I gave up talking about Beyoncé in public shortly after her 2014 Video Vanguard performance.
After numerous discussions about her turned really crunk, really quickly, I gave up. On multiple occasions I found myself defending Beyoncé to people who were cutting her down and diminishing her music and cultural contributions.
Things would get so heated, I found myself wondering if people I’d have previously described as a “people person” even liked people. The vitriol they spoke about Beyoncé with was that bad. Since 2014, the only people I’ve spoken about her with in public are people I’ve already spoken to about her.
To understand why this is such a big deal there are 3 things about me you need to understand :
- I’m an avid proponent of dialogue. There are few things I refuse to “go there” with and I have a lot of patience for getting to the core of a matter and for trying to understand someone else.
- Beyoncé is not my favorite artist. She’s not even in my top 10. I don’t think any member of the Beyhive would count me amongst their cohort. I like the songs I like and only listen to the entire album to get a cohesive picture. I appreciate her artistry, but I genuinely like a lot of artists more than her.
- I don’t care if you don’t like Beyoncé. So for me to end up in an argument about her means that you must be saying some problematic shit that is illogical or displays some level of subhumanity, or hateration.
Given the above, to find myself holding the torch for her — for anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour– was draining.
Now that this post exists, I can text people the link if they are adamant about engaging with me about Beyonce. I don’t know why people are so interested in my take, but I’m willing to give it.
To that end, here are a few of my assumptions about Beyonce:
- I don’t believe Beyoncé is some pre-eminent suffragist. She’s not in the streets protesting, although you can argue that her music is a loud statement in its own right. She’s not penning essays or speaking to political bodies about the rights of women. If that’s the litmus test for being a good feminist, most feminists wouldn’t pass muster. Why does Bey get held to a higher standard — especially when she’s using the platform she has to put the word “feminist” in literal spotlights that most of us couldn’t be begged to do if the resources were handed to us.
For whatever Beyoncé is not, one thing she is, is a badass entertainer with a lot of clout who has been able to direct previously closed minds to the notion of feminism being a good thing. More importantly: who are we to police anyone else’s identity? I highly doubt anyone criticizing Beyoncé’s feminist identity would stand for Beyonce doing that to them.
**Bonus for the people that say she’s not feminist enough: Beyonce’s touring band is all-female. She puts her money where her mouth is, instead of just popping off at the mouth about feminist shit.
- Beyoncé is not responsible for other people’s education or perceptions. One person I argued with told me Beyoncé throwing feminism into her performance was a bad thing because, “Now people who don’t even know what it’s all about are gonna call themselves feminists!” So what! So. Fucking. What. We are individually responsible for what we say, not for the level of understanding people choose to run with.
Further: how many members of the Beyhive are now more conscious of sex-based and gender-based discrimination because of Beyoncé? How many men have educated themselves on feminism, because the person they’re into is a member of the Beyhive? How many parents have had to have discussions with their kids about sexism, because they did some research after listening to “Flawless”? That impact is immeasurable and not something we should be quick to discredit.
- Beyoncé has had 2 careers. Her influence has come from almost 20 years in the music industry. That’s almost 2/3 of her life. She’s had success as both the frontwoman for a band and as a solo artist. She’s broken records, set new standards and is still culturally relevant. You can’t begrudge her the accomplishments that got her to where she’s at. It’s literally un-American. To boot, she’s done all this without going on offensive public tirades or catching charges like so many other entertainers with lengthy careers do. She’s had tremendous support, but no one has done the work for Beyoncé but her.
- Beyoncé gets unfairly criticized for shit that’s not hers to own. Conversely, she doesn’t get her due respect, either. People criticize her for whether or nor she rocks her natural hair, for calling herself Mrs. Carter, for naming her kid a color. She gets her success attributed to everyone but herself: Matthew and Tina (her parents), Jay-Z, the Illuminati.
Painting Beyoncé as a villainous vixen open to crucifixion for her personal choices is nothing more than a modern continuation of the Jezebel trope that’s plagued Black women in the US for centuries. Not giving Beyoncé her fair due is plain rude. As an artist, you open your work to crucifixion. To ignore her work and work ethic entirely in favor of ad hominem attacks is something else entirely.
- Beyoncé is a badass, cotdammit! If you’ve ever looked at pre-tour Beyoncé (thick) and post-tour Beyoncé (skinny), it is evident that she puts in extreme work! She probably loses weight during the course of her actual performances because they’re so dynamic (as opposed to strictly because of an increased metabolism after her performance). Lest we underplay this, she does this “backward and in high heels” — and very quickly. Beyonce’s choreography often has more plyometrics than an Insanity workout. If Beachbody could get usage rights to her music, there would be millions of people losing weight to her tunes in their living rooms.
The level of attention paid to the details of her live shows is pure artistry and shows CEO-level acumen. Regardless of whether or not I enjoy her music, all praises are due here.
This ended up being way longer than my intended 5-800 words, but these things needed to be said. I’ve always been able to see when people talking shit about Beyoncé are hating or being ridiculous Now that this exists, they’ll be able to, too.This isn’t important, because it’s Beyoncé; it’s important because of the way we talk about Beyoncé and others. Being able to disregard both my plea to “Just say you don’t like her” and her accomplishments and delude yourself into thinking you’re convincing me of logic is the aggressive mindset that leaves us susceptible to *thoughtlessly* make bias-based decisions. There are real-world implications to misplaced aggression and thoughtless, biased decisions and they never start at the highest level. They start at the everyday conversation level.
After 1,180 words, I need a dance break. If you find yourself in need of the same, enjoy and subscribe to this Spotify playlist of my Beyoncé favs.