Beyoncé’s song “Formation” has lyrical representations about black power and converses on the power dynamics in contemporary America. In this section, we will take a closer look at the song’s iconography and consider it in the greater conversation of Beyoncé’s feminist role, to better understand what she is really saying.
Beyoncé’s lines of “Okay, ladies, now let’s get in formation, cause I slay” paints a picture of a strong group of women who try to achieve independence as best they can. According to Ranjoo Herr, a professor at Bentley University, the transnational feminism that bonds all feminist women is as follows:
As feminists attempt to ‘expand the commonality and solidarity’ of women’s struggle, they must overcome ‘social forces that divide women from each other,’ such as ‘race, class, sexual orientation, colonialism, poverty, religion, nationality.’
To dive a little deeper into that, not only do women need to overcome all social forces to become a part of the transnational feminist movement, they must become more coordinated in order to join together as would be productive. Herr goes on to quote famous feminist and social activist Robin Morgan, saying:
According to Morgan, women have ‘‘shared attitudes’’ because of ‘‘a common condition which, despite variations in degree, is experienced by all human beings who are born female’’ (p. 2). Based on ‘‘a shared biology,’’ women all over the world must launch a ‘‘coordinated’’ resistance (p. 34) against a universal ‘‘patriarchal mentality’’ (p. 1, all italics in the original).
According to critics, “Formation” represents this shared attitude. Writer Melissa Harris-Perry references “Formation” in her attempt to gather many critics opinions to parse through them. She says self-referentially “I like to think of this as MHP’s lemonade stand, getting in formation about Bey’s latest contribution” (Harris-Perry 1).
Not all critics see “Formation” as a call to arms, however. Alicia Wallace writes that “as feminism got a wave of renewed popularity, Beyoncé quickly affixed the title of feminist to herself. She did not go to great lengths to live it, but chose to perform it,” arguing that Beyoncé is irrevocably false in her intentions when it comes to “Formation” and its messages, exploiting that world instead of respecting it (Wallace 195).
Along similar lines, not all critics see the resistance as proposed by Beyoncé to be the kind of action he or she would like to take. In an essay taking a critical stance against Beyoncé’s mentality on Lemonade, bell hooks says:
Female violence is no more liberatory than male violence. And when violence is made to look sexy and eroticized, as in the Lemonade sexy-dress street scene, it does not serve to undercut the prevailing cultural sentiment that it is acceptable to use violence to reinforce domination, especially in relations between men and women. Violence does not create positive change.
In regard to Beyoncé’s resistance-fueled album. She does not see a progression in Beyoncé’s worldview, but rather that it destroys instead of builds.
- “Melissa Harris-Perry’s ‘Lemonade’ Round Table”. ELLE, 2019, https://www.elle.com/culture/music/a35903/lemonade-call-and-response/.
- Herr, Ranjoo. Philarchive.Org, 2019, https://philarchive.org/archive/HERTWT-2.
- Institute, bell. “Moving Beyond Pain”. Bell Hooks Institute, 2019, http://www.bellhooksinstitute.com/blog/2016/5/9/moving-beyond-pain.
- Wallace, Alicia. “A Critical View Of Beyonce’s “Formation””. Muse.Jhu.Edu, 2019, https://muse.jhu.edu/article/681979/pdf.