Who runs the world? Girls.
I usually like to enjoy things post-hype but I couldn’t wait on this one. Aside from the VERY blonde eyebrows I loved it. The song aint sayin’ nuthin but I haven’t looked to Bey for strong lyrics since, well, ‘Writings On The Wall’ which she recorded with her all woman posse. Let’s be honest, where else do we go for the Robbie Williams guarantee (‘let me entertain you’). Beyoncé is top of the game. Period. There are two reasons I co-sign this video:
1. The Post Naughties Face of Negritude
Negritude was a movement initiated by Francophone Black intellectuals and founded on the principle of shared Black heritage for the African Diaspora. Existing in the context of European colonization it focused on the rejection of assimilative processes and the inclusion of African culture broadly (art, ethics, history etc.)
Diaspora:- a dispersion of a people form their original homeland; the community formed by such people
Colonialism – the implementation of various political, economic, and social policies to enable a state to maintain or extend its authority and control over other territories.
Assimilation – The process whereby a minority group gradually adopts the customs and attitudes of the prevailing culture.
It is possible to trace the changing pulse of Black British cultural life as it interacts with different socio-political climates. Post naughties we have seen the return of African cultural influence, a occurrence that is global. Whether in arts productions like the ‘London via Lagos Theatre Festival’, or Black women’s increased interest in caring for natural afro hair supported by major icons and inspirer’s like MoptopMaven and Solange, the continent is becoming more and more visible as positively transformative. Museke reports that Beyoncé took inspiration for her video from the Mozambican kwaito dance group Tofo Tofo and had them flown to the U.S for a cameo. As I watched her with the two hell-ah-handsome men I gave my grinning approval. Like parts of the beat, the dance may not be new, but it worked. I think it is important that we actively re-imagine/visually experience Africa and I am always pleased when we rightly connote African culture to brilliance. So Queen Bey gets a salute from me for keeping it regal. (Did you check the headdress?)
Arguably, there have been other examples in music that have held stronger positive correlations to the continent – Distant Relatives duo Nas and Damien Marley’s video for ‘Patience’ as an example. As a Black British woman of Caribbean heritage I am familiar with the realities of cultural hybridity and therefore also appreciate expressions of African cultural revival that incorporate the nuances of Anglo-American experience and influence. Ultimately I think Ms Carter-Knowles did this.
2. Badass Black Bodies
It is a rare to come across discussions around Black women in entertainment that do not eventually short circuit themselves en route to the issue of hyper-sexuality. I read an article by a girlfreind @ThisIsLoveSam which I thoroughly enjoyed, though partially disagreed with. Also responding to the Beyoncé ‘Run The World’ video she addressed the familiar questions of sex, feminism and freedom.
I mention often my distinction between sex and pornography – to extend this I will add that I see sex as private but the body as boundless. Whenever our only response to a body is ‘cover it’ it concerns me – especially because I understand it to be part of the extended narrative of European anxiety, (an issue I raised in my article The Blacks, The Birds and The Bees). This fear of nudity may be more rooted in Constantinian European Christianity than Biblical Judaism – afterall, King David is said to have danced through the streets naked as an acceptable expression of worship.
Our current society is one that lawfully enforces the concealment of our bodies, and Black women having been framed during colonialism as primitively sexual, are especially under siege. We generally only see [women's] bodies within a sexual context and this is problematic because it denies us the opportunity to associate it with the fact that the body performs numerous functions. The breasts that are pictured wet and erect may also serve the primary purpose of sustenance for example. Or love scenes that depict oral stimulation show parts of the body that are also involved in human excretion. Perhaps if we were to become comfortable with the body in public and private capacities it would help us to see women as fully human, and not simply female.
Female:- designed with a hollow or groove into which a corresponding male part fits.
Does Beyoncé transgress this boundary? Probably not, but my intention here is not to construct a binary. Without playing into issues of complexionism, I am encouraged when Black women’s bodies are represented as desirable, attractive, sexy. I like to see what a Black woman’s body can do, how it moves, the shapes it makes when you apply it to different angles. I happen to think that – amongst others – Beyoncé has a BANGIN’ body. I view it with respect and appreciation and without framing her as a wealthy prostitute. It’s a body. Be easy people. So for inspiring body confidence amongst Black women globally, I salute Queen B.