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.
When Beyonce kicked off her Mrs. Carter Show World Tour two nights ago, wearing her sheer bodysuit with nipples showing, to me she performed the final degradation of her talent…
…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.
Because for as long as she is, we are feeding a demonic myth that women must make themselves sexually available to enjoy ultimate success.
via Yahoo! Shine.
beauty and race questions the premises:
The fundamental question at the heart of the article is whether or not sexuality can be a source of empowerment. Surly, looking at male artists (particularly in the hypermasculine genres of rap and rock), there is also an expectation of sexualization among male artists; one only need look as far as the album cover of The Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers. Even then, the sexual freedom of the days of classic rock has been succeeded by a much more rigid brand of masculinity in many forms of contemporary music.
This comparison begs the essential question: Was the sexuality of classic rock and rap necessary for the success of artists like The Stones or Akon, similar to the claims Kumar makes about Beyonce? Or, was it simply a facet of those particular artists, and therefore not generalizable to the genre or times as a whole?
The problem with strict reversals is that the difference between men and women is sexual in nature: men and women have different sexual needs, problems, and “sexual builds”. The equation “Beyonce = Mick Jagger” is problematic if it starts with the assumption that the relationships in question are interchangeable. They’re probably not.
Note the distinction between the verbs “to use” and “to be used”. A woman in her undergarments is perceived as offering herself, making herself available. Is this offer really the same as the offer made by a male artist?
The desire to be equal should not lead us to ignore distinctions that might be relevant. The real world is where the equality has to exist, or else it’s not equality at all.
Today’s pop culture embraces talent but also skin and too many artists succumb to making their bodies as much a part of their performances as their artistic abilities.