divaFeature: “Run this Motha…”
A guest feature from former “Diva of the Week” Tatiana Johnson:
I first heard Beyonce’s “Girls (Who Run the World)” courtesy of divaMissioN and was okay with it. I then saw the video and my like for the song exponentially increased. Next, I saw Beyonce perform the song at the Billboard Music Awards and then later on one of the farewell episodes of Oprah. I suddenly found myself saying “HOLD UP!” (Luda voice) and smiling. This song has revealed to me an overwhelming feeling of that Girlfriends popular phrase: “Oh Hell Yes!” I know a lot of women who are also on that train, loving Beyonce’s new jam and blasting it like “Single Ladies” and “Diva”. Yet, there are some women who are not smitten by the song and could care less. There are also women writing about how this song is a representation of feminism and some who RESENT THAT STATEMENT.
So, where can one stand on this song that seems to be celebrating women? In my opinion, this song represents something so powerful that may need a little clarification…
LET ME CLEAR MY THROAT!
I remember speaking with a friend who stated some famous words of another friend. The saying goes “Black women’s lives are not tragic”. Being an aspiring filmmaker and someone who cares a lot for popular culture, I cannot agree more with that statement. I’ve watched Precious and every Tyler Perry film under the sun. I’ve heard about little girls who are being called “Precious” in their middle schools, and I have also seen YouTube videos of young black girls being exploited sexually and I must say I have been saddened, disappointed, angry and frustrated. I’ve never wanted to be a mother/father so much, or in some sort of role whereas to teach girls what kind of power they have and how their lives are not tragic. It seems to be ingrained since the age old doll experiment that “black is bad” and this negative reinforcement has evolved into “black is poor”, “black is dirty” and the most recent comment “black is ugly”.
Where is the positive reinforcement?
The media is not the sole proponent of these beliefs, but the continuation of society embracing these beliefs helps keep the cycle going and evolving. Where will this evolution of negative perceptions of blackness lead? As I speak to my aunt and other women in my life about their struggles and achievements as black women and then look at my own generation, I can see that there is a need for a revolutionary shift. As I sat in awe of my aunt’s ability to engage me in her college community in the late 80’s and 90’s full of so much black pride and desire to make their presence, I longed for that to be my generation. During this time there was a dire need to show society that blackness should not be invisible and that black people can and will demand their presence. We’ve seen this with Spike Lee, Louis Farrakhan, the explosive continuation of Hip Hop that embraced Afro-Centricism which was revolutionary in its own respect and the list continues. Hearing about this concrete representation of revolution, change and identity in my aunt’s stories, led me to ask where my generation stands.
Yes, I thought about all of this after watching Beyonce perform “Girls (Who Run the World).” I saw the opportunity for the redefinition of the “tragic black woman”, the “hyper sexualized black woman”, “the caretaker ‘mammy’ black woman” and so many other boxes society has given black women. Seeing Beyonce’s silhouette hold the globe in her hands as a black woman means something. Seeing the many, many women dancing and singing the song means something. It means there is the opportunity to shift our thinking of our black girls who soon become black women from being sad, impoverished and powerless. There is the opportunity to take our power and use it. Not only does this empower black women; it stands as an inclusive voice as it shouts “Who are we? / What we run? /The world!” The song stands for girls everywhere.
This article does not discount the atrocities that happen to girls everywhere, nor does it discount their pain. What it does is provide an analysis of this song and how it can stand for a way of helping girls heal. This song serves as the opportunity for women everywhere to take back their power. Beyonce showed in her performance her ability to be sexy, playful, hardworking, and serious and we can look at this and see her as she is. She maintains so many different dispositions, while not telling us what to be. She allows us to be our own woman, womyn and etc. She embraces us and empowers us. How many songs “raise a glass to the college grads”? This is positive, especially in light of the images of women seen lately.
I hope this article can shift some opinions or at least provide another perception of what this song could mean and can do. I am ECSTATIC to hear the verse “My persuasion can build a nation.” I believe it and maybe we can instill this in our daughters, nieces, friends, mentees and anyone else. Our girls need to know that they can run the world, not be beaten up by it.
Tatiana M.R. Johnson is a senior at Simmons College in Boston, Massachusetts. She is an English major with a minor in Cinema and Media Studies. She also writes poetry and has performed around the U.S. She hopes to create films that honor the art of filmmaking as well as provoke discussion. She accepts emails at email@example.com.