I had a whole ‘nother piece planned for today, but a fun conversation on a radio show last night left me feeling like I had to speak a little further on something that’s been BUGGING me since I saw it.
Sisters in your 20′s, this piece is written especially out of love for you.
Last night, I was honoured to be a returning guest on the super fun “Cocktails and Conversations – Wednesday Wind Down Night Cap Edition” show on Blogtalk Radio. One of our discussion topics was King Bey herself, Beyonce. It’s Bey Season and homegirl is everywhere, per her successful promo formula. When the time comes, the Beyonce machine kicks into high gear: performances from inauguration to Superbowl 2013, the Mrs. Carter World Tour is coming, the ink on a PEPSI deal is dry, a sit-down with Oprah dropped, and right after it came her own documentary/beauty piece, “Life Is But A Dream” as an HBO exclusive. Whew! I’m tired just listing all that!
Bottomline: Beyonce is every place you look, and I am NOT mad at that! Well, except for this one thing…
As we talked about the documentary, one of the show hosts mentioned a line that had really stayed with her, and me too, since watching. In a clip, a 25 year old Bey is shown toasting her then-boyfriend at his 37th birthday dinner in December, 2006. As part of her toast, she says to him “…You taught me how to be a woman...” ::insert SOUL cringe and record scratch sound effect here::
As I sat on my couch watching, my mouth kinda fell open. Here was a beautiful and extremely talented young woman in her 20′s…handing over credit for her womanhood to the man she’s in love with? Did I just hear an international superstar, woman of her own means, and idol of little girls around the world…give her power away so completely in one blanket statement? ::blink blink:: O_O Why was she talking about her man, Jay-Z, in terms usually reserved for a wise and aged forebear like a mother/grandmother/father?
I swear, my heart hurt to hear her say that. It’s a HUGE statement to make. In fairness, 31 year old Beyonce didn’t have this vibe about her; it was a VERY 25 year old statement. But it’s also a dangerous one to put out there without the benefit of your listening audience knowing how you meant it. We can’t know what was in Beyonce’s mind when she laid credit for her womanhood at her then-boyfriend’s feet: was she referring to him showing her how to move in the industry as a powerful woman? It stands to reason that she wasn’t giving a birthday toast with a sexual connotation of “how to be a woman”. But did she literally mean that this man moulded and shaped her, as one might do with a child? Can’t be…has to be the “in the industry” slant…I hoped.
If grown men and women were sitting on a show panel dissecting the many ways it could be taken, younger women and little girls at home hearing it might be struck by the statement too. Rest assured, somewhere, there’s teens and pre-teens who heard “…You taught me how to be a woman...” and didn’t come to the same logical conclusion that I did, but instead took it at face value. There were women in their late teens and early 20′s who heard it and might’ve added an undue crown to the head of a controlling boyfriend.
In the back of an impressionable girl’s mind, lines like that inadvertently help plant and water a seed that says “it’s okay and healthy for a man you date to have influence over your thought process and help you form your way of thinking and behaving; it’s okay for a significant other to ‘raise’ you in some ways and shape who you become, not unlike the way a father might do to a daughter.”
Ladies, girls, sisters: NOTHING COULD BE FARTHER FROM THE TRUTH.
In actuality, that type of influence is the open door to a potentially lifelong controlling mindfuck, if the power is put in the wrong hands. But you don’t know how it’ll turn out at the time, do you? Beyonce has a happy outcome, with Jay-Z clearly having used his influence benevolently. I don’t think he’s the rule though; given the opportunity to ‘create’ the woman you want and influence from a young age, can you say for sure who might be sinner or saint?
I’ve used Bey’s line as an example because it’s reaching hundreds of thousands of women around the world, but that line is just one symptom of a greater illness.
This April, I’ll turn 38…and not one ounce of my womanhood is due to a man’s influence, and certainly not the influence of one I dated. Of course, my father, grandfather and uncles were influential in the usual family way of setting how I view men. But it was my mother, my aunts, my godmother and my grandmother who laid the map I followed into womanhood. Life’s ups and downs have made us closer and I know I have resources to turn to when I have questions. I have solid and tangible role models to whom I give credit and thanks.
I feel like there’s been a break in thinking since I was an impressionable teen, finding my way. That break has given rise to the Tyrese/Jody wisdom tweets, the Steve Harvey cheap suit books, the Rev Run inspirational bathtub texts, and the assorted speaking-tour circuit of “relationship experts”. ::rolls eyes::
A man teaching women how to be women? Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t that the VERY epitome of condescending patriarchy at its FINEST?!?!?!
In my opinion, there’s a generation of women coming up who’ve twisted and tied their power to a man. It’s the very opposite of what our mother’s generation worked so hard for. Blame can be shared any which way… but the truth is that it’s OUR fault.
Listen: each one, teach one. A man can’t make you, you can’t let him break you, and your foremothers knew better than any man you could ever date or marry. Actively seek to create bonds with women of all ages – your older sisters have something to share, no matter what their walk of life, and you have something to impart to someone younger, even when you don’t realize.
Who run the world?
Not the girls sitting home reading cheap suit books… WOMEN.