Disclaimer: For those of you shocked by there being another edition of Love Letters this week, let me assure you that last week’s edition “Letter of Resignation” was a just spoof part of our April Fool’s edition and in no way reflected my ideas of love and relationships. That being said the following column does…
Summer 2014 I went to JAY Z and Beyoncé’s “On the Run” tour in Philadelphia. It was awesome, of course—the crowd was engaged and the performances were incredible. In the past four or so years Beyoncé has become an image we interpret as modern-day feminism. She is fierce, fearless, owns her sexuality—she is flawless.
When I read Parul Sehgal’s New York Times Magazine article, “How ‘Flawless’ Became A Feminist Declaration,” the article brought me back to the concert. Along with her other widely deemed, “feminist” anthems like “Who Run the World (girls)” and “Pretty Hurts,” “Flawless” struck a certain chord with the audience.
I remember looking around and seeing the women in the audience reaching out to our performer, some were in tears, and when Beyoncé sang “I woke up like this,” all the women in the audience responded with the signature dance move from the lyric. Mixed into the song is an excerpt from ChimamandaNgoziAdichie’s speech, “We Should All Be Feminists.” “Feminist, a person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes” Adichie says in the song. With that, all the women in the audience were applauding and whistling.
What I realize now is that the word, “flawless” has become a sort of anthem in itself—which has been distributed through Beyoncé’s 2013 hit. “Flawless” almost surpasses “beautiful” and “perfection” in compliments, because it retains a sort of irony, or rather truth, that the others don’t. “Flawless” acknowledges flaws and then disregards them. In other words, despite these flaws, I’m flawless.
According to Parul Sehgal’s article the pop culture origin of the word “flawless” came from the underground drag queen and crossdresser community back in the 1960s. Being “flawless” then was being able to not see any evidence of masculinity in drag, for example, no beard spokes through foundation. Flawless Sabrina, a legend in American Drag, now in her 70s explains that, “flawless” was “tongue in cheek.” She told Sehgal that she was attracted her name for “…the irony of it.” “This idea of a paragon of perfection,” she said.“God knows I was anything but perfect.”
Once again, this account adds to the evolution of our use of “flawless.” If I ask a girlfriend “how do I look?” before a night of going out and she responds, “flawless,” she means that whatever flaws I do have are meaningless—they’re beautiful—they’re part of what makes me “flawless.”
We will see it now and again in social media, a woman instagramming herself in a bikini with stretch marks with “#flawless” or another with a double mastectomy captioning a Facebook photo “#flawless” in the recovery room. It has been the way women have been embracing all that the human imperfections that we all have that the tabloids and reality television shows seem to reject.
It is the explanation as to why so many women of different races, creeds and body shapes reacted so emotionally to this one hip-hop song at this one concert this summer. It was an energy every woman in the audience could feel—it is an energy we will hopefully start to embrace globally.