lemonade.

I have been avoiding listening to Lemonade by Beyonce.  Why?  Because I don’t really care about Beyonce’s music, and I most certainly don’t care about “celebrities”.  (Seriously, people ask if I “keep up” with such-and-such…but WHO CARES.  They are people, we are people, and we obsess over details in their lives, details we don’t even care to know about our neighbors.  In that way, modern society is pathetic, imho.)  However, I finally listened to the whole album in the last 24 hours.  And I’m not sure I’ll be able to encapsulate the disappointment and hurt the album caused me, but I’ll try.

From what I’ve popularly heard about Lemonade, people have praised its musical power – specifically in having elements the closest to blues that Beyonce has ever had.  However, some friends I know have praised it (undeservingly, in my opinion) for its powerful black woman message and its unique, poetic sound.  Let me just say first of all: I haven’t listened to much Beyonce, but this album sounded exactly like the Destiny’s Child album I have from 2000-something where she dramatically quotes the Bible.  She’s changed…so much (sarcasm).  And while I do love certain motifs regarding the sacredness of matrilineal heritage and womanhood, I find that she completely destroys those values.  Her “powerful” message was nothing but insulting and weak as I heard it.  In fact, the messages I was hearing were so triggering and upsetting for a person who has been through experiences she was glorifying that I actually had to walk away and keep myself from having a panic attack.

I was thoroughly disturbed by the message she was sending.  After listening to the whole album, I still am.  This is not an album to emulate.  This album brings shame to women.  It hurts me to think people call this “strength”, but I guess these people haven’t experienced the things I have.  If you did, you would likely be triggered in the same way and be revolted by Beyonce’s weakness.  And the argument that she’s so strong for making lemons out of lemonade, for making an album like this out of her pain?  Okay, cool, she’s exploiting true women’s issues for profit.  I don’t admire that.  Who the F*** would admire that.  Especially as a person living and coming from Indian Country, glorifying a man making the sacredness of a woman un-sacred – and her accepting of it – is absolutely sacrilegious, damaging, and horrifying.  Maybe it’s the privilege of not having experienced what I have experienced that makes people fall in love with this kind of bullsh*t.

Lemonade
The album consists of a number of songs: 1) Pray You Catch Me, 2) Hold Up, 3) Don’t Hurt Yourself, 4) Sorry, 5) 6 Inch, 6) Daddy Lessons, 7) Love Drought, 8) Sandcastles, 9) Forward, 10) Freedom, 11) All Night, 12) Formation, and 13) Lemonade.  In the music video, there are interludes of text read the same way Destiny’s Child read the Commandments in their previous work.

Pray You Catch Me starts off in an intriguing way.  Beyonce is in a field, without makeup.  There’s a southern feeling like Savannah to it with women in dresses.  But Beyonce immediately starts off talking about men in a way that implies abuse is “tradition”, that it is inherited.  That it is a curse.  She even suggests suicide from her distraught, demonstrating how completely vulnerable she is.  Fasting, abstaining from anything that makes her happy, acting like womanhood is less than human…everything about the first track and a half screams shame on women, and men are in control.

NOT.  POWERFUL.

The scene is in this extortionist style of film, dramatic but not settling in how it portrays womanhood.  It talks about self-sacrifice, about no matter how much she tries to make herself a better person, she is still bent out of shape over the idea that her husband has cheated on her.  I literally can hear nothing but I’M WEAK I’M WEAK I’M WEAK, I am not an example for young women.  It makes you think: maybe she’ll evolve?

She never does.  She just gets weaker.

Hold Up is about ANGER.  It is about not being able to control yourself.  Beyonce rattles on about how her cheating husband is the best, how she loves him, asking why would he treat her like this if she’s the best.  She’s going through his phone.  She says, “Imma f*** me up a b*tch”…”What’s worse, lookin’ jealous or crazy?”

WHAT?

Weak.  Pure weakness.  Honey, you’re letting this man rule your life.  Do me a favor and STOP PROMOTING THAT THIS IS OKAY.  It is HARMING our COMMUNITIES when women default to thinking this way!!!

To make matters worse, she goes into this dark poetry, discussing how she’ll take on the appearance of this other woman.  She’ll wear her face, her hair, her skin – basically saying, use my body if you think it’s this woman you love more and I won’t complain.

This.

Is.

So.

Wrong.

I CAN’T EVEN!  From a women’s rights, anti-women’s-violence perspective, I literally just can’t even… (Yes, that’s me going into teenage sass-mode, but I can’t even.  Can’t even so much that I just can’t…I just…can’t.)

Oh, but wait!  She mentions her father’s violence against her mother.  Strangulation.  Brilliant.  So now we painted this picture with violence and somehow justified it in the name of broken love (which, sorry, but it doesn’t exist anymore.  Not after all of this.)  She mentions that everyone else can see her, but he can’t.  And this disturbs me too.  This attitude that, just because someone is a celebrity, they are a “catch”.  F*ck, no.  People are people.  If you think a celebrity is a catch, you’re probably just sexualizing her body.  Probably because she exploits it for fame.  And that’s not the f*** okay.

I’m also not a fan of how she exploits men.  Women don’t talk as much about this topic because women are currently much more exploited than men, but it’s not like it doesn’t happen in the other direction.  Her sassy, “strong” look is merely accompanied by language like “dick boy”, how she’s going to walk out on her husband for what he’s done.  There are traces of strength in this song, but not in any degree worth applauding when you look at the abusive language she chooses.  Also, she quotes Malcolm X, saying that black women are the most unprotected and neglected Americans.  That’s actually not true, but close to true.  Violence against Native women is considerably higher.  Like, appallingly higher.  (It’s not a pity fest, and I understand why she put it in there because black women need respect in society, but I’m just making that point.  Not enough people hear it.)

In her Apathy monologue, Beyonce compares what her husband has done to her as killing her.  This is insulting, as many women are actually killed because they won’t leave their abusive husbands.  Beyonce was cheated on, and yet she won’t leave him.  I don’t know, isn’t that kind of hypocritical?  In some way, isn’t that privilege?  Either way, it’s not doing anything to hold up women in bad situations.

Her song Sorry, she wears some kind of tribal painting and hints that she’s leaving him.  But she doesn’t.  Oh, actually, she becomes a complete hypocrite.  This song is about how he’s “interrupting [her] grinding”, in other words an “eye for an eye”.  That is NOT something to EMULATE!  Seriously.  I was expecting a powerful album out of this, not hypocrisy and weakness.  She even suggests killing herself again, suicide.  It’s disgusting.  She pathetically ends a song, crying “Come back, come back, come back…”

She talks about abuse.  Physical and sexual abuse.  Father and husband abuse.  She normalizes it.

She repeats, “You are the love of my life.”  Over and over and over again.

“10 times out of 9 I know you’re lying”, she says.  “You’re my lifeline, are you tryna kill me?” she asks.  Then she says, the only way to go is up, she says her skin has gotten thick and she’s tough.

Beyonce is literally saying toughness = weakness.  Toughness is dealing with problems you should be LEAVING.  This is what we see in Indian Country, this dependency.  THIS is what you should never teach your daughter.  THIS is an example of severe weakness, of needing help.  Beyonce is making this look like strength.  I am disgusted by it.  (Also, anyone else catch the New Orleans Indian headdress exploitation?  Yeah, sore topic.  Thanks, Beyonce, for sexualizing the headdress yet again.)

Her next section is Forgiveness, and I wish I had an album in hand so I could smash it to a million pieces and make something useful out of it.

Sandcastles.  Letting another woman completely tear her apart.

Freedom.  The idea that returning to a cheating husband is somehow freedom or strength.

Redemption.  Comparing the strength of her grandmother to the choices she’s making today.  That, to me, is an insult.  That is not how you honor your ancestors.  “Nothing real can be threatened” should mean a real woman can move on and be strong.  Instead, Beyonce twists her grandmother’s words to justify her weakness and her dependency.

All Night.  Trusting again.  Like, are you joking me.

I’m sorry but, as a woman defined by our lovely government as a person of color, I seriously cannot tolerate this.  I fight too hard on the policy level to allow mentalities such as the one perpetuated by Beyonce to solidify in the minds of women in our communities.  We face the highest rates of violence, rape, assault, you name it.  Abusive relationships are so rampant, we become numb to it.  When Beyonce writes an album like this, she’s touching people who feel the same because they’ve been through it – then she proceeds to normalize the abuse and to justify accepting it.  It’s so freaking damaging, I’m literally in shock that people are okay with it.  Does no one else feel this?  Maybe you have to feel what she’s talking about to realize it’s so wrong.  The irony of it all.

It took me reading other articles with the same vein of thought to realize I’m not alone.  I just wish more people could see it.  Because they can’t, well that points exactly to why certain elements of this society are crumbling.

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Derby Day in All Its Loathsomeness

I believe in animal rights, albeit I despise groups like PETA that blow small truths out of proportion and generalize entire industries.  I feel like PETA takes it about twenty steps too far.  However, I can’t help but to acknowledge some of the points the activists make and some of the faults they do manage to uncover.

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It’s May, and so the hot topic has been Derby Day.  I was never a fan of Derby Day because I associated it with cruelty towards horses, thanks to my mom’s standpoint growing up.  But my friend challenged my opinions on derby racing when I came to Cleveland.  We were getting gelato in Little Italy a couple Kentucky Derby’s ago and I was appalled by the gaggles of city people lined up to watch a 2-minute race around a track.  I grew up with horses.  My first job was in the stables.  My mom rides western with me and paid for dressage lessons when I was younger.  I understand the deep relationship one builds with a horse and how one should respect these beasts, all their power, and realize how much work it takes to care after one.  Sitting in that room with those Clevelanders, I knew none of them knew the first thing about horses.  How could city people care so much about a dumb race?  I’d never seen people at home pay attention at the bar when the screen was on.  I remember sitting in Sharky’s one year and everyone was more fascinated by the Pirates and Orioles baseball recaps.  And is my mom right about the cruelty that those animals undergo?  I decided to look into it further.

One of my good friends from home actually owns an eighth of a race horse.  Yet her family doesn’t care about the races, just about the bets and the money it brings in.  I decided first to search about what makes the Derby so exciting and if anyone else feels the same sort of animosity towards it as I do.  I came across a post on Angelfire called “The Kentucky Derby Really is Decadent and Depraved”.  I feel like the author makes some good points.  For example, a quote on what makes it so popular:

“I despise the Derby for the same reason I despise 21st Century R&B and 2001: A Space Odyssey. They thrive by circulating so much hype around nearly non-existent substance until the hype becomes the substance. Of course what I call “hype,” Derby fans call “tradition. … Let’s not forget that all this tradition comes from the Deep South. Yup, from the countryside that brought you cotton plantations, the Confederacy, country music, and grits comes little men riding big horses in a circle for less than two minutes. Sell hot dogs in the stands and whiskey at the bar and you can garner enough fat alcoholics with no real lot in life to become obsessed with it. Instant tradition.”

This would explain why so many Clevelanders seem hooked at the bars and over social media.  They don’t care about the actual event, it’s just about the bets, the celebrities, the stupid meaningless stuff – and the hype.  To confirm this opinion, I read a few blogs and recaps from Derby parties.  Nearly every single commentary was the same.  People might add a comment like “Those hoses are so pretty and strong!”, but mostly it was blathering on about mint julepsoverdone outfits, and southern tradition.  PAH-LEASE.  Even PETA recognizes this.  I love the introduction from the PETA Files, which sums up my sentiments perfectly:

“There is a certain kind of person, it seems, who enjoys dressing up like a deranged escapee from some historical theme park and swilling mint juleps just to watch horses run around a dirt track for a couple of minutes.”

So, with the mystery of the hype solved enough for my satisfaction, I now began to wonder if my mom was ever out of line for finding horse racing cruel towards animals.  I asked her last week if she thinks PETA over exaggerates.  She agrees they do, but that they have some truths that shouldn’t be ignored.  Maybe some animal cruelty situations are localized, but the point is they still exist and that horse racing still supports it.  Searching some more, I found another person sharing bitter feelings about a party she attended in Maine with people who knew nothing about the race but supported the hype and didn’t blink once at the thought of what happens to the losing horses after the race.  She describes this night in “Why I Hate the Kentucky Derby”, where her date casually informed her that the losers from the race she watched would be sent to slaughter for the meat industry.  She even recaps the life of the horse who won that day, Real Quiet, and mourns his death as not a steak but as a tired breeding stallion whose genes were used to continue the age-old tradition.  I was still skeptical of tales of stun guns and horse meat until I watched some videos of horses being stunned and of trucks driving hours on end to take horses across the border.  Furthermore, the disappointed date provided an article from William C. Rhoden of the New York Times which seems legitimate enough for me:

“The most significant source of racehorse deaths is the slaughter industry, one driven by overbreeding and demand from the lucrative global meat market. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, more than 100,000 American horses are slaughtered each year in Canada and Mexico to satisfy horse meat markets in Europe and Asia.

Breeding operations produce thousands of so-called surplus thoroughbreds. What happens to the excess, the often anonymous horses? Some are sold to owners who take them overseas. Some wind up racing in Japan. Some wind up in slaughterhouses.”

PETA claims 80% of people are opposed to horse slaughter in the US, yet it evidently continues to happen.  PETA also reads of endless statistics about horse breeding, horse deaths, poor animal treatment, and all of those things I don’t have to bore you with.  My main point – which I think I’ve made – is that Derby Day is a loathsome event, yet so many people blindly worship.  I find it pathetic.  I believe in knowing what I support and, if these sheep weren’t so ignorant, I should hope they wouldn’t support it as well.  Alas, ignorance and stubbornness, the leading follies of humankind.

So all you Team Derby people out there, have fun dressing up, choking on mint juleps, and pretending to be southern for a day while you lose your money along with the life of your bet horse.