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Bow Down Bitches: On Ratchet Alter Egos

Oh, Beyonce.

She released a new track that has created a lot of buzz, but not in a good way.

The song tells her haters and those who want to be her to simply, “bow down bitches.”

A number of bloggers and angry folks are saying she’s at the top of her game and doesn’t even need to tell her haters to bow down. Too boot, she has won the public admiration of First Lady Michelle Obama as well as the Obama girls, sang at both inaugurations and she’s just squandered that relationship by putting out such a ratchet track.

Let us keep in mind, that Beyonce may have fleeting moments of ego and cusses from time-to-time, but for some reason she went all out in this new song. But folks, let us not forget the line, “Fuck you, pay me” (Girls run the world).

We loved her alter ego Sasha Fierce, the muse she calls upon when performing such high-energy, sexy shows, who seems to be directly opposite from her seemingly more quiet, private demeanor. But that’s just it.

She seems to be quiet and private.

Folks were also outraged because now she’s a mom, to a little baby girl. Why should she be calling people bitches and tricks now?

Thing is, celebrities we put in boxes or up on pedestals often want to break out, try something different and be themselves or show other versions of themselves. Folks who are saying this isn’t her, eh, I beg to differ. I think that side is a part of her. It may not be a prominent side to who she is, and Bey has never truly been “hood,” but neither have I. I’ve always been “hood adjacent” and can mingle in a variety of worlds. I actually pride myself on my ability to do just that.

So let’s talk about me.

I think I’m a classy, educated, conscious person.

But I can be crass, vulgar and absurd.

I can drop it like it’s hot, I can make it clap. I can drink grown men under the table. I love whiskey. I love hip hop and can recite the nastiest lyrics by Lil Kim at the top of my lungs. Ghostface Killah is my favorite member of the Wu Tang Clan. In the privacy of my home, or on a beach, I love booty shorts. I own a pair of Timberland boots, and I have a few wifebeaters I wear with no bra around my house, left behind from old lovers. That part of myself is just as real as the part that loves PBS, books, documentaries and arguing about politics.

I was just listening to an amazing podcast out of Stanford University, led by the amazing Joan Morgan, about black women, sexuality, hip hop and how we are viewed and how black women really aren’t free sexually. It’s called “Pleasure Principle.” It’s on itunes for free. An enlightening hour of awesome. So serious. We were sexual objects in slavery, and because of our African roots and the shape of our bodies, we were seen as exotic, but we were also seen as primitive. The thought was we’d do any and everything sexually and that it was ok because hey, we were made that way. We would be the yang to the elevated, pure, white woman’s yin.

Unfortunately, music videos or reality t.v. do not help the cause in terms of changing the sexual reputation of women of color. And a lot of young women don’t have the historical context to stop themselves from the allure of money and fame and attention from rich athletes or music stars to just not participate in these types of activities. Some of them argue they are sexually liberated. And wield this public display and the ability to profit off of it as sexual power.

Meanwhile, on the flip side, to make up for all of that, a number of black women have been told to cover up even more, to be more sexually conservative because of the influence of religion and to be “good girls.” I know I was one of them.

We have all of these clashing views to tip-toe in between and meanwhile, as the lovely scholars pointed out in the podcast, while the music demeans us, we still feel compelled to dance to it, to sing along to it. There is a pleasure in it. The question is should we be ashamed of our bodies? The way we move our bodies? All of that.

So which woman is truly free? That’s the question modern feminists are asking. It’s a great question and one that is worth deep discussion.

I’m not saying Beyonce is the latest and greatest black feminist. She is an artist, she is a grown woman and has the right to experiment with her art, but she is also a role model to a lot of people. If you’ve ever gone to one of her shows, you see a cross-section of ages and races. In my opinion, she’s allowed to have a ratchet side, however she has to be responsible. So maybe she should leave her ratchet side at home and in a safe, non-judgemental place among her closest friends.

That’s what me and all of my well-educated, proper girlfriends do…

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