Beyonce’s Lemonade: ‘The Great Awakening’ to the Exploration of Black Exploitation and White Feminism

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In the tail-end of 2013, Beyonce dropped her eponymous self-titled album Beyonce exclusively to Itunes. It was met with a pandemonium and fanfare that is rarely seen in the digital world. For the first time ever, a major mainstream recording artist like Beyonce drops an album online with no previous marketing ploy or press release. For that moment, the world solely revolved around her questioned how an artist of her magnitude can release an album with an unprecedented thirteen music video compilation incognito and not be revealed by any press. As the shock’s superficiality soon subsided, we were met with a Beyonce we’ve never met before. Yes, the Sasha Fierce and her uncanny ability to consume pop culture as the Queen of Pop without the narcissist imprudence and self-proclamation is there but we delve into a glimpse into a more socially-aware Beyonce. Let’s be honest with ourselves, Beyonce has been a celebrity since she was 18 years old and at almost 40, the inception of anonymity is more of an elusive figment than a reality to her.

But with the careful orchestration of great producers and writers like Sia, Pharell, Jay-Z, Timbaland, and Justin Timberlake, among others, we get an Old Hollywood Beyonce. One that plays the part while always maintaining her well-manicured image. That image is bravely highlighted in her opening track, “Pretty Hurts” written by “Chandelier” songstress Sia.

In “Pretty Hurts,” Beyonce laments that in her world, the female fixation focuses on the male gaze and starvation for perfection. The elitist goal is to be the consumption of physical attractiveness to the point that it is hurtful to everyone around her.

When she says ‘pretty hurts’ what she is actually saying is that needing us women to look attractive, that being a societal expectation is really hurtful and painful to women.

She’s saying that ‘the soul is what needs surgery’ she means that it’s not your face or body that needs enhancement, you need to fix your soul if you think that you need plastic surgery, or if someone else thinks you need it.

When she says ‘perfection is the disease of a nation’ she is trying to say that in America, this showbiz industry is so prevalent and photo-shopping is all the rage and celebrities are under enormous pressure to look 100% flawless and that’s not how it should be, it’s giving us all disease of the mind, like for example girls becoming anorexic, bulimic, body dysmorphic, histrionic, narcissistic, and anything else to achieve the unattainable cornucopia of body image.

Beyonce opened a conversation on how an intersectional community looks up at a person of color who has reached the apex of success. A prolific actor, comedian, and writer Chris Rock explains to Charlie Rose how black entertainers are forced to owe it to their communities because, by-in-large, they are one of the few people that are famous that represents them in an industry predominately composed of white rich men and women.

Chris Rock explains that nobody tells white actors and musicians that they owe their people of color to make an art piece that resonates with them. But when someone like Viola Davis, Beyonce, or Denzel Washington makes a film that glorifies them and showcases their people in a positive light, they are seen as a paragon of their culture. In society, we very seldom to salute different races. If it’s done, we see it in an almost patronizing manner such as celebrating the revolutionary Martin Luther King Jr on Black History Month which lands on the shortest month of the year. If the Oscars ever decided to honor black films ever again, they find a movie about slavery and hit us over the head with its almost banal expression. There is more to Blackhood than conquering slavery and the civil rights. There is a reason why television shows such as Family Matters and The Cosby Show have become landmark groundbreaking American programs in television. These shows decided to showcase a different side of the black nuclear family and normalized their everyday situations. They were not on welfare, living in projects. Instead, they were doctors, lawyers, cops and their children were high school and college bound athletes, popular girls, and bohemians. In the case of Family Matters, one particular character took the world by storm as he was an unapologetic bizarrely lovable nerd who was a junior Einstein working in his theories of building time capsules and machines in order to go to MIT. He played the accordion and loved to yodel. He was also black and that didn’t make a lick of a difference. Because he was Steve Urkel.

In the same way Sidney Poitier had in the 60’s when we uttered “You see yourself as colored man and I see myself as a man,” Beyonce has the power of the people to move us into a conversation, putting us into formation with a manifesto for her Womanhood, a womanhood that is not exclusive to but aimed at the meaning of Black Feminism. Earlier this year, Beyonce released her most fulfilled piece art Lemonade. Because when life gives you lemons, you must make lemonade. She opens her blackfest magnum opus with the words of female  Kenyan-born author Warsan Shire. Similar to how Beyonce sampled Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s (Americanah, Half of a Yellow Sun) “We are all Feminists” from her revered TEDTalk in her song “Flawless” for the Beyonce album, Shire’s (named London’s first Young Poet Laureate in 2014) words can be heard in the overture. More specifically, her poems “The Unbearable Weight of Staying,” “Dear Moon,” “How to Wear your Mother’s Lipstick,” and “Nail Technician and Palm Reader” are scattered around the Lemonade concept album.

Bringing back the American Southern Gothic genre and mixing it with African folklore, voodoo, and women empowerment, Lemonade is an Afrofuturist utopian fairy tale that touches upon infidelity, abortion, death, girlhood, womanhood, black girl magic, love, and a deconstruction of a female celebrity exploited by a white male society. Lemonade is an altruistic look into the feminism of a black female dichotomy in which she borrows from Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland. In both Lemonade and Herland, we find ourselves immersed into an unwavering secession from a nation where this new land is built upon the glorification of the most ignored and abused group of people, as mentioned by Malcolm X, the black women. This enriched culture is free from the denotations of a male-dominated female fixation.

Lemonade pulls you in and digs deeper as Beyonce leads these women out of a culture that glosses over that feminism can never be about unity because our society as a whole is too broken and too morally bankrupt to stop seeing man and woman as different. Women then are categorized cruelly by faith, orientation, culture, classicism, and most importantly, race. The culture of White Feminism simply infringes on the non-acceptance of the intersectional trials and tribulations of women that are broken down by race, gender association, ethnicity, religion, political party affiliations, and sexual orientation. It obscures the constant battles demonstrating by the social normalcy of the minority, thus falsifying the right of feminism as an inclusive bind for women.

Feminism has become an exclusive political denomination that has different clauses and opinions on the right of every woman through the societal experience of their exhaustible content that generates the brand they market. This market is exclusively crafted by the white patriarchy for the white women who can’t possibly have experienced the same prejudices that off a woman of a certain race, nationality, or ethnicity.

Basically feminism in the eyes of the mainstream caters to the plight and privilege of what has been indoctrinated early on as the “superior” race, AKA white. White Feminism and it’s hotly inferiority euphemisms such as squad goals and the largely re-branded female empowerment represents white women with acclaim and recognition becoming a sort of beacon for all women which is not the way minority women should be represented in pop culture and especially in reality.

Beyonce’s spiritual “Great Awakening” as penned by Kate Chopin is a simultaneous pop culture revelation into the world of a woman, who despite having the world in the palm of her hands, she is still a product labeled by a patriarchal society who has told her that she is a black fantasy for a modern day white-owned society. That despite being supremely talented and otherworldly beautiful, she is too black to be the standard beauty and too light skinned to be an identity marker for the “real black community.”

Thus in Lemonade, Beyonce takes her woman of power, real woman in the world, into an American Pastoral. These women don white and reclaim their power and equality with a baptism that splashes on their years of enslavement to the man who places them in a box. This becomes their Exodus to a land, a mentality, a reality outside of the matrix to heal from the media prejudices against what it means to be a black woman. Along with powerful women like Zendaya, Serena Williams, Amandla Stenberg, Quenvzhane Wallis, Winnie Harlow, and most importantly the real faces of black motherhood— the mothers of Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, and Michael Brown who had to see the fall of their black boys at the hands of the unjust police,. Their blood torched a nation and brought in the relevancy of living in a police state to the mainstream.

Her epiphany collides with the realization that even the most important men in her life, the men that indoctrinated in her to be the Bonnie to their Clyde, their Ride and Die, the woman who has to be Dangerously, Crazy, and Drunk in love with them, is just their primary chick they have in a slew of dalliances (side chicks) both in private and in public.

That with all her gravitas, she will always be sub-standard to a glorified race.

In fact, when successful black women like Nicki Minaj and Amandla Stenberg voice their opinions against their white peers, the unadulterated backlash severely punishes the black race, swallowing any blame the white woman may have. Such was the case during the 2015 Video Music Awards. Beyonce is no stranger to VMAs drama as she was indirectly pulled into one when in 2009 when her supremely better video for “Single Ladies” was up against the then country starlet Taylor Swift’s “You Belong with Me.” Swift won prompting an enraged Kanye West to steal her thunder with the iconic line “I’m a gonna let you finish but Beyonce had one of the best videos of all time,” which she did, just as he gives Taylor back the mic.

Thanks a fucking lot Kanye for making the real Regina George famous!

We as a nation of intelligent people like to blame West for making Swift famous because had she just won with no drama, her fifteen minutes of fame may have subsided. Her music was too saccharine to be deemed normal but no she came swinging. She places herself as the angel-headed victim to the angry black man, a narrative she has exploits relentlessly since then. Using the blackness and benevolence of Beyonce, who has since then distanced herself from anything in Swift’s territorial market, to catapult herself as the White Snow Queen is never really challenged as anything racial but more so exalted that she can use her fame to thinly disguise her musical diatribe against women she feels envious of. It wasn’t until reality Queen Kim Kardashian that the facade of the white feminism that clouds Swift became obvious.

Taylor Swift’s modus operandi has always been to degrade her female peers while exalting herself a victim of their bullying. She paints the notion of coming together and squad goals but then releases an inflammatory anti-feminist music video that promotes women-on-women cattiness and hateful pitting against each other in her song and video  Bad Blood, a song written in the cliche simplicity of Katy Perry for who she wrote that song to.

Ladies and Gentlemen, let me introduce to you “White Feminism” as told by Ryan Murphy in his ridiculous horror satire Scream Queens:

When it came in time for the 2015 VMAs, Taylor Swift garnered the most nominations, shutting out a black artist who actually gained the most views and press for her subsequent videos. In the aforementioned music video debacle, Nicki Minaj has a right to fume that her music videos for “Anaconda” and “Feeling Myself” were shut out of the Video of the Year category, although both videos were two of the most talked about in 2014. When she tweeted, Nicki made a sound statement that media bias and social perception had shut her out. The tweet was a blank statement but never forwarded to any artist or fanbase. Thus when Taylor Swift clapped back, her tweet was a perfect recipe for disaster as she didn’t stop to realize that she made it all about her. Instead of joining Nicki in her crusade, she fell in the trope that fails to recognize the women being signaled as the Angry Black Woman. She fell victim of her white privilege, a role exaggerated by the media who pushes these tropes.

The shots were fired into the sky just a Taylor apologized and realized her insensitivity (or maybe it was her well-crafted PR Machine who realized it for her) in form of Miley Cyrus who further aggregated the White Feminist savior complex as she mentioned to the New York Times that she didn’t like Nicki’s tone. Who is she to police and affirm what tone someone should speak in and then you stop to realize that White Feminism discriminates women of color (predominately black) by chastising their concerns over certain issues instead of rationalizing with them to better understand where they’re coming from.

Maybe she is a country-hick bitch from Tennessee who took her honky tonk trailer park all the way to Hollywood and never really had to think big about issues since she was the face of a multi-billion dollar empire for a corporation who are very seldom in merchandising, let alone doesn’t feel the need to make their princess movies based on minorities (AKA Disney).  Or maybe she is an ignoramus racist brat who did this intentionally. Whatever the case may be, we are talking about a woman who has made her entire shock pop career in appropriating the black culture, making a buffoonery both of the society and herself. For her to backhandedly criticize the rapper for comments she deems inappropriate is so ironic and hypocritical, Alanis Moorisette is set to write about it in her follow-up track “Now That’s Ironic!”

For Miley to glibly reply that Nicki made it about race is in fact racist. Black, for lack of a better word, is a curse word in this society who believes it has master dominion on who or what is the master race. We live in a society where black women cannot openly have a frank conversation about how they feel about race without white feminism crusading that this is not a race issue. Why can’t a successful woman who happens to black not be able to comment on her frustration that in whatever industry you are in? For the Black community, your accolades and accomplishments will always have an asterisk before them because it is about race.

If they comment about Kylie Jenner‘s cultural appropriation by wearing bindis, cornrows, or grills or when Cosmopolitan changes the names of braids into thug or box braids, these women are met with an onslaught of insults, affirming to the public that women of a certain color are not in the population to discuss their rights in a free world, much less voice their opinion the way white women freely do so.

When Viola Davis won her Emmy, she was the first woman in her category (Best Actress in Drama Series) to win for the first time since the commencement of the award show.

VIOLA DAVIS’ HISTORIC EMMY WIN AND SPEECH:

Soap opera actress Nancy Lee Grahn of General Hospital fame had some pretty defamatory things to objectify Davis’ choice to mark her win as a hopeful stepping stone for future black actresses to receive their just acclaim. Again, we have the situation where a white woman is telling a black woman that it’s not about race. Newsflash, if in almost 70 years, only one black actress has won the goddamn Emmy for Best Actress ever and that win happened in 2015, you betcha ya ass it’s about race! Same goes with the Academy Award.

Beyonce’s Lemonade teaches us that the power of a woman is not of the color of her skin but by the measure and strength of her heart. It also reteaches black women, in general, to become militant in the love for themselves and to never erase what makes them unique because the world tells us that we do not fit the mold of their perceptive beauty. Lemonade is her emancipation of the pop culture IT and the redefinition of the power of self and measure of being black in America.

Maybe it is the time we stop reaffirming our views through the eyes of white women who have not experienced first hand the misogyny and blatant racial-nominative stereotypes so easily found in the labeling of women, particularly of color. Intersectionality is all about acknowledging that there are a different set of circumstances that make different choices more or less feasible or reasonable.

Immerse yourself in the water and unite with your sisters to find the beauty that comes in all shades.

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