by Caitlin Donovan – Staff Writer – [email protected]
Beyoncé Knowles-Carter took the Superbowl by storm with her halftime performance featuring her 10-piece all female band, the Sugar Mamas.
The problem is discussion of the halftime show rarely focuses on the rare sight of an all female musical performance, but is centers more on whether Beyoncé’s attire was too provocative. This discussion shows society needs to shift its focus to the substance and statement of a woman’s performance rather than focusing on condemning her sexuality.
Beyoncé told Jorge Riveras, a reporter from the online publication ColorLines, she specifically put together her all-woman band in hopes of inspiring young women. She said she was aware young girls do not have many women who play instruments to look up to in the media and she wanted to rectify the situation.
The media said Beyoncé and the other women wore skimpy outfits and said the formance was too sexualized.
“The kinds of representations” (that represent) “bodies without brains, only for the pleasure of male viewers…and in the meantime, the female viewers could feel crappy about themselves because they don’t look anything like those women who might have starved themselves to get that thin, and, what the hell, maybe had a little plastic surgery to add a breast size or two,” said Lori Horvitz, an associate professor of women, gender and sexuality studies at UNC Asheville.
Beyoncé’s performance at the Super Bowl was far from the sort of display that presented women as simply bodies without brains. Beyoncé made several deliberate choices to stage her performance in a way that demonstrated the power and intelligence of women, particularly women of color. One of the choices Beyoncé made was having women of several different
races in the Sugar Mamas and as back-up singers. The content of Beyoncé’s performance also matters. She specifically gave the spotlight to her guitarist, Bibi McGill. Women are not often shown as lead guitarists in the media, so this was likely a deliberate move on Beyoncé’s part. She also sang songs about the power of women, such as “Independent Women Pt. 1,” which honors financially
The aesthetics of the performance also focused on honoring powerful women. An effigy of the fearsome and revered Hindu warrior goddess Durga descended onto the stage in the middle of the show.
Far from making women feel crapp about themselves, it is clear Beyonce aimed to celebrate and empower women with her performance. Many of her other performances and songs have also aimed to do this. “Run the World (Girls)” celebrates the idea of powerful women and praises women for both raising children and holding careers. The music video
for the song focuses on a group of powerful women of color, dominating the world, reducing the men around them to cowering behind body shields. “If I Were a Boy” actually deals with the double standards women face compared to men. Anthems like “Survivor” focus on women recovering and becoming stronger after being treated badly by men.
The fact is Beyoncé uses her pop star fame and riches to employ fellow women of color in careers and positions they do not usually get to enjoy. This shows she is willing to put her money where her mouth is. She is undoubtedly a smart, autonomous woman who is trying to use her career to empower other women. Yet because she is wearing the equivalent of a bathing suit on stage, all of this gets glossed over.
Indeed, it is time to accept Beyoncé has a right to be confident in her sexuality and body. How people choose to react to that is entirely up to them. Condemning Beyoncé for baring her body is puritanical. It is true all Beyoncé’s performance cannot necessarily be completely separated from society’s “sex sells”
mentality, especially since all the women involved in the performance had body types considered the cultural ideal.
But it is society that should be criticized for promoting such an ideal, not the women trying to make it in society. And ultimately, the best way to turn the tables on society is to not fall into the trap of
focusing on the perceived sexual aesthetics of Beyoncé’s performance, rather the substance of it –– the women playing instruments, the goddess Durga descending down and overall message Beyoncé was trying to send.
Beyoncé has sold more than 75 million records worldwide as a solo artist,making her one of the best-selling artists of all time. She has also won 17 Grammy awards, which makes her one of the most honored female artists to date. She has inspired several female artists, including
Rihanna and Lady Gaga. Obviously, Beyoncé has a huge impact on pop culture, and if she chooses to go even further advocating female empowerment, she could have a huge impact on women as a whole.
Hopefully if Beyonce does choose to do that, society will actually focus on what she is saying rather than what she’s wearing.