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Beyoncé, Azealia Banks, Iggy Azalea: The Power Struggle Over Defining A Woman's Experience

28/04/2016 15:57

Beyonce's Lemonade was always going to be an ice cold drink of controversy that was hard to swallow. I, along with pretty much all of my BME friends, was blown away by those lemons. Hard to swallow for some? Good. Since the release, a whole load of voices have spoken out in an attempt to understand, explain or drag out Bey's Lemonade. Piers Morgan, we didn't need you, but luckily for you, the white male dominated world of journalism somehow gave you justification to write nonsense about it. The kind of responses I am interested in hearing come from other women. After all, who can define a black woman's experience other than a black woman? (Not you Piers, sorry.) When I heard that Azealia Banks spoke out, my pathetic attempt at ghosting the internet came to a brutal halt. I write her words in full:

"This heartbroken black female narrative you keep trying to push is the Antithesis of what feminism isYou been singing about this nigga for years and he still playing you. That's not strength that's stupidity
And it's not what the national black women's conversation needs right now. More pain and suffering in the face of a man
You keep crying over a man and perpetuating that sad black female sufferance and it's Not good for what we're trying to accomplish here
She made a song about big noses and hot sauce then put up a tour charging $1300 to ppl she knows damn sure can't afford that"

To some extent I agree. Black women, of course, need messages of empowerment right now. I'm sure Bey agrees too. I'm not sure how much Beyoncé's tour costs, if it is $1300 a ticket, that's ridiculous. There is no other way of looking at it. I've been a feminist for a long, long time. As I've grown older, to the ripe age of "22 in August," I've begun to tell myself that, to some extent, hypocrisy is progress. I struggled to call Beyoncé a feminist for a long time because I felt her message was inconsistent. Yet with a release like Lemonade, her work on the #BlackLivesMatter movement, and the difficulty she is giving unconscious white girls to remain fans of hers - I respect her. She is a feminist to me. You cannot listen to Beyoncé proudly and be ignorant anymore. You look like a fool. I admire her for shaking the foundation of her white fandom with such powerful political statements e.g. The Superbowl. She has proven to so many black women that you can be angry - and not in the way the white man calls you angry, but in the way we black women call ourselves angry. That is more empowering than anything. My main issue with Azealia Banks' message is the defining of the "narrative" black women need.

I refuse to be made to feel weak for ever being heartbroken, for ever forgiving someone (not that I am Team hypothetical Jay Z by any means in this) or using my art to tell of any pain. That is strength. Rage is not the only black woman narrative. It's not just about racism and politics (which Beyoncé did touch on), but we have everyday stories too. We have love, heartbreak, periods and jealousy. To shame Beyoncé for singing about a man who has "played her" is to shame almost every woman. Maya Angelou said: "You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it." Amen, Maya. There is no shame in chronicling those defeats. Art is often created out of loss or anger, just because Beyoncé is black doesn't mean she is above that journey. The "heartbroken black female narrative" has been popular for decades, because despite all we have overcome - we still experience that human feeling. Nina Simone, Whitney Houston, Mary J Blige etc, all queens of heartbreak, strength and empowerment - all at the same time. Heartbreak songs do not weaken, they guide and strengthen. There is room for more political, angry or 'empowered' music too. My other problem with her general argument (there are too many tweets to reference) is the pitting of black women against each other. Of course there is a divide between light-skinned and dark-skinned women. Since I was in secondary school, I heard that if it wasn't light, it basically wasn't right. Sometimes lighter-skinned women do feel superior (Laura Govan), but for a clued-on woman like Azealia to declare that black womanhood is broken will defeat us all. Beyoncé has done a good job in bringing my ebony, chocolate, mocha and caramel friends all on the same team.

And to Iggy Azalea who justifiably got angry at some fans calling her Becky, I would have had her back for that. But then Iggy Azalea used racism to counter what she felt was racism by tweeting: "you would not be down if I started calling all black men "deshawns."
Wtf? Iggy, you already know the bad reputation you have with blackness. You didn't have to pick on an already marginalised group to get your point as a white woman across.

"I don't care. Don't call all asian women "ming lee" don't call white women "becky" don't call black women "sha nay nay."

Iggy, adding a Ming Lee doesn't make you seem any less ignorant. It further strengthens the gripe that many people have against you, that you have twirled into a genre that you do not understand the history or politics of. That's fine if you were a pop star, but rap has always been a statement and it is clearly a statement you can't understand. Asian and black women have a greater list of struggles than white women do. You don't need to tap into that racist bank to make a point, Becky already has a better deal than Ming Lee and Sha Nay Nay combined.

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