The Politics of Beyonce

Krystal Walker, MBA Class of 2014

I will be the first to admit that I am a member of the “Beyhive.” Urban Dictionary (we’re going to make this a credible source for the purpose of this article) defines the Beyhive as Beyonce’s fandom. Members are characterized as individuals who obsess over Beyonce, play her music on repeat, watch her movies in theaters, and will defend her every move to the end. Let’s see I was Pregnant Beyonce for Halloween one year (best costume ever, even had a Jay-Z); if you’ve ever been in a study room with me, we’ve probably played Beyonce—am I right Dontae Rayford? I saw Cadillac Records in theaters opening weekend, and I may or may not check her tumblr everyday. Alas the only thing I disagree with is “defending her to the very end.” Maybe its my Jamaican upbringing, where my parents used criticism to convey love, but I can’t sit here and tell you that the woman is not without fault.

To be completely honest, since the release of her latest album I have been trying to reassess my place within the hive.  Don’t get me wrong I love the latest album. I was one of those people who searched the web for signals of its release date. Such was the anticipation for new Beyonce music, that I left a party early to download the damn thing when I heard it was being released only on Itunes. And despite it being released the weekend of Fall final exams, I listened to every song and watched every video as if I were going to be tested on their contents. I could not get enough, its as if she wrote the album knowing I would need it in that instant. Tracks like “Jealous,” helped me deal with the fact that my crush was supposedly seeing someone new (le sigh); “Pretty-hurts” and “#Flawless” eased the pain of coming to terms that the extra poundage from thanksgiving was here to stay;  and “Drunk in Love” helped me focus on wrapping up exams, because I could not wait to hear this song in the club. Did I mention that I love this album?

Yet as I played the album’s tracks on repeat, I couldn’t help notice a few changes to Beyonce that dulled the thrill of the experience. Beyond the fact, that the album contains maybe two tracks that are suitable to be considered singles (maybe that’s why she forced everyone to buy the entire album at once); it felt as if her song writers decided to increase the level of sexual content on the album…the album is laced with innuendo and don’t get me started on the videos. If “Partition” ever becomes a single, some serious editing will be needed to make it appropriate for MTV/VH1. While this type of display of one’s comfort with their sexuality seems par the course for today’s pop icons (See Miley Cyrus and Selena Gomez), it makes me a little sad that Beyonce didn’t rise above it.  You see, for a long time I considered Beyonce to be a role model for girls. Her work ethic and control of her brand is to be commended and emulated. With songs like “Survivor,” “Say My Name,” “Bootylicious,” and “Who Run the World,” I considered her to be a symbol of Girl Power. She is definitely a force to be reckoned with, and she used to be able to convey her strength without lyrics and videos that came with a red “explicit” label next to their names.

Along with the increased sexual content, her ever increasing Eurocentric features are starting to hit a nerve. The Beyonce we see today, is not the Beyonce who was jamming with Wyclef on the Destiney’s Child, “No,no,no” remix in 1998. The Beyonce of 2014 is several shades lighter, with bleach blond hair, and with a ski slope nose. I guess pretty does hurt. I have nothing against plastic surgery, but as someone who spent 4 hours in a Target two days before Christmas hunting down a black Barbies for my little cousins Kennedy & Amaya, Beyonce’s physical evolution bothers me.  Actually if I’m being honest, the whole reason for all my Beyonce’ angst is that I can’t share 2014 Beyonce with them.

Bey2 - Krystal, Amaya and Kennedy

Kennedy and Amaya are ages 2 and 3 respectively. They are the children of my two closest cousins.  My parents and I stayed with Kennedy’s dad’s family when we first moved here from Jamaica—he taught me how to be American. Amaya’s mom and I were raised like sisters. We would have weekly sleepovers that would start with karaoke, and end with us sneaking to watch “Cruel Intentions” on HBO. When they learned the news of the pending arrival of each of their children, I was one of the first people they called. With respect to Kennedy, I picked her name; and I have the great opportunity to serve as Amaya’s godmother. I have held them in my arms as I banged out reports on days that I “worked from home,” and used their play-dates as study breaks from GMAT prep. It is for these reasons that I feel very committed to helping them develop into strong women…strong black women.

I am constantly searching for ways to help them reaffirm their sense of self. For you see, little black girls have it rough. I’ll save the details as to why for another article, but if you are in need of a example I’ll just point you in the direction of Pyschology’s May article entitled “ Why are Black Women Less Attractive.”

Before her latest album, I was hoping that sharing my love of Beyonce would be one of the ways that I could build confidence and self-esteem within them. But alas, I can’t use her. I think apart of me would die if I heard Kennedy sing the phrase “grainin’ on that wood,” or bop her head to the reference to spousal abuse in the lyric “eat the cake Anna Mae.”  And I definitely don’t want Amaya to think that you gain confidence by telling other girls to “Bow down.”

With that, I’ll just keep bumping Beyonce’s latest in my headphones. I know, I know a bit hypocritical? Alas, I’m grown…”a grown woman and I can do whatever I want.” Mainly inpart to the fact that my parents didn’t let me listen to that kind nonsense during my formative years and took the time to educate me on how to appreciate art without emulating it. So that when I did start to listen to songs like “Rocket” I can appreciate the song for the art that it is, without the need to act it out in the streets.  My little charges, Kennedy and Amaya, don’t know how to do that yet, and until they do, I will stand guard.

Bey1 - Krystal

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