Beyonce’s performance, this past weekend at Coachella, was magical, powerful, breath taking, and absolutely not a celebration of all women, and that’s okay.
In 2011, Beyonce stood on an MTV stage with the word “feminist” in a bold pink shade against a black background which illuminated behind her. Chimanda Ngozi Adichi’s “We Should All Be Feminists” piece eachoed throughout the arena. And we claimed that as a feminist moment, and as I look back at it, as my feminism has grown, and I can see it was another moment we, in this movement, stripped the blackness away from a moment and claimed it for ALL women. (#AllWomenMatter)
I have seen a lot think pieces in the past few days talking about Beyonce’s celebration of womanhood as a headliner at Coachella, a first black woman achievement, yet it’s some how a celebration for all women. And not to be dramatic or anything, but I genuinely hate these people, because they literally did not pay attention to anything that happened on that stage.
White women truly suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out) whenever it comes to black women’s performance, talents, and successes. It’s like our brains instantly turn into the very men we mock about masculinity so fragile and being excluded. We, yes I say we because even if there are a few us of we still have to answer for the masses, we immediately claim black women’s powerful, successful, and magical moments as a collective celebration of womanhood, but we rarely stand with black women when they are suffering as the hands of systemetic oppression and not dancing around the most famous stage in the world.
Beyonce’s performance was not for us white girls. We can consume it. We can pay for it. We can engage with the content. We can champion it. We can celebrate it. But it was not a celebration of just womanhood for all. It was not our celebration. While Beyonce created, visualized, and prepared for this performance, she did not think nor care about white people. In fact, her mother told her she was worried the primarily white audience wouldn’t understand her references to black culture. She didn’t care.
Beyonce’s performance was a celebration of blackness, specifically of southern black women, and even more specifically in college cultures. It was a true artistic masterpiece of hard work, talent, representation all mixed together from years of Beyonce catering to an industry that has white washed music since the beginning of “pop music.” If you didn’t know record labels in the 50s and 60s stole songs from black artists, gave them to white artists, put it on the radio, and made them thousands of dollars. And as we progress into modern history we still continue to see that same appropriation through Miley, through Katy Perry, through the Kardashians.
Queen Bey graced the stage in Egyptian garments and vibrant hues of yellow and black to represent the first Black Fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha, who also heavily uses Egyptian symbols in their clothing and logos. She added in marching bands, drumlines, cadets and step shows both are an experience of black universities (if you’re white and don’t know what this means to black culture, pleasewatch the movies Drumline and Stomp the Yard). She also has stated she will provide the Formation Scholarship starting this year at historically black schools of Xavier, Tuskegee, Wilberforce, and Bethune-Cook. A quick reminder that last week, a black student applied to 20 Ivy League schools, was accepted into all of them, and was called “obnoxious” on Fox News.
She sang “Lilac Wine” by Nina Simone and had a clip from Simone’s “Strange Fruit,” (watch What Happened Miss Simone on Netflix), and she included Malcom X’s famous quote, from “Who Taught You to Hate Yourself,”
“The Most disrespected woman 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.”
For more of the specifics about all the black culture in her set, I would prefer you read it from a black woman, Dee Locket, so read her piece here .
Because while I want to celebrate and address Bey’s celebration on Main Stage at Coachella, we also need to address the elephant in the room: white women.
Beyonce becoming the first black female headliner of Coachella was not truly a feminist moment, it should be, and if our feminism was truly intersectional, then maybe it could be. But it isn’t.
In a time of Trump’s America, an America where 52% of white women voted for Trump, full of police brutality, modern day slavery in our American prison systems, Flint, Michigan and where (on the same day Bey performed) two black men in Philadelphia were arrested and held over night in jail, because they were in a Starbucks for waiting on a friend to arrive. All of this caught in the cross fires of 3rd wave feminism, black excellence, black girl magic, black representation in media, Black Panther, Black Lives Matter, Get Out, Beyonce’s Lemonade, a black storm trooper, Kendrick Lamar, and Cardi B.
So these moments cannot simply be feminist. The success of black women cannot be just clumped together with Taylor Swift, Lena Dunham, Amy Schumer, and Jennifer Lawerence and their medicore acheivements. To deny these moments of their blackness is detrimental.
Across the field at Coachella, Cardi B performed in an all white jumper that beautifully showcased her baby bump. A woman who got her fame through Vine by being authentically from the Bronx, authentically “ghetto, ratchet, trashy,” and whatever other words white women would have called her not even 2 years before her rise to fame. And the one thing about Cardi’s graceful entry in main stream pop culture, she never toned down her blackness, her bronxness, her ratchetness. So while we talk about her achievements as a female rapper, and we deny the layer of her blackness, then we strip her of her success, her hard work, and her ambitions.
Black women have historically been forced into a decision to either prioritize their race and put their gender on the back burner, or to prioritize their gender and put their race on the back burner. And we as allies, should be fully acknowledge the success and the moment for black women. We shouldn’t be making them choose between race or gender. We should be able to champion on these moments for them.
We don’t need to sound like “What about Men’s History Month,” as we see a moment is NOT for us, but neither is it inherently against us.