I don’t think you’re ready for this jelly. I don’t think you’re ready for this:
I don't like Beyoncé.
Her latest album took reign over the Internet, multiplying her fandom to infinite proportions. She is everyone’s inner goddess, inner diva, or "spirit animal." Despite her success, her beauty, and newly self-attributed label of feminist, I can’t shake my disdain for her.
My feelings for Beyoncé began during the latter days of the 90s, when Destiny Child’s “Say My Name” lingered at the top of the pop charts. I remember recording the now quintessential karaoke jam onto cassette one night as Q102’s Top 10 countdown blasted through the speakers of my baby blue boom box. I was in awe of their ultra cool personas, their clothes, and harmonies.
But later that year I discovered punk rock and fell out of love with pop divas. Beyoncé fell off my radar until 2002 when my dad checked out a copy of "Carmen: A Hip Hopera" from the local library. We popped in the DVD. A half-hour in, I abandoned the television, fibbing to my dad about homework I had to do.
When Beyoncé’s solo debut dropped, I didn’t bother to listen. Years passed as her discography grew. During my freshman year of undergrad, my White friends called me “Deoncyé.” They complimented my weave by saying it looked soft like Bey’s, suggesting that, like her, I should go blonde.
During a late night hang session, my roommate scrolled through my iPod. She glanced up from its glowing screen, a puzzled look on her face. “Where’s your Beyoncé?”
I told her I didn’t have any of her songs. She stared at me like I was E.T.
Apparently I hadn’t gotten the memo about it being mandatory for all women of the African Diaspora to be eternal fans of Beyoncé Knowles. Since then I’ve had many similar awkward moments.
During the summer of ‘08, a close friend showed me the video for “If I Were a Boy” on the tilted screen of her Macbook Pro. As it played, she told me that the first time she watched it her eyes grew wet and she “almost cried.” As the video ended, she told me it was inspirational. I shrugged.
Whenever I went to get my hair done, my stylist would play bootlegged DVDs of Beyoncé’s performances from major tours. He’d sing along while sewing tracks of Indo Remi into my hair. Clipping my bangs, he sang “Sweet Dreams” in falsetto, marveling at what a blessing Bey was, confessing that she was his angel. I’d smile, politely.
Fast forward to December 2013. Beyoncé’s self-titled surprise release blew everyone away. The residual buzz from its initial unveiling still lingers in the ether of the blogosphere. Any of its tracks can be heard daily from the ear buds of sleepy MTA commuters on the crowded Manhattan bound J.
A few hours after the album’s release, I made the mistake of leaving a smug quasi-snarky comment about how absurd the non-stop praise for Beyoncé was, on a classmate’s Facebook page. I wrote something about how tragic it is that so many Bey lovers never knew Adiche’s name before “Flawless.” My comment ignited a heated debate via her Facebook status. It ended with her telling me that she didn’t want to “be bitchy” but she didn’t really care about my opinions on Beyoncé or care to hear them because “She’s doing amazing things and changing the world.”
Later that night, I listened to "Beyoncé" and felt nothing but bored and vaguely sentimental (even I can’t deny how moving “Heaven” is, right?). During the public’s most recent wave of Beyoncé fever, I took a hiatus from Tumblr because I could not escape her image or her fans. Even now, months after the album’s release, I still have trouble avoiding endless gifs of Beyoncé smiling, dancing, grinding, and flipping her luxurious weave. Posted nonstop by White fashion bloggers and feminists, my dashboard is eternally covered in Bey. The gifs are tagged #flawess #iwokeuplikethis or #bowtothequeen and followed occasionally with comments like “Perfect!” or “I wish I was Queen Bey."
Her role as hip White feminists’ most beloved diva of color is deeply problematic. Like a theoretical poster girl for the systemic stigmatization of Black femininity, sexuality, and womanhood, Beyoncé’s embodiment as a mainstream entertainment icon suspiciously follows the tradition of historical objectification and exotification of the Black female body that is so prevalent in our deeply racist, sexist, and patriarchal culture.
White feminism’s obsession over Beyoncé is fostering a new mode of tokenism, making it even more difficult for intersectional discourse to take place between White feminists who consider Bey their “black best friend” and Black feminists and womanists who admire or dislike Beyoncé for reasons tied to their identity as women of the African Diaspora in addition to personal preference.
As a Black feminist, I am perpetually giving side eye to the minions of White feminist Bey lovers who go ga-ga over her every move, yet fail to realize how their constant gaze is another form of exotification and objectification. I’ve overheard friends and strangers alike proclaim how they now understand the struggle of Black feminists and that they can relate to the experience of Black womanhood because they love Beyoncé.
Black feminists and fans of Bey are equally drunk in love with her, labeling her a role model, an activist, and an inspiration for Black women everywhere. I’m all for empowerment, but come on. Is she really that empowering?
Last time I checked she wasn’t Harriet Tubman, Audre Lorde, or bell hooks. She’s a pop icon. It’s a performance. Icons are strategically cultivated and groomed to generate sales, fame and adoration. The authentic self-actualized Beyoncé is a complete mystery to most of the world, save for her close friends and family.The Bey that is blindly worshiped is essentially a myth. Her persona is unrealistic and yet she is placed on a gold gilded pedestal and coroneted as authentic.
With her fingers to the pulse of the zeitgeist, she is reborn again and again, conveniently resembling whatever is most desirable to the public. She is whatever we want her to be. She is whatever we need her to be. Her faithful followers interpret her songs as confessional, as if each line can be read like a memoir or a political manifesto. Tell them you can’t stand her and it’s a moral dilemma for them. To them it’s like treason. It’s blasphemy.
I’ve been called a "jealous bitch" and verbally harassed in the past because I’ve voiced my feelings about Beyoncé. Hating her for some reason isn’t permissible, especially for a woman like me. She could cure cancer and I still wouldn’t buy the hype. I am not empowered by her predictable backbeats and carefully crafted politics. Her celebrity embodiment is just another mainstream commoditization and violation of the Black female body and its subsequent selfhood.
I can’t drink the Kool-Aid. For me, it’s like a modern minstrel show. It’s a nightmare. She’s been christened by the third wave as the new face of feminism. She’s really pretty, she’s super rich, and she has a tolerable singing voice. Whether on all fours in the tide or grinding the air, she has hypnotized her way into the swooning hearts of millions. Her essay on gender equality is coherent and echoes core elements of feminist pedagogy, while the bossy trill of “Flawless” fits perfectly alongside sound bites of Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche. She’s "perfect," a total "inspiration." Everyone loves her, except me, and for the first time I’m explicitly proclaiming my feelings for Mrs. Carter.
Don’t try to convert me. I’m anti-Bey. Deal with it.