by guest contributor soltrane, cross-posted from blackscientist.
Let me say upfront that Beyonce is my choice poison. If I had to choose one musical artist with a crappy message who I could listen to for the rest of my life, it’d be her (beating out weezy f baby only because of her music videos). I love Beyonce. She is my favorite overachiever. You can find me any day naomi campbell walk-ing back and forth in my bedroom to “Freakum Dress” or trying to shake my derriere to “Single Ladies”.
THAT BEING SAID.
Beyonce is like the feds when it comes to promoting a conservative social agenda. She alone is policing social behavior like bill o’reilly is paying her do it. The whole time I’m getting down to her jams I’m just like “dang b! thats jacked up!” The messages in her songs almost always encourage patriarchy, female subservience, and heteronormativity like a mug! –pretty much conformity overall (including gender conformity) to the socially conservative status quo. In her songs, Beyonce celebrates the oppressive power dynamic that exists between men and women, while simultaneously trying to imply that women can utilize the subordinate position in a heterosexual romantic relationship to empower themselves. If he doesn’t marry you, step! That’ll show him who’s boss. She perpetuates this entanglement of systems of inequalities, such as marriage, with other concepts that have been socially constructed such as love and gender.
And i understand she’s talking to her audience and that many girls and boys can relate to what she’s saying, circumstantially. But I just wish there could be some critical analysis of her implications, and maybe the tweaking of a few words here and there. The fact that she legitimizes only certain expressions of ‘love’ (commitment), masculinity and femininity, and what that means for young girls and boys who are trying to shape their identities, as well as for grown folk who are expressing themselves in alternative ways. Also how those particular expressions that she endorses are part of the larger structure that keeps people in their places, acting as productive bodies for the economy. I want whoever is on her team to at least consider these ideas, and how they could alter her message to communicate a more progressive politics on gender, sex, sexuality, and certain institutions.
Now for kicks, I want to highlight some lyrics that have stood out to me as being particularly annoying and as leaning right of center. Please, add some if you have any! or argue with me about how Beyonce made “Independent Woman” or whatever.
Lyric: If you liked it then you shoulda put a ring on it.
Translation: If you liked it – “It” most likely refers to a woman here, and perhaps one’s relationship with her, or her sexual abilities. If you liked the woman you were with, you should have married her because not only is that the only way to keep a woman but it is the only legitimate form of recognizing love.
Lyric: Pull me into your arms. Say I’m the one you own. If you don’t you’ll be alone. And like a ghost, I’ll be gone.
Translation: This is why you put a ring on it. Marriage has historically been about who has property rights over women. So tell me you own me, it makes my heart warm.
Lyric: You need a real woman in your life. Taking care of home and still fly. And Ima help you build up your account. When you’re in those big meetings for the mills, you take me just to compliment the deal.
Translation: I’m a trophy wife. When you make business deals, you tote me along like a new car. I’m your favorite prop. Oh, and I can clean the kitchen, wash clothes, cook your dinner, AND put your durag on, all in monolo blahnik heels.
Lyric: I can do for you what Martin did for the people. Ran by the man but the women keep the tempo. It’s very seldom that you’re blessed to find your equal. Still play my part and let you take the lead role, believe me. I’ll follow, this could be easy. I’ll be the help whenever you need me.
Translation: I’ll validate your masculinity by letting you take the ‘lead role’, because the only way I know how to support you is by ensuring that you feel control over me. I’m comfortable fading into the background and being your hot assistant sidekick. You’re the block, but I’m the lights. You’re the diamond, and I’m the little glimpse of light that makes you shine.
I can’t even start on “If I Were A Boy”… that’s like a whole nother blog in itself.
These are just a few examples trying to illustrate why Beyonce is one of the biggest, albeit flyest, proponents of a retrograde conservative ideology that is restrictive to everyone’s expression, normative and non-conforming alike. It either traps you within (with limited options of expression and often oblivious privilege) or marks you outside (in what is sometimes a more intimately liberated but nonetheless socially and politically marginalized space).