If you’re a black woman feminist or womanist, you have to write about Beyonce and her new album—it’s a rule.
So, here goes.
But first: I discovered an uncomfortable truth about myself this year…I suck as a feminist. Even though I graduated from a women’s college, taught at this women’s college, and have two co-authors who are women (the dynamic Jina Ortiz, with whom I am co-editing an anthology of women’s fiction, and the very gifted Tara Betts, with whom I am co-writing a book about the Dark Room Collective), I’ve internalized a lot of misogyny.
I think internalized misogyny is one of those issues, like colorism or classism in minority communities, that people are reluctant to talk about. People often talk about how oppressed people develop “a victim mentality,” but I seriously doubt this “victim mentality” even exists. No one wants to be a victim. No one. We’ve all heard of Stockholm syndrome and how people adopt the attitudes and beliefs of their oppressors, but we don’t discuss how unfettered capitalism has damaged our minds and bodies by reducing us to what we can produce. No one wants to admit what a number white supremacy has done on our psyches. We go through freaking psychological cartwheels to avoid talking about the ways systems of power and oppression have made us feel vulnerable, afraid, ashamed.
I say this because my personal goal in 2014 is to listen—really listen—to people, especially those who have traditionally had less of a voice. I have a writing colleague who loves to discuss women writers’ physical beauty, but when you ask him about the work these women are producing, he can’t say much. I’m guilty of this too—it’s hard not to notice the outward beauty of a Zadie Smith or a Chimamanda Adichie or a Patricia Engel—but we’ve also got to pay attention to what these women (and many, many more) are saying. We can learn a lot from those voices that have traditionally been silenced.
And so (finally!) going back to Beyonce, maybe that’s why so many folks love or hate her: in a world that still silences women, she uses her physicality/sensuality to force us to pay attention to her vision of the world, whatever we may think of that particular vision.
(And for those who would have preferred more “Beyonce” in this post, here are two well-written, provocative posts:
From http://realcoloredgirls.wordpress.com/2013/12/15/the-problem-with-beyhive-bottom-bitch-feminism/: “in reality this ‘power’ is merely vicarious and not a positional power in and of itself.”
From: http://dreamhampton.com/2013/12/18/yonce-on-her-knees/_2696090972.html: “The mindless adoration, the baseless evisceration, the love, the hate, speculation, the projection, the pedestal. They are the rent she pays for her place in the constellation”