the world is still buzzing from two things that happened last week. we lost a world icon in the homegoing of nelson mandela and rising world icon beyonce dropped a surprise album without so much as a peep. two very different events, both generating endless buzz. i have much respect and admiration for nelson mandela. his entire life is a testament to us that we can accomplish much despite all the odds. i also have much respect for beyonce’s work ethic and personal creative genius. as these two world icons converge in the pop culture time and space continuum, i started to think about their similarities.
before you go jumping off the deep end, know that i recognize the pop success beyonce has achieved in no way compares to the struggle and fight mandela endured to bring freedom to a nation and inspiration to the world. they are not equals. we are not comparing apples to apples. but as a woman, i take notice when a woman in a male-dominated industry, controlled by the limited male view of female beauty and sexuality, can throw the middle finger at that industry and achieve massive success on her own terms. her new self-titled album has started needed dialogue around what it means to be black and woman and feminist in a space that both denies access and voice to those very women. you’ve seen the hashtag discussions around #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen, #fasttailedgirls and #blackpowerisforblackmen. now here comes beyonce telling the world to bow down and suddenly the feminist world wants to pay attention.
i thought the song bow down was a bit much. i still do. but then again, i refuse to address any woman i know and love, and even those i can’t stand, as bitches. for me, it’s the equvilant of calling black people nigga. i just can’t roll with that. i also don’t believe i need to tell you to worship at my feet in order for you to acknowledge my success. but i watched a video where beyonce talked about her thought process when making the album and i have to say, i was intrigued by her words. take a watch!
i am not likely to ever be a beyonce fan. i prefer the sounds of mellow neosoul and jazz to practically anything else. and i have serious issues with much of her imagery but that’s beside the point. what she says in this video is everything black women who feel the pressures of trying to attain a standard of beauty and success that has never reflected our image or access or voice feel on a daily. we can work hard and long for success and still fail. we can strive to “arrive” only to look back and realize we lost what was important. we can push ourselves and give of ourselves until there is nothing left. that says so much about the constant beatdown black women face on daily basis. and here she is, a megastar with the same struggle.
it will be interesting to see how the conversation continues to unfold over the coming months and years. for his part, mandela has sealed his place in human history. the world knows what he did despite conservative and liberal efforts to appropriate him for their own causes. but the jury is still out on beyonce. will her brand of black feminism take root in this current generation? we shall see.