According to Yemisi, when Beyonce released her 2015 single ‘Flawless’ featuring a spoken word voice over from Chimamanda Adichie’s 2012 TED talk ‘Why Everyone Should Be A Feminist’ the wall came tumbling down and suddenly there was pressure for Nigerian women to identify as feminists.
Attempts she personally is resisting as resolutely as she resisted attempts to be ‘indoctrinated by the women in her life.’
I disagree with Yemisi’s entire analysis of Beyonce’s ‘Flawless’. She misinterprets (and I believe others may have also) Beyonce’s use of the word ‘bitches’. It does not mean ‘women.’ In ‘street language’ it also means ‘weak men’ and ‘beta males’.
The UrbanDoctionary.com defines bitch as “An exceedingly whipped guy who does/wears/thinks/says whatever his girlfriend tells him to.”
Beyonce is talking about exercising power over men and the video shows mostly men during the chorus. She uses Adichie’s text to contextualise her dominance of the ‘streets’ and competing with the boys for dominance.
But don’t think I’m just his little wife/
Don’t get it twisted, get it twisted/
This my shit
Here she tells us that she isn’t just Jay Z’s puppet, she is reassuring us that she isn’t being sexed up and sold at the behest of her man but is exercising a choice and agency within her industry. She is expressing her intention to slay, to dominate, not women but her audience through her skill and talent.
Queen of hell? Probably. But she’s still Queen. Unless you’re being elitist don’t knock it.
Use of words like ‘bitch’, ‘hoe’ ‘cunt’ etc etc etc in popular art forms is what Audre Lordes called “…reclaiming of that language which has been made to work against us.”
“What has a brilliant, questioning, grounded mind like Adichie’s got to do with Beyoncé’s glittering confetti and goddess status?” Yemisi asks.
A disingenuous or a naive question?
bell hooks gives a brilliant review of Beyonce’s ‘Lemonade’ here.
Yemisi dismisses Beyonce, Adichie and New Nigerian Feminism, romanticises a hazy old Nigerian feminism suffering a ‘lack of documentation’ and then dismisses Nigerian feminists as frauds.
Then she uses feminist analysis to justify a brand of modest Victorian anti-feminism that disapproves the use of the words like ‘bitch’ and ‘hoe’, sexual autonomy and sexualization of the female form without questioning the imported ‘Male Gaze’.
I asked Erykah Badu the same question when she advised young women to dress modestly a few weeks ago. Instead of teaching girls how to fight and boys that naked doesn’t mean ‘come and fuck’ we are still asking our daughters to cover up. Still slaves of the ‘Male Gaze’.
Yemisi is telling a story of powerful privileged Nigerian woman. But is she also wearing a prosthetic penis? Why do I feel Yemisi is asking us to bend over?
These single stories of African women are disempowering and reductive and are created for the consumption of the west rather than for any real social change. – Amina Doherty