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.

Tiffany’s Evil Wrath in Cleveland

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Iconic shot from Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

TIFFANY’S IN CLEVELAND AND A HISTORY ON ENGAGEMENT RINGS

Out of all of the news that could have been talked about yesterday, the majority of things pressed through my ears and under my eyes were about the new Tiffany’s & Co. opening up at Eton Chagrin Boulevard in Cleveland.  Reporters dubbed this as an exciting moment for Cleveland, evidently more important than the war in Syria.  Women everywhere have been generalized in the news as lovers of the Tiffany’s box, as Hollys enthralled with the very idea of a sparkling rock.  How is this good news for Cleveland?  It’s not.  Absolutely not.  In a dead, burned out city struggling to get back on its feet, a diamond store doesn’t fit in the least.  Cleveland is third on the list of large American cities with a high percentage of low income families.  Stores like Tiffany’s only perpetuate the stereotypes and materialistic mindsets of young people who grow up thinking a diamond is in the future of any successful lifetime.

So what is the origin of the diamond engagement ring anyway?  The first type of ring worn by couples was recorded in Greece, but there were no pre-marriage rings.  Couples’ rings in Ancient Egypt were a simple band representing an eternal ring and doorway of life.  The Romans had the first true betrothal rings, likely taking the idea from the Egyptians.  These rings were used to signify ownership.  (Yes, ladies, so be super excited to get that ring from him… It means he owns you but notice how he doesn’t wear one.)  Not only that, but women had two rings: one nice one for in public, the other made of iron so they could do housework and not ruin the public ring.  Sometimes there was a key included, not to symbolize unlocking the heart like many want to believe but rather to suggest unlocking wealth.  Charming?  Not.  The ring then faded out and wasn’t revived until after the Dark Ages, mostly for the use of royalty and not for common folk.

But where did diamonds come into play?  It wasn’t until the 1400s that royalty giving rings caused nobility to pursue more expensive gifts, such as diamonds.  This tradition didn’t really take off until the 1870s when African colonies were being ripped to pieces to gather diamonds and sell them to the world.  Sure, this made diamonds more affordable for the common folk to buy now, but only after depreciating their value.  Rings, however, never really kicked off the way we know it until the 1930s – during the Great Depression.  WWII made wedding rings more popular for men who wore them to remember their wives.

 

BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S

Yet the real reason why 80% of women are given diamond engagement rings and girls everywhere are so childishly infatuated with the “tradition” is supported by a long line of ownership, greed, and… of course, the Entertainment Industry who has continued to popularize the idea and make a diamond ring an attractive possession.  Just think of Breakfast at Tiffany’s.  The movie, based loosely on a book, stars Holly (Audrey Hepburn), a ditzy, greedy, wanna-be socialite woman…that now so many women today idolize?  The story includes crooks, crime, and corrupted relationships.  If you take away the glamor of the picture, there really isn’t anything attractive about the story.  In fact, here’s what my  pessimist person takes away from the movie: Holly is a horrible person, she only cares about money and things to make her seem wealthy whether she is or not, she has no care in the world for the feelings of others, and she strives to marry rich men for their money without any shame to admit it.

While everyone lusts over the aesthetics of this movie (well, mostly of Hepburn and the diamonds in the shop window), I begin to wonder if anyone really pays attention to the storyline at all.  Tiffany’s, from my perspective, is symbolizing a tyranny of greedy, unnecessary, flashy things.  Silly Holly is sucked into this world of Tiffany’s and acts like something she is not, just like any not-so-great, not-so-rich, and not-so-nice woman lusting over her way too big diamond ring or necklace.  Paul is finally someone who breaks through her bad run of men and manages to – somehow – fall in love with Holly.  Here’s the irony of it all: Holly realizes what  wench she is at the end, when Paul tosses a Tiffany-engraved ring on her lap.  Sure, there’s some Tiffany’s in it…but the ring itself was from a Cracker Jack box that her ex-husband had.

Read the signs people: Diamonds = greed, stupidity, and a perpetuation of a stereotype.  The Cracker Jack ring signifies how meaningless diamond rings are, especially in today’s world.  Diamond rings don’t prove love; they prove the ability to be swindled into wasting a lot of money on a Blood Diamond, on a piece of greed, on a shiny rock.  What are we, parrots?  (No offense, parrots – you probably have a lot more common sense than most people.)

 

MY VIEW ON ENGAGEMENTS

In today’s world, marrying in your early 20s or sooner is not logical (unless you have unplanned incidents that might sway your plans).  Today is too competitive.  We young people have to build a career – one that defines us and easily changes us – before we are actually able to settle down and make those kinds of decisions in our lives.  Furthermore, the idea of marriage has become such a fickle, disposable thing in modern times.  It’s left people with the impression that it should happen quickly and that it comes without significant consequences.  But marriage isn’t about a wedding day or a honeymoon or jewelry; it’s about finances and, well, that’s really probably the heart of it.  It’s about survival and how teaming up can increase your chances.

Think you’re ready for marriage because you’ve been dating the same girl since high school?  She’s been eyeing up jewelry and dropping hints?  Don’t fall for it.  You have to both be prepared.  If she’s so infatuated with the idea of it, chances are she isn’t ready.  If you have any qualms, don’t be tricked into it.  I see too many guys getting dragged around by overly eager, silly, ignorant girls and it angers me that these kinds of people are out there perpetuating the stereotypes the media consequently lays on me of needing shiny things to feel like I have self-worth and am loved or whatever they get out of it.  I would rather see that money donated to a cause I care about than invested in a stupid ring.  I hate the thoughts of weddings for the same reason.  (“Oh, let’s start a life together!  And blow ALL OF THE MONEY WE DON’T HAVE in the first 24 hours!” – NO THANKS.)  My motto is: If she isn’t willing to marry you without any rings at all, then she doesn’t really care about you let alone love you.

And for the record, I don’t even know what a Tiffany box looks like.  Hmpf!

Remembering What Matters

Tonight I had a really great time with a friend that I met through a guy that I’d been dating until school let out and he moved back home, thereby putting a hiatus on our time together for now.  This friend and I spent some time talking about how wonderful this guy is as a person, how loyal he was as a friend…and then, just as casually as we had praised him, my friend threw out his flippant regard for relationships and loyalty to women.  I felt crushed, imagining how disloyal this guy was likely being, according to our friend, while I sat there wanting to be with no one else but him.  I felt suddenly naive and stupid.

In the past, I might have gone into a panic attack or a new state of depression.  I might have frantically reached out and tried to heal something that might not even be broken.  But now, after several relationships that were never worth my time, I realize all of those things don’t matter.  I don’t need to cater to this guy – and what I heard may not even be the truth about him.  Regardless, I’m remembering what matters, focusing on my studies, and working towards my own, independent career path.  It doesn’t matter what he does or what he wants; if I really mean anything to him, he will find his way to me and to make things work.

I’m not happy about what I heard and it will certainly affect the enthusiasm with which I interact with this guy, but I won’t let it tear me down or alter my priorities.  It’s hard sometimes, remembering what really matters.

Sorry if this seems like a random rant, but I felt rather heartbroken this evening and hoped that, by writing this, I could remind myself and others that there is more to life than the satisfaction given to you by the attention of someone else.

Attractive Women Catch Your Boyfriend’s Eye? Take It as a Compliment.

One thing I will never understand is why women get so defensive about their men turning heads when an attractive woman passes by.  Maybe I’m not normal (okay, I know I’m not), but I don’t get how a woman can think that, just because a guy likes her, he is suddenly devoid of any tastes or attraction for anyone but that one woman.  Bottom line is, it’s natural to be attracted to many people.  As long as a man is respectful and faithful, there is no harm in seeing the beauty in someone else.  If I had a boyfriend who didn’t take an extra second to acknowledge a particularly beautiful woman, I might question why not.  And if he turns his head when he sees gorgeous women passing, I see that as a compliment.  He’s got good tastes.  What’s there to be upset about?  I just wish more women could differentiate between respectful attraction and malicious intent.

When Women Blame Men for Things They’ve Encouraged

I’m no feminist by any means.  That doesn’t mean I don’t get incredibly riled up when a guy singles me out in a hockey game to check me, or when I’m at a club and every man on the dance floor suddenly decides I wanted him to fondle me from behind.  Disrespect infuriates me.  But there’s a difference between being disrespected when I’m minding my own business and being disrespected when encouraging disrespectful behavior.

My friend and I were walking around campus this past Tuesday when we encountered a long stretch of handmade signs protesting rape.  There were no posters defending men who are raped.  Every poster accused men of raping women and of disrespecting them.  My friend, an incredibly chivalrous 22-year-old male, was highly offended by the message presented.  “Yes, all men are evil,” he scoffed.  “I hate these posters.  I would rip them down, but then everyone would be all ‘Oh, yeah, that one…he’s gotta be a rapist because he disagrees with those posters’. “. He pointed at a few which read things like “My dress doesn’t say yes” and “I should be able to drink at parties without getting raped”.  “I’m sorry,” he said. “But if you’re hammered at a party with other hammered people, you’re scantily dressed if at all, and you’re making out with everyone you see, something is naturally going to follow.  It’s not that I support it, but calling all college men rapists because you’re out of control??  It’s so unfair.”. And I completely agree with him.

Taking advantage of a woman is not okay by any standard, drunk or not, but my friend has a valid point: Women finding themselves in such situations have often put themselves there willingly.  I don’t think it’s right to generalize men and accuse them all of actively disrespecting every woman they encounter.  It is still a woman’s responsibility to take command of her actions and treat herself and others the same way she expects them to treat her.  Im disgusted when I go to clubs and I see the low-cut, mini-skirt dresses and excessive makeup all around me.  This new identification of “beauty” is merely a reflection of inter-feminine competition for attention.  Seeking male attention by these means is only ever asking for trouble.  I personally prefer to dress modestly and act to not impress.  I would rather win respect acting respectfully of myself and others than be disrespected because I, well, asked for it.  That doesn’t mean dressing suggestively means you deserved to be raped, but what does dressing “sexy” mean by definition?  Think about it.

But this inter-female competition for male attention is a new root of evil among unisex social gatherings, such as clubs.  The female strive for perfection is often self-induced.  So many of my female friends get ready to go out with the intentions of being the most attractive girl in their company.  By causing a rift amongst our own ranks, we invite the opportunity for men to judge us at the same level.  Out of all the places I could find a quote, I actually was most struck by a recent re-run of Mean Girls.  Ms. Norbury is asked to speak to the female population at school about a “burn book” some students used to document hurtful words about their classmates.  Referring to the entries, she addressed the crowd, telling them “You’ve all got to stop calling each other sluts and whores.  It just makes it okay for guys to call you sluts and whores.”. Her point is spot on and demonstrates how bahavior can directly affect levels of respect between the different sexes.

I just wish more women would realize the things they’re bringing upon themselves and other women.  To be respected, you must give respect – to yourself and other women.  Women should not be itemized by men, but what example is it if they present themselves as items first?  Think about this the next time you’re out and maybe you’ll see what I mean.  Meanwhile, I will continue to go against the grainof society and be modest, respectful, little ole Kayla, hiding in the corner and rolling my eyes at the women who seem determined to make the expectations men have of me more and more difficult to navigate.