At 32, Beyoncé released her fifth studio album entitled Beyoncé (2013), which sent an electric jolt coursing through the veins of millions of women who were able to live vicariously through her songs by way of her intimate and insightful accounts of being a woman who has chosen to reject constricting definitions of what it means to be a mother, wife, sister, friend, daughter, and performer—most unabashedly. It’s plain that the thirties are treating Beyoncé quite well, as they are countless other women.
Memes about the track “Flawless” have steady been making their way across media streams of late. And, if at first listen it seems as though the song is about self-indulgence, let’s nip that thought right in the bud. “I woke up like this” is certainly more of an ode to the ladies who feel consternation about the (natural) way in which they wake up every morning and ways of overcoming personal beauty complexes. Whenever I come across #Iwokeuplikethis of my Instagram feed, instantaneous glee takes over me, my surmising that yet another woman posted a selfie, not because she’s narcissistic but because she woke up feeling in love with herself. Even if not in the literal sense of having woken up “like this,” it still helps to think that multitudes of women are comfortable in their own skin. Finally. Let’s put that overly psycho-pathologized idea that taking selfies is somehow linked to rest, yeah?
We’re flawless. Thanks Beyoncé.
Critics have come out full throttle with choice words for Beyoncé, insinuating that the singer is doing more harm than good to the impressionable minds of young women who choose to indulge in Bey’ s music. Perhaps the most reverberating of such critiques came just a few weeks ago from feminist scholar-author-academic bell hooks, who as part of a panel discussion on “liberating the Black female body” at The New School berated Beyoncé by labeling the songstress a “terrorist.” Espousing a no-holds-barred approach hooks’ stated, “I see part of Beyoncé that is, in fact anti-feminist—that is a terrorist, especially in terms of the impact on young girls.” Though Beyoncé’s image may potentially harmful to scores of young girls who upon taking in her music may then wish to carry out their own journeys towards sexual liberation sooner than they should, I’m still squeamish in that hooks’ chose to demean Bey—wherein she could have taken a different approach by far and instead could have used her platform for transformative purposes—for the betterment of the feminist movement. There are definitely aspects of Beyoncé’s assertions around sexuality and image that make me uncomfortable, no doubt. But really, who is the gatekeeper of what it means to be feminist…or perfect for that matter?
I get that here is a time and a place…and an age for Beyoncé, especially if and when Beyoncésque experiences are not met with questionable, skeptical and discerning eyes. Of course, it is always easier to critique what others are doing and neglect the ways in which we ourselves must overcome personal hurdles, trials and tribulations long before we are able to land at a sound understanding of what it means to be content with self—whether it be emotionally, physically or sexually. It would appear as though Beyoncé is happy with the woman she has become and is comfortable in her own skin. For that shouldn’t we be singing our praises?
When we begin to view Beyoncé as human, as opposed to seeing her as an omnipresent specimen that simply performs inside of sold out arenas for our viewing pleasure, we are able to take up Beyoncé in a much different light—a positive light, if you will. Like myself, activist-author Janet Mock, who in discussion with hooks’ has opted to take up the good, bad and the ugly for use as something transformative by asserting that although she takes issue with certain aspects of Beyoncé’s visibility, particularly the Anna Mae reference in the singer’s “Drunk in Love”—she is still able to take a step back and accept Bey as “owning her body and claiming that space.”
Which brings me to my point. If the feminist movement purport to support the liberation of women—of all women that is—we should be able to accept that feminism will look different for all of its constituents. It’s refreshing to be able to witness the women who have made it through their 20s and have sprung into their 30s with a mean pep in their step. I absolutely love to witness those women who have survived: survived tumultuous relationships, misguided friendships, poor decisions around health and wellness, confusion around career and education, trepidation as it relates to motherhood and the list goes on.
Today, I look around and feel ever inspired by the women I know who have survived an era of not knowing what makes them happy, to now being able to carve out a bright future for themselves, realizing wholeheartedly what feeds their souls with respect to the types of love relationships and friendships they are willing to accept, nurture and foster. Needless to say, it’s not easy overcoming vulnerability and uncertainty. Loving self should always be viewed as a work in progress. And, when we land at a place wherein we our comfortable with ourselves we begin to care less about others’ opinions, as would appear to be the case with Beyoncé. It takes time and courage to be able to express confidence in a world that seeks to diminish others’ truths. I perceive Beyoncé as brave. Not simply because she’s Beyoncé; rather because it’s easy to take a jab at a woman like Beyoncé: a woman who appears visible only from the vantage point of your living room couch through the television screen or incognito through your Smartphone. Would it be as easy to take a jab at yourself and question your own femininity?
It ain’t easy being a woman. Period.
I am thankful to have turned thirty. I feel more beautiful than I ever have in my life. It feels good to recognize that we are merely mirrors of each other: we attract either that which we are or that which we are willing to accept from others. I can see the results of what happens to those who only accept the best for themselves. I now witness the best through friends who have made poor decisions regarding love in their early twenties who are now happily married; I witness the best in friends who are now settled in or about to begin their respective careers after years of indecision; I witness the best in newly divorced friends who have taken the lesson from their past relationship and have chosen to use that as fuel for ways in which to improve on their next relationship/marriage; I witness the best in women with children, who are courageously in pursuit of their education, while juggling motherhood; I witness the best in women who have faced health issues but, strive to keep on pushing in spite of it all; I witness it all and I’m so thankful to my twenties for having taught led me to the point of being able to learn from past mistakes and pour loving thoughts into my current situation.
Nikki is an educator and writer, whose musings cover a broad base of topics including but, not limited to: politics, love, education and cultural criticism. You can follow her on Twitter @artculturemusic.