A Brand New Novel
Josephine Baker, the early-20th-century African-American dancer, comic, and singer–hugely famous in Paris. Did you know that she was also a spy for the French Resistance during WWII?
I seem to be the only person in America not exulting over Sunday’s Super Bowl halftime performance featuring Beyonce’s Crotch.
What? You thought it was the performer herself on the stage? Technically that is true, but, thanks to her costume’s design, the choreography, and some inventive camera angles employed during the much-lauded song-and-dance, it was the singer’s Crotch that took center stage.
Now, I’m not a TV watcher, so I haven’t seen Beyonce on screen since the movie Dreamgirls, which impressed me with her vocal range and, somehow, also led me to think of her as a class act. Not any more. Now I think of her as a complete sell-out, using her body to sell her music, and the Pepsi-Cola Company as her pimp du jour. Who pays? The American public, all of us, not only girls and women but also men and boys who view this objectification with not only approval but outright enthusiasm.
Lest you think me a prude — and I confess, I feel like one right now — I want to say that I think sex is a natural and, at its best, enjoyable, human function that we have somehow confused with morality. I would never judge another for his or her sexual choices, as long as everyone involved were adult and the sex, consensual. But what Beyonce and her coterie of gyrating, scantily-clad cohorts did on that stage was reinforce before 111 million viewers the notion that women exist for one reason, and that is the sexual gratification of men.
Did I say that she did so needlessly? With her voice and her performing abilities, Beyonce could have pulled off an equally stunning show without giving top billing to her Crotch. From the opening camera shot that approached her from below and zoomed slowly on her black-patched, protruding crotch, to the costume whose skirt cut up and over the aforementioned Crotch for obvious reasons, to her gyrations and acrobatics — at one point lying sprawled on the stage with her Crotch pointing at the faces of her audience — Beyonce’s Crotch stole the show, and that is too bad.
It’s too bad because the performance reinforces, for men and women, that female value resides in sex appeal. While much is made over the fact that an all-female band and all-female dancers accompanied her on the stage, as well as Destiny’s Child, the effect on our culture is the continued objectification of women before viewers of every age, including boys and girls.
That sad and distorted message was broadcast during an event which also featured, in the stands, the most sex trafficking of any event in the country, according to the U.S. Attorney General. While Beyonce was waggling her Crotch and seducing us with “fuck me” looks in our living rooms, sex-slaves, many of them underage, were being pimped in the crowd, some raped by 25 to 50 men in one night.
And let’s not forget all those at home, where, arguably, the danger of domestic violence against women, if not the violence itself, increased. In recent years some have disputed the decades-old notion that Super Bowl Sunday sees an upswing in attacks against women in the home, but others say these cries of “balderdash” are merely a backlash and ignore the fact that Sunday is the very worst day in general for domestic violence all year round.
As I averted my eyes again and again from the sight of Beyonce, a woman I had admired, offering her Crotch like some kind of sexual Holy Grail to an adoring public, I couldn’t help thinking of my own daughter, who, at 19, is a strong and smart and, yes, sexy young woman who thinks feminism is no longer needed in a world where women have so many opportunities and advantages for which my generation had to fight.
Sometimes, she speaks so passionately about the egalitarianism of her own generation that she almost convinces me that we no longer need to fight the fight for equality. In fact, I want to believe her. But, after seeing what everyone else is seeing, and loving, on television, I’m telling her now, with great sorrow, that it just isn’t so. We’ve come a long way, but we have oh, so much farther to go.