Beyonce’s golden, glittering performance at the 2017 grammy’s brought me to tears. A friend tagged me on Facebook to ask me what I thought about this much talked about performance. It was such a rich piece, that I’ve needed some time to digest it. Not just because it’s never been done before – a pregnant woman performing a political piece like this on a mainstream global platform, and not just because I too have felt the majesty that comes with being pregnant. It was moving and history making to see this one piece of performance art perfectly encapsulate the central themes of fourth wave feminism today. And with the intersection of the greatest feminist tool known since the printing press – the internet – connecting our struggles and our visions for a better future as women around the world at the speed of thought – changing us, making us stronger, more fearless, stoking our appetites for change and expanding our expectations of what should be, Beyonce’s performance asks us all to get in the game.
We have ‘come a long way baby’ in a way that truly honors all the sacrifice and dedication of all the women that came before us. That our collective consciousness has shifted into this 4th wave is only possible because we have been raising approximately three generations of girls (only 3) that have seen a growing population of women be educated, be safe, and be engaged in career and politics as a result of the past feminist accomplishments.
Here’s a quick overview of your history, because you know, ‘they’ just don’t teach this stuff in school.
The first wave of feminism (1500-1930) was about contract and property rights – the right to vote, to work.
The second wave -1960-1980 – was about broadening the conversation to include workplace safety, pay equality, reproductive rights, domestic abuse, rape and set new expectations for the moral compass of our gender relations.
The third wave – 1990 – 2008 – was about including all races, ethnicities, classes, sexual identities to the first and second wave’s political and economic gains.
We have been in a fourth wave since 2008 – that in the environment of online social media has flourished geometrically and is poised to be the most swiftly moving wave of feminism yet – we are focused on global social justice, intersectionally representing women of all ages, races, sexual orientations, and classes, of a spirituality that includes a reflection of the feminine and a psychology that centers on self-actualization through pleasure. This is a logical next step in the feminist consciousness and embracing of the definition of feminism as well as a logical conclusion to the conversation, begun millennia ago, of a patriarchal political paradigm and as a way forward to protect all of human life and that of the planet. (Now that I think about it, we’ve done the majority of this work since 1800 really – only 200-ish years of work to heal the millennia of oppression, another great example of how much woman can do when they collaborate.)
This 4th wave just came into clear focus with Beyonce’s performance. To say it simply, we are no longer simply fighting for a seat at the table, for the opportunity to be considered equal, or for the chance to prove ourselves to men. We have experienced our own capacity, we have witnessed each other’s creativity and courage, we have connected ourselves with women around the world and we are not in any way in the dark about any of the issues facing us. Beyonce asking ‘I am a woman, I create life, I am a mother like your mother, and then asking how can you hurt me?’ points to this fundamental question – that must be resolved by society as having it both ways is causing individual psychological damage to men and women and global and planetary damage. As women in their collective consciousness quantum leap out of the psychological and physical effects of millennia of oppression claim, love, and honor themselves, we see clearly that a society that is based on love, compassion, and inclusion is the only sustainable way forward.
The performance art was replete with historical and feminist symbolism:
-The triple goddess hologram – maiden, mother, crone – we are part of the most powerful creative lineage on the planet, we do not have to reinvent and discover everything each generation, we can build upon our heritage, and every age and stage of woman is sacred.
-The goddess outfits – whatever your creed, my physical form is powerful and awe inspiring, my body is sacred, my sensuality is my own.
-The halo headdress – religion tells a story to purposely oppress us into thinking we are subordinate and that the planet is also to be used and dominated for personal increase, but we feel our connection to divine and to the planet, and religion should reflect that equality too.
-The many dancers in the four colors of flowing dresses – strands of DNA -ACTG – an ocean of genetic material that connects us all as one family.
The most powerful though was the section I’ll refer to as ‘the seat at the table’. She is seated on a birthing chair (in itself reclaiming the power position during birthing and over our own reproductive sovereignty) surrounded by her midwives. She is at the head of the table. She gives birth to all of humanity, and instead of being thrown off the chair – by virtue of having her body and her reproductive function demonized and devalued culturally – and cast off from having a seat at the table all together, she must not only be placed at the head of the table, but also be exalted on top of that table and therefore included in the spiritual conversation as well as the political and economic one.
Also extremely powerful imagery was the fact that she barely danced – her stillness spoke volumes – she simply stood, walked, or sat and demanded to be looked at and to be acknowledged and honored and admired not for doing anything, but simply by being. We as women are intrinsically potent by our very beingness.
Beyonce speaks for women globally today in that performance, and dare I say the most important female performance art piece of our time, because in this performance she gave visual display to what we are feeling now that we have become so interconnected with each other and because there was absolutely no sexual pandering. There is no room for this antiquated thinking of separation and oppression and violence. We know our power, our worth, our intrinsic value, and it cannot be diminished by religion, policy, rhetoric, or the scientific mythology that I’m so passionate about dismantling around our biology and cycles, and our nature will never again be contained.
Beyonce’s performance calls us to meet each other out past the earlier feminist positions of “I can do, therefore give me economic access and basic human rights” to instead, like DesCartes’ axiom ‘I think, therefore I am’, more of a philosophical position, I am a woman, therefore I am – life,love, the sacred, the future. This is an important shift, because it’s powerful enough to pull the developed world and the developing world into a new paradigm. We’re not asking for permission anymore. We have all realized that we are equal and worthy – all of us – every color, religion, class, and sexual orientation – we deserve by simply being, to be safe and free. And make no mistake, a new paradigm is needed to move forward. And not just for ourselves as women, but for future generations and for this planet.
I see you, young passionate women, of all ethnicities, classes, and sexual identities, who find yourselves in this historical moment, and realize that you have a divine sacred purpose to your life – to be a missionary if you will – to tap into your passions and creativity and go out and build businesses, non-for-profits, and be engaged politically locally and internationally – to literally build the architecture of the future that future generations of humans can safely inhabit. What other work is there to do, when you logically assess our current situation and intuitively feel into what’s needed? I think we can all agree that contorting ourselves to fit the ‘status quo’ is definitely not what’s needed to survive nor the way to flourish.
Thank you Queen Bey for the courageous, thoughtful, provocative, prescient performance and for sending out the official invitation for each woman to claim her sovereignty, and pursue the sacred purpose of her life in every way she can. The future is female and feminist and the future thanks you.
All Hail Ourselves as Queens.
Photo Credit: www.beyonce.com