Last night, we waded through two hours of opening acts (minus Nicki Minaj, obviously — BLESS) before getting to a VMA-sponsored Beyonce concert. Obviously it was worth it.
And I don't mean in terms of just ("just") her performance. Anyone who's ever seen Beyonce sing/dance/be live (or watched taped footage or watched her music videos or watched an interview or seen a photo of her in magazine for Christ's sake I mean COME ON) knows Beyonce does not fuck around. And why would she? She's Beyonce. The woman is a force. You saw last night, right? You saw the dancing and the singing and Blue Ivy and Jay Z watching her proudly, and then you saw what I saw. I know you did. You had to. It's everywhere.
You saw Beyonce confidently stand in front of the word "FEMINIST."
YES SHE DID.
Here's why this matters: for reasons I still don't really understand, "feminist" prompts a knee-jerk reaction from people who have no idea how to Google the actual definition. Second, it's being "discussed." A lot. Like, Shailene Woodley "discussed" that she wasn't a feminist because she loved men. (*passes away*) And Taylor Swift came out as a feminist just a few days ago after admitting it was pal Lena Dunham who helped her better understand what feminism means and why we should embrace it. Awesome! That is really great and awesome. But now we have the most powerful woman in music standing in front of the word while she performs in celebration of her lifetime achievement award proving that if you're not a feminist, you don't really have an excuse.
But really, you don't. On top of no one having an actual reason for not declaring yourself a feminist ("Oh yeah, no I don't think men and women are actually equal, sorry"), we finally saw the most important people in music CLAP AND CHEER IN FRONT OF A TERM WE'RE FINALLY CELEBRATING. A term that demands equality and the abolishment of the patriarchy and sexism and rape culture (a.k.a. all displayed boldly when Trey Songz presented the award for god-only-knows because I was too embarrassed by his use of "…and even a lady!"). Last night, we saw a hard-working, strong, inspiring, force of nature stand up for and stand by feminism — while watching Jay Z hold their daughter Blue Ivy and proudly look up at her, because THAT IS THE CORRECT REACTION TO HAVE. (Also Blue Ivy is amazing. I love her more than I love anybody else in my life, and I don't care. Deal with that.)
Beyonce declaring herself a feminist made feminism mainstream in a way we probably are only just beginning to understand. As a teenager, I had no idea what feminism was let alone that embracing the term would've made me feel stronger and better able to combat the army of misogynist boys I tended to surround myself with. As a teenager, if I'd seen Beyonce stand up as a feminist, I would've felt powerful. As an adult, I feel that way, sure. But think of how many teens watched last night's broadcast and are now coming of age in an era in which "feminist" is a BUZZWORD. Which, is a wonderful thing. LET IT BE A BUZZWORD. Get it out there. Make sure everybody knows what "feminist" is and what it means and why we should all run up to the word and hold it close because it's going to break the pattern way too many of us found ourselves in. Now, 15 and 16-year-old girls can (and will) stand up proudly and say, "Beyonce is a feminist, and so am I." I mean, "Girl Power" circa 1997 was great, but there weren't any political connotations. This? This is "I am an equal and you will fucking hear me."
And we did. And we will some more. Beyonce game-changed the shit out of our culture last night. And at the very least — the VERY VERY VERY least — the queen of an empire delivered the word to millions of people who might never say "I'm not a feminist, but . . ." ever again. Bow down indeed.