While I've enjoyed Beyonce as a performer/artist (and have had my criticisms of her over the years as I've grown up with her-we're the same age), I've rarely regarded her as a quotable person...or an artist I'd expect to hear something substantial from regarding politics or social justice matters. I've also not always been a fan of her past interviews; I feel that while they gave us insight into her as an artist or entertainer, we weren't given insight into who she is as a person and what she thinks about the world or culture, beyond Beyonce The Brand. They all felt very...standard. The few she's given since the release of Beyonce, however, where she's expressed her thoughts on feminism, motherhood, and being an artist in a slightly less guarded way, have been intriguing reads for me though. I've found myself identifying and relating to her words and experiences in a way I haven't in years, probably because I see some of my own growth and journey with these same issues in hers. I see her evolving in her understanding of them, much as I have over the last 5-6 years, and honestly respect it, even if it's considered by others to be "simplistic". (I've never taken a women's studies or feminist theory course, so I consider my own understanding to be simplistic too-there's still much I have yet to learn.)
Her new interview with Elle Magazine for their May "Women in Music" issue is her best yet, in my opinion. In it she discusses her thoughts on feminism, motherhood, the backlash to "Formation", her desire to use her art and voice to speak to issues that matter, supporting and empowering younger female artists, and the importance of women taking care of their mental health. (A high profile Black woman who is a global star specifically mentioning mental health? I spent much of yesterday shouting "THAT'S WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT!" and fist pumping after reading it)
"I put the definition of feminist in my song ["Flawless"] and on my tour, not for propaganda or to proclaim to the world that I'm a feminist, but to give clarity to the true meaning. I'm not really sure people know or understand what a feminist is, but it's very simple. It's someone who believes in equal rights for men and women. I don't understand the negative connotation of the word, or why it should exclude the opposite sex. If you are a man who believes your daughter should have the same opportunities and rights as your son, then you're a feminist. We need men and women to understand the double standards that still exist in this world, and we need to have a real conversation so we can begin to make changes. Ask anyone, man or woman, "Do you want your daughter to have 75 cents when she deserves $1?" What do you think the answer would be? When we talk about equal rights, there are issues that face women disproportionately. That is why I wanted to work with [the philanthropic organizations] Chime for Change and Global Citizen. They understand how issues related to education, health, and sanitation around the world affect a woman's entire existence and that of her children. They're putting programs in place to help those young girls who literally face death because they want to learn, and to prevent women from dying during childbirth because there's no access to health care. Working to make those inequalities go away is being a feminist, but more importantly, it makes me a humanist. I don't like or embrace any label. I don't want calling myself a feminist to make it feel like that's my one priority, over racism or sexism or anything else. I'm just exhausted by labels and tired of being boxed in. If you believe in equal rights, the same way society allows a man to express his darkness, to express his pain, to express his sexuality, to express his opinion—I feel that women have the same rights."
On the "Formation" backlash and using her art as a means of protest:
On mental health and the cultural messaging that can keep women from prioritizing it:
"Women have to take the time to focus on our mental health—take time for self, for the spiritual, without feeling guilty or selfish."
On supporting (and signing) younger female artists via her new label:
"I want to take all my resources and give these artists the support of the best, to nurture them and allow them to be who they are really are."
Her new artists...
I can't lie-I know folks will have their criticisms to share, but it thrills my feminist and artist heart to see Beyoncé really stepping into her full power as a woman, artist, and entrepreneur. Watching her evolution over the last few years has been challenging and liberating for me and my own artistry in ways I didn't expect. She's using her voice and art to foster conversation around issues that impact people of color, and women and girls in new, bolder ways and I'm here for it. And just as she's done in the past by employing an all female band, she's now amplifying the voices of other female artists by creating spaces for them to share their art with the world. (Much like Janelle Monae is doing for artists with her Wondaland label, and Solange with her Saint Heron label and shop) As a woman, mother, and artist trying to do the same as I navigate my 30's, I respect it and find her grind motivating.
I see you, Beyonce. Salute, sis. <insert power fist> <get in formation>
You can read the cover story here