I have many thoughts about Beyonce’s new visual album. She released it as a one hour journey through song, video and spoken word.
The first words out of her mouth on the very first track are
You can taste the dishonesty, it’s all over your breath.
I was not prepared.
So much of this album wasn’t written for me, sung for me, or performed for me. It’s steeped in rich black culture, flooded with strong black women, I recognize that and I step back from that. (if you’d like to know more, this is a fantastic read)
The most disrespected person in America is the Black woman, the most unprotected person in America is the Black woman. The most neglected person in America is the Black woman.
That first line, however, began to uncoil something for me. Those song lyrics interspersed with poetry by Warsan Shire.
Something don’t feel right
Because it ain’t right
Especially comin’ up after midnight
I smell your secret, and I’m not too perfect
To ever feel this worthless…
Lookin’ jealous or crazy? Jealous or crazy?
What a wicked way to treat the girl that loves you…
The second video shows Beyonce strutting through the street with a baseball bat. Grinning as she smashes windows, security cameras. Later she whispers icily,
If it’s what you truly want… I can wear her skin over mine. Her hair over mine. Her hands as gloves. Her teeth as confetti. Her scalp, a cap. Her sternum, my bedazzled cane. We can pose for a photograph all three of us. Immortalized… you and your perfect girl.
And I felt it so viscerally. I felt that old searing, burning, abrupt ripping. That desire to smash and destroy and set entire lives on fire and stand by remorseless, watching them burn.
I remembered that feeling.
I felt so deeply uncomfortable remembering this feeling.
I felt hot, itchy as I watched the titles pass across the screen. Intuition. Denial. Anger. Apathy. Emptiness. Loss.
It was like watching someone act out stage directions for the past year and a half of my life. Like someone watching me break when I thought I was alone. It felt like violation and, strangely, vindication. It wasn’t just me.
An experience like this takes your choice away. A decision is made about your own marriage and you’re not even offered the courtesy of having a say in it. It forever identifies you in a way you never consented to. It’s cheap. It’s low.
Ashes to ashes. Dust to side chicks.
For me, it comes down to choice and consent. Every “woman’s issue”. All of it. Choice and consent. Choices stripped away from women by men who think they know better. But ‘better’ often just means better for him.
Sex with without consent. Being choked without consent. Forced to become mothers without consent. Being made ignorant, being made a victim without consent. It’s a constant crippling of women, a cutting off at the knees, a taking away of choice.
We deserve better.
And you tried to change, didn’t you? Closed your mouth more. Tried to be softer, prettier, less volatile, less awake.
You can’t make homes out of human beings. Someone should have already told you that.
Silence is never the answer. Becoming less is never the answer. Sleeping deeper is never the answer.
It’s better to wake up and walk through and get through and collect ourselves; take pain and make beauty out of it, make art out of it. That’s the answer. That’s the part you have choice in. You can tell your story. You control your words and how they come out and who hears them. That is your right and, I’d argue, your purpose.
It’s nicer if we’re quiet and we just tamp it down and smooth it out and move on with a smile. It’s nice if we make friends. Stay silent. It’s certainly easier. But nothing good ever came from easy. Easy is how we got into this mess in the first place. Speak even though it hurts and it you feel humiliated and alone. Speak even though you think people are tired of hearing you.
Speak because you’re allowed that much, at least.
If you don’t want to speak, listen. Listen even though it makes you uncomfortable. Listen even though you don’t think I’m speaking to you. Listen because it is important.
Your stories are yours, your experiences are yours. And we owe it to tell them, share them, speak them. We owe it to every other woman who has found herself itching for a baseball bat, or searching through a phone at midnight afraid of what she’ll find, or drowning, silently, underwater. Feeling jealous or crazy. Jealous and crazy. We owe it to our daughters who watch our actions and listen to our words and learn how to live their lives from us.
We owe it to them to speak honestly of our faults and the failures of others. What we learned. How we moved on from them.
Not just about this issue but every “women’s issue” we keep deep and secret because of misplaced shame. Rape, abortion, sexual harassment aren’t women’s issues any more than they are men’s issues. It’s not one or the other, these are our issues. They destroy all of us.
Your mother is a woman and women like her can not be contained.
Mother dearest, let me inherit the earth. Teach me how to make him beg. Let me make up for the years he made you wait. Did he bend your reflection? Did he make you forget your own name? Did he convince you he was a god? Did you get on your knees daily? Do his eyes close like doors? Are you a slave to the back of his head?
So, perhaps it’s just music. But it’s also transformation. It’s life and love and the story of what happens when one strangles the other. It’s what happens when a powerful woman is humiliated and instead of staying silent, starts singing. It’s what happens when you stand up and speak, grab hold of that crippling force and make it go to work rebuilding you better.
Don’t be surprised when millions of women enthusiastically grab hold of this and hold it up, this mirror reflecting themselves. Don’t be surprised when millions of women want to speak.
I know this story. Intimately. The fire has gone and the anger with it. But it’ll always be a part of me, and I’ll keep speaking about it until I’ve said everything I need to say. That’s the only choice I got in it.
This is my story and many of yours, too. And now, it has an incredible drumbeat.
If we’re gonna heal, let it be glorious.