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I Woke Up Like This x Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie x Warsan

Last updated on September 15, 2021

I’ve had Beyoncé’s Flawless on repeat. I’m not even ashamed to admit the pep in my step it gave me when I was walking to the train yesterday, or how into myself I was while I was waiting for the 4. But don’t think I’m just his little wife, don’t get it twisted. In fact, as I’m writing this I’m wondering why “Flawless” wasn’t released as a single before “Drunk In Love” (I kept thinking of the irony: Flawless is flawless). The latter is a great single in its own right, but the empowering feminist message and rhythm behind Flawless makes it my favorite song on the album. i-10-5820flawless

But besides my obvious affinity for Beyoncé’s flawless (no pun intended) flair for uplifting lyrics, I was drunk in love (alright, I’ll stop) with the voiceover by Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie from her TED Talk “We Should All Be Feminists.” Click that link and dedicate half an hour to watching that TED Talk. It will change your life. Or at the very least, it will make you fall in love with Chimamanda.

We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls “You can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful, otherwise you will threaten the man.” Because I am female I am expected to aspire to marriage. I am expected to make my life choices always keeping in mind that marriage is the most important. Now marriage can be a source of joy and love and mutual support but why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage and we don’t teach boys the same? We raise girls to see each other as competitors; not for jobs or for accomplishments, which I think can be a good thing, but for the attention of men. We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings in the way that boys are. If we have sons, we don’t mind knowing about our sons’ girlfriends, but our daughters’ boyfriends? God forbid.

I so admire the way that Beyoncé used this song to perpetuate Adichie’s message. It’s a topic that doesn’t frequently make it into popular music, especially considering the misogynistic messages that are still embedded in a large part of hip-hop music. The album really is more than just another pop record, in many ways it’s an ode to the unsung hurdles of marriage and parenthood, but also embracing the strength behind being a woman, and one that is in touch with her sexuality. I have been on a prolonged streak of feminist African writers quite a while before my Flawless fixation though, particularly Warsan Shire, who came to mind immediately. I love contemporary poetry, and when a friend posted one of her poems, I was very suddenly sucked into her work. Her poetry is real and raw, and explores the sentiments behind relationships and feminism, and the vulnerability associated with their entanglement.

“how far have you walked for men who’ve never held your feet in their laps? and what about the others that would do anything for you, why did you make them love you until you could not stand it? how are you both of these women, both flighty and needful? where did you learn this, to want what does not want you?

where did you learn this, to leave those that want to stay?”

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