I’d just emerged, groggy, from a Visual Album induced coma all ready to write a piece about Beyonce’s new flirtation with feminism, when the Grammys happened and all manner of shit hit the fan.
The furore of criticism that surrounds the performance ranges from Beyonce’s provocative outfit to those lyrics spouted by Jay Z.
As you’re probably aware by now, I am a self-confessed Beyonce extremist, but I’m also not willing to overlook things just because they aren’t what I want to believe. Additionally I’m not, unlike many of the overpopulated world of journalism, about to write the blogging equivalent of trolling to get clicks. That’s just not how I roll.
If I wrote for clicks, I could have easily churned out a mediocre (yet suitably contentious) piece on the day of said performance. I mean, by all means read articles like that if you particularly enjoy someone inciting rage all in the name of hits, we all have our vices.
Nonetheless, there are obvious things to address about the performance. So, I’m going to take off my “I heart Beyonce” crown and put on my “I’m a balanced writer” top hat (and maybe a monocle?) and put all my thoughts into one neatly compiled list because I know you’ve had a long day, Wednesdays can be tough. I hear you.
I’m also going to suppress the overwhelming urge to conclude that BEYONCE IS THE EXCEPTION TO ALL RULES and be an un-biased individual. This could be a challenge.
Really Good Things About Beyonce’s Performance
1. She owns her sexuality
Beyonce has been heavily criticised for being too sexy and the impact on children watching.
Let’s just get something straight, I’m not a mother. So, living my current life sans children means that I won’t understand the complexities of parenthood. But it concerns me that parents might be a little bit naive.
I’m not sure what kind of award shows people are used to seeing, but as far as I’m aware, an award show which is not controversial is pretty much an oxymoron. My recommendation is that perhaps shows like this shouldn’t be aired at such an early time to avoid young children watching. Or perhaps parents should exercise a small amount of common sense and not let their children watch.
Beyonce is a grown woman and is therefore at liberty to behave and dress herself however she sees fit. She is a mother, yes, but is this all she is? Does this mean she needs to cover herself from head to toe and only sing of puppies and flowers? No. As a feminist should she do this? Ermm no. As I said in my Miley Cyrus article, we fall into very dangerous territory when we start to tell women how they should act and dress.
As Erin Brown so eloquently puts it,
“I’m disinterested in what you think is an appropriate and correct way for all women to behave and act. I won’t accept any rules you hand me and so I don’t support them forced upon others. The most effective way to shine is carrying light, not frantically attempting to snuff out others. There is room for everyone at the table here. Your womanhood is yours. Our diversity is rich, not shameful.”
She has a responsibility to her fan-base, sure, but she’s an entertainer first and foremost. The fact she appeals to both men and women is enough, yet we now expect her to be child appropriate too? Give the woman a break.
I don’t think women should feel their only worth is in their sexuality, but telling them how to act makes me feel even more queasy.
2. She embodies female empowerment
If you’re thinking this is slightly at odds to my stance on the likes of Page 3 and Lads Mags, you’d be right. I don’t see them as the same thing at all. Those publications are very two-dimensional. They promote a very narrow (and ultimately destructive) vision of how women should look and behave. They champion images of women who are ornate, plastic objects without a voice.
Beyonce’s body is enviable, sure, but the way she shows off her rounded derriere in this performance reminds us that women’s body shapes are diverse, yet equally beautiful. She owns it. She owns herself.
Speaking as someone who has a turbulent body image history (which is a story for another day) I can say emphatically that the way Beyonce holds herself is nothing but empowering.
Really Bad Things About Beyonce’s Performance
1. Basically, Jay Z
And I say this with love as I am a huge Jay Z fan. But I also say it with anger.
Mostly anger. Why Jay Z thought including that line making reference to domestic violence was a good idea, I’ll never know. And Beyonce’s not totally out of the woods here either as she chose to sing along with him.
And, you know, it’s in her song. Forever. Oh god, just when we’d all tried to forget that line existed.
Some people have suggested they are in fact referencing their enthusiasm for having a… ahem… raucous sex life whilst others think they’ve lost the plot. I really don’t know which camp I would comfortably sit in. Whatever the reason, I don’t think it’s appropriate to casually reference domestic violence in a song, particularly in a culture where rape jokes are already normalised. I can only hope Beyonce comes forward with either a statement which explains it all or a magic wand to make it all go away.
2. Why didn’t Jay Z wear a thong?
I think a lot of feminists are having a tough time with this particular performance because after Beyonce’s spectacular dive into the pool of feminism with her album, it’s like she dried herself off and got right back into the proverbial kitchen in one swift booty shake.
The fact that Beyonce is cavorting around in next to nothing next to a fully dressed Jay Z, puts them into a bit of a Robin Thicke-esque pickle. Again the woman is ornamental while the man gets on with the real business. In this case, he storms the stage, chats some crap about domestic violence, grabs her bum and is done.
I don’t want to make it “all Jay Z’s fault” and I am keeping my “balanced writer” top hat firmly on, but without him the performance would’ve been good. Not her best, but good.
In conclusion, BEYONCE IS THE EXCEPTION.
In all seriousness though, if Beyonce really does want to stay swimming in the feminist pool, she is going to have to up her game. Or perhaps we need to take her off her pedestal and agree that she can’t be everything we want her to be all the time.
And maybe next time Jay Z should wear the thong.