I find myself increasingly defending someone whom I otherwise wouldn’t look around at or wouldn’t listen to: Beyoncé.
I haven’t converted to listening to her discography: To me, she sounds like every other Black female soloist in a Black church choir, so her voice–her timbre and melisma–isn’t unicorn-unique to my ears. In fact, I find it gratingly common because I heard so many women with her voice every Sunday from the age of five to my late twenties; Beyoncé just has a better production team.
[S]ome of folks who see Bey as “girl power” may have never heard of Valenti or may even want to be bothered with her writings or what they perceive to be “white feminism” that she embodies. Bey is their feminist text and their idea–and ideal. And whatnot…On the real though, Bey is not my sort of feminism–and that’s not blasphemous to say. Then again, neither were the Spice Girls…or the Riot Grrls, for that matter. And I remember folks tripped on each of those pop-cultural “generations” of feminist representations, too, trying to figure out their effects on younger people.
Feminism is rather malleable as each generation figures out what it means to them, even when we’re fighting the same old battles. Or because of them.
I knew I was “pro-choice” since about the age of ten. I remember watching the nightly news at my aunt’s house (this was in the late 70s), and there was a segment on about the abortion debates. I don’t remember the images, just the words, “a woman has the right to bring a child into the world.” I thought no truer words were spoken and, thus–with some permutations, like understanding the nuances of “pro-choice/pro-reproductive rights” and “reproductive justice” and moving my thinking toward the latter–I’ve stayed in that stance ever since.
And–yowza!–I remember conversations my mom and I would have about it throughout my ‘tween and teen years. I told my mom–she was the only grown person I could talk to about this–that I wasn’t going to have kids, full stop, and would seek an abortion if necessary in order to remain childless. (I thought my love life at that time would consist of a series of lovers, none of whom I knew I wouldn’t want to be attached to via a child. A husband? Yeah, perhaps, but I thought the lovers thing sounded infinitely sexier in my head.) Mom wasn’t hearing any of this. And her trump card in this argument? “Only white women kill their children. We”–meaning Black women–“don’t do those things.” I didn’t know how to argue against respectability politics then. I just knew that it wasn’t going to by my life, dammit.
And I knew not every Black woman believed what my mom believed about abortion and its role in our lives.