Beyoncé, Misogyny and God
I sneezed on the beat and the beat got sicker. "What's the big deal about Beyonce, other than her butt?" my mother asked yesterday via face-time.
"Are you kidding? She's amazing!"
"I couldn't name one of her songs."
"Yes you could. You know... all the single ladies, all the single ladies." I flipped my left hand back and forth at the screen, showing the signature move for the 2009 smash hit that just so happened to drop during my senior year in college, when I was a single lady and he definitely should have put a ring on it.
"And that song inspires you?" my mom said with a smirk.
"Absolutely," I laughed.
The truth is that her most recent album, Lemonade, is even more of an inspiration (though I wouldn't dare recommend my mom watch it from start to finish, unless I were there to help her translate things like Becky with the good hair, etc.). There's enough on the internet about the anger, redemption and artistry of that album, so I won't wax poetic about it here. But suffice it to say, it's an album that makes me uncomfortable. It's an album that made me feel what she must have felt like during one of the roughest parts of her life. It's an album that puts words to some of the ups and downs in my own marriage.
What's worse looking jealous or crazy, jealous or crazy?
I've never been one for big arena shows because tickets are expensive, and even if you bite the bullet and shell out, chances are it won't be enough to really see the person you've paid to see. From the "J" section seat on the floor of the Titans Football Stadium (that seats 70,000 during a sold-out game), the best view I got of Beyoncé was through a sea of cell phones held up by other spectators zooming in to prove that they, too, were here.
And yet, the show was incredible. I won't downplay it. Beyoncé sampled everything in her repertoire from Crazy in Love, Drunk in Love, and Halo to Partition, Charlies Angels, Survivor... the list goes on and on. She played portions of most of her songs on Lemonade, augmented by a massive three-dimensional rotating screen that alternated from projecting large images of her (so people could see) and video clips from the opus. Decrepit buildings, swinging lights, stills of strong African-American women; the ultimate survivors. Halfway through the show, two cannons shot off confetti into the air. There were fireworks, huge flames, a pool where her back-up dancers kicked up water as they moved to the beat. Countless costume changes. Acrobatics. The production was epic—a picture of what happens when you have millions to spend on every possible theatric to make people feel.
Here are a few things I felt:
One: I felt a desire to live with more passion and confidence. Beyoncé is a powerhouse. I've heard that she taps into an inner diva before getting on stage, and even has her alter-ego Sasha Fierce to combat any feelings of insecurity. To see that kind of confidence in another woman is contagious. How would my experience of the world change if I could wake up in the morning with that kind of confidence? To walk with the kind of chin-up assuredness of a person living out their dream, their calling—with all of their God-given talent on display?
Two: I felt a desire to be more free. The booty is real. I mean. I don't know if she was wearing leggings or some sort of industrial spray-paint to keep it looking flawless all night, but the girl can move it. Again, there's something jaw-droppingly incredible about a woman embracing her body and dancing and allowing herself to be free. Even the way she moved her hair—head-banging with the best of the 90s grunge kids—speaks to a kind of reckless freedom. I want more of that in my life.
Three: I felt convinced that I'm a different kind of feminist than most. Feminists walk a fine line between embracing femininity, sexuality and pleasure and reinforcing misogyny and sexual objectification. There were times that I felt uncomfortable last night at the overtness of it all. At one point, the singer climbed across a large three-dimensional phallic sculpture and most video clips included snapshots of an orchid in bloom—a clear reference to the female anatomy. Some of the costumes and dance moves, veered from making me feel free to making me feel like I was watching a person in bondage—something that didn't make me feel empowered, but isolated.
Last night, I felt convinced that true feminist authors, writers, musicians... must work to show that sexuality isn't the only weapon in a woman's arsenal of power.
Four: I felt surprised by my desire for God. Even an over-the-top, crazy experience like a Beyoncé concert leaves you wanting more. She could only sing a verse and a chorus of most songs. For example, Beyonce's song Freedom from the album Lemonade is my absolute favorite. It's an incredible anthem, and despite the fact that she and her dancers gave a jaw-dropping performance using a similar water-stage to this year's Grammy Awards—she didn't have time to sing the whole song, and even if she did, it just isn't complete without Kendrick Lamar. All the theatrics in the world still come up short from what we really want.
And what we really want, we'll never get out of Beyoncé. Standing there, looking at a woman on the stage that is just as human as every woman in the crowd, it reminded me that all of our efforts on this side of heaven—even when we are confident, passionate and free—pale in comparison to the glory we desire. We were made to see God in his splendor, not humans.
And for that reason, I am even more thankful for Beyoncé. A great artist points viewers to a greater creator. She did.
When you love me, you love yourself. Love God herself.