Beyoncé Makes Us Want to Be Better People.

beyonce

This article was originally published on The Vocal.

By now I’m sure most of us have seen and heard LEMONADE, Beyoncé’s latest visual album and perhaps her most personal in which she utilises unashamedly black imagery to tell stories of being let down by men, supporting and supported by women, civil rights, hope, forgiveness, and love.

To the naked eye, these themes seemingly came out of nowhere but Beyoncé has always imbued her work—and her activism—with them. For example, Bey co-founded Chime for Change, a foundation that amplifies the voices of women and girls in marginalised communities across the world, and she built a homeless shelter in her hometown of Houston. On her website, Bey addresses recent anti-LGBT legislation in North Carolina, a state her Formation World Tour recently visited, striking a balance between speaking out for what she believes in and making bank. In 2013, she and Jay Z were seen at a vigil for slain black teen Trayvon Martin and gave $1.5m to Black Lives Matter.

Beyoncé centres Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, and the mothers of other young black men murdered at the hands of police on LEMONADE. Alongside them are Serena Williams, Quvenzhané Wallis, Amandla Stenberg and Zendaya, black women who’ve been demonised by the largely white media. “Formation”, released in February, was perhaps Beyoncé’s most contentious song and video to date with unapologetic blackness, Hurricane Katrina symbolism and a young black boy dancing before a militarised police force taking pride of place and thus drawing the ire of pro-police protesters. To emphasise her point, her SuperBowl halftime show performance the following day saw her all-black female dancers don natural hair and Black Panther costumes.

Her most recent visual album not only throws back to a time before paparazzi and social media when artists used their medium to tell their personal stories but demonstrates that vulnerability and absolution are virtues that many mere mortals lack. On LEMONADE, though, Beyoncé shatters the illusion of herself as the untouchable mythic goddess we’ve seen on “***Flawless” and “Diva” and reveals her humanity in lyrics such as “I ain’t too perfect to ever feel this worthless” from “Hold Up”. While the album is no doubt revolutionary, it’s not the first time Beyoncé has peppered her work with hints to her personal life. On 2011’s “Countdown” she sings about trying to get pregnant, and miscarriage and postpartum depression are themes on “Heaven” and “Mine”, respectively, from 2013’s self-titled visual album, which set the stage for LEMONADE.

Beyoncé has always been an exemplar of humility and humanity. She remained poised as her sister Solange went to town on Jay Z in that elevator incident at 2014’s Met Ball, later incorporating it into Nicki Minaj’s remix of “***Flawless”. She resists the urge to vocalise what Kanye West says—and everyone else thinks—when she’s repeatedly looked over for awards, instead funneling that rage and indignance into game-changing masterpieces like Beyoncé and LEMONADE to prove just how innovative she is. We all know someone who says they’re gonna do things that never eventuate: Beyoncé shows us the virtue of staying mum on something until we’re ready to put it out into the universe. Beyoncé bides her time, not speaking on issues she doesn’t feel she’s knowledgeable enough about or topics people may not be ready to hear from her until she is well-positioned enough for her ideas to have maximum impact.

She seldom grants interviews, indicating that she’s reached an echelon of fame where her facade alone expresses all she needs and wants it to. When Bey does speak she leaves an impression, as they did when she responded to the furore in a rare interview for Elle magazine. She said, “Anyone who perceives my message as anti-police is completely mistaken. I have so much admiration and respect for officers and the families of officers who sacrifice themselves to keep us safe. But let’s be clear: I am against police brutality and injustice. Those are two separate things. If celebrating my roots and culture during Black History Month made anyone uncomfortable, those feelings were there long before a video and long before me.”

For anyone who tried to invalidate her words, as so often occurs when black women are speaking, she reiterated it with equal parts dignity and impact by selling Boycott Beyoncé merchandise at her Formation World Tour.

So how can we apply Beyoncé’s fount of grace, creativity and ingenuity to our own lives? Fans have been inspired to use her work as a jumping off point to make their own art. Writer and educator Candice Benbow has published the LEMONADE Syllabus, a collection of works that perhaps inspired and as lenses through which we can better understand the album. Rutgers University professor Kevin Allred teaches the class Politicising Beyoncé, with a book to follow. Beyoncé courses are also offered at other universities across America. There’s Bey Dance, an inclusive dance class emanating in Melbourne and with branches now in Adelaide and Perth. Donating to causes we’re passionate about is yet another way we can do the work of Our Lord and Saviour Beyoncé, not to mention taking the lessons of LEMONADE as gospel.

Let’s also remember, though, that Beyoncé has the luxury of a million dollar empire behind her, a full staff, and access to media to portray her best self to us. And as much as Beyoncé is a champion of women of colour the recent controversy over her clothing line Ivy Park being made in Sri Lankan sweatshops shows a reluctance to stand up for brown women outside of the U.S.

Black feminist scholar bell hooks recently criticised Beyoncé for the capitalism inherent in her work, particularly on LEMONADE. Many of her “empowerment” anthems, such as “Bills, Bills, Bills”, “Independent Women”, “Diva” and “Girls (Who Run the World)”, are indeed about capitalism. But whereas some of her earlier tracks have been less subtle, when Bey sings about money these days, the focus is increasingly on self-sufficiency (“6 Inch”, “Formation”) and financial independence from a partner (“Don’t Hurt Yourself”) which are laudable lessons.

A black woman as influential as Bey is bound to have her haters but increasingly she’s thriving on constructive criticism, checking her privilege, giving back to her community and growing as an artist and as a person. Through her music, activism and philanthropy Beyoncé inspires us, too, to be better people.

Elsewhere: [The Vocal] Beyoncé Makes Us Want to Be Better People.

[Rolling Out] Beyoncé Builds $7 Million Housing Complex for Houston Homeless.

[Beyoncé] Equality NC Works to Prove “Y’All Means All”.

[Billboard] Tidal to Donate $1.5 Million to Black Lives Matter, Social Justice Groups.

[The Vocal] My Beautiful Dark Twisted Defence of Kanye.

[Elle] Beyoncé Wants to Change the Conversation.

[Issuu] LEMONADE Syllabus.

[Bey Dance]

[Daily Life] Beyoncé Clothing Line Made by “Sweat Shop Labourers on $8.50 a Day”.

Image via Online Academic Community.

The Internet Can Be the Best Place to Find Your Tribe.

This article was originally published on The Vocal.

Recently I’ve been thinking about all the female friends I’ve made over the years, particularly the ones I’ve met online, and more specifically through Twitter. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that they’re all feminists. Increasingly, feminist movements begin and prosper online, with hashtags, event invitations and unique perspectives not available through traditional media streams rearing their heads through the white noise of #NotAllMen and cat gifs. As these modes of communication continue to thrive, it only makes sense that feminist connection and friendship do, too.

A few years ago, I attended Clementine Ford’s address at the Queen Victoria Women’s Centre in Melbourne. During question time, a young woman sitting next to me asked, as someone new to feminism and Melbourne, where she could find her tribe IRL. Ford gave a great answer that escapes me two years later, but before I left the event I was sure to pass on both my knowledge and the Facebook and Twitter handles of one of the best feminist meet ups in Melbourne: Cherchez la Femme, a monthly talk show-formatted event hosted by Karen Pickering that has also parlayed itself into a film festival and feminist meet cutes where you can connect with other likeminded people. It has been pivotal in forming my feminist beliefs and integral to making connections within the community.

At last year’s IWD address at the Centre, Cherchez La Femme panellist and keynote speaker Amy Gray reiterated the strength of the relationship between women and the internet:

“Without the internet, I would not be able to know the friends I love so dearly, learn what I have about feminism and politics or get the dream writing job I wanted but couldn’t find a way into the industry. Without the internet, I wouldn’t be here talking with you tonight (you may want to burn down the internet after this speech though)…

“The internet is a place to have so much fun and waste so much time by yourself or with your newest, greatest friends that you’ll forget the damn place was actually created with a military purpose.”

(I wasn’t able to attend this year’s IWD address by Celeste Liddle, but the transcript of her talk, published by New Matilda, has seen Celeste banned from Facebook for the inclusion of an image of topless Indigenous women in ceremonial body paint. Meanwhile, near nude photos of white-identifying—or at least white-passing—Kim Kardashian remain.)

Online (Friend) Dating.

It may be more difficult for older, possibly internet distrustful generations to understand that many millennials not only shop and date online but we also find our tribes there. So when an older colleague asked me how I make new friends, I explained to her that it was mostly electronically, giving her the example of meeting Global Women’s Project manager Carmen Hawker at the book launch for The Misogyny Factor by Anne Summers a few years ago. Carmen was sitting next to me and commented on the book I was reading. Later that I night I saw Anne retweet a photo of herself and none other than Carmen, who I immediately followed and tweeted at. Since then, we’ve bumped into each other at movie screenings and even at Bey Dance!

Similarly, at Roxane Gay’s sold-out talk in Melbourne this time last year, I was sitting next to a woman who was furiously live tweeting the event, almost more than I was. I glanced over at her iPhone screen to see my own handle and moments-ago tweets in her feed and I couldn’t help but exclaim, “Oh, I think you follow me on Twitter!” It turns out she was someone I’d been following for awhile and who I had even encountered at the abovementioned Cherchez La Femme a time or two: Jessamy Gleeson, producer of CLF. She was there with her girl gang, whom she introduced me to and whose tweets add a wealth of feminist insight to my feed.

Feminist meet ups have always been around, advertised by flyers and word of mouth. For some, nothing beats face-to-face interaction and connection and, when we do meet like-minded people at these events, asking for a Twitter handle or blog address instead of a phone number to keep in touch can be less nerve-racking and invasive. At one CLF, I remember attendees wore their Twitter handles on their breast instead of name tags. If worse comes to worse, the unfollow button is close at hand. Increasingly, though, these events are organised and, sometimes, take place solely online. Conversely, they can then be a jumping off point to get together tangibly for coffee or as a group at CLF, SlutWalk or #madfuckingwitches protests.

All the Platforms.

Twitter is by far the social media platform that’s enhanced and complimented my feminism the most but there was a time a few years ago when I wasn’t tweeting. As a new and astoundingly self-assured blogger, I contacted and friended on Facebook fellow writers like there was no tomorrow: Rachel Hills, Sarah Ayoub, Camilla Peffer, the list goes on. I had coffee with Sarah prior to Rachel’s session about her book, The Sex Myth, at the All About Women festival at the Sydney Opera House last weekend, and Camilla is one of the first bloggers I met IRL after connecting with online, who stayed at my house when she moved from Perth to Melbourne and who I often attend CLF monthly events with.

Lesser-known, upcoming platforms like Peach allow you to sequester all your femmo friends in one place without eliciting the ire of #NotAllMen’s everywhere, as well as create a safe space for open discussion. Tumblr has long been a source of alternative content, activism and love-sharing. One recent example: Safe Schools launched a Tumblr where young queer people can share their stories about what the initiative means to them and the people that will most be affected by the program: queer school kids.

A Community of Changemakers.

Though it can be a place of harassment, abuse, doxing and GamerGate, Twitter is also, like Peach and Tumblr, a place where women can agitate and, being a far more popular platform, create large-scale change. For example, survivors of sexual assault by music publicist Heathcliff Berru came together on Twitter to out the abuse in January, while reports are surfacing that Dr. Luke, accused of sexually assaulting Kesha, has been let go by Sony amidst both online and IRL protests to #FreeKesha.

On a smaller scale, Twitter allows those whose voices may be stifled in other areas to simply have a voice. That, in itself, can be a radical act. As editor of online magazine The New Inquiry Ayesha Siddiqi told The Guardian, “New platforms like Twitter are also more accessible to people who have been traditionally marginalised.”

I asked a trans friend I connected with on Twitter and whose intersectional feminist website I now write for, Jetta Rae Robertson, how the app factors into her online life. “A lot of to-do is made about how social media is not a kind place—but the meatspace… is also not a kind place, and after a long day of getting catcalled, followed into the bathroom or having people roll their eyes at me when I correct their pronouns, it’s nice to have a group of friends who will get into therapeutic little fan rants and shitpost exchanges on… feminism. In a lot of ways, Twitter has helped me lower my guard around people who I’d assume aren’t worth the effort.”

To return to Celeste Liddle, her banning from Facebook is illustrative of the white male supremacy governing the site. This is not to say that Twitter and other social networks aren’t ruled similarly, but it’s mighty suspect that an Indigenous woman was restricted from Facebook while corporations such as The Daily Mail and the ABC were able to share articles referencing Celeste’s plight on the platform but remain unbanned. Twitter and her own blog remained the only social media available to Celeste during this time.

The Personal is Technological.

Jazmine Hughes, the editor of New York Times Magazine and formerly of The Hairpin, wrote about finding friendship online, saying that “The Internet is where I’ve found all my friends.”

“It’s easy to dismiss friendships that originate online as superficial,” Hughes continues, “with the broad assertion that no one is their ‘true’ self online, but instead a distilled curation of snapshots, quips and restaurant check-ins, all rolled into one cohesive personal ‘brand.’ But why can’t our social media presences serve as a primer to our real-life selves, a tangible way to say, ‘What you see is what you get?’ There’s a person behind that hashtag.”

For me, too, Twitter is a space where I can be myself, a lot of the time free from expectations and prejudices of family, coworkers and other miscellaneous acquaintances I’m still “friends” with on Facebook in a half-hearted attempt to keep up appearances and in contact should the need arise. It is where I can voice my opinion about controversial topics such as asylum seekers, reproductive rights and professional wrestling without judgement, passive aggressive comments or downright bigoted responses. Whereas Facebook is the fake-smiling family/high school reunion version, Twitter is representative of my true self. I think a lot of my Twitter-cum-real life friends would agree.

Elsewhere: [The Vocal] The Internet Can Be the Best Place to Find Your Tribe.

[Cherchez la Femme] About.

[Girls on Film Festival]

[Pesky Feminist] How the Internet Has Become a Battleground for Women’s Rights.

[New Matilda] Looking Past White Australia & White Feminism.

[New Matilda] Kim Kardashian VS. Aboriginal Culture: Only One of These Images Has Been Banned by Facebook.

[The Daily Dot] What the Debate Over Kim Kardashian’s Race Says About the Changing Face of America.

[Bey Dance]

[SlutWalk Melbourne]

[The Safe Schools Story Project]

[Jezebel] How Women on Twitter Brought Down a Music Publicist Accused of Sexual Assault.

[Daily Life] Kesha & Dr. Luke: Sony “to Cut Producer Loose”.

[The Guardian] Ayesha Siddiqi: “We Need to Stop Waiting for Permission to Write.”

[Harlot] Does the LFL Have a Place in the Women’s Sport Revolution?

[Rantings of an Aboriginal Feminist] Statement Regarding the Facebook Banning.

[The New York Times] The Internet Can Make Real Life Friendships Easier.

My Favourite Articles That I Wrote in 2016.

2016, it’s fair to say, was a pretty shit year for humanity in general. For me personally, though, it was pretty good. I’ve published the most freelance work I ever have, and I’m writing this from New York City, where I’ve been seeing out the apocalypse (the Mayans were wrong: 2016 is the end of their calendar and, thus, the world) for the past two months. Here are some of my favourite things I’ve published this year.

“Beyoncé Makes Us Want to Be Better People” & “The Kardashians Are Better Than You”The Vocal.

Some of the most fun I’ve had writing was for The Vocal and I think these were two of my best pieces. I love writing about controversial issues and controversial women, and these two subjects certainly tick those boxes.

“Kim Kardashian: Our Modern-Day Monroe”, The Big Smoke.

Similarly, what’s more controversial than comparing perhaps the most reviled woman in contemporary culture with the iconic, though equally disdained, Marilyn Monroe?

“In Defence of Eva Marie”Calling Spots.

And in the wrestling world, who is more controversial than Total Divas star Eva Marie? I wrote in defence of her for Calling Spots magazine.

“Whorephobia & Misogyny in Wrestling: Still Real to Me, Dammit”, Harlot.

Short-lived feminist site Harlot let me write about what a travesty it was that woman wrestler Chyna wasn’t inducted into the World Wrestling Entertainment Hall of Fame. She died a month later.

“The State of Women’s Wrestling”SBS Zela.

Writing for SBS’s now-shuttered women’s sports site Zela was one of the defining moments in my career. A writer and editor I’ve long admired (but who I thought didn’t even know I existed!) recommended me to Zela editor Danielle Warby to cover the women’s wrestling renaissance. My favourite piece was an overview of the year in women’s wrestling up to that point in one of my last articles for the site.

“Nia Jax: Not Like Most Girls”, “Smack Talker! Daniel Bryan’s Tiresome Vocal Misogyny” &  “A Woman’s Place Should Be in the White House—And in the Cell”Intergender World Champs.

With Zela and Harlot shutting down, I was without a place to write about women’s wrestling for a time. Then along came Intergender World Champs, for which I’ve written an assortment of things.

“Why Celebrities Prefer Empowerment to Feminism”Daily Life.

I’d long been thinking about “women’s empowerment” and what it even means, and I got to write about it for my first piece for Daily Life, an outlet I’d been trying to crack for years.

“Trading in the Beauty Economy”feminartsy.

I’d been pushing words around in this piece for ages and feminartsy allowed me to publish it.

“The James Deen Allegations: How Porn Sets the Example for Responding to Sexual Assault”Archer.

My first piece for Archer was a look at the rape allegations against James Deen and what mainstream industries can learn from porn’s response to them.

“This is the Most Devastating & Political Season of Orange is the New Black Yet”Junkee.

Getting paid to write about things you enjoy doing is a pretty good gig.

“Women of The People VS. OJ Simpson, The Big Smoke.

Ditto.

“Why An Australian Woman Felt Compelled to Go Door-to-Door Campaigning for Hillary Clinton”Daily Life.

Though not my last published piece for 2016, what better way to cap off a tumultuous year than by writing about volunteering for Hillary Clinton?!

On the (Rest of the) Net.

I wrote about what empowerment means in the age of celebrity “feminism”. [Daily Life]

Donald Trump employs Ivanka “to deodorise the stink of her father’s misogyny, to suggest that because he loves her that means he loves women.” [New Yorker]

Miss World Australia and the “right” kind of Aboriginal woman. [Daily Life]

Talking about the Taylor Swift/Kanye West/Kim Kardashian saga is good for you. [The Vocal]

Sometimes we just need to turn away from the horror show that is the news/Twitter/the world, for the sake of our own mental wellbeing. [Salon]

Sex workers deserve to be on the panel about them at Melbourne Writers Festival. [Daily Life]

Violence against women and misogyny is the key factor in recent high profile mass murders. [The Telegraph]

On the (Rest of the) Net.

beyonce-hold up

I wrote about how Beyoncé makes us want to be better peoplethe feminism of Bad Neighbours 2 and pop culture as a form of self-care. [The Vocal, Bitch Flicks, Feminartsy]

What Kim Kardashian learnt from the O.J. Simpson trial and how she and Nicole Brown Simpson are more alike than we realise. [Can I Live?]

How Me Before You gets disability, assisted suicide and sex wrong. [HuffPo]

Ally Garrett writes about loving her “thunder thighs”. [The Vocal]

The racist history of the pit bull. [Fusion]

This is why women are delaying pregnancy. [ABC]

The rise and fall of Winona Ryder. [Hazlitt]

Would the women of Jane Austen be at home on reality TV? [The Atlantic]

The alluring history of makeup application and YouTube beauty tutorials. [Kill Your Darlings]

Reconciling Zayn Malik’s Muslim heritage. [Matter]

Rocky, Superman, Muhammad Ali and white supremacy. [MTV]

We shouldn’t be asking politicians if they’re feminists: we should be asking if their policies are feminist. [Daily Life]

For more feminist reads, check out the 97th Down Under Feminists Carnival. [Zero at the Bone]

Image via BGR.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

marilyn monroe kim kardashian

I’m at The Big Smoke asserting that Kim Kardashian is our modern day Marilyn Monroe.

Following on from my piece last week, I wrote about how World Wrestling Entertainment got from the Divas era to the women’s wrestling renaissance. [SBS Zela]

What happened when a WWE Superstar sicked his Twitter followers—inadvertently or no—onto a trans woman. [Harlot]

Why famous male wrestlers need to stop being the deciding factors in women’s matches. [The Spectacle of Excess]

*Spoiler alert* Olivia Pope may have killed the man who set her up to be kidnapped but Scandal has missed an opportunity to address her PTSD with therapy. [WaPo]

Why are white tank tops still called wife-beaters? [Mic]

Why I don’t want my daughter to be a footy fan. [Daily Life]

Road-testing alternative menstrual products. [The Vocal]

The history of cats in bookstores. [Lit Hub]

ICYMI: The rise of self-indulgent comedy.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

charlotte wrestlemania 32 women's championship

I wrote about World Wrestling Entertainment’s new Women’s Championship and the renaissance of women’s wrestling. [SBS Zela]

In praise of the “ugly cry”. [New Republic]

“She just wants attention”: the insult du jour. [Slate]

What we can learn about clapping-back from Beyonce. [Elle]

The toxic relationship between masculinity and meat hinges on the “factory farm industry that makes billions of dollars insisting that men are the strongest when they have the most muscle, the least amount of feelings, and ingest the most ‘manly’ protein, like bacon, steak, and sausage.” [The Establishment]

Why millennials love music about work (work, work, work, work, work). [The Vocal]

Amber Rose’s MuvaMoji is an alternative—not an answer—to Kim Kardashian’s Kimoji. [Good]

Hillary Clinton said feminism and being pro-life can co-exist. Here’s a reminder of what being pro-life actually means. [Daily Life]

And Jill Filipovic unpacks it in a practical, US-centric sense. [Cosmopolitan]

Melissa Harris-Perry interviews Anita Hill 25 years after testifying that Supreme Court Justice nominee Clarence Thomas sexually harassed her. [Essence]

More feminist goodness at the 95th Down Under Feminists Carnival. [Sacraparental]

Image via WWE.com.