“Be careful what you set your heart upon– for it will surely be yours.” -James Baldwin 

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I was at my aunt’s 60th birthday party recently, and I happened to catch my five year-old niece singing mid-song. It didn’t completely hit me until that moment: I have an irrational hatred for Beyonce.

Part of it is because she reminds me of my sister– a much younger, over-the-top version of my sister who was always Diana Ross when I needed someone rational and diplomatic.

Part of it is because we’re from the same town and we’re the same age, which means that she shouldn’t be more successful than me.

Part of it is because I have no real talent to exploit, and I always wanted to be a dancer.

Part of it is because she was invited to sing at President Obama’s Inauguration ball, and I took that shit personally.

If I’m honest, I would say that I hate Beyonce because she seems to effortlessly assimilate into mainstream white culture, while simultaneously hailing that Black Lives Matter. I hate her because I believe her to be an opportunist who has capitalized on her sexuality and the sexualization of black bodies in order to make a profit, and who has profited from black trauma. I hate her because millions of little girls and adult women I respect will be persuaded to get in formation behind her.

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Since we’re the same age, I feel as if we’ve grown up together. Overcome the same emotions and fought the same battles at similar times: understanding how to navigate changing relationships, understanding who we are in relation to other people, understanding who we are after a traumatic and unexpected loss, trying to make peace with our own complexities.

The most frustrating part about my hatred for Beyonce is that it doesn’t satisfy me. It doesn’t accomplish anything. It doesn’t produce anything. It doesn’t solve anything.

I honor the vision, success and beauty of women– even those who bring about my own insecurities, even those whose vision I don’t always understand. But I want to live in a world that is kinder to women as I recognize her persona to be a symptom of a very western disease.

I want something more for my niece.

Pretty hurts.

 

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11 thoughts on “The Beyonce Effect

  1. This is a really good and honest post. I also toy with the idea of disliking Beyonce. You’ve really articulated some of my reasons why in ways I wasn’t able to earlier articulate. I actually saw Beyonce in concert for the first time ever earlier this year. The concert was just okay, but what made it fun was being with my friends in an almost all female audience. It was a girl power night. I think its spot on what you say about Beyonce’s ability to gracefully transition between black and white culture and my own struggle with doing so is perhaps what generates my interest in even caring about the “Beyonce Effect”. We live in a world where being named Beyonce is a barrier to corporate America, yet if you are thee Beyonce you are invited to sing at the president’s inauguration. It’s inexplicable. I am from the era of “that’s ghetto” in which growing up, anything that was “too black” was deemed ghetto. But given enough time, anything deemed ghetto or too black could eventually gain mainstream white approval, ie. Snoop Dogg has a cooking show with Martha Stewart. But Beyonce doesn’t seem to have to wait for this approval, rather she creates it instantaneously. Beyonce can transition between blond weaves in hair care commercials for products she absolutely doesn’t use back to micro braids and corn rows without so much as an eyebrow raise. I on the other hand exist in the space between the copy machine where white co-workers ask if they can touch my hair, and black strangers walking down the street preach the go natural movement. To be black and happy is to be privileged enough to ignore the ignorance that requires you to be not too black but just black enough. It’s an awkward and ridiculous juxtaposition that Beyonce has somehow conquered. I don’t dislike her for it, but I do feel some type of inexplicable way.

  2. Thanks so much for your thoughts! I appreciate your perspective.

    Proximity to whiteness via lighter skin often provides greater access and more cultural capital. At the same time, I think that regardless of our actual skin color, we can feel more connected to mainstream white culture and less affection for our racial and ethnic group. I understand it. I’ve lived it. I just don’t think you can lead a black movement with blond hair (if I can be petty about it).

    I think my biggest issue with her is that I doubt her sincerity. Black Lives Matter is trendy, and she is an astute businesswoman with a solid fanbase of black supporters.

    I appreciate some of the work she’s done recently because I know she could have made other choices. Bringing the mothers of those killed by police brutality to the VMAs was a bold statement, regardless of her sincerity.

    She’s free to do whatever she wants, and she doesn’t need my money or approval. I just want more from her, and more from myself.

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