Category Archives: History
Much has been said about Beyonce referring to herself as “King”. Most of the conversation around her decision to do so has fallen into two camps: Beyonce is reaffirming patriarchy by referring to herself as a “King” or Beyonce should be allowed to call herself whatever she wants. I recognize that both camps make a legitimate argument, but I would like to merge them. I don’t think that it is an either/or matter as some others do.
This isn’t Beyonce’s first time at the gender-bending and gender non-conformist rodeo. In my opinion, Beyonce has always been drawn to masculine expression. In the videos for her songs “Lose My Breath” and “Upgrade U’, Beyonce dawns men’s clothing and mixes feminine expression with masculine expression. She can be seen dipping into a swagger that we traditionally associate with maleness and masculinity.
On her 2008 album, “I Am Sasha Fierce”, one of the first singles off that album is titled “If I Were A Boy”. In this song Beyonce lyrically imagines what it would be like to be a male. Even though the song sticks to mostly to patriarchal notions of manhood. However, it once more represents Beyonce’s seeming fascination with masculine identity.
Historically speaking, Beyonce isn’t the first woman to refer to herself as “King”. Pharaoh Hatshepsut, an ancient Egyptian woman, ruled as a man. A National Geographic article explains,
“Early reliefs show her performing kingly functions such as making offerings to the gods and ordering up obelisks from red granite quarries at Aswan. After just a few years she had assumed the role of “king” of Egypt, supreme power in the land. “
It is absolutely true that historically women have often had to situate themselves into masculinity and maleness in order to be taken serious. Given that patriarchy is the prevailing social concept in many of our societies, it makes sense that the female quest for power and legitimacy has often relied on women embracing a masculine gender expression.
However, it can also be said that gender non-conformity has consistently been one of the ways that we dismantle patriarchy. By recognizing that gender roles aren’t fixed, rigid, and impenetrable we challenge the patriarchal notions that tell us otherwise.
Junior Burchall, a friend to the blog, perfectly critiques the asinine notion that homosexuality is un-African. He writes,
”These ‘conscious’ folks sound like European, bible-bashing, rapist-enslavers.
they have absolutely no handle on the history of the Motherland and how same sex sexual intimacy had a Continental presence that went back thousands of years. here are three examples, off the top:
among the Maale of southern Ethiopia, men who took on female roles and had sexual relationships with other men were called ASHTIME. they were not shunned by their community.
the Dagara (of Burkina Faso) viewed ‘homosexuals ‘ as gatekeepers charged with the supreme responsibility of shepherding people between the world of the flesh and the world of the Spirit.
among the Meru (of Kenya), same-sex, sexual relationships were seen as normal. indeed, some Meru who occupied positions of religious leadership (they were known as MUGAWE) often wore women’s clothes and hairstyles. they were also sometimes married to men. [NOTE: the aforementioned predated the arrival of europeans by many, many millennia].
these ‘conscious’ brothers are viewing Afrika through the pale, bleu eyes of the folks who brought them the king james version and made cruel sport of the slaughter of their Ancestors. and they think that – because they’ve read a few chapters of Diop and Dr Ben and have an uber-conscious-sounding online name – somehow, their homophobic bullshit is magically transformed into breakfast chock full of nutrient dense, culturally specific scholarship.
not so, not so…..
but, as with all systems predicated upon the aggressive suspension of reason and the uncritical devotion to the maintenance of oppressive hierarchy, the arguments of these pseudo-conscious, pseudo-afrocentric, Youtube minstrels are remarkably resistant to fact.
i tell ya, the always-busy intersection where various unjustly-acquired privileges converge makes for the strangest of bedfellows. it is there that you’ll find, for e.g., Umar Johnson and Mwalimu Baruti, cuddling up with the right reverend pat robertson and sharing sweet, homophobic nothings with the ever-insightful doyen of late twentieth century, lowbrow yankee bigotry, rush limbaugh)
call it what it is: pure, unadulterated, Eurocentric, patriarchal, anti-Feminine pfuckery.
…and yes, the ‘p’ is silent.”
“Sugar production in the New World was essential to the rise of capitalism. Rather than simply satisfying luxury consumption, a lot of the sugar produced under slavery in the Caribbean found its way into the daily diet of the growing European proletariat. With many peasants leaving the country-side to seek jobs in the cities, there was an increased need for food production and a shrinking rural labor force. The need for more food was neither met by increased cereal production (which would have required substantial transformation in production techniques) nor was it met by increasing meat production (which was basically intended for the bourgeoisie). Rather, sugar became–and remains today– a substitute for real food. Capable of producing increased energy output at the expense of long-term health, sugar is the opiate of the working class under capitalism.” – Susan Willis
Yesterday was Confederate Memorial Day. Groups dedicated to preserving the legacy of the Civil War took to grave yards yesterday to mark the graves of fallen Confederate soldiers. One such group was Daughters of The Confederacy.
Now I understand the need to honor the dead especially when those dead are your ancestors. But I do not understand the notion of honoring a group of people who decided to secede from the United States rather than give up owning slaves. I also don’t agree with using a flag that has come to represent slavery and racism as the symbol you use to honor those soldiers. There are many Confederate Flags to choose from, many of which are not so polarized and racist.
It’s interesting that we have come to a place where glorifying Nazi’s is considered to extreme and is universally frowned upon and yet we tolerate people glorifying those who fought to maintain legalized slavery in the United States.
I’d like to end with this piece of history:
“Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.”
– Vice-President of the Confederacy, Alexander Stephens