Beyonce: Empowerment or Objectification

Last night Beyonce did her usual song and dance at the Super Bowl halftime show. People went crazy, as they always do, and she just might have caused a major blackout. (At least that’s what Twitter seemed to think.) She certainly wasn’t lipsyncing and I thought the Destiny’s Child reunion was pretty great – I really respected her for that.

But the most visually obvious part of the whole thing was that she took off half of her already scanty outfit, did most of the performance in lingerie, and danced like a stripper the whole time. To me, it seemed like yet another brick in the wall keeping women locked in as sexual objects and not much more. But so many of my intelligent, capable, female friends felt that it was so empowering. (Including Welcome to the Motherhood, whose opinion on just about everything I respect and usually agree with, and also many others.) It forced me to analyze me own feelings.

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I will say, before going into anything else, that she’s said some really right-on stuff about birth, parenting and motherhood since having little Blue Ivy. Including this quote that I think about sums up the amazing experience of motherhood: “I feel more beautiful than I’ve ever felt because I’ve given birth. I have never felt so connected, never felt like I had such a purpose on this earth.” I really respect that. But her role as a mother really has nothing to do with her role as a performer. So let’s get to the meat of the issue: Was that performance empowering to women?

First, let’s just state the obvious. Beyonce has managed to build herself a media empire and become incredibly wealthy based entirely on her own efforts. No matter what else, that IS empowering to women. The more independent and strong women around, the better. And I won’t argue with that. But it’s not her as a person that I have a problem with (I don’t really know anything about her and wouldn’t presume to judge) – it’s her public performance that bothered me.

Some women feel that Beyonce’s use of her sexuality is empowering. She’s healthy, in shape, and she owns her curves. She takes her body and uses it the way she wants to. For what it’s worth, I agree. I think there’s something incredibly wonderful about a woman who’s willing to say, “This is my body. I love it and I’m comfortable in it and screw you if you don’t like it.” And to the extent that an impulse to want her to cover up comes from some kind of puritan feeling that any sexuality is inappropriate, I’d say eff that. But there’s a difference between being confident in your sexuality and in using your sexuality to make men want you because you think that’s the most important thing. [Read More]

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