Open Season on Mrs. Carter

ImageIs anyone else really sick of people ragging on Beyonce, or is it just me?

I’m not saying you have to like her music, or like her as a person, but let’s take a look at her accomplishments:

There’s plenty more where that came from, but even if there wasn’t I would say that Beyonce Giselle Knowles-Carter is a very accomplished, multi-talented, influential and admirable person.

This is one of the reasons why I get particularly annoyed when I happen to come across things like this letter that Rakhi Kumar has written to Michelle Obama about Beyonce not being a good role model for her daughters, Sasha and Malia Obama.

Rakhi Kumar’s complaint starts with her objection to one of Beyonce’s outfits at the Mrs. Carter World Tour, which apparently consists of a sheer bodysuit with the nipples showing. Because I haven’t been to the show, and because there are people commenting saying that her nipples were not showing, I won’t comment on that. But I will say that it’s a bit ironic that Kumar was so bothered by the costume and the ‘misogynistic implications’ that it represented, because the fact that Beyonce’s performance was belittled to what she was wearing can be read as misogynistic as well.

Also, a sidenote: Why do people have such a problem with nipples? Last time I checked, all humans, regardless of gender, had nipples? What about them makes them overtly sexual? They are used FOR FEEDING CHILDREN. As soon as nipples are revealed, they are instantly assumed to be there for a man’s gratification, and if they are revealed for breastfeeding, it’s ‘indecent’. Feeding infants naturally is indecent now?

But I digress. My point is, automatically rendering any woman’s body parts overtly sexual… sexualizes women. And apparently, women aren’t supposed to be sexy in order to be good role models. Or at least that is the case according to Rakhi Kumar.

At one point in the letter, Kumar says:

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.

This is a debate that comes up a lot in discussions about rape culture. There is an idea that women who wear revealing clothing are ‘asking to be raped’ or ‘asking for sex.’ Because apparently women don’t dress for themselves- they dress to attract or repulse men. So by wearing clothing that is revealing, Beyonce is making herself ‘sexually available.’ I wish it was obvious to people why that is an extremely flawed philosophy, but apparently not. So just to make it clear: women are people. People should have the right to wear what they want and not be judged for it. As far as I’m concerned, a woman should be able to walk down the street naked and not have someone touch her without her permission. If a man can walk down the street shirtless and we can just assume he’s hot, and a woman can’t because that’s indecent exposure and she’s inviting rape, that says more about our assumptions and who we are than it does about the man and woman in question.

Kumar also says later on in the letter:

And it’s time that young girls were sent a different message. A more refined, intelligent message. A message that engaged them at the level of their intellect and potential because implicit in 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.

I’m sorry, since when is someone’s intellect based on their appearance? Because Beyonce isn’t wearing enough clothing for your standards, she isn’t smart or strong or capable? Beyonce won every single award she has because you could see her nipples through her bodysuit?

Kumar even points out that Beyonce is the one who chooses to do it! You don’t have to agree with Beyonce’s choice, you don’t have to like it. But to tell the First Lady of the United States that she is not choosing the right role models for her children because you don’t like Beyonce’s clothing is absurd. The fact that Kumar refuses to acknowledge Beyonce’s talent as an artist and musician because of a sheer bodysuit is playing right into the idea that a woman can be defined by what she wears. And the fact that Kumar feels the need to criticize an aspect of Michelle Obama’s child-rearing reminds me of Jaclyn Friedman’s piece last year on GOOD, telling Beyonce and Jay-Z how to raise Blue Ivy Carter.

In a broader scope, I tend to feel icky when people feel the need to tell influential, successful Black people how to raise their children. I also don’t like the idea of Beyonce being judged by her outfits, because I feel like Black women are simultaneously oversexualized and desexualized, and that there is another anti-Black political message in judging what Black women wear and what effect that has on their body and their sexuality. But that’s another post for another day.

I conclude this by saying: Leave Beyonce alone! Let her live her life and celebrate her accomplishments the way she wants to, please stop overcriticizing every little thing she does. No one is a perfect human being- that includes celebrities, and that includes her. Before Kumar judges someone else for not being a good role model, she should make sure she is one too- and so far, I’m not feeling the messages she has for young women.

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