Beyonce - Flawless and Feminist

Saturday, December 14, 2013

This morning I woke up and took a photo of myself.

I can count on one hand the number of times I've taken a selfie. But this morning I just had to. I woke up with Beyonce's "Flawless" playing in my head: "I woke up like this/ We flawless, ladies tell 'em."

"I woke up like this."

Like most Beyonce fans I spent most of yesterday in a state of disbelief. Did Queen Bey really drop a surprise album in the middle of the night? Does this album really feature more than a dozen songs and more than a dozen music videos?

I rushed home from work yesterday so I could sit down and carefully listen to all the tracks. The album immediately won me over with "Pretty Hurts," which speaks to the pressures of fitting society's beauty standards. In "Ghost" Beyonce gives listeners some insight into her business strategy and bluntly says she doesn't trust record labels. Tender tracks like "Superpower," "Heaven," and "Blue" (which features an adorable cameo from her daughter Blue Ivy) show off Bey's vocal prowess and tug on heart strings. And while the sexually explicit lyrics of tracks like "Drunk In Love," "Blow," and "Yonce"/"Partition" are a bit much at times, Mrs. Carter certainly does a good job of dispelling notions that married folks don't have good sex.

But then you hear "Flawless" and you realize she's doing so much more.

"Flawless" is a revamped version of the previously released track "Bow Down." And I will admit, when I first heard "Bow Down" I was confused. I didn't get it and I didn't like it. "What is she doing?" I asked myself.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
But "Flawless" is now about to be that track on repeat in my car when I'm running errands or driving to work. Yes, the song starts with Bey telling her haters to show some respect for the path she has paved, but don't think for one moment this means she's turned her back on sisterhood. The entire second verse features snippets from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's TED Talk "We Should All Be Feminists." This is one of my favorite TED Talks and one that I show to the students in my Women & Media class.

I get chills listening to Adichie's words to the backdrop of Beyonce's soaring soprano. And with Adichie's words, Beyonce's message becomes clear.

Bey's braggadocios lyrics fly in the face of the notion that women should "aim to be successful, but not too successful, otherwise you will threaten the man."

And when Mrs. Carter says "I took some time to live my life/ But don't think I'm just his little wife" she challenges the fact that girls are often taught to, as Adichie explains, "aspire to marriage."

Adichie says, "Marriage can be a source of joy and love and mutual support, but why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage and we don't teach boys the same?"

Adichie goes on to ask, "Why do we raise girls to see each other as competitors not for jobs or accomplishments -- which I think could be a good thing -- but for the attention of men?"

And when Adichie declares that "We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings in the way that boys are" suddenly even those raunchy rhymes from previous tracks have more purpose.

In case you were wondering if Beyonce is a feminist -- yes, she is. And in case you're not sure what that means, Adichie breaks it down: "Feminist - a person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes."

And no, Beyonce has not turned her back on her Beyhive. The song ends with Queen Bey inviting all of us to join her in declaring that we're flawless -- not because of makeup, plastic surgery, or expensive clothes, but because we "woke up like this."


  1. Yes ALL this. This is the first time I can say I LOVE a Beyonce album, for all the reasons you laid out, and more. Nice Jai!

  2. all of this. every last word!! I love this album. And I rarely say that about any album anymore. And my husband loves it too.....