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.
Sherry Jones is the internationally best-selling author of Four Sisters, All Queens, White Heart, The Jewel of Medina, and The Sword of Medina. Visit her website here.
I agree with you on this. It is sad. Famous women in the spotlight could be role models and exemplars. I have a horrid feeling though that too often, it is more a case of “well men are free to grab themselves on stage and do this and that, so, women should be as free and equal to do the same.”
I never thought men should act so ridiculous either!
Do you find this is a delicate and fine line–that in raising objections, one might be more considered too prudish, conservative, or backward, instead of genuinely seeking the best?
Yes, I certainly do! I, who have been such an outspoken advocate for women’s sexual freedom, find myself in a real double-bind here. Is what’s good for the goose good for the gander? The difference is that, in our culture, when we see one man sexualizing himself, we think it’s only one aspect of masculinity. But when a woman so blatantly makes a sex object of herself — accompanied by a whole stage full of women doing the same — she stands, in our social consciousness, for all women. Beyonce blew it, but I’m sure she’ll cash in.
It’s funny — when Madonna did something similar, I knew it was a spoof, and that she was in her way making fun of the objectification of women in our popular culture. But I didn’t detect even a hint of irony in Beyonce’s pseudo-la-dance.
Thank you for this post. I wasted my time waiting for the half-time show. It was disgusting to watch Beyonce and fellow women on the stage bouncing around, making sexual moves rather than singing. And to think I gave up gardening to watch that rated R/X spectacle and I invited my twelve year old to watch it with me. She left after the first two minutes, I should have done the same. Don’t even get me started on the commercials.
What’s especially alarming for me is to think of all the twelve-year-olds who didn’t walk away, but watched the entire pseudo-porn routine and internalized it. We are not only what we eat, but also what we watch, listen to, and read. I hope you told, or tell, your daughter, Rebecca, that women don’t have to sexualize themselves, that our value does not derive from our sex appeal in spite of the messages we see every day to the contrary.
Sherry, I agree with you. Shock shock!!! haha I turned the channel after a bit. She has too much beauty and talent to dress as she did for the super bowl.
Yes, and as tempted as I am to blame Pepsi or her manager or someone else, Mariah insists that she has full control over it all. I do wonder, however, if she realized how the camera would zoom in on her nether regions to open the performance. Others tell me that Beyonce always sexes it up, which disturbs me even more. Does she really need to do it in order to make money?
So very right!
I’m so glad that someone else other than me has said this. I have been treated like I’m crazy when I said I was disgusted with this performance. Exactly as you have said – being such a huge figure in the media, she has become a prime target for role models for young girls and women, and to dress like that … it just makes me sick. And people wonder why our girls dress and act the way they do these days – they’ve got women like Beyonce for role models…
Very well said, Sherry! I totally agree and was thinking much of the same during and even after it was over. In fact, while I was watching, I was applauding her fellow band mate, Michelle, for electing to at least wear a short skirt that didn’t display her crotch. Not only was it a terrible show of female exploitation, but Beyonce acted like she was doing the other Destiny’s Child members a favor. I wonder how they felt about performing one of her solo songs instead of performing another of the band’s songs?
I know, Michelle, me, too! I noticed that Beyonce was the ONLY one on the stage whose skirt swooped up and over her crotch to not only reveal it but also highlight it. I wonder if the costuming was their choice, or Beyonce’s? Mariah, my daughter, tells me that she is not exploited by anyone, such as an unscrupulous manager, but has full control over every aspect of her career. Good for her, but still…
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