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Building a Platform

smalina's picture

In my small group on Tuesday, we talked about the criticism Beyonce faced following the release of "Formation" from people who claimed she only brought race into her music when it had become a "hot topic" and thus "fashionable" and marketable to include. Kamara also joked about people who listened to Beyonce's music before Lemonade came out, and who were suddenly struck by the realization, "Oh...she's black??" In reality, of course, Beyonce was not not black until she talked about it--instead, she was a black woman working within the confines of a racist, patriarchal, and capitalist system which demanded that she make herself less political and more palatable to succeed. While those who criticized her for only recently addressing issues of race might say that this "success" meant her wealth and fame, I would say that Lemonade itself is this success. Beyonce brilliantly created her own platform within a racist system, and within a country built upon the destruction of black bodies, in order to speak her mind, drop an album, and blow people's minds (and not a niche audience, by any means). For the same reasons, I would argue that her claiming of sexuality as a tool through which to achieve this success is just as brilliant. We just can't draw a line between people with agency and those who are objectified--Beyonce challenges us to look beyond any expectation we may have that selling sexuality=objectification, and insists that she's been using it all along as a form of empowerment, and a means to make her Lemonade (and given this, maybe sexual objectification of black women is one of the "lemons").