A few days ago, I saw this letter on Facebook, saying that the First Lady said that Beyoncè is a fine role model for her kids. I don't disagree with the First Lady and here is why:
First of all, the members of the First Family are personal friends of Beyonce and Jay-Z. They know each other PERSONALLY. What we must remember is that what the public sees of Beyoncè is a persona. It is no different than the role that an actor portrays. It is no different than a businessman's poker face bluff. It is her job! And who are we to criticize her for being the best at what she does.
The real issue lies in what it takes for her to be the best, in what the industry offers, but most importantly in what WE expect (or accept). Yes, her persona perpetuates the misogynistic view that women must sexually exploit themselves in order to achieve success. The problem is that she has actually had to do this. The problem is that her sexuality is what catapulted her to stardom. The problem is that the fewer clothes women wear, the better off they generally are.
The problem is that wielding sexuality does enable women to advance professionally. It sets them apart. When I first started teaching, I remember a fellow teacher who fooled around with several coworkers. (I offer this to establish a pattern of promiscuity.). She was quite aggressive and very pretty. I wouldn't call her a great teacher, but I will say that she understood the politics, which for women can include sexuality. Five years later, she was chosen for a promotion over a much more knowledgeable, but married, candidate. Then rumors and allegations about the superintendent cheating on his wife surfaced. You connect the dots.
And this happens too often. And we want to blame these women who played the game. And we sit complacently, expecting them to be the catalysts for change that we are not. And we want to judge the personas they portray. And that is my last "and."
Now for the "buts."
- But women are too often reduced to sexual creatures as the writer of the letter did. He didn't highlight any of her successes. He focused solely on the fact that she is oversexed. I remember as a young girl talking about singers whose voices were too good for them to be naked. Destiny's Child was always a part of thewe discussions. Beyoncè has worked hard in vocal training and fitness routines to have a pretty extraordinary voice. (If you don't believe me, check out her old stuff.)
- But, as men play political games with sex, women will play back. Beyoncè is just playing the game by the rules set forth. Why are you angry with her for winning at the game? She didn't make the rules.
- But this is a persona and a job! As I said at the start of this post, the first family know her and her family personally. They know her. Are you the same person at work as you are at home with the family and your friends? Emphatically, no! Between us and Beyoncè, it is just business. She is going to get hers. But that is not her PERSONALLY. From what I can tell, she is quite admirable as a person. She has been in a monogamous relationship for my entire adult life. She is financially stable and able to care for her child. She has a family about whom she cares deeply. She is a businesswoman, and a darn good one to boot! I have never seen any Beyoncè sex tapes, Playboy spreads, -Gone Wild, etc. I have never heard of her crazy, drunken bar brawls. I have never heard of her doing drugs. Sounds like a pretty wholesome figure when you factor out her career persona. I mean who is a better role model, Martha Stewart?
- The final but is that she is a grown woman. There are things that grown women can do that kids cannot! If she wants to wear a nipple suit, just let me know so my kid is not there! If she wants to shake what her mama gave her, just let me know so I can keep my kid from watching it. And the truth is that my kid will see it eventually. The important thing is that I have the necessary conversations with my children so that they understand what they are seeing. I remember watching R-Rated movies with my mother as a young child. She would either fast-forward past inappropriate scenes, send me out of the room, or explain them.
I will close by saying that we only see Beyoncè's business face which she uses as she plays by the rules in a game that needs to be fixed. If you take away her on stage persona, Beyoncè may be a good role model. Regular people separate business from personal and still think that they are good people, why don't we think that Personal Beyoncè is different from Business Beyoncè? Michelle Obama knows Personal Beyoncè, who is likely a wonderful person and fit to be any young girls' role model. I wish she would show this side more, but she has to make hard decisions just as any business person does. But let's not confuse her persona/business face with her personality as we make assert actions about whether she is a good role model.
I challenge anyone to find Beyoncè doing anything outside of "just business" that would make her a bad role model. I don't think you can.
What is more, I challenge you to stand up and start calling all of the people out in your personal life who have done anything in their work life that adversely affected people and their families and called it business. Otherwise, leave Beyoncè and the First Lady alone.