretty Hurts" which explores our culture of perfection:
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."
Just another stage, pageant the pain away
This time I'm gonna take the crown
Without falling down, down, down
Pretty hurts, shine the light on whatever's worse
Perfection is a disease of a nation, pretty hurts, pretty hurts
Pretty hurts, shine the light on whatever's worse
Trying to fix something but you can't fix what you can't see
It's the soul that needs the surgery
Blonder hair, flat chestYES. She gets it, she gets it, she gets it. My first thought when I heard the song and watched the even more powerful video (after I wiped away some tears) was that I HAVE to get this incorporated into the body image curriculum we do at work. Here we have a women who the girls already love and idolize talking to them about the collective obsession with looks and "perfection."
TV says, "Bigger is better."
South beach, sugar free
Vogue says, "Thinner is better."
It could be easy to write her off because she is conventionally attractive, but I think that she's driving home a really important point: even if you are widely regarded as about as close to perfect as they come, you'll be made to feel not good enough in the pretty-preferencing culture.
Next up we have ***Flawless. This song is a brain worm! So catchy and perfect and amazing and has been stuck in my head for 48 hours at least. The lyrics that stuck out to me the most were...
I took some time to live my lifeWhat an amazing response to the feminist backlash against her for calling her tour the Mrs. Carter World Tour. What stood out most in the song was the sampling of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie epic TEDx Talk called, "We should all be feminists."
But don't think I'm just his little wife
Don't get it twisted, get it twisted
This my shit, bow down bitches
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 will 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 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 for 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, and economic equality of the sexes.YES.
(Pretty much after every song on the album I just screamed, "YES.")
Then we also have powerfully sex positive songs like "Blow" and "Partition." As Batty Mamzelle wrote,
[S]he consciously intermingles her feminism with her sexuality...she can be both sexual and a feminist. They are not mutually exclusive...By embracing her sexuality; explicitly detailing her kinks and fantasies, she demonstrates that there is nothing uncontrollable about it. Her sexuality is deliberate and fully within her command, and she has every intent to use it as she sees fit; in this case, to pleasure her man (and by extension, herself).YES.
The final song I'd like to highlight is Blue, about her beautiful daughter, in which she explores black motherhood. As Christina Coleman at Global Grind said,
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.YES.
After listening to JUST these few songs off the album, it should become pretty clear just how foolish anyone (and especially old white lady feminism) was/is to EVER question Beyonce's feminist credentials.
The fact of the matter is that no individual woman owes anything to feminism and each person can make their own choices, but when Beyonce is so thoroughly promoting feminist ideals, it's pretty messed up to question their cred while white female musicians (like Lady Gaga) are championed.
Tumblr user PaintWithWords powerfully wrote,
BUT WHAT WE CAN DO IS NOTE THAT THE WOMAN OF COLOR SOLD ALL OF THESE RECORDS WITHOUT ACCESSING THE NEOLIBERAL ORDER IN THE SAME WAY AS THESE WHITE WOMEN; SHE DID SO WITHOUT BEING A RACIST, A TOKENIZER, OBJECTIFYING OF OTHER WOMEN’S BODIES, OR PURPORTING TO SPEAK FOR OTHER GROUPS OF MARGINALIZED, OPPRESSED-IN-WAYS-SHE-IS-NT GROUPS OF PEOPLE; SHE CREATED THE FEMINIST ALBUM OF CONTEMPORENEITY BY HARVESTING BUT NOT DAMAGING TODAY’S SALIENT CULTURAL CAPITAL, WITHOUT HAVING TO SHAME, DEGRADE, OR REJECT ANYONE FOR LIKING AND BEING ATTRACTED TO POP CULTURAL PHENOMENA AND EPHEMERA.So for once and all, THIS is what a feminist looks like:
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