Being Black in America is a constant challenge. The news has shown over and over again that you can’t
(This Week in Blackness) – The internet has been absolutely buzzing about the latest single from Beyonce called “Bow Down”. There has been an equal amount of blog posts critiquing it, so I apologize for piling on, but I just wanted to add one thing.
The surprise some seem to have concerning the track and at the gall that Beyonce would drop such a thing implies to me that they haven’t been paying attention to Beyowulf. This isn’t her first drive through the braggadocious musical ratchet stylings that she has on display here. Doe we not remember “I’m a Diva“?
“How you gon’ be talkin shit? You act like I just got up in it. Been the number 1 diva in this game for a minute!”
Now while she isn’t nearly as direct on “I’m a Diva” as she is on “Bow Down” we do get to watch Bey “keep it real” for a moment. However, I remember a song that should have given everyone a little more of a view into the BeyoBrain–the Destiny’s Child song “Soldier.”
“If your status ain’t hood, I ain’t checkin’ for’em. Betta be street if you lookin’ at me.”
So the idea that Beyonce might be inclined to tell “Bitches” to “bow down” doesn’t seem that far of a stretch I think.
One of the few written pieces that I thought was interesting talking about this was posted at Red Clay Scholar.
I contextualize Beyonce as a dichotomy of grit and grace, two polarized representations of black femininity that only co-exist via performances of alter ego(s) – i.e. Beyonce/Sasha Fierce. Aisha Durham’s discussion of Beyonce in her article “Check On It” provides a pliable framework for my discussion here. Durham writes: “Beyonce successfully performs a range of Black femininities, speaking at once to the Black working and middle-class sensibilities while fulfilling her dynamic roles as both a hip-hop belle and a U.S. exotic other globally” (35). The discourses of respectability that Beyonce frequents and consistently navigates are those of visual culture, often limited to what we see of and about Beyonce rather than what we hear. Durham’s categorization of a belle parallels not only the Madonna/whore complex frequently imposed upon women in popular culture but the antebellum aesthetic of respectability that continues to dictate southern women. An oppositional parallel for black women excluded from this niche of finer womanhood is the highly visible and commodified form of expression that we have come to recognize as (the) ratchet. As scholars like Treva Lindsey, Heidi Lewis, and Brittney Cooper point out, ratchetness is an intervention of sliding contemporary politics of respectability currently in place against women (of color).
Take a listen and let us know what you think.