I like Beyoncé. I’m not a card-carrying, dues-paying member of the Bey-hive, but I appreciate her artistry and work ethic. When Formation dropped, it was definitely a “world stop” moment. Everyone talked about edges and wigs being snatched and I have to admit, I was here for it. All of it. One of my oldest friends sent me the link the same time a soror sent it through our step team GroupMe chat and we began to go over our favorite parts of the video and lines of the song while I tried to figure out how we were going to incorporate it into our next step show. My two favorite lines are: “I see it, I work hard, I grind ‘til I own it,” and “Always stay gracious; best revenge is your paper.” However, in the weeks since the song debuted, I’ve grown weary of think pieces about Formation. Seriously, how many ways can you dissect an approximately 5-minute song and video? Apparently, scores. There are some writers who criticize her use of New Orleans as a “sexy backdrop,” while others commiserate on how they don’t believe the lyrics to the song match the video or that the video was not “pro-black” enough. There were even some who were less than enthused with a cis-gender woman repeatedly saying, “slay” which comes from Black Gay Ball Culture. Everyone had an opinion and valid ideas, but I have to be honest. I got tired of all these different voices talking about a song. But here I am, writing about Formation because I, like so many others, have an opinion.
Throughout the video, we see images of black women that often have a negative connotation when associated with blackness but are trendy when the majority culture embraces them (read boxer braids or “hair tattoos”). However, when I first watched the video, I was excited to see myself. Black women of various skin tones and hair textures were featured in all their fullness and I immediately thought about my girls, my tribe. I’m extremely blessed to have many supportive friendships with women and I know that when the call goes out for us to “get in formation,” there’s immediate action. Whether it’s an impromptu meeting to glean love from each other, a group text asking for prayers before a presentation, or an immediate call for assistance, we quickly assemble to respond to the needs of our sister-friends. I’m even reminded of how, throughout history, as a people, we’ve responded to the call to get in formation to fight for equality in various arenas. Although many apply Yoncé’s call to a broader context, for me, it’s extremely personal and relevant. Because of the strength I gain from my friends, I feel freer to be myself in all areas of my life. At work, at church, with my family, in my relationships… Everywhere. Even in sexual relationships.
Being empowered in other areas of your life definitely influences the way in which you express yourself sexually. Having the confidence to be authentic and true to your own desires and needs takes courage. And in this song, Beyoncé promises Cheddar Bay Biscuits and Jordans as a reward for her partner’s sexual prowess. I’ve even seen friends post on social media about their men attempting to earn Red Lobster. Who’s not mad is me. Still, this song insights confidence and an ability to be an unapologetically sexual being. …and dares someone to say something negative about it.
Getting in formation means a lot of things to a lot of people. And to me, the song and video send messages that encourage us to embrace the many facets of black womanhood, including our sexuality. You can be who you are without bounds or restrictions and confidently proclaim it. And even though I still haven’t joined the Bey-hive, I’m very thankful for Beyoncé’s contributions.
De-Andrea Blaylock-Johnson is a licensed clinical social worker and sex therapist in private practice at Sankofa Sex Therapy, LLC. She’s on the Executive Board of the Women of Color Sexual Health Network and has been featured as a sexpert on Ebony.com, Shape.com, and WomensHealthMag.com. Check out her YouTube show, Ask A Sex Therapist, where she answers your questions related to sex and sexuality and visit her website, SankofaSexTherapy.com.
Photo courtesy of theodysseyonline.com