Monday, 11 February 2013

Miscellaneous Mondays: Beyoncé Edition

For weeks, the Internet has been buzzing over Beyoncé’s Super Bowl performance. Before the show, a poll showed that 51% of Bravo viewers thought that the singer, despite not actually playing in the game, would win the match. Still, Beyoncé faced something of an uphill battle, following a much-criticized lip-syncing performance at the presidential inauguration. Even after proving that she could, in fact, outperform any of her detractors while singing the national anthem live, it was obvious that many viewers had their phasers set to “roast.”

Everyone had an opinion, and we’ve found four that you might enjoy reading or watching.

The first concerns Beyoncé’s all-female band, a major change from the usual all-male outfits that populate stages at pop performances across the country. The singer has said that she started the ten-piece band, called “The Sugar Mamas,” in order to provide role models for girls who want to play instruments. Commenting on the establishment of this group in a BlogHer post, an anonymous writer suggests that the group is definite step in the right direction:
“This act, I think is absolutely feminist, to include these amazing women, because as I have stated before, if you don’t make note of women, to include them, they won’t be included, and they will become invisible to the point that we think it is ‘strange’ to see so many of them in a band.”

In another article, David Henson argues that those who saw the performance as a sexual display misread it. Instead, he claims that Beyoncé was using the half-time show, usually governed by the hegemonic structures of patriarchy and capitalism, to fight against the objectifying male gaze:
“So here, in the midst of commercials and a culture that objectified women and their bodies and in the middle of a sports spectacle that construes power in terms of violence, Beyoncé began her performance by upending the narrative. As she walked the length of the stage, Beyoncé showed more power in a handful of purposeful, defiant strides than both sports teams had during the entire first half. In short, during those few steps, walking as a woman, Beyoncé declared ownership of that stage -- that stadium -- and, more importantly, claimed ownership of her own body in the most misogynist and objectifying four hours of mass culture.”
You should also check out Henson’s follow-up article, prompted by the conversation in the comments.

In a less positive take on the performance, social psychologist Dr. Christena Cleveland contends that it is the very hegemonic structures that Henson claims Beyoncé defies that allowed her to “own” that stage in the first place:
“As ‘powerful’ as she appeared on stage, Beyonce was still subject to the stringent rules and standards that white men set for black women.  All other things (e.g., talent) being equal, she was only given ‘power’ because she happens to be the kind of black woman that white men like and because she was sure to ‘perform’ in a way that would be pleasing to them.  To be blunt, she was treated like a 21st century ‘house nigger’ whose value will never outlast the duration of an erection.”
Again, it’s worth your time to check out Dr. Cleveland’s addendum.

Finally, while guest-hosting The Rachel Maddow Show, Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry confronted the concept of “blame.” Was Beyoncé’s fierceness responsible for the power outage that followed her show? Was her outfit to blame for the moral degradation of millions of viewers? Dr. Harris-Perry links this issue back to the power of time-worn narratives:
“Feel free to debate and disagree about the aesthetic, musical, or artistic value of Beyoncé’s performance. But once you start blaming electrical engineering failures of moral disintegration on a thirty-one-year-old, married mom and businesswoman with an enviable pair of thighs, you have entered into mythological woman-blaming. You know, like the story of Pandora, a woman who opens a box that unleashes sadness and misfortune onto the world, or of Eve, another woman, who ate that apple and brought sin to all humanity? Now it’s Beyoncé and her bootyliciousness that will make it unsafe for American children to enjoy the brain-crushing performative violence of Sunday afternoon football, punctuated by Go Daddy commercials. Right.”
Her own self-titled show airs on weekends on MSNBC, and she often focuses on women’s issues.

So, sit back, relax, maybe put on a little “Run the World (Girls)” and enjoy.

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