This is a guest post written by Erika Turner.
Two days ago, I made one of the biggest transitions of my life – leaving a familiar city for one in which I never dreamed of living. No, really. New York was never my ideal, but writing or “living the creative life” always has been. So, here I am. And in the months leading up to this event, I’ve struggled. Not only with the decision to move or with plans concerning how the hell I was going to support myself, but with confidence. With convincing myself I was worthy enough to pursue my dreams, despite the seemingly insurmountable work I know I must do to ever be comfortable in my own skin, to love myself and move beyond my flaws.
Then, several days before my move, during a series of events through which I’m sure the Lord was testing my patience, my resolve, and perhaps my sanity, Beyoncé dropped her new album. Go ahead, roll your eyes. I’ll wait.
As I was saying – Beyoncé dropped her new album, a full-length visual masterpiece that covered the gamut of what it means to be a black woman. In little more than an hour, she reveals her vulnerabilities, her self-confidence, and her determination to be more than what others expect of her. To be “a grown woman” and “do whatever she wants.” She sings about being flawless in a world in which perfection is a disease; she sings about many things. But, what was most important, was that I felt like she was singing about me.
And we all have those moments. We all have those artists, those songs, those movies, those pop culture gems in which we feel like we’re being touched or spoken to in some manner that lets us know that we’re not alone. Writer and trans* advocate Janet Mock speaks of this kind of experience in her new memoir Redefining Realness:
“I was obsessed with The Velvet Rope for a year straight, letting Janet Jackson’s confessional lyrics lull me to sleep and comfort me when I felt lost. I felt that album was the vehicle onto which Janet finally expressed her full self, her anger and pain, her fluid sexuality and passion. I loved her fiery red curls and her equally vibrant smile, features that the older girls said I had in common with the singer. I was deeply flattered when they nicknamed me baby Janet, a name that stuck and that I took as my own.”
And we all need these moments, too. But, in the four days since Beyoncé’s epic release, there’s been as much pushback as there has been praise. On the one hand, there are the usual naysayers who remind us all that there are wars, famine, and political agendas more deserving of our time. “DOWN WITH FUN AND WHIMSY,” they chant over their political science textbooks, as if still triggered by their nightmarish days of 20 page papers and alcohol-tinged misery at, say, Wellesley College.
Then, there are the Internet talking heads who, frantic at the idea that a woman has the nerve to exist outside of any pre-determined ideal, rush to label this piece of cultural treasure as “FEMINIST” or “NOT FEMINIST.” As if it actually matters. To me, it doesn’t. Feminism is neither my idol nor my aspiration – that is to say, I do not worship at its altar and turn away those who fall short of its glory. Few of us who subscribe to the belief that people of all genders should be treated equally and given equal access come home and crunch the numbers to see if we’ve hit our daily feminism quota. We’re all out here just doing the best we can with what we have.
What matters is that we are all fighting our own wars. While people are dying in [insert any country that isn’t America here], people are also dying in our neighborhoods, in our communities, and in our families. Some of us deal with the fear of or the desire for death every day. We are battling depression, poverty, hunger, abuse, and fear. In our homes, in our heads, in our hearts. Every day.
We do the best we can with what we have. And if we can come home at the end of every battle, look in the mirror and think, “I look so good tonight. Goddamn, goddamn,” then that’s a battle fucking won.
So fuck ‘em. Go on ahead, girl, and play your Beyoncé. We’re here for this.