Okay, lay off Beyonce, already.

(And leave Michelle Obama out of it, too.)

So we know that Beyonce’s numerous sins include dressing sexy, being married, and saying that girls run the world when that isn’t technically true. But did you also know she’s singlehandedly responsible for luring young girls into sexual exploitation? Rakhi Kumar did, and now (I’m assuming) so does Michelle Obama, and now so do you.

Dear Michelle Obama,

I’m addressing this to you because I admire you. Because you’re smart and a mum to two young girls. And you’re the First Lady of the USA. And because you were recently quoted as saying that Beyonce is a ‘great role model’ to your two daughters, and because you recently tweeted, after the Superbowl, that you were ‘so proud’ of her. I’m writing because everything you do is admired and emulated by so many; but when you endorse a recording artist like Beyonce, I see the most misogynistic aspects of the music industry (that prefers girls to be no more complex than dolls) interpret your comments as a seal of approval for the thoughtless cultural currency that they flood the youth market with. I’m writing because I think it’s time to stop suggesting to very young girls that ultimate feminine success — in the music industry or anywhere else — comes with the need, or the expectation for them to undress.

Next time you’re presented with a shortlist of people in popular culture who you should spend time with or commend, think about how many young girls want to be just like Beyonce: Beyonce who sings ‘Bow Down Bitch’ and wears sheer bodysuits and high heels, singing about making money and being independent.

Remember that in the USA, the average age of a girl when she is trafficked for sex for the first time is 13.

Remember that she’s often brought into the ‘life’ by drug dealers who promise her a celebrity lifestyle, clothes like the ones Beyonce wears, and situation where she can live like Queen Bey: looking hot, being desired by alpha males, wielding power over others with her body and sexuality.

So please, let it be known that Beyonce is not a role model. She may have a lot of money, and she may have enormous influence. But she can no longer be called a role model.

(Unless you think it would be really cool for Sasha or Malia to follow her example and sing songs for people on a stage whilst wearing sheer gold glitter bodysuits detailing the contours of their body, under the management of their daddy and/or their husband.)

Okay, first of all, because apparently this is very important to you: It wasn’t a sheer bodysuit. It was a glittery bodysuit with enormous, glittery nipples. Weird? Definitely. Aesthetically appealing? Not to me, no. But they weren’t her personal, actual nipples. I mean, let’s be logical here: Are we attributing to Beyonce — a seasoned, successful, and image-conscious businesswoman — the decision to update her brand to include frontal nudity in her concert attire? Thinkbox.

Moving on: I think holding Beyonce personally responsible for human trafficking is a bit of a reach. I think conflating her sexy costumes with actual sexual availability is slut-shaming and wrong and contributes to rape culture. I think that requiring women to cast aside any sexuality to be taken seriously and considered successful is also slut-shaming and wrong. I think that conflating sex trafficking, voluntary sex work, and sparkly-costumed music concerts is closed-minded, elitist, misleading, and flat-out confusing. I think that reducing Beyonce’s success to “looking hot, being desired by alpha males, wielding power over others with her body and sexuality” says more about you than it does about Beyonce or about the young women who admire her. And I think that reducing child sexual exploitation to “I want glittery underpants like Beyonce!” seriously misses… pretty much everything, Jesus Christ, I don’t even know where to start on that one.

Thirdly: I’m sure Michelle Obama appreciates your unsolicited input into the way she raises her daughters, but I’m guessing she’s got this one. If she needs tips, I’m sure she’ll call you.

Fourthly, and in general: All right, folks, time to find someone else to trash.

Seriously. Beyonce paid for a fancy birthing suite at the hospital (how dare she enjoy luxury!), and that was way bad, and then she wore sexy costumes for the Super Bowl (how dare she dress like a hundred other female performers!), and that was extra bad, and she said that girls run the world, which we totally don’t, and she told “bitches” to “bow down,” which was awful, and as if it wasn’t bad enough that she took her husband’s last name (that would be husband Shawn Knowles-Carter), she named her tour “The Mrs. Carter Show World Tour,” which is unforgivable (how dare she celebrate the life she’s created with her husband and child!). And by far the worst thing a singer can do in the whole world, because if anyone had ever done anything worse, people would be talking about that and not how very anti-feminist Beyonce is, right?

Right?

Britney Spears, mother of two, spangled-bikini wearer? Lady Gaga, Mother Monster, nipple-tape aficionado? Pink, mother, self-proclaimed feminist, basically wore medical tape and body glitter on a trapeze at the Grammys? Selena Gomez’s bindi? Maybe tee off on Taylor Swift or Katy Perry for just a little while, just to relieve Beyonce’s quads of the constant weight of our amassed baggage?

Beyonce is a force of nature, she sang “Independent Women” and “Survivor” and “Irreplaceable,” her band is all women, she’s pro-gender equality and anti-gender wage gap, she supports women through charity work, she does things that people so often identify as feminist-y — and so we load her down with our own expectations and identify her as a feminist icon and then hold to her to arbitrary standards as if she signed up for them herself. And even when she comes out and says she’s a feminist, she gets shit because she said it “ambivalently.” The nerve! How dare she not perform as enthusiastically as we demand at the moment we demand it?

At the risk of being one of those “don’t we have more important things to talk about” feminists… don’t we? Not that anyone is beyond reproach, but God knows Beyonce’s been picking up reproach for every damn thing she does lately.

Look, I get it; Beyonce is a successful, self-possessed black woman with a career, a family, a ton of money, a ridiculous body, a strong sense of self, and an apparent desire to live her life openly without hiding those things like they’re some kind of shameful secret. It’s offensive and terrifying, and God forbid a young girl should find herself inspired by such a woman. But calling her anti-feminist for celebrating her family (which Tami Winfrey Harris, Morgane Richardson, and Andrea Plaid discussed in February), calling her a bad role model for celebrating her body, accusing her of ambivalence for defining her relationship with feminism for herself, or accusing her of promoting child trafficking with her sparkly leotards and sexy dancing is just ridiculous and stupid. And there has to be something else we can be taking on.

Author: has written 259 posts for this blog.

Return to: Homepage | Blog Index

133 Responses

  1. macavitykitsune
    macavitykitsune April 24, 2013 at 11:20 pm |

    Breaking: black woman does thing. THIS IS AWFUL.

    1. tmc
      tmc April 25, 2013 at 10:14 am |

      That about covers it, yep.

    2. DAS
      DAS April 25, 2013 at 3:41 pm |

      I was getting the germ of what would become a long winded comment saying pretty much exactly what you said. But you said it much more succinctly and cogently than I could.

    3. IrishUp
      IrishUp April 26, 2013 at 1:02 pm |

      +1

    4. Nyara
      Nyara April 27, 2013 at 6:43 pm |

      Yep. That about sums it up.

  2. macavitykitsune
    macavitykitsune April 24, 2013 at 11:34 pm |

    In greater detail:

    Beyonce who sings ‘Bow Down Bitch’ and wears sheer bodysuits and high heels, singing about making money and being independent.

    Yes. She should be singing about…being a codependent, helpless baby? I’m fairly sure codependent helpless babies are feminists. In fact, I think they’re the only feminists.

    Unless they’re male. Then fuck them, probably.

    Remember that she’s often brought into the ‘life’ by drug dealers who promise her a celebrity lifestyle,

    Right. Poverty, addiction, abuse, the high proportion of sexually abusive family members…none of those are risk factors. Nope. It’s all just this one black lady with the temerity to wear glittery nipple patterns. (Might I remind Rakhi Kumar how traditional Indian women dressed, back in the 13th, 14th, 6th or 2nd century? And that’s not even counting the number of cultures where they basically went topless.) Fuck that purity culture modesty shit.

    Beyonce, performing in sheer body suits, nipples displayed, mouth open, high heels and sheer tights, shaking her butt on stage, can no longer be held by world leaders as an icon of female success.

    Right, because she’s always been treated with the utmost respect and tender affection by world leaders, and never ever had any issues with racism or misogyny.

    Beyonce is a singer and a songwriter. She doesn’t need to wear see through clothes or body suits to sing.

    And what if she just likes wearing them? I mean, look, objectively, Beyonce is fucking hot. She could wear a sack and be hot. But – and I’m going to blow your mind here, lady – she gets to choose not to.

    our message to them should be the acknowledgement that they are naturally brilliant and that we believe that they are capable of everything -without ever having to undress to achieve their success.

    Right. AND it should also contain “and even if you decide to undress, I swear that I shall don my own adult underthings of choice and not treat you like shit for not adhering to my personal preference in the Madonna/whore dichotomy”.

    Unless you think it would be really cool for Sasha or Malia to follow her example and sing songs for people on a stage whilst wearing sheer gold glitter bodysuits detailing the contours of their body

    Yes, I think it would be cool. It would be cool if they didn’t, too. What is, however, uncool is your shamey bullshit.

    under the management of their daddy and/or their husband

    Oh fuck you, you did not go there. Like Beyonce needed Jay-Z to “manage” her. I didn’t even know who he was until he married her, ffs.

    I don’t see any light coming out of it. I just see a glowing ball of soullessness.

    Funny how perceptions work: when I look at your article, I see a steaming pile of poorly-written shit.

    I’d say to my girls – all that’s gold doesn’t glitter.

    And I reply that Beyonce’s deep roots are untouched by your frost.

    1. EG
      EG April 25, 2013 at 12:11 am |

      I just see a glowing ball of soullessness.

      It’s a little known fact that an absence of soul is phosphorescent. That’s how you can tell human beings from the undead. Look for the people who glow!

      This is all such bullshit. When I was a kid I dreamed of growing up to look like Debbie Harry*, because she was (and still is) super hot and awesome (I still admire her). And you can see the horrible road that admiring someone who literally ripped a wedding-dress off herself strip by strip on stage led me down. Why, I’m a lit prof at a public university! What greater shame could there be?

      I mean, I know Beyonce has to represent All the Good Things to be deemed acceptable, what with being a black woman and all, but…don’t you feel a even a little bit silly, Ms. Kumar?

      * I could not look less like Debbie Harry if I tried, as it turns out.

      1. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune April 25, 2013 at 11:19 am |

        That’s how you can tell human beings from the undead. Look for the people who glow!

        LOL!

        Why, I’m a lit prof at a public university! What greater shame could there be?

        No, no. See, you might be a lit prof at a public university, but you’re just using that as a facade to promote sex trafficking. I can tell, because that one time you did a thing I didn’t like and that can mean nothing else.

        1. EG
          EG April 25, 2013 at 11:26 am |

          It’s because of that time my bra showed through my shirt, isn’t it? Isn’t it?

        2. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune April 25, 2013 at 11:29 am |

          YOU KNOW WHAT YOU DID YOUNG LADY

        3. Kasabian
          Kasabian April 25, 2013 at 1:28 pm |

          I think we’re missing the bigger picture here. Ms. Kumar knows all and sees all; her omniscience is unlimited. Kinda like Santa Claus.

    2. EG
      EG April 25, 2013 at 12:15 am |

      And what if she just likes wearing them?

      Or what if she’s smart and ambitious and wants to succeed in her chosen career, and has noticed that women have a much better chance of doing that when they play up their sex appeal?

      Nah. Couldn’t be. She’s probably just some kind of vapid slattern.

      1. Li
        Li April 25, 2013 at 2:48 am |

        Or: what if, in addition to being a singer and a songwriter, Beyoncé is also a dancer and therefore likes wearing clothing that allows her a maximum range of movement?

        1. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune April 25, 2013 at 3:00 am |

          Li, I demand that you cease this abominable male practicality instantly!

        2. Li
          Li April 25, 2013 at 3:57 am |

          Well, I was going to outline my alternate theory in which Beyoncé wears sparkly clothing in order to startle and distract potential predators, but now you’ve gone and ruined it.

    3. Brennan
      Brennan April 25, 2013 at 10:04 am |

      “I’d say to my girls – all that’s gold doesn’t glitter.”

      And I reply that Beyonce’s deep roots are untouched by your frost.

      Madam, I kind of love you.

    4. ashurredly
      ashurredly April 25, 2013 at 11:04 am |

      And I reply that Beyonce’s deep roots are untouched by your frost.

      Bahaha, love this.

  3. Elikit
    Elikit April 24, 2013 at 11:51 pm |

    So girls get sucked into human trafficking because drug dealers seduce them with Beyonce? Right. You know what would be super feminist? Blaming a woman for the actions of men. That would be way super feminist.

    I wish black women could just do or be without the world hanging a bunch of its own bullshit on us. That’d be nice.

  4. Protagoras
    Protagoras April 25, 2013 at 12:22 am |

    She also cites the utterly fictitious statistic about the average age of entry for sex trafficking victims being 13. I suppose it’s not surprising that her understanding of the phenomenon is as weak as her theories about its causes.

    1. matlun
      matlun April 25, 2013 at 5:02 am |

      It is even worse than that, since the original erroneous claim was about age of entry into prostitution (ie not only about trafficking).

      So she is actually misquoting that statistic. Making her claim doubly wrong.

      1. tinfoil hattie
        tinfoil hattie April 25, 2013 at 8:33 am |

        If you’re a “prostitute” at 13, there is trafficking involved.

        1. matlun
          matlun April 25, 2013 at 5:47 pm |

          No. “Age of entry into prostitution” is only about the first time the person in question had sex for money, which can mean many things. And also it is not necessarily trafficking even if it is terrible exploitation and rape.

          (And just to repeat/clarify: As mentioned above the 13 year average is erroneous statistics anyway. It is not true)

        2. tinfoil hattie
          tinfoil hattie April 28, 2013 at 2:37 pm |

          If you’re 13 and a “prostitute” someone “sold” you. My very expansive definition of trafficking includes this scenario.

      2. Protagoras
        Protagoras April 26, 2013 at 11:35 am |

        I don’t know about doubly wrong; since it’s entirely made up, I’m not sure how big the difference is between making up a new statistic and quoting an old made up statistic. Indeed, putting it in terms of being trafficked rather than entering prostitution means if you arbitrarily assume that all prostitutes who started when they were 15 or older were fully voluntary and only those 14 and under were trafficked, you might well end up with an average age of entry of 13 for the tiny number of girls that standard would count as trafficking victims. Though I’m sure that’s not what Kumar intended.

        For the record, serious studies I’ve seen that address the issue usually find an average age of women entering prostitution in the early to mid 20s, though I’ve mostly seen studies in developed countries. They mostly examined prostitution generally rather than trafficking specifically (perhaps because the latter is so ill-defined) so I have no idea whether or how the average for trafficking would differ (it would probably depend on how you did define it, I suppose).

        1. matlun
          matlun April 27, 2013 at 3:07 am |

          I don’t know about doubly wrong; since it’s entirely made up

          It is an old claim that seems to be a huge misrepresentation of studies of child prostitutes. Ie it is an estimated average only for this group, which naturally would give a much lower figure than if adults were included.

          And even then, it is not clear. Here is an article in the Oregonian where they try to track down a similar claim.

        2. tinfoil hattie
          tinfoil hattie April 28, 2013 at 2:38 pm |

          There’s no such thing as a “child prostitute.” Only child victims of trafficked rape.

  5. BabyRaptor
    BabyRaptor April 25, 2013 at 2:33 am |

    In other words…”Dear Person With Influence, please stop saying things that disagree with my opinion. Signed, Letter Writer With Much Self Importance.”

    Yeah, no.

  6. A4
    A4 April 25, 2013 at 8:11 am |

    Is this a ridiculous article full of false claims and terrible logic as well as tired misogynistic tropes? Yes.

    Still, I don’t think Beyonce is a good role model at all. Because what do we learn from Beyonce?
    Well we can learn:
    1) Money is good. Do whatever it takes to make a lot of it.
    2) Focus on appearances above all other concerns (This ties into #1)

    but MOSTLY:
    3) Fame is great! Be famous.

    And I think that is a terrible message. Fame sucks.

    1. EG
      EG April 25, 2013 at 8:55 am |

      Well, it’s not like any of that is unique or original to Beyonce, though. That’s all in the nature of being a pop star; I mean, I think you could’ve made the same arguments about early Madonna, but her presentation sparked very controversial and I would argue in many ways feminist ideas among girls; same with the Spice Girls. At this point I am too far away from those young ‘uns and their pop culture to know if Beyonce is having similar effects. I do like her use of female musicians, etc.

      1. A4
        A4 April 25, 2013 at 10:08 am |

        That would depend on your definition of pop star. Some famous artists make their image and their fame their main focus, and others do not. Our fame culture is currently about giving positive attention to those who are perceived to have sacrificed enough and submitted properly to some extremely ugly and poisonous ideals. It is also, of course, about then giving these people negative attention lest they begin to think they are better than the rest of us.

        1. EG
          EG April 25, 2013 at 10:12 am |

          My definition of “pop star” is pretty simple: celebrity won through popular music. I don’t really see how what you’re saying addresses my point.

        2. A4
          A4 April 25, 2013 at 10:28 am |

          My definition of “pop star” is pretty simple: celebrity won through popular music.

          This is not a very meaningful or accurate definition. Is Bjork a pop star? Is her music “popular” enough? Is Max Martin a pop star? He is famous for writing many famous pop hits. I think a good definition of pop star must be complicated given the vast complexities of the industry dedicated to the deliberate construction of both celebrity and popular music. Your definition isn’t simple, it’s simplistic.

          I don’t really see how what you’re saying addresses my point.

          Likewise.

        3. EG
          EG April 25, 2013 at 10:43 am |

          My definition, whether or not you find it simplistic, is perfectly usable for Beyonce, Madonna, and the Spice Girls, to whom I’ve applied it. (Is Bjork popular enough? I don’t know–how many people know who she is? That’s a question of celebrity, not about the definition of “pop.”)

          My point was twofold: first, that your critiques of Beyonce are critiques that can be levelled at all the female pop stars of the past few decades, so I’m not sure why we should particularly condemn Beyonce for them. Second, that even given them, many female pop stars have inspired responses that have been liberating and feminist, so that dismissing them all as “bad role models” due to your critiques is itself simplistic and inaccurate.

        4. A4
          A4 April 25, 2013 at 10:59 am |

          Your logic is INCREDIBLY circular. That is all.

        5. EG
          EG April 25, 2013 at 11:04 am |

          And your “logic” amounts to “these messages I don’t like mean that NO OTHER MESSAGES EXIST. MY INTERPRETATION IS THE ONLY ONE THAT COUNTS.”

          So…have fun with that.

        6. A4
          A4 April 25, 2013 at 11:16 am |

          Excuse me? Did I say anything of the sort? Did I come in and comment on someone else’s contribution and say it was off the mark and invalid? Did I say in my comment that my point of view was the only valid one?

          No. You replied to my comment to say it was irrelevant because of some uselessly circular definition of pop star that apparently negates examination of the values of celebrity and fame.

          Great! Go elsewhere and focus on whatever you want there. These commenting spaces are theoretically infinite! Hooray!

    2. macavitykitsune
      macavitykitsune April 25, 2013 at 11:16 am |

      1) Money is good. Do whatever it takes to make a lot of it.
      2) Focus on appearances above all other concerns (This ties into #1)
      3) Fame is great! Be famous.

      Here’s the thing, though. Beyonce is from a race and gender that has historically been (at best) discouraged from and (at worst) subjected to violence for attempting to earn an independent living. She is also from a race that has traditionally been barred from being viewed as beautiful (unless it’s to be viewed as “slutty”).

      Also, re: 1 – now, I know you’re of a race/perceived gender that hasn’t historically been shut up indoors, or told to do unpaid hard labour and be grateful for the food/board/sexual violence you’re “rewarded” with. It can be real difficult to see out of the box of never having been subjected to those ideas. But for me, that experience is within my family’s living memory. Hell, I’m no expert on black history in North America, but given that (de facto) slavery persisted well into the last century, I imagine there’s black women here in whose families’ living memory that experience lives, too. And frankly, the idea of someone making a career out of telling women to never, ever, ever again get stuck in the shit we’ve fought and bled and screamed our way out of? Yeah. That’s a decent role model in my book.

      Re: 3 – you’re right, fame sucks. But does fame suck for the famous person in and of itself? Or is it the consequences of fame (paparazzi haraassment, sycophants, etc) that suck? I don’t have an answer, I’m just wondering why you’re saying that being well-known is objectively a bad thing.

      1. A4
        A4 April 25, 2013 at 11:46 am |

        “She is also from a race that has traditionally been barred from being viewed as beautiful (unless it’s to be viewed as “slutty”).”

        This is true and a very good point considering the whitification that is a huge part of the careers of pop stars that are women of color. Obvious examples that come to mind are Beyonce, Shakira, and Nicki Minaj.

        “I know you’re of a race/perceived gender that hasn’t historically been shut up indoors, or told to do unpaid hard labour and be grateful for the food/board/sexual violence you’re “rewarded” with.”

        I believe I have told you previously that I don’t appreciate it when you try to define my identity and experiences. You do not know me, or my family, or my history. I am very interested in hearing your understanding of your own experiences and life if you’d like to share them, but I do not give a shit about what you think my background lacks because you know nothing about it.

        “the idea of someone making a career out of telling women to never, ever, ever again get stuck in the shit we’ve fought and bled and screamed our way out of? Yeah. That’s a decent role model in my book.”

        This is my point though. She has not made a career out of that. She’s made a career out of following all the rules, and looking the right way, and sounding the right way, and having the correct body and moving it correctly. She is so scrutinized and policed and criticized that she tries to remove inflattering images of herself from the internet. I’m not pointing that out to judge her for it (I wouldn’t judge Beyonce for anything, because I don’t have to deal with any of the hateful shit she does), I’m pointing it out to highlight how intense it must be to deal with.

        “But does fame suck for the famous person in and of itself?”

        So I’m not famous by any stretch of the imagination. But I do dance in public a lot, and you would not believe the ownership that people will take over bodies that they believe are on display to them. People will yell things both good and bad, pull up next to me in their cars to ask me what I’m doing, videotape me and photograph me without my permission, try to join me and take ownership of my activities. As someone who just wants to dance in the world, it’s scary the amount that people perceive non-normative expressive behavior to be equivalent to consenting to anonymous scrutiny, criticism and recording. People I don’t know and have never met have posted videos of me on youtube that they took of me from their car labeled with “weirdo”.

        1. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune April 25, 2013 at 11:59 am |

          I believe I have told you previously that I don’t appreciate it when you try to define my identity and experiences. You do not know me, or my family, or my history.

          WTF, A4, you’ve yourself said that you’re perceived, at least, as male. And IIRC, perceived white.

          She’s made a career out of following all the rules, and looking the right way, and sounding the right way, and having the correct body and moving it correctly.

          The right way for black women? What right way is there for black women? Sounding the right way? I believe I pointed out exactly how nonconformist it is to say, as a black woman, to fuck the norms that would keep one down. Having the correct body? Please, you’re cracking me up with your total ignorance of the nature of body policing for WOC, particularly black women.

          So I’m not famous by any stretch of the imagination. But I do dance in public a lot, and you would not believe the ownership that people will take over bodies that they believe are on display to them.

          So the problem seems to be in the dancing, not the fame, right? Because if you and Beyonce are having the same problem, and you’re not famous and Beyonce is, then… fame is clearly not the common denominator, profession is.

        2. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune April 25, 2013 at 12:08 pm |

          Also, sorry, but I think this thread has the potential to enter #spillover territory and I’m going to bow out now. I feel like I’ve said everything I have to say.

        3. A4
          A4 April 25, 2013 at 12:09 pm |

          Ah I see this discussion is more about your dislike for me than the topic at hand, given your insistence on judging my life experiences based on your very slim knowledge of my identity.

          So the problem seems to be in the dancing, not the fame, right?

          Funnily enough I have no issues with unwanted attention and being recorded without my permission and publicly mocked when I’m dancing alone and out of site of other people. Must be the dancing though.

          LOL

        4. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune April 25, 2013 at 12:17 pm |

          A4, I don’t dislike you. I don’t take you seriously, but you defended trans-racial people and you think babies are organs. I’m not sure what seriousness you expect me to attach to anything you have to say? But I don’t dislike you.

          Also, if you’re a black woman (for reasons other than being “transethnic”), I sincerely apologise for assuming you weren’t a black woman.

          Also: you said “the problem with Y is X. I experience X even though I’m not Y”. So…X is not necessarily a follower of Y. I mean…logic.

      2. Donna L
        Donna L April 25, 2013 at 1:14 pm |

        I believe I have told you previously that I don’t appreciate it when you try to define my identity and experiences. You do not know me, or my family, or my history. I am very interested in hearing your understanding of your own experiences and life if you’d like to share them, but I do not give a shit about what you think my background lacks because you know nothing about it.

        A4, I really wish you’d stop playing this weaselly little game you like to play, in which you repeatedly imply that you shouldn’t be regarded as just another cis white man man pontificating about feminists and feminism and making pronouncements about who’s a bad role model for other women — but you never actually go so far as to claim affirmatively that you’re something other than a cis white man. If in fact that isn’t how you identify, and you don’t want people to continue to assume that that’s what you are, then say so. Until then, people are going to continue (entirely reasonably) to make assumptions based on the information you’ve given, and on what seems rather clear from the things you’ve written.

        1. A4
          A4 April 25, 2013 at 1:29 pm |

          Gosh I’m so unreasonable about insisting that my life experiences cannot be summed up and judged based on the input values of three generalized variables. How uncooperative and weaselly of me not to assist you in your reductive stereotyping of strangers on the internet.

          If you are to insist that Beyonce be held up as a role model in order to counter sexist and racist objections that she is a bad role model, you are still buying into the idea that Beyonce is an aspirational figure, which then becomes about judging whether Beyonce’s choices are good choices for everyone to make.

          This is stupid. Beyonce’s choices do not need to be good for everyone because she is not an elected political figure or an appointed judge. To require her to be a role model in order to justify her existence is a big part of why she receives such unreasonable scrutiny as a pop star who is a black woman. Attempting to shoehorn her into Feminist Role Model is a terrible idea, ineffective, and, as seen in this thread, will result in a lot of apologetics instead of critical discourse.

          The problem here is that people believe that their attention is a favor that is given and that judgement is the right they are justified in taking in return. This might work on the scale of a “normal” life and day to day interactions, but it becomes a crazy shitshow when elevated to the current realm of celebrity and our modern information infrastructures (internet, facebook, twitter, texting, etc). This compounds to an unbelievable level the effect of all oppressive norms for all people subject to the attention of the public.

        2. Li
          Li April 25, 2013 at 1:41 pm |

          I’m a cis white man on the internet, I routinely disclose those three aspects of my lived experience, and I still don’t actually face very much “reductive stereotyping” from other people on the internet. In fact, making those acknowledgements and then interrogating their implications has been core to resolving disagreements I’ve had with a number of other commenters on this site because our gendered and racialised experiences have informed the different kinds of political prioritisations we’ve made.

        3. Gillian
          Gillian April 25, 2013 at 2:09 pm |

          A4, this is in no way about you, so there’s no need to make it so.

          If you are to insist that Beyonce be held up as a role model in order to counter sexist and racist objections that she is a bad role model, you are still buying into the idea that Beyonce is an aspirational figure, which then becomes about judging whether Beyonce’s choices are good choices for everyone to make.

          Of course Beyonce is an aspirational figure. She’s wealthy, she’s popular, she’s a media figure and a very attractive and successful one. And since she is a media figure, she is going to be evaluated and judged. I’m much more concerned with whether those judgements are typical misogynist crap judging her clothes and her relationships, or whether we can talk about the choices she makes as an artist, a professional, and a business owner.

          Attempting to shoehorn her into Feminist Role Model is a terrible idea, ineffective, and, as seen in this thread, will result in a lot of apologetics instead of critical discourse.

          You are being offered critical discourse and have repeatedly rejected it in favor of a crass and relatively meaningless image politics, which is both a distraction and is, at heart, deeply and dangerously close to the standard misogynistic tropes with which all women in positions of leadership and power are attacked.

          Hillary Clinton is one of the most powerful and effective Secretaries of State we’ve had in recent years. A critical discourse on her term would evaluate the people she met with in relation to the deals she brokered, and the way in which she used both her image and her skills to make the world a safer and more peaceful place. Or we can swill about in the cesspool and complain about her wattle and her caftans. The same goes for Beyonce. A critical look at her praxis would have to fold in both her image and her activities and discuss the actual effect of her choices, not as a woman (to do so is profoundly unfeminist), but as a performer, and an employer of musicians and producers and roadies, and a spokesperson for causes, and a business owner. Or we can cluck over her lyrics and shake our heads over her clothing, as you seem to prefer. Frankly, I’ve got better things to do with my time.

  7. William
    William April 25, 2013 at 9:44 am |

    What a surprise, when you merely substitute the values around a core belief that women are property to be used for the satisfaction of your desires you display the same sense of entitlement as everyone else who views human beings as chattel of be exploited. Also shocking: both the target of the writer’s ire and the person they demand to do something about it “happen to be” black.

  8. Beyonce’s Clothes Do Not Create Sex Trafficking. Pimps Do. | PROGRESSIVE VOICES

    [...] Via Feministe, I present to you what may be the world’s worst understanding of what actually causes sex trafficking: [...]

  9. ChariD
    ChariD April 25, 2013 at 10:31 am |

    ::claps:: and swoons for Caperton. Awesome post. And I second that Beyonce is A Force of Nature.

  10. Gillian
    Gillian April 25, 2013 at 11:04 am |

    You know, Ms. Kumar, it’s also completely possible to dislike Beyonce’s music and persona and to be critical of its message while still managing not to get all judgy and start flinging around the shame. One of the promises of a more feminist society is less policing of the lives of women, not a transfer of such authority from society at large and men in particular to other women.

    We so often seem to fall into the trap of identity politics, and fall back to a heavy handed criticism that has more to do with taste than with technique.

    Don’t like Beyonce’s music or her image? That’s fine, everyone has a right to their own taste. I don’t like either much myself, really… I mean she is attractive and talented, but neither she nor her music does all that much for me, though I will say that it is a breath of fresh air to have the media promoting a woman with a body that is healthy, in that her shape owes as much to athleticism (just try doing some of that dancing yourself) as it does to good genes, as opposed to the starved, unnatural and unhealthy bodies of the typical preteen runway model.

    But whatever your thoughts about Beyonce’s style, it’s important not to lose sight of those things she does, which include being one of the few women out there willing to identify as feminist (and thanks, by the way, for throwing rhetorical rotten fruit at her, that’s totally a way to get more women to unashamedly proclaim their interest in equality). She’s also donated money, time and her own image to support various education, housing, nutrition and job programs.

    It’s not explicit in this particular content, but the issue of ethnicity always seems to waft through rhetorical attacks like this one in a way that makes me highly uneasy. I often hear critiques like this of figures like Beyonce and Shakira, whose physicality and sexuality is a large component of their work. Meanwhile, other performers like Katy Perry or Britney Spears or Lady Gaga are still served a measure of the slut shaming that seems to be par for the course in our culture, but don’t seem to get quite the same level of responsibility laid at their feet for (insert manic handwringing) being such a danger to the future of girls around the world. That, despite the fact that Beyonce, Shakira and (to be honest) Gaga actually do more through their charity work to provide real opportunities to those girls, while Perry and Spears seem to take a rather lackadaisical and perfunctory approach to charity, doing no more and in many cases much less than other performers and artists at their level.

    Which, again, is their right. No one has to give to charity, and it isn’t necessarily an indicator of bad character. But let’s temper the critique with a realistic and clear eyed assessment of what these women actually do with their wealth, as well as what they do to earn it.

    1. macavitykitsune
      macavitykitsune April 25, 2013 at 11:27 am |

      All of this!

      And yeah, I don’t like Beyonce’s music much, the little I’ve heard…? But I’m beginning to like her Because Fuck You Assholes And Your Fucking Fuckery.

      >_> Occasionally I get protective.

      1. EG
        EG April 25, 2013 at 11:41 am |

        Yeah; I’ve never much cared one way or the other, but the point is well made (my only caveat being that Spears has gotten shitloads of negative attention and trouble–in part because of her transition to a highly sexual persona, and in part because of her semi-public meltdown; but that just proves the point, really. Spears had to lose it in public to get the condemnation that’s being shown toward Beyonce.).

  11. Beyonce’s Clothes Do Not Create Sex Trafficking. Pimps Do. | Latestwire

    [...] Via Feministe, I present to you what may be the world’s worst understanding of what actually causes sex trafficking: [...]

  12. Emolee
    Emolee April 25, 2013 at 11:58 am |

    I’m writing because I think it’s time to stop suggesting to very young girls that ultimate feminine success — in the music industry or anywhere else — comes with the need, or the expectation for them to undress.

    Agreed, women should not be expected to undress in order to be successful. But you are saying that you expect them to *not* undress (or even dress sexy, because no one is actually nude here) in order to gain your approval.

    Saying that women *must* dress/act sexy, and saying that women *must not* dress/act sexy are equally bad. You can’t liberate anyone by simply giving them a different set of arbitrary limitations.

    1. jgantz
      jgantz April 26, 2013 at 2:28 pm |

      No..what was said was that “it’s time to stop suggesting” that young women MUST undress in order to be successful. Not sure where you got that other stuff.

      1. Emolee
        Emolee April 29, 2013 at 11:45 am |

        uh, from the article suggesting that Beyonce is causing sex trafficking of children by dressing sexy. If that is not implying that she should stop dressing sexy ASAP, I don’t know what is.

  13. A4
    A4 April 25, 2013 at 12:00 pm |

    ITT:

    I don’t know anything about Beyonce or her music, but here are my conclusive opinions about her image and her work

    Let me help!

    Oh baby, how you doing?
    You know I’m gonna cut right to the chase
    Some women were made but me, myself
    I like to think that I was created for a special purpose
    You know, what’s more special than you? You feel me

    ‘Cause when he acts up, that’s when you put it on Get him uptight, this is your song Hold out your back, time to impress Pull out your freakum dress

    You’ll never need 2, cuz I will be your number 1
    Them other chicks are superficial
    But I know you know I’m the one
    That’s why I’m all into you
    Cuz I can recognize that you know that
    That’s why I’m backin’ this thing back
    Pop, poppin’ this thing back
    Drop-drop-drop-dropping this thing back
    This is for the time, you gave me flowers
    For the world, that is ours
    For the mulah, for the power of love
    I know I won’t never ever eh-ever give you up
    And I wanna say thank you in case I don’t thank you enough
    A woman in the street and the freak in the you know what
    Sit back sit back it’s the pre game show
    Daddy you know what’s up

    ROLE MODEL!

    1. macavitykitsune
      macavitykitsune April 25, 2013 at 12:06 pm |

      OH NOEZ SEXUAL DESIRE. OH NOEZ THE EXACT SAME ROMANTIC TROPES DEAD WHITE GUYS HAVE SPOUTED FOR CENTURIES.

      Quote 1: Ooh, soulmates! Ew. I mean. Just ew. Soulmates. She might as well be talking about graphic anal sex. Doesn’t she know innocent children are listening?

      Quote 2: And ugh, undressing for your boyfriend in the context of a romantic relationship! Next she’ll be flashing him her ankles, the strumpet.

      Quote 3: HOW DARE THIS WOMAN. Doesn’t she know that men get to talk about showering their* women in gold, but women talking about liking it is awful? This is because women are property, but they’re not supposed to acknowledge it.

      1. A4
        A4 April 25, 2013 at 12:14 pm |

        Two wrongs: Still not making a right.

        You seem to have no problem objecting to these idea when the old white guys say them. Tropes I see because I’m not being a disingenuous ass:

        1) Women were created for men, who are special. Notable instances of this include the Bible creation story, in which woman is created to be “ozer” or “helper” to man.

        2) Is your boyfriend treating you poorly and acting like an asshole? You just need to make yourself hotter and better to win him back!

        3) I’m not like all those other terrible women! Caperton actually just put up an article about how harmful this rhetoric is.

        1. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune April 25, 2013 at 12:20 pm |

          You seem to have no problem objecting to these idea when the old white guys say them.

          Right, because critiquing power is exactly the same as kicking a multiply marginalised person repeatedly for daring to write a less-than-perfect lyric.

          Tropes I see because I’m not being a disingenuous ass:

          Ah, I see now this discussion is more about your dislike for me, given your tendency to randomly insult my intelligence and intentions.

          And sure, those tropes are problematic. I just don’t think they make Beyonce personally responsible for the sex trafficking of children. Do you? Because, I mean, your passionate defense of the article’s thesis suggests that you do. But I wouldn’t want to assume.

        2. Emolee
          Emolee April 25, 2013 at 12:36 pm |

          You seem to have no problem objecting to these idea when the old white guys say them.

          Are you seriously arguing that white men expressing these ideas is the *same thing* as a black woman doing so? I mean, cultural context matters.

          White men are the ones with privilege, the ones whose voices are heard as authoritative, the ones who originally generated these sexist ideas. While women, especially black women, are the ones oppressed by the patriarchy, the ones who are not listened to nearly as much, the ones who for so long could not have their own ideas about sexuality taken seriously.

          So, if a member of the oppressed class internalizes some of the sexist bull used to oppress her? That is not the same thing as a member of the privileged class continuing their oppression of *others.*

        3. A4
          A4 April 25, 2013 at 12:44 pm |

          your passionate defense of the article’s thesis suggests that you do. But I wouldn’t want to assume.

          You love to assume. You also love to make up other people’s intentions and life experiences based on extraordinarily narrow stereotypes. So before you make more vacuous claims about my position, let me state it clearly in small words for you to understand:

          Beyonce should not be subject to sexism and racism. People who do that suck. She is not, however, a good role model.

    2. Emolee
      Emolee April 25, 2013 at 12:28 pm |

      So, what I hear is Beyonce expressing her sexuality and her feelings for a partner (either real or imagined). While she does draw on some understandings of men and women and sex that are approved by patriarchal society, I don’t think this is inherently bad. What is bad is when society, or individual men, force or coerce women to adhere to these ideals. Beyonce is not mandating anything for anyone; she is singing about herself. Yes, it could add credence to these ideals. But she still has the right to express her sexuality as it feels right to her. And context is important, as many people pointed out, Beyonce is a black woman, so her being able to express herself as a sexual actor is itself progressive.

      So, while I wouldn’t use these lyrics as an example of perfect feminism, I wouldn’t use them as an example of anti-feminism either. And if we want to critique patriarchy supporting lyrics? There is a mountain of lyric sheets to start with before we get to hers.

    3. Gillian
      Gillian April 25, 2013 at 12:43 pm |

      But there’s nothing particular to Beyonce about any of this, I could go through the current Billboard list of top songs and pull out any amount of inanity and ridiculousness. It’s pop music, for f**k’s sake, who expects it to be high literature or art? That’s neither its place or its function. It’s mostly the musical equivalent of junk food – tasty but full of stuff we know is bad for us, and so ought to be consumed in moderation and with caution. (Which is not to say that some pop music isn’t both literary and artistic, only that tends to be the exception rather than the rule).

      And so being critical of it and its message is important, but that’s not the issue being raised here. The key question here is what makes all of this the sole responsibility and fault of Beyonce? Pop music and its attendant imagery isn’t being called into question here, it is the particular musical product and image of a specific pop star, which makes the motivation question very relevant here.

      Why Beyonce, a pop star who also proudly proclaims her identity as a mother and a wife and (to a degree) a feminist? Why Beyonce, who has put her money where her mouth is to help provide opportunities to those trying to get off of drugs and into productive careers, and to those who have been made homeless by extreme weather? Why Beyonce who employs far more women in her road crew and band than just about any other pop star I can think of? Why Beyonce, who started her own clothing line to feature the work of talented women like her mother, rather than just putting her name on a line of clothing or a fragrance made by an established company?

      There’s plenty out there to be critical of, but there is no way to look at this in which it makes sense that Beyonce is an example of the worst that pop and its performers has to offer.

      I don’t much like Beyonce’s music, but the more I learn about her, the more I think that she *IS* a role model, well worthy of emulation. The idea that the crap in her music is somehow so much more important than or overrides the real, significant work she does providing help and services and opportunities to women is questionable to me, as is the idea that she is somehow worse than the next three pop stars who can’t be bothered to give back to their fans and communities, or who haven’t done half as much to empower women by, you know, actually employing them.

      1. A4
        A4 April 25, 2013 at 12:52 pm |

        Yes. The media so heavily emphasize how wonderful beyonce is for her clothing line choices and charity work. She really highlighted those things in her movie that just came out (That I’m sure none of you watched). She really spread that message in her recent coke commercials.

        Look, the whole problem is that we EXPECT pop stars to be role models. They don’t need to be role models! They also don’t want to be role models! Just because the public has seized upon every action and aspect in their lives should not mean that they must therefore be perfect at all times. Combatting this inappropriate scrutiny by saying “NO SHE IS PERFECT THO” is not helping.

        1. Gillian
          Gillian April 25, 2013 at 1:34 pm |

          No one here is suggesting that she’s perfect. And no one here is defending the media portrayals of pop stars either.

          What most people here seem to be trying to point out is that the original letter writer has zir head up zir ass if zie thinks that Beyonce (and only Beyonce) is the one responsible for driving 13 year old girls into the arms of pimps and predators with her idiotic pop songs and spangly body stockings.

          In one sense you are correct, in that part of the problem is the expectation that pop stars are somehow different from and better than ordinary people. And I agree with you that they are just like all of us but with a whole lot more attention (with the attendant benefits and drawbacks of such attention).

          What you seem to be missing is that public people like pop stars have both an image and what can be (for lack of a better word) called a praxis, and that weighing both are important. Critiquing Beyonce’s image and her product are very important, and I personally think much of the music itself is crap even before you get to the messages it contains.

          But media criticism isn’t a zero sum game, it is actually possible to hold many ideas in your head at one time, and praxis counts. Beyonce sells Coke, Niki Minaj sells Adidas, big f***ing deal – pop stars sell music to get the fame to sell more music and lots of other crap to make money. Sure, it’s important to care about and critique that. But we’re mostly feminists here, and so we also care about what people actually do in concrete terms to support the issue of women’s equality, so it’s relevant to ask about it and weigh it with their image. Beyonce employs and educates and promotes women. Niki, not so much. Beyonce does that in spite of the fact that the media is not going to celebrate her for it, or produce feature films about it, and in spite of the fact that she’s going to get idiots like the original letter writer accusing her of being responsible for heinous crimes just because she sang a catchy pop lyric that resonated with people and therefore got paid to sing and dance at the Super Bowl.

          tl:dr
          If pop star A makes crappy pop music and struts around in clothes I don’t much like, and pop star B makes crappy pop music and struts around in clothes I don’t much like but also gives money to help women get educations and jobs, and employs women, treats them well and pays them a decent wage, I will defend pop star B as a fellow feminist doing good work no matter how crappy I think her music might be or how much I dislike her clothes.

        2. Gillian
          Gillian April 25, 2013 at 1:49 pm |

          My longer response seems to have gotten caught in moderation, so just a short one: I don’t see anyone here arguing that Beyonce is perfect, but neither is she and she alone responsible for the sexual objectification and exploitation of women in Western culture. And beyond that, her actual practices toward women (as a leader and an employer) are better than the average for her cohort of pop stars.

          The original letter writer seems to be the only one in this thread who thinks that Beyonce’s role in pop culture is as cut and dried as you are arguing.

        3. Fishing for Insults
          Fishing for Insults April 26, 2013 at 3:02 pm |

          She really highlighted those things in her movie that just came out (That I’m sure none of you watched).

          There you go again with your assumptions.

    4. miga
      miga April 26, 2013 at 12:30 am |

      Here’s some more!

      Tell me how you feel about this?
      Who would I want if I would wanna live
      I worked hard and sacrificed to get what I get
      Ladies, it ain’t easy bein’ independent

      Question, how’d you like this knowledge that I brought
      Braggin’ on that cash that he gave you is to front
      If you’re gonna brag make sure it’s your money you flaunt
      Depend on no one else to give you what you want

      The shoes on my feet, I’ve bought it
      The clothes I’m wearing, I’ve bought it
      The rock I’m rockin’, I’ve bought it
      ‘Cause I depend on me

      If I wanted the watch you’re wearin’, I’ll buy it
      The house I live in, I’ve bought it
      The car I’m driving, I’ve bought it
      I depend on me, I depend on me

      Also, from her new single

      I took some time to live my life
      but don’t think i’m just his little wife

      1. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune April 26, 2013 at 12:40 am |

        Yeah, no, she’s totally the black Ann Coulter. Or Debi Pearl. Or maybe Hitler!

  14. Emolee
    Emolee April 25, 2013 at 12:06 pm |

    sing songs for people on a stage whilst wearing sheer gold glitter bodysuits detailing the contours of their body

    Also, this really rubs me the wrong way. What is wrong with showing the contours of women’s bodies? I mean, they are just bodies that some human beings live in. They are not shameful or dangerous. And showing the shape of a woman’s body is not necessarily about sex, and the fact that the author makes that leap is telling. I mean, are people going to find Beyonce’s body sexy? Sure. But that is those people’s issue to manage, not Beyonce’s.

    1. Emolee
      Emolee April 25, 2013 at 12:11 pm |

      I want to add that when a woman chooses to show her body and it *is* about sex, that is ok, too.

    2. Barnacle Strumpet
      Barnacle Strumpet April 25, 2013 at 1:04 pm |

      I think the problem is that while a lot of people dislike sexualized singers (because of the whole “women’s bodies are eeeevil” crap) the flip side of the coin is that women often have to wear revealing clothes and have a sexy persona* in the music industry. It doesn’t matter if a bodysuit or a bikini is sexualized/sexy to the woman wearing it, the industry is all about exploiting the fact that people will find the singer sexy. So it kind of is Beyonce’s issue as well. If she didn’t have the right looks she wouldn’t be the celebrity she is today; and no, I’m not saying “Beyonce is only famous because of her looks!!!1″; what I am saying is that, even if she was the best singer in the world, she would have been blocked from achieving what she has achieved if she didn’t have marketable looks. And that’s a problem.

      So I guess what I am saying is, while I’m all for Beyonce’s right to wear sheer bodysuits and high heels, I’m bothered by the question of, has she been given the right to dress in frumpy, heavy, concealing clothes? I don’t think so.

      If doing so comes at the price of hurting her brand/marketability as a singer, then I can’t see it being a real choice that’s been given.

      In other words, is it feminist to celebrate your body when you’re not really given a choice to do anything but that?

      *And yeah there are ones like Taylor Swift, but that’s just yet another example of how singers have to play into some weird trope role for women for the industry to market.

      1. Emolee
        Emolee April 25, 2013 at 2:30 pm |

        So I guess what I am saying is, while I’m all for Beyonce’s right to wear sheer bodysuits and high heels, I’m bothered by the question of, has she been given the right to dress in frumpy, heavy, concealing clothes? I don’t think so.

        Agreed, totally. I just don’t think the correct response to this concern is to criticize Beyonce, or tell her she should cover up. The criticism should be aimed at the industry/culture creating the systemic problem, not one person abiding by the sexist rules she was given.

        1. Gillian
          Gillian April 25, 2013 at 2:40 pm |

          Absolutely, this. I’d agree with you both that it’s not just possible but imperative to question and heavily critique the culture which so relentlessly sexualizes women, and requires that they actively participate in such sexualization of themselves in order to succeed.

          Pretending that Swift, or Beyonce, or any of a number of women in pop have the option to simultaneously resist and reject the culture and still seek a top spot in it is naive at best, and attacking them for playing along in order to achieve their ambitions is myopic and often cruel. Better (at least in my opinion) to celebrate those who show some measure of intelligence and self-awareness, and seek to change the culture for the future and give back when they can.

  15. TomSims
    TomSims April 25, 2013 at 12:41 pm |

    Great post Caperton and I agree completely with you.

  16. Aaliyah
    Aaliyah April 25, 2013 at 12:43 pm |

    This reminded me of something very silly I watched a while ago. I remember watching a half-assed documentary about judgment day in Islam, and in it was a critique of Beyonce. It claimed that Beyonce was walking down the street in the music video for “Crazy in Love” because she was trying to tell kids to be a “street-walker” and so lead people “astray” (because there’s nothing more sinful than having pre-marital sex I guess). The logical takeaway lesson from that documentary is that any woman walking down the street is a prostitute because street-walker = prostitute.

    It also claimed that she is trying to control the minds of the youth as “Sasha Fierce” and that she has dissociative identity disorder.

    People are amusing.

    1. Aaliyah
      Aaliyah April 25, 2013 at 12:49 pm |

      Correction to my post in moderation: I didn’t mean to imply that child prostitution is benign. I meant to say that the documentary accused Beyonce of “enticing” teenagers to become prostitutes and/or have pre-marital sex. The idea that she’s doing either in the video is ridiculous, but I didn’t mean to say that child prostitution and consensual pre-marital sex are morally comparable. Sorry for the bad wording.

  17. Tim
    Tim April 25, 2013 at 12:45 pm |

    I’m surprised that neither Rakhi Kumar nor anyone on this thread so far mentioned that ZOMG!!! SHE VISITED CUBA!!!

    I mean, surely with a little imagination, Ms. Kumar could have come up with an anti-feminist, bad-role-model interpretation of that.

  18. Julian
    Julian April 25, 2013 at 1:12 pm |

    Im assuming Kumar is going to make a sternly worded post criticizing male entertainers for their songs about making money and being independent. Heck, Jay-z has made songs about that same subject, but apparently Kumar didn’t find that objectionable enough to write a article about

    1. Rhoanna
      Rhoanna April 25, 2013 at 2:16 pm |

      And those male singers and musicians who take their shirts off! So we see not just the contours of their bodies, but their actual bodies! The horror!

  19. karak
    karak April 25, 2013 at 1:44 pm |

    The reference to Beyonce having “her mouth open” onstage is really, really fucking creepy.

    Really creepy.

    1. Emolee
      Emolee April 25, 2013 at 2:34 pm |

      I had the same reaction. She is singing, ffs. Hard to do that with your mouth closed.

    2. Tyris
      Tyris April 25, 2013 at 3:06 pm |

      And how exactly would you sing with your mouth shut?

      1. Giraffe
        Giraffe April 25, 2013 at 3:37 pm |

        I suppose you could stop lip-syncing, but you’re right, it wouldn’t look too good.

      2. tinfoil hattie
        tinfoil hattie April 28, 2013 at 2:46 pm |

        “Beyonce hums her top hits! One night only!”

    3. Nico
      Nico April 26, 2013 at 4:38 pm |

      Very creepy. The article is a classic example of how conservative sex moralists contrive to exploit the very thing they pretend to condemn, lingering over the details: open mouth, nipples (3 times), sheer body suits (4 times), heels (2 times), trafficking (2 times), brothels, strip clubs, red light districts, “sex for sale…dispensed through a woman’s body,” “gratification of desire,” “sold for sex, beaten, and made addicted to drugs.” A catalog of sexual imagery that reads like the content requirements for a Lifetime move. Anti-porn as porn — building to a climax of the pornografication of the underage Obama daughters.

      What makes this one especially rich is that as unfeminist as the article is, and despite the fact that it contains no direct references to feminism, it freely (ostentatiously, really) deploys concerns and issues conventionally associated with feminism (complete with reference to a women becoming “an object”), and lends itself to a casual reading as a “feminist” piece. But though the word doesn’t appear in the text, it does appear in the tag collection at the top, a page-view generating mashedup conflation of sexee topix, all of it qualifying as “Entertainment News.”

      Beyonce Mrs Carter Show World Tour , Music Industry , Beyonce , Child Sex Trafficking , Child Sexual Exploitation , Feminism , First Lady , Leadership , Responsibility , Sex Trafficking , Sexual Exploitation , Women’s Leadership , Youth Leadership , UK Entertainment News

      Why is it every time I read HuffPo I want to wash my mind out with soap afterwards?

  20. A4
    A4 April 25, 2013 at 2:50 pm |

    Wait is anyone else here a Beyonce fan, or have you all studied her to understand her utility and significance to feminism?

    Anyone seen her movie she just put out?

    Do you like B’day, I am Sasha Fierce (Part 1 or part 2?), or 4? Got any favorite throwbacks from Destiny Child days? Maybe you prefer her earlier solo albums? Know all of the lyrics to any songs by heart?

    Do you have a favorite music video? Do you think the drag in Upgrade U is really cool and subversive? (I do!) Maybe you learned the Single Ladies dance?

    1. A4
      A4 April 25, 2013 at 2:51 pm |

      Not gonna lie I will probably listen to Beyonce for the rest of the day because of this discussion.

      1. A4
        A4 April 25, 2013 at 3:20 pm |

        Anyone have any sweet Beyonce remixes they want to share?

        1. Li
          Li April 26, 2013 at 1:50 pm |

          Ahem.

          Although seriously never going to get tired of Why Don’t You Love Me.

        2. A4
          A4 April 26, 2013 at 2:28 pm |

          Hahahaha! That is excellent

  21. pheenobarbidoll
    pheenobarbidoll April 25, 2013 at 3:36 pm |

    I don’t think she’s a role model, but only because I don’t think any celebs are or should be role models. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with admiring her talent or drive, because she has both in spades, but I really wish the celeb worship would fade away soon.

    1. Julian
      Julian April 25, 2013 at 9:12 pm |

      I agree with you so much. Everytime people are shocked at a entertainer not acting like a perfect role model, im like WELL DUH. The sooner people stop relying on entertainers to be role models the better.

    2. Willard
      Willard April 26, 2013 at 1:40 am |

      There needs to be a decoupling of role model from the current celebrity/athlete/leading-light definition. I really liked the phrase “aspirational figure” above. She’s set a bar, she’s achieved, her position and rewards are something to aim for.

      She is however, completely divorced from most of her fans day to day experiences, her path to that place is unique to her life, and honestly most people setting her up as a role model today aren’t going to get there. And that’s part and parcel of being a good role model, being able to provide an actionable path to a healthy place.

  22. Anna in PDX
    Anna in PDX April 25, 2013 at 7:13 pm |

    Seems like there would be a good discussion (not here, probably) about what constitutes a “role model” and how you would differentiate a good one from a bad one.

    I agree with the original post. I also sort of agree with the many people here saying that singers are not planning to be role models so how can we decide on a standard to hold them up against?

    I was listening to Nirvana the other day saying “teenage angst has been good for us” – were they good role models? Is it even productive or helpful to judge them on this?

    When entertainment is exploitative and that seems to sort of go with the territory, how do you judge individual actors in it?

    Anyhow, good post, thanks.

    1. Andie
      Andie April 26, 2013 at 8:25 pm |

      “teenaged angst has paid off well”

      /picky music fan

      1. Anna in PDX
        Anna in PDX April 29, 2013 at 3:39 pm |

        Ha ha! I was quoting it from memory. Thanks.

  23. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve April 25, 2013 at 7:58 pm |

    Since when does a role model have to be perfect? My parents were my role models and they were far from perfect.

  24. Nanani
    Nanani April 25, 2013 at 9:18 pm |

    Am I the only one seriously creeped out by the leap from “encouraging girls to make money” to “SEX TRAFFICKING!” ?

    It sounds like that letter-writer seriously believes the only way women can make money is through prostitution. Like, women can’t possibly have any other worth in society, so encouraging women to make money is BAD! HIDE YOUR DAUGHTER!

    Creepy. as. fuck.

    1. macavitykitsune
      macavitykitsune April 26, 2013 at 9:56 am |

      Nanani, thank you for that CANNOT UNSEE first thing in the morning. No, I’d missed that, but you’re right. And also ewwwwwww.

  25. FYouMudFlaps
    FYouMudFlaps April 25, 2013 at 11:24 pm |

    Well honestly, Beyonce is kind of overexposed and just not that talented. Just one person’s opinion obviously. Going deeper than that, she’s a whitewashed black woman who made (or at least launched) a career for being “bootylicious.” Effectively, Kim Kardashian who has a mediocre singing voice treacly enough to play in the mall. And due to the overexposure and “inoffensiveness” of the product, it’s as if one is required to like her. AND her arguably most famous song consists of her talking to men over a catchy beat calling them pus**** for not proposing.

    So yeah, Beyonce, “Female Nice Guy” Taylor Swift, etc… not too surprising when people get sick of them and denote them overrated.

    1. A4
      A4 April 26, 2013 at 7:59 am |

      All other dramz aside, I think the most appropriate response to this

      she’s a whitewashed black woman who made (or at least launched) a career for being “bootylicious.”

      Is MacavityKitsune’s first comment on this thread

      Breaking: black woman does thing. THIS IS AWFUL.

      Beyonce wanted to be at the TOP. She did what she needed to be successful. She is allowed to do that without you saying she’s doing blackness wrong.

  26. FYouMudFlaps
    FYouMudFlaps April 25, 2013 at 11:31 pm |

    Just for reference, Ke$ha is a pop star I admire. She is a declared Feminist and is on record stating she styles many of her songs and lyrics purposely to stand up to gender norms. Plus she just seems more of her own person whose songs seem real and less manufactured. I mean it’s Pop so the wiggle room for that is thin, but she at least tries.

    1. A4
      A4 April 26, 2013 at 8:07 am |

      Ke$ha is a pop star I admire

      she just seems more of her own person whose songs seem real and less manufactured. I mean it’s Pop so the wiggle room for that is thin, but she at least tries.

      How in the world can you be like “Beyonce is a bad pop star because she’s not that talented” and “Ke$ha is such a super authentic pop star” at the same time?

      Did you know that they use the same manufacturing process to produce all pop songs?

      And uh, let me quote the latest Ke$ha single:

      I hear your heart beat to the beat of the drums
      Oh what a shame that you came here with someone
      so while you’re here in my arms
      let’s make the most of the night like we’re gonna die young
      we’re gonna die young
      we’re gonna die young
      we’re gonna die young

      Everyone here can talk about how lyrics aren’t important and they prefer to compare pop stars on the metric of Feminist Praxis that I Approve Of, but the reality is that millions of young people will chant along with these lyrics and internalize their meanings. The LAST thing I wanna be singing is “we’re gonna die young”.

    2. Barnacle Strumpet
      Barnacle Strumpet April 26, 2013 at 2:35 pm |

      Oh, you mean Ke$sha of “I just can’t date a dude with a vag” lyrics?

      Is that what passes for “standing up to” gender norms? Because it sounds a lot more like propping them up.

    3. RichardVW
      RichardVW April 26, 2013 at 4:32 pm |

      No offense intended to anyone who prefers Ke$ha to Beyoncé, but Beyoncé is emphatically the better vocalist insofar as there are specific vocal qualities that virtually everyone recognizes as “skillful singing”. The two of them really aren’t even in the same league. I realize that you didn’t necessarily say otherwise, but I don’t think it’s fair to say “Beyoncé’s voice is mediocre treacle”, then proceed to praise Ke$ha with little more than “she’s good for a pop musician” as criticism.

  27. jgantz
    jgantz April 26, 2013 at 4:57 pm |

    [Caperton], on your points:

    1 – This is a pretty minor one, but she does indeed wear sheer bodysuits (google image it). Including one that featured fake nipples, which I understood the letter author was alluding to, not her actual nipples. She could’ve made it this clearer, but she does not say ‘HER NIPPLES’ she just says nipples…on display..which was true, regardless of whether they were fake or real.

    2 – Again, the original author of the letter could have written it clearer but I did not think she was implying that Beyonce is solely responsible for 13-yr old girls being driven into the arms of pimps. It’s true, Beyonce did marry Mr ‘Big Pimpin’, but to immediately conflate these issues to save the reign of Queen Bey, makes you, Gillian sound obliviously star struck and little, and less like the thoughtful writer I expect to read on Feministe.

    3 – As the FLOTUS, Michelle Obama is expected to maintain a pristine image — both domestically and internationally — and an endorsement from her carries a lot of weight, obviously. The Obamas may have received significant campaign contributions from Bey-Z, but that does not mean they should publicly trumpet them as much as they have done. Why not trumpet Pepsi too? Or McDonalds? Or Walmart? Beyonce too is a brand at the end of the day and by endorsing her as a ‘role model’ of all things our President and the FLOTUS expose themselves to any liability caused by her butt shaking on TV or by Jay-Z’s boasting proclivities — which, as we’ve just seen, landed Obama in hot water recently all because Jay-Z claimed to have White House clearance and a private conversation with our President..you know..the guy who’s dealing with Afghanistan and our economy and all. Praising celebrities as ‘role models’ or providing them with any endorsement at all frankly cheapens our executive office. It makes us look stupid and if Jayonce can get that for a few million dollars, imagine what China can do? If I were the Chinese government I would be laughing so hard right now.

    Ok what else, ah…

    4 – You sound especially angry on making this point on finding someone else to ‘trash’. As you know, we have freedom of speech in this country, so we can express our opinions on topics big like War and small like Beyonce as much as we want. I haven’t really heard the media deify Britney or Lady Gaga et al, nor have our first couple praised either of them as a ‘role model’, actually…but Beyonce is “The Queen”, remember? Doesn’t it make sense to fry the biggest fish? Also, while indulging in this Queen business, Beyonce promotes herself as one with female empowerment…it’s very much a part of her brand. This makes for spectacular marketing, but let’s not be gullible, it also targets her for feminist deconstruction (is she..or isn’t she?). Why be ambivalent on being a ‘feminist’, Feministe? Why sing about girls ruling the world (which we don’t) on all fours while wiggling your butt? Cause it’s her damn right as a feminist!

    Right?

    In that case, would you say that Playboy gives girls a feminist outlet to express their sexuality? And Girls Gone Wild? What if they say they do, as Hugh Hefner actually has regarding Playboy? And I suppose strip clubs can claim this too, because their owners/patrons — being the feminists that they are — offer women an actual stage on which to writhe (like Beyonce, ha) and express their sexuality. I’m not saying Beyonce = porn, but she definitely borrows her moves from strippers and even some of her lyrics from the sex industry .. ie, from videophone “What? You want me naked? If you liking this position you can tape it” Yes, with teenagers sexting, Beyonce still sings these lyrics, worthy of a feminist icon in your eyes, and as a role model in the FLOTUS’s, no? She did it cause it sells and she’s only a pop star at the end of the day. The $ is all she cares about really, and I can’t blame her for it, but I won’t be blinded by her lip service and glossy marketing either. Then again, nor would I pillorize someone for addressing the FLOTUS on her poor judgment, but I guess we differ.

    5 – A 5th point, based on other comments — The assumption that Beyonce is attacked because she is black is very, very racist. It denies the complexity of her carefully crafted public persona. Madonna has been attacked since the 1980s and there’s plenty of feminist discourse on her iconography. Then again, neither Reagan or Bush Sr paraded her as a role model. See the difference?

    Note, I’m a card carrying liberal woman of color, who is significantly younger than Beyonce and fits right in her demographic. I have younger sisters, and as long as I’m alive I’ll always fight for them to uphold high standards in every facet of their life, as I imagine parents do. And Beyonce just doesn’t make the cut, as a role model or a feminist. Maybe she does for you, or for ladies in her age group and older that are not her target market. But when I’m that age I’ll prob see today’s Beyonce as even sillier as I do now. I’m fine waving her away, still when it comes to my younger sisters I have to take a stand. Beyonce is not the alpha omega, and it’s insulting that we “should” look up to her. We young women of color (and note, Rakhi Kumar herself sounds like a woman of color) deserve better.

    1. A4
      A4 April 26, 2013 at 6:02 pm |

      Right on!

    2. Nico
      Nico April 27, 2013 at 5:42 pm |

      @jgantz I don’t agree with every word of your post but I think you’re getting at important issues that tend to get glossed over, so thanks for that.

      There’s a lot of hypocrisy and double- if not triple-standardizing that gets flung around when feminism attempts to process sexualized pop culture. It’s especially difficult when a generally sex-positive feminism tries to engage with an article like Kumar’s that, while never once using the word, is shot through with rhetoric and concerns that out in the everyday world will *sound* like “feminism,” though drawn from and inflected with a mostly old school “sex-negative” (or whatever the opposite of sex-positive is) feminist model. The instinct is to ridicule and trash both the article and the author — an instinct I share — but the overreaching kitchen-sink idiocy of the original piece all but insures that the trashing employs oversimplifying rhetoric that too easily reads like a blanket “defense” of practices that, when raised in another context, would get a far more nuanced and considered treatment.

      Both the original piece and the response come across as opportunistic piggybacking on Beyonce’s tour, with all sides using Beyonce’s cultural currency (at an all-time high and rising; good for her!) to buy some cultural currency of their own, fully sidestepping, as you put it, “the complexity of her carefully crafted public persona” and that, without denying her any agency in developing her persona (is there any doubt that Beyonce is the CEO of Beyonce Inc?) doesn’t automatically assume that the actual components of her persona line up in any coherent way with feminist theory or feminist practice — or with anything other than Beyonce’s aesthetic whims, which is exactly as it must be for an artist.

      It’s that same reactive opportunism to the pop culture calendar, and the need to keep the traffic flowing, that is transforming feminism from a political movement into an entertainment genre. Ideally it should be able to function, with equal effectiveness, as both. That’s the feminism I long to see awaken from its premature slumber.

      I’m not saying Beyonce = porn, but she definitely borrows her moves from strippers and even some of her lyrics from the sex industry

      I’m don’t know if this has been noted anywhere. But while so much attention has been paid to how B uses J’s name in her “The Mrs. Carter Show World Tour” (a name I admire for its provocation even as it makes me gag), it’s also worth noting that “Show World” is the name of a peep show/porn palce that used to anchor the XXX businesses of NYC’s Times Square area at 42nd Street and 8th Avenue, a major tourist attraction right across the street from the Port Authority Bus Terminal. I find that not a little amusing. I wonder if anyone in Queen B’s brain trust was aware of that.

    3. tinfoil hattie
      tinfoil hattie April 28, 2013 at 2:49 pm |

      I like this comment. Very good points. I’m not a fan of “expressing sexuality as feminism” because women cannot, in a patriarchy, express our sexuality absent sexism.

      1. Protagoras
        Protagoras April 28, 2013 at 3:21 pm |

        There’s not much period that women can do in a patriarchy without sexism, without unfortunate implications of one kind or another. Coming up with long lists of things women can’t do because sexism doesn’t seem like a particularly wonderful alternative to sexism, though; it seems to be just imposing yet another no-win situation on women who already get plenty of those from the patriarchy. I’m not a fan of forms of feminism that make themselves indistinguishable from slut-shaming.

        1. tinfoil hattie
          tinfoil hattie April 29, 2013 at 3:46 am |

          No “long list” needed. Women can’t do anything freely in patriarchy.

  28. jgantz
    jgantz April 26, 2013 at 5:02 pm |

    Ha! I referred to you in my comment as [one name other than your byline on this blog] but I meant to refer to you as [another name other than your byline on this blog]. Sorry! Apart from this comic relief, know my comments were 100% directed at you, the author of this post.

    1. tigtog
      tigtog April 26, 2013 at 6:23 pm | *

      ?

      The author of this post is Caperton.

      1. jgantz
        jgantz April 26, 2013 at 6:28 pm |

        [Comment deleted by moderator]
        [Netiquette note: on blogs, you refer to posters and commentors using the name they've used on the blog. That avoids confusion for other readers. ~ tt]

  29. With Love
    With Love April 26, 2013 at 7:09 pm |

    that would be husband Shawn Knowles-Carter

    The idea that Jay-Z took Beyonce’s last name seems to be more rumor than fact.

    1. Nico
      Nico April 26, 2013 at 7:45 pm |

      That’s correct. AFAICT, this rumor first surfaced in December 2009. I collected these links on it at the time.

      http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Did_Jay-Z_change_his_last_name_to_Carter-Knowles_after_marrying_Beyonce

      http://www.blackbookmag.com/nightlife/jay-z-beyonce-merge-last-names-1.34907

      http://www.theboombox.com/2009/12/28/jay-z-beyonce-to-take-each-others-last-names/

      I so wanted to believe it was true. The symbolic power would be enormous.

      Other than when the John Lennon added Ono to his 3 birth names when he and Yoko Ono got married, I’m unaware of any other high-profile instances when this has been done.

      C’mon, do it, Jay! Complicate the picture. The first show of the US leg of Bey’s Mrs. Carter tour would be the perfect opportunity.

      Maybe a petition should be started.

    2. jgantz
      jgantz April 26, 2013 at 7:49 pm |

      I too heard that was a rumor. Would someone who raps “I’ve got that hot b* in my home” actually take that hot b*’s last name? Doesn’t matter if that hot b* is actually the renown (but reluctantly) feminist icon Beyonce. Note, in her handwritten announcement introducing Blue Ivy she signed off “The Carter Family”, not “The Knowles-Carter Family”.

  30. With Love
    With Love April 26, 2013 at 7:42 pm |

    Unless you think it would be really cool for Sasha or Malia to follow her example and sing songs for people on a stage whilst wearing sheer gold glitter bodysuits detailing the contours of their body, under the management of their daddy and/or their husband.

    Beyonce did start out under her father’s management (at age 15, I believe), but at some point after going solo she began to manage her own career. Jay-Z is not now, and never was, her manager.

    Maybe the question should be: Would it be “really cool” for other people to follow Beyonce’s example in seeking independence and managing her own career?

    1. jgantz
      jgantz April 26, 2013 at 8:03 pm |

      Ok, let’s say Beyonce is the only one at the helm of her career (without Jay-Z). I believe she does deserve to be applauded for that. But have you also noticed that since she’s broken out on her own, more clothes have been shed while musical quality has gone down (‘Bow Down’..seriously??)? Her dad had groomed her to be demure and classy, which combined with her beautiful looks and (mediocre) talent, shot her into global superstardom. Her dad groomed her actually to be the role model the Obamas want to see her as, yet she acts more and more like Rihanna, and remember who manages that one? Refusing to wear pants and trying to jack Rihanna’s swag aren’t necessarily bad things, but they are different from the Beyonce we met years ago. And typically female artists get less risque after getting married/having a baby; to make this kind of progression at this point smells of desperation. Or you can call it feminism (see my longer post above), whatever makes you feel better.

      1. With Love
        With Love April 26, 2013 at 10:39 pm |

        Ok, let’s say Beyonce is the only one at the helm of her career (without Jay-Z).

        Yes, let’s, because she is.

        since she’s broken out on her own, more clothes have been shed

        She’s older and more independent. She might feel more confident and comfortable in her body.

        Her dad had groomed her to be demure and classy

        Demure?

        Talking about how her father groomed her to be demure makes her seem very much like an object, a pet, something to be owned and controlled. Particularly by a man.

        In another sentence, you say again:

        Her dad groomed her

        You could talk instead about how her parents (she has two) taught her certain values, but this repeated daddy-grooming has negative, sexist connotations.

        yet she acts more and more like Rihanna, and remember who manages that one?

        You’re referring to an adult woman as “that one?” Maybe just use “her” next time.

        Refusing to wear pants and trying to jack Rihanna’s swag aren’t necessarily bad things, but they are different from the Beyonce we met years ago.

        This sentence boils down to: Beyonce’s changing. Beyonce’s different. If she isn’t even changing in negative ways (not “necessarily bad things”), then what’s the complaint?

        And typically female artists get less risque after getting married/having a baby; to make this kind of progression at this point smells of desperation.

        She’s doing things differently from other people you’re used to. How dare she.

        Maybe she’s fighting back against the stereotype that once a woman becomes a mother, she loses her sexuality. The term “MILF” came about because the societal norm is a mother without sex appeal. Beyonce proves that mothers are/can be sexy and that mothers can be confident in their post-partum bodies.

        1. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune April 27, 2013 at 5:58 pm |

          this repeated daddy-grooming has negative, sexist connotations.

          Not to mention creepy-ass incest vibes, considering the other meaning of ‘grooming’ as a term.

          jgantz, you’ve got some legitimate points, but your choice of phrasing is really weird to me.

        2. jgantz
          jgantz April 27, 2013 at 9:40 pm |

          I selected the word ‘grooming’ because that best fits the Beyonce I’ve practically grown up with. The same one who years ago, to my adolescent hurrah, said she wouldn’t be seen with her butt/boobs out, and sang Nasty Girl with DC. Unless someone here knows her personally, the only thing we can really comment on is her image/persona, which has been carefully cultivated and groomed, yes, groomed, pageant-style into the person we see today .. it started with simple butt bouncing err “dancing”, this graduated to intensified gyrating, and now she’s getting down on all fours, and the like — all under the banner of female empowerment. What changed? Is it because she’s now more comfortable with her body and, like a Dove commercial, has cast away clothes in celebration of the feminine? With pants now rejected for years, she casts away her top too and shows underboob on the cover of GQ since it’s common knowledge GQ is more feminist than Feministe. And why not, obviously Beyonce is in post partum/sexy mommy bliss. Or is it because less clothes = higher ratings, or put blankly, sex sells — and Beyonce pushes a lot of product? Maybe it’s both, but I think it’s naive to take the money part out of the equation. Sure, plenty pop stars do it, and these are not things she should be judged on…except, going back to the original topic of discussion, and the only reason I even started commented here…when we thinking people of America evaluate the Obamas’ decision to uphold her as a role model for young girls. Do we nod yes because she waves the flag of feminism, so clearly she believes in it! Or do we actually use our eyes to see and our brains to think?

          I tell my younger sisters to do the latter. And the reason I question whether she’s even fully in charge of her management is because I’ve never heard her articulate an opinion on anything of substance. Even when asked on the topic of feminism, a relatively easy pitch, she stammers because it may stir controversy and then bizarrely interjects something about ‘but I love my husband’. Why say that, does feminism = manhating?Do men not like that word? But feminism = crotch thrusting, right, which men love, got it, thanks. The image comes before anything and everything, even the music, hence ‘Bow Down B*tches’, the inaugural lipsynch, the ban on professional photography and that tripe of a documentary which promised a glimpse of the real Beyonce, who just may be as shallow as her image after all…fine for her, but sorry Obamas and Caperton, still not a good role model for my younger sisters.

      2. Nico
        Nico April 28, 2013 at 10:10 pm |

        I think the word “groomed” perfectly fits the situation. I DO see how the incest vibe and, I’ll add, the pedophile vibe, give the word some seriously creepy overtones. But I think that as harsh as those overtones might be, some of them are in fact appropriate.

        The creepy aspect of “groomed” comes from the fact that it refers to a process where a young person is groomed and cultivated by an older authority figure for the purposes of their sexual exploitation. It typically means that the child is being groomed to perform sexually with the groomer, as in a pedophilic or incestuous relationship, and that is clearly not the case here. The fact remains that Beyonce, and the other women of DC, were carefully and methodically prepared by both her father (as manager) and her mother (as stylist/fashion coordinator) for what in this case was a culturally approved form of sexualized exploitation, as show biz entertainers. That might seem to be a stretch, but finding the word groomed to be creepy and to be giving off an incest vibe has already set that stretch in motion.

        This might get a little uncomfortable but let’s look at it more closely.

        It’s a critical piece of The Legend of Beyonce that she and DC were initially managed by her father who in concert with her mother oversaw and signed-off on the development of the group’s image. Beyonce became the family business. The Knowles’ were entrepreneurs in a fine American tradition of stage parents.

        That knowledge is fully part of the Destiny’s Child creation myth and continues to resonate in all kinds of complex ways within the cultural meaning of “Beyonce,” and one undeniable component of that complexity is the highly charged idea of a father’s management and promotion of the commercial sexualization of his daughter (daughters, in fact) and several other young women. That sounds creepy alright, with a definite “incest vibe,” at least a symbolic level, but should we pretend it’s not in operation, or that some residue of that meaning doesn’t still circulate in the meaning of “Beyonce” today? I use quotes around her name because we’re not simply talking about a person but a cultural entity that transcends the flesh and blood woman who happens to embody that entity. If that sounds like objectification, it’s because that’s what the star-maker machinery does: it turns out stars, as cultural objects, and Beyonce has turned out extraordinarily well.

        Later on, these same creepy facts of the Beyonce legend and myth added depth to the meaning of her much publicized and admired severing of her business relationship with her father, a vital component of her image and meaning as an Independent Woman, enacting her own liberation. That’s powerful and admirable stuff. It’s also feminist stuff, or can be when viewed in the in the right light. All of this, both the creepiness and the celebration of the fierce independent survivor, are bound together in the meaning of this extraordinary woman, and as creepy and uncomfortable as it might be to lay it out this way, that tension is what underwrites the iconic power of “Beyonce.” It’s a huge part of why she matters.

        I am not in any way attributing any bad motives or actions to her parents, just saying that the knowledge of parental exploitation, whether explicitly acknowledged or kept comfortably out of mind, is always part of the creepy draw and meaning-image of most if not all teen and child stars, the girls especially (Britney, Lindsay, Xtina, Taylor, yup, even Taylor), though not exclusively (the Bieb is overripe for a good feminist/queer deconstruction), and that some of that meaning survives into their adult careers if they’re lucky (or unlucky) enough to have an adult career. It’s probably fortunate for Bey that she didn’t really enter the scene until she was somewhat older than the above did, which maybe helps account for how she has so been able to ride the rocket farther and more skillfully than most. But that’s also why she matters.

        Teen sex symbols are always a little creepy. That’s what we (the collective “we”) like about them and why we demand an endless supply of fresh blood, and why teen sex and sexualization is always a hot topic.

        Groomed? Cultivated? Let’s call it what it is, creepy vibes included.

  31. FYouMudFlaps
    FYouMudFlaps April 27, 2013 at 3:36 am |

    Ah, damn it! I consider(ed) myself a Kesha fan but that “Grow a Pear” song is WRETCHED. That is like a shitstorm of misogyny and internalized misogyny.

    Outside of that, she IS on the record saying she is Feminist and “addresses guys in songs the way they address girls in songs.” So MOST of her songs are self-aware and even acknowledge Male Gaze which is on a different plane than most pop figures. But that song damn near ruined it for me.

    1. With Love
      With Love April 27, 2013 at 3:04 pm |

      self-aware and even acknowledge Male Gaze

      Christina Aguilera comes to mind.

  32. Gwen
    Gwen April 27, 2013 at 8:25 pm |

    You are entitled to your opinion whether it be short or long. Lol. It is not that serious.

    1. jgantz
      jgantz April 28, 2013 at 4:07 pm |

      Haha, good point:) On to the next..exit strategy from Afghanistan?

  33. Links Round-up | ShoutOut! JMU
    Links Round-up | ShoutOut! JMU April 28, 2013 at 9:58 am |

    [...] regarding college sexual assault, and why she isn’t happy about it. ElFeministo found this post from Feministe stepping up for Beyonce and putting perspective on her compared to other women in the [...]

  34. Scissors
    Scissors May 5, 2013 at 12:09 pm |

    Whew!

    But frankly speaking this presidency needs to tone down its association with both Beyonce AND JayZ ,or any other celebrity for that matter. The recent debacle with the vacation in Cuba is a case in point.Celebrity in the 21st century is cult-like. Beyonce has followers, she’s like a religion. Politics works best when seperated from cult-like figures and religion because they have no basis in fact but instead feed into the public’s emotions,desires and beliefs.

    It becomes precarious when celebrities are considered role models simply because they are popular, rich and famous. If we are going to pick and choose role models then do it from a less riskier group of people than celebrities because if that celebrity is involved in something questionable it could cause embarassment all round, and that’s putting it very mildly.12 months ago Lance Armstrong was a wonderful role model, so was Tiger Woods not a long while ago. Who really knows what Beyonce and JayZ get up to besides the two of them? Not Michelle, not me, not you, not the author of that letter. NOBODY!!!

    True the author of that letter is heaping too much blame on Beyonce but the gist of the letter rings true… these are not role models, they are merely famous celebrities. Stop shoving them in our faces, promoting them at any given opportunity and trying to convince the public to like them as well. The public should decide for itself whom it considers good role models. I would pick my parents, teachers and people from the community who helped raise me. Not the founder of Bootyliciousness! No matter how independent she is.

    Sidebar: Do Sasha and Malia like Beyonce? Does anybody know? Maybe they prefer other artists like Solange, Michelle Williams or LeToya Luckett? I know I do. I just like them more because they seem more down to Earth. Michelle Williams sings gospel music and has an amazing soulful voice.Those of you who have encountered Queen Bey fairly recentlymight wanna revisit the history of how Destiny’s Child actually came about, then we can all run the whole gamut again. Do we want this person as a role model?

  35. The Sexchronicles » Beyonce's Clothes Do Not Create Sex Trafficking … – The Raw Story

    [...] Via Feministe, I present to you what may be the world’s worst understanding of what actually causes sex trafficking: [...]

  36. Beyonce’s Clothes Do Not Create Sex Trafficking. Pimps Do. | News on Modern Day Slavery

    [...] Via Feministe, I present to you what may be the world’s worst understanding of what actually causes sex trafficking: [...]

Comments are closed.

The commenting period has expired for this post. If you wish to re-open the discussion, please do so in the latest Open Thread.