Last Saturday, clapping emojis of various shades echoed through the collective American consciousness as the enduring feminine legacy set forth by Lilith, Eve and Eka Abassi culminated in the Afro-American pop majesty of muthafuckin Beyoncé.
A slew of think pieces immediately followed. Some were about how Beyoncé is decidedly a feminist. Others were about how Beyoncé is decidedly not a feminist. Some were in regards to how maybe Beyoncé might be a feminist. Several were even about how Hillary Clinton – who, depending on your op-ed of choice, is also maybe definitely possibly decidedly a feminist – must've thought this album was fire. In theory, there were also a few think-pieces published over the past week about how the U.S. recently sent more troops to Iraq, but ain't nobody got time for that – a pop star made an hour-long music video, and I've got a liberal arts degree to validate and a rudimentary understanding of society I'm itchin' to show off.
Issues of national importance be damned, the world needs to hear my overly academic take on pop-culture.
Amidst this onslaught of faux-liberal content generation were words like "woke AF," "slay," and "Black Girl Magic" – all of which are among the historic tenets of Womanism. Beyoncé was also praised for being "unapologetically Black," which is something you generally only get to be when you're already beloved by the masses. For regular Black folk, being unapologetic about your race will still get you fired from your job, gentrified out of your neighborhood, and/or shot by the police. But Beyoncé addressed this too in her video by thoughtfully featuring Trayvon Martin's mother, Michael Brown's mother, and Eric Garner's mother (whom I overheard one white woman at a coffee shop refer to as, "that other guy's mom – but I can't remember his name, though, because, like, a lot of those type of guys got shot last year").
Being as the bandwagon is actually my preferred mode of transportation, I would love to hop on board and ride into the sunset as I wrote about Lemonade. But I'm not about to analyze an album concerning the woes of a Black woman and the difficulties of Black womanhood because I am a Black man, and it is not my place to do so. If the internet has taught me anything, it's that dissecting a Black woman's womanhood is a White woman's job.
Even if I could set my race, sex, and gender aside, I as a person am not equipped with an adequate enough knowledge of feminism to examine its complexities, because feminism still confuses me on a daily basis. This past Tuesday, for example, a white lady at a comedy open mic called herself a feminist and told a joke about the wage gap before diving into a two-minute long tirade about her favorite racial epithets; but I didn't say anything to her about it because we need more female voices in comedy, and I wasn't sure if the importance of hearing her voice canceled out the fact that her voice was racist as fuck. Then, on Wednesday, I was in the mall with a thicker female friend of mine who proudly pronounced herself a devout feminist immediately before making fun of a skinny lady's thigh gap, and I wasn't sure whose side I was supposed to be on. So I did what I always do when confronted with a perplexing moment of allyship, which is to shout, "PROBABLY YOU'RE RIGHT" and run away as quickly as possible.
And then on Thursday, I found out that Third Wave Feminism is actually a concept and not the name of an all-female ska band based outta Seattle and fronted by Gwen Stefani.
I clearly still have a lot to learn, so I'm definitely not qualified to critique specific issues pertinent to feminism. I'm also the kind of Black person who only says "fam" on the internet and knows at least one Donald Glover song by heart, so I don't really have a right to talk about hip-hop culture either. From what I've read, though, it seems that the biggest criticisms of Lemonade come from those who believe Beyoncé is not authentically a feminist and instead uses issues of civil liberty to further her personal agenda. I'm not sure I agree, but either way, who cares? As we should've already learned from damn near every science fiction film ever made: Authenticity doesn't matter as much as perception.
Rick Ross is an ex-correctional officer who's based his entire career off of someone else's life, but it's so much fun to watch him jump around and pretend to be a kingpin that I don't even care that he's a liar. We all know that Drake was created when Aubrey Graham fell into a radioactive think-tank, but we still allow ourselves enjoy his rags-to-riches narrative. We're even willing to pretend that Jay-Z is still cool even though he's a dad now, and no matter how much crack cocaine he might've sold in the past, all dads are at least a little bit derpy. Jay-Z owns a pair of Old Navy khaki shorts and a copy of Chicago's Greatest Hits – not because he wants to, but because his Dad Genes compel him to do so. When Blue Ivy says, "Dad, I'm hungry," Jay-Z says, "Hi, Hungry. I'm Jigga Man." And then he throws up the roc.
Dad-derp aside, there's no way that Jay-Z didn't notice that his wife – the mother of his child – was writing, recording, producing, choreographing, rehearsing, filming, editing and releasing both an album and a short film about how he's an asshole; and it's extremely unlikely that he didn't know Lemonade would be used as an advertising ploy to direct people to the music-streaming site he owns. But it's more satisfying to imagine that Beyoncé surprised her husband with a public callout than it is to know that Bey and Jay are marketing moguls who can easily sell you whatever idea of their love they want you to buy.
What is isn't as important as what seems to be, so as long as Beyoncé seems to be a leading voice of feminism, then she is. And I think this offends some people, because did you know that some women have dedicated their entire lives to the study of sociology? Did you know that some people spend decades rigorously researching gender and sexuality and the relationship between identity and society? And did you know that hardly anyone cares about that research as much as everyone cares about Beyoncé? Because Judith Butler is for people who went to college, but music is for everybody (assuming they can afford $9.99 a month for Tidal).
Beyoncé is to feminism what Carl Sagan, Bill Nye and Neil deGrasse Tyson are to science. She makes the complex and sophisticated subject of feminism seem cool, which in turn makes feminism more accessible to the general public. That's a valuable accomplishment since, as it stands, the general public would rather pay for Tidal than rent the works of Audre Lorde from the library for free. Then again, if the general public were smart, we would've already accepted feminism a long-ass time ago.
Anyways, Oklahoma recently ruled that oral sex with a passed-out drunk person isn't rape, and Planned Parenthoods across the country are having their funding cut. So let women have Beyoncé, because they're pretty much losing everything else.
Long live the new flesh.