Last night while we were all still trying to get our lives after the Scandal Season Finale Part I, Beyonce’ stealth dropped a new self-titled totally unpromoted album.
The fact that she managed to pull that ish off undetected means we can conclude only one thing: #BitchBad!
Yes, I said, “Bitch bad.” Didn’t even do the watered down version “Bish.”Sometimes to make a statement you have to use all your vowels and consonants!
Since I usually be feeling kinda spent after the weekly rendezvous with Scandal, I fell asleep. But woke up to news reports and a newsfeed filled with Bey’s latest feat. That means I have not yet listened to this entire album, and this is not an album review.
But the thing that immediately drew my attention was the fact that Chimamanda Adichie, the new Nigerian superstar writer on the block was featured on one of the tracks.
So I skipped ahead and watched the video here. (Oh yeah did I mention that there are 17 videos on the album. I repeat: #Bitchbad.)
Lo and behold, what do I find – a remixed version of Beyonce’s song from earlier this spring. On the album it’s titled “Flawless” but you might know it is as “Bow Down, I Been On.” Some feminists I know had their panties all in a wad when the first version came out, because Bey instructed some generally nameless bitches to bow down. (Here at CFC we reposted this great piece from Red Clay Scholar about Bey’s sonic ratchetness, which you should check out.)
Look, I don’t generally get into debates about whether women can or should say “bitch” or Black people can say “nigga.” Because why? The bottom line is we do it anyway, and marginalized groups have the right to self-define. What I will say is that it took feminism to introduce me to real bitches (good and bad.)
Anyway, folks said that Beyonce’s choice to do something so demeaning killed her feminist street cred. But then folks been pulling Bey’s feminist card from the beginning. Let us not forget how much folk acted a fool after the Superbowl.
So the reason I fucks wit Bey so deeply is that she had something for that ass.
The remix. The remix with Chimamanda Adichie spitting a very clear and succinct definition of feminism for the masses. “A person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.” Yup. For starters anyway. And that interlude came right after Bey said, “bow down bitches.”
Talk about Crunk Feminism – percussive, a refusal to fit into particular boxes, a willingness to “fuck with the grays.”
So here’s a few reasons that I’m here for Beyonce, the Feminist.
1.) She’s a work in progress, as are we all. In 2010, she gave an interview saying she was a “feminist in a way,” because she valued her female friendships deeply. Earlier this year, she claimed she was a “modern-day feminist.” Now she is straight up embracing the term in her music and claiming her right to tell women to both bowdown and encouraging them to be self-confident from the moment they step out of bed… in the same damn song! I rock with that because her feminism is complicated, and ours is too. Tell the truth. If your bed and the folks you shared it with were an indicator of your politics, your card might get pulled, too. Moving on.
2.) Sometimes bitches do need to bowdown. Call that a hip hop generation feminist sensibility, but it’s true. It’s just like when Papa Pope gave Fitz the read of the century last night in Scandal – “Boy, I’m literally above your paygrade.” It’s like the swag I don when academic goons try to step to me even though they are clearly less qualified. Sometimes I’ve been known to tell folk “You haven’t read enough to step to me. Go back and come again.” The world would be better if women would learn that we don’t have to take everybody’s shit. Not the white man’s, not the Black man’s, not the state’s, not the hating ass next-door neighbor, not your frenemy’s. Nobody’s.
3.) Academic feminism ain’t the only kid on the block. Confession: the first time I identified as a feminist, I was in grad school. I was able to come to an informed conclusion after reading Beverly Guy-Sheftall’s Words of Fire and Patricia Hill Collins Black Feminist Thought. But we need to stop acting like a radical feminist is the only kind of feminist to be. I mean look, I’m radical and committed to a robust structural critique. But I appreciate the good few liberal feminists in Congress who show up and actually fight for reproductive rights that can be on the books! As Meek Mill says, there’s levels to the shit. But newsflash – everybody didn’t go to college. So when women of color start waxing eloquent about how our grandmothers and mothers were the first feminists we knew and many of them would “never” use the term, I wonder then why we don’t understand Beyonce’s homegrown brand of feminism – one that honors female friendships, one that recognizes and calls out sexism and domination in her industry, one that celebrates the power of women. No, it ain’t well-articulated radical social justice feminism, but if you need a Ph.D. to be a feminist, then we’ve got bigger problems, folks. AND I’ll take a feminist that knows how to treat her homegirls before one who can spit the finer points of a bell hooks to me all day erry-day.
4.) I’m here for anybody that is checking for the f-word, since so many folk aren’t. (Except Republicans. Ain’t nobody here for that.) What we look like embracing Queen Latifah and Erykah Badu even though they patently reject the term, but shading and policing Bey who embraces it? If Bey is embracing this term, that is laudable. If she’s figuring out her relationship to it, I embrace that. I will never let my politics be limited by folks’ identification with a label, but it is nice when folks are willing to take the risk that comes with the word. Especially when said folks are backing it up by living out feminism in the ways available to them – performing with an all girl band, with visibly queer members, for instance.
5.) King Bey always brings her A-game and manages to have fun while doing it. I wish feminism could take some clues here. We don’t always bring our A-game, since we spend a whole lot of time trying to figure who’s in and who’s out as if that is going to get us anywhere. Time’s out for the WOC feminist meangirls shit. Sometimes folks just be hating. Real talk. Cuz if you ain’t critiquing Katy Perry and Pink and alla dem for being pro-capitalist and in league with the establishment, then back up off Bey. Posthaste. (And yes, we can and should have a robust critique, and that in itself ain’t hating. But again, sometimes, folk are just being mean or contrary, and we need to be about building some shit, not tearing shit down. And sometimes folks need to go to therapy and heal from the shit the meangirls in your past did to you. Stop taking it out on Bey. She don’t know you. Seriously.)
More to the point, sometimes we take ourselves too seriously. If laughing and dancing aint a part of this revolution we’re building, then you can keep it.
In Beyonce’s words “Haters hate and I get better.”
There you have it. #AllHailKingBey