Big-up to the US women’s soccer team who rallied from behind to beat Brazil and played a nail-biter of a thriller this past weekend against Japan. Both teams showed heart, endurance and spirit throughout the competition. I’m not mad at Japan. If any one country could use an infusion of joy and excitement it would be Japan. And I love that a team of women, who were considered underdogs, were able to prove so many wrong while simultaneously giving so many more (especially other girls) hope and inspiration. I thought to myself, wow this is so empowering, but then I remembered a previous post where a reader opined that there is a difference between being inspired and being empowered. I’m not sure if I agree.
I feel that if I am inspired to be a writer or to become a partner at my firm or to want a better education for my son or to want fresher produce in my local grocery store then I am empowered to achieve those things. No? I can’t be empowered and not be inspired, or feel inspired and not feel empowered. For me they are one in the same. Inspiration is the feeling that powers me to go beyond what is expected of me.
Of course, all of this got me thinking about Beyonce’s “Run The World (Girls)” again, this YouTube video by Nineteen Percent and subsequent conversations I’ve had about pop culture, Black folk, politics, spirit and empowerment. I remember the one thing that stood out to me was how literal Nineteen Percent (and others) was taking Beyonce’s song. She hated on Beyonce for making a song that “lulled girls into a false sense of achievement.” “Women are universally dominated,” so how can they really run the world she asks her YouTube viewership. Beyonce was accused of deluding young girls into thinking women have power. SMH! But I’m not going to get into whether the video or Bey is a feminist or not as I have already done that. Instead I wonder whatever happened to notions of spirit, inspiration and plain old common sense? In the 1950’s did people actually believe the Chinese proverb, “Women hold up half the sky” or did they take it as an empowering metaphor. Were women in China able to find enough inspiration in these words popularized by Mao Tse Tung to empower and mobilize them to get jobs? There are stats that link this proverb to a higher employment rate of women in China’s workforce in the 60’s.
And wasn’t the main criticism leveled against films like “Precious” and “For Colored Girls” that Black women were being defined by others in such a narrow, almost myopic sense? I know I kept hearing that these controversial movies with their “problematic” images were a result of what happens when women aren’t allowed to control our image. Beyonce gives us space to dream ourselves differently through her own definitions as a Black woman as seen in her video, her Oprah & Billboard performances and her recent Central Park concert with her all-grrrl band.
I’m gonna go out on a limb and say girls do rule the world AND we hold up half the sky! Despite racism, sexism and ageism we are still birthing babies, creating family ties, running our own businesses, nurturing our passions and winning the World Cup even though our homeland suffered one of the worst disasters on earth and half the time we are doing it all in 4-inch heels. So yeah we bad, we bad!
“We Run The World (Girls)” may not sound like or even resonate the same way as “Ain’t I A Woman” and “Man Down” may not be your “When And Where I Enter,” but please look at the spirit embodied within these works and you will see ties, connections and similarities. Now I’m not saying that “Run The World (Girls)” stretches the metaphysical and has caused Deepak Chopra to think very deeply, but I do feel Beyonce was coming from a place of inspiration in order to empower girls to see and think of themselves as leaders. I think we need to examine the spirit and joy embodied within culture and ourselves and start (re)thinking empowerment as pleasure especially for Black boys and girls. Women may not order the bombing of other countries, but I understand Bey and see how women are holding it down and I see the power in the possibilities therein. Unless you’d still rather be regarded as “The Help,” I think you may agree that there is real value in declaring Girls Run The World.