We teach girls to shrink themselves
To make themselves smaller
We say to girls,
“You can have ambition
But not too much
You should aim to be successful
But not too successful…”
-Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, “We Should All Be Feminists
Like every flip watch wearing, Lisa Frank-binder-toting-8 year-old in the ’90s, I had the Janet album on repeat. In my eyes, Janet Jackson was one of the most beautiful women I’d ever seen, so self assured and sexy as she’d slink across MTV in her music videos, grabbing men by the neck, having her way with them. Those days have come and gone, but between that time the messages were dulled with even more messages.
When Beyonce dropped her latest album last week, out of nowhere, Twitter went into a frenzy, and it seemed like for women, Christmas came early. And like Janet, the album and all of its visuals have definitely ignited a spark like a moth to a flame for the women listening. You can see it in all of the status updates and every Instagram selfie with the #Beyonce hashtag.
On her terms, the perfect pop star with the perfect life and the perfect body showed us one thing: she’s not perfect. From the way it was dropped, Beyonce has shunned her pop Queen crown but retained it, shaking it off and redefining it so that the new image fits the woman she’s become. The cool lesson in it all? She’s still the Queen B. Like only Michael Jackson has done in the past, Beyonce was able to command the attention of the world and drop the mic. Just because she could.
Beyonce’s latest is already my favorite of her catalog. Maybe it’s because she’s a peer, and I’ve felt that need to buck the stereotypes about female identity at this stage in my life. Maybe it’s because at this point in my career, I’m able to assert myself and make “power moves” in a way I couldn’t before. I’m blessed (and worked hard for) the opportunity to be innovative and lead, negotiate and nurture talent. And maybe because I’ve become in tune with my power through running that’s made me love and notice my body more than I ever have in the past. It may have to do with the confidence I feel as a girl from New York City to not feel the need to cover up when I’m walking through the streets because of unwanted attention of men who think they know everything they need to about me when I pass by in skinny jeans. And maybe it’s because I’ve been reading a lot of “50 Shades of Grey” these days.
I applaud Beyonce for the vulnerability that she’s allowed herself at this stage in her career. In a year when images of women objectifying themselves for a quick 15 minutes of fame on a reality show or on a “Wrecking Ball” seemed like the only way for relevancy, Bey owned both her art and her sexuality.
The reason I love the new “Beyonce” record, is that she let herself be vulnerable. And in that way, she carves a niche for the listener to vulnerable as well.
When she presses play, she can let go of the pressure to be perfect, close her eyes and picture the dreams, fantasies and memories of her own story. She can do her own little bounce in the mirror as she gets ready for her day, wink at herself and say, “I woke up like dis.” She can chop off her hair, rock it in a sleek bob, or let it flow free on her shoulders. It’s all beautiful and feminine simply because the woman herself is the constant. She can be reminded that women can be powerful sexual beings who do not need to aspire to marriage when she needs a wake up call. She can envision herself making love to her man in every possible way, and take control when the mood and the need hits her.
It’s hard not to romanticize the album so soon, but I’m just a woman writing what I feel. Vulnerable isn’t scary anymore.