With the recent media frenzy over the “respectability” of young pop icons (hello, Miley), I’ve been thinking a lot about powerful female icons that I’d be happy to see my future children idolize. Beyoncé’s new album is fierce, flawless, and more importantly, hella feminist.
Wait a minute, wait a minute. Tell me what’s feminist about watching a scantily-clad pop star shake her booty on Youtube, you might say.
Bey is reclaiming her sexuality, hard. On this album, she sings as a wife, a mother, and a woman of color, and she is unapologetic about her highly sexual nature. I’ve found this to be particularly meaningful at a time where it feels difficult to maintain my own sex positivity in this culture. Sure, sex is everywhere you look. But sex positivity, this sort of “unapologetic” attitude and reclamation of one’s own inherent female sexuality – this seems harder to come by.
The writers at the Crunk Feminist Collective say it all – “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.” Okay, so let’s get into the music.
Here are the songs every feminist should listen to off the new album:
1. Pretty Hurts
Beyoncé opens the first track of her album with a surprising claim: “My aspiration in life would be to be happy.” Not to be thinner, or prettier, or to marry rich, or even to “change the world,” as we might expect a beauty queen to respond. She then goes on to bash American culture’s obsession with outer perfection, claiming that “perfection is a disease of a nation,” and that it’s not our bodies but “the soul that needs the surgery.”
Knowles samples a TED Talk by feminist Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in this song, telling women all over that “we flawless, ladies, tell ‘em, I woke up like this.” She responds to Adichie’s claim that “you can have ambition/but not too much/you should aim to be successful/but not too successful, otherwise you will threaten the man,” with her own claim that “I took some time to live my life, but don’t think I’m just his little wife. Don’t get it twisted, get it twisted/this my shit, bow down bitches.”
The Crunk Feminist Collective filled me in even more on the mind-boggling awesomeness of this song. It’s all about the context, apparently. In the spring, Bey released an earlier version of the song, which had feminists’ “panties all in a wad…because Bey instructed some generally nameless bitches to bow down.” And then…
‘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.”’
Also I just need to mention that Bey is flawless in this flannel. Amiright?
“Home is where the heart is/Goddammit I’m comfortable in my skin/And you’re/Comfortable in my skin.” So for a moment let’s just ignore the fact that we’d obviously all be comfortable in our skin if it was Beyoncé’s skin and just appreciate how awesome this body positivity is! I’m really on a serious fangirl kick here, can you tell?
Also I give Queen Bey some serious props for singing about cunnilingus in a feminist, empowering way (at least I hope that’s what she’s doing). “I love your face/You love the taste/That sugar babe, it melts away/I kiss you when you lick your lips/You like it wet and so do I/No you never waste a drip.” This might make you uncomfortable. But do you know why it makes you uncomfortable? Perhaps it’s because we are constantly forced to listen to songs referencing blow jobs (here are just a few examples), and hearing a sexually empowered woman sing about her man going downtown catches us off guard.
Okay, it’s probably time to end the rant. But seriously, if this hasn’t convinced you to at least listen to the album, then I really don’t know what will.