Move aside, baby Jesus. I know it’s your birth month and all, but there is bigger news afoot these days: This past Friday, Beyoncé (from all appearances. your sister-from-another-mister) dropped a surprise album on iTunes and proceeded to break the Internet.
For the past 72 or so hours, my newsfeed has been blowing up with a level of pandemonium surrounding Beyoncé’s newest album that could only be called fanatical.
Now don’t get me wrong, although I’m not the biggest fan, I have nothing against the singer or her music. What I do have something against is this mindless hero-worshipping, especially coming from all of my black, brown, and Native sisters out there.
So without future a do, an open letter to my fellow colored girls and member’s of Beyoncé’s
cult fan club:
I have to admit, I normally try to avoid being “that girl.” You know that chick that can’t let folks just enjoy a song/movie/tv-show (or in this case a mindless bout of hero worshipping) without making that ish mad deep for seemingly no reason. But in this instance, I find myself with something to say and my spirit won’t settle until it’s been said so here goes:
Wake up y’all.
Beyoncé is a damn distraction. She is the bright and shiny (and damn fabulous) object who has been carefully crafted to distract us from our individual and communal pain (hell yea, I went there!); a distraction from the fact that we can’t all have what she has. The system just isn’t built that.
And I’m not talking about Beyoncé’s money or fame, I’m talking about something much more important and insidious than that: her confidence. The honest truth is: If every black, brown, and Native woman woke up one morning believing that she was beautiful, and important, and an intrinsically worthwhile human being, we would have a fucking revolution on our hands. (Because let’s be honest, most of us wake up every day feeling anything but.)
In a world that is dangerous for black and brown women’s mental, emotional, and physical health; in a world that constantly reminds us how unlovable (how dark/fat/nappy/angry/loud) we are, Beyoncé’s fabulousness reminds us what is possible. Beautiful. Successful. Happy wife and mother. We root for her, not just because we like her music, but because she is so familiar to us; hell, she is us.
Except that she’s not.
Beyoncé may not be the Evil Empire, but she sure as hell works for them. (Star Wars reference #fwt)
News flash: Beyoncé does not belong to us. And, I would argue, she doesn’t want to. While we often laude Beyoncé for being a “boss,” the truth is someone else (likely someone white, and male) still signs her checks.
Why? Because as an icon, Beyoncé’s brand has been strategically crafted to be aspirational, a perfect vessel upon which we are encouraged to project our fantasies of modern black womanhood yet, non-threatening to the status quo.
Beyoncé is beautiful in all the ways the media defines beauty: light skinned (and getting lighter all the time); straight, blond hair; curvy but not toooooo curvy. She rarely sings or talks about anything remotely controversial and easily conforms to traditional gender roles: loving wife, doting mother.
(Yes, she is a businesswoman – no one gets as rich and as powerful as Beyoncé being anything but – but it is the way her success is talked about that makes it palatable to the Powers That Be. Despite having a net worth in the hundreds of millions, easily rivaling that of her superstar husband, Jay-Z is almost always labeled as a “mogul” while Beyoncé is primarily spoken of as an “icon,” intentionally ignoring her business ambition and savvy.)
So basically, we’ve been tricked into celebrating the status quo.
In sum, Beyonce is safe. She represents a type of black womanhood that is both oppressive (dammit, can we get some dark-skinned girls, some natural girls, some queer women of color, some thick chicks being named People’s Most Beautiful?), unattainable, yet strangely appealing (cuz hell, who doesn’t want to be “fabulous” and successful and in a loving relationship complete with three karat diamond and adorable baby girl)?
Her success is partially a nod to our generation’s inability to live life for real, to move beyond scripted and sanitized portrayals of our lives and those of the folks around us.
We don’t want to think about our lived experiences as black and brown and Native women, we want the fantasy of what’s possible, whether in the form of Beyoncé’s latest album or our home girl’s Instagram feed.
A Comprehensive, One Step Guide to Loving Beyonce in a Healthy (i.e. not bat sh*t crazy) Way
Y’all. Beyoncé is a singer. Love her because she can sing and dance and has an adorable daughter you can ogle in your spare time. (Oh, just me? Oh, ok.)
But this hero-worship? This celebration of Beyoncé as the best thing since sliced bread? It’s a distraction, a distraction from the fact that we don’t live in a world where women of color are afforded even a slice of what Beyoncé has – the simple ability to be loved and affirmed, to be called beautiful, to be thought of as worthy of admiration.
Many of us do not have the opportunity to audaciously pursue our unique talents, or the ability to not be maligned as we rise to the tops of our field.
In other words: There is still work to do to make this world a safer, more loving world for us, our sisters, and our daughters, and it’s up to us to do it.
So again I say: Love Beyoncé because she can sing and dance and has an adorable daughter for you to ogle in your spare time. But don’t allow yourself to mindlessly worship an idol that has been deliberately crafted to protect a status quo that doesn’t give a damn about you or anyone who looks like you (unless of course, her name is Beyoncé).