I got an email yesterday from someone who was appalled by Beyonce’s performance at the Super Bowl. Here’s what she wrote: “Really, does a beautiful and talented woman really think she needs to resort to wearing a negligee and gyrate in front of a the largest EVER audience of men, teenage boys and young boys!!??? She has an amazing voice and all I saw or heard was her booty.”
I didn’t watch the Super Bowl. I find football unbearably dull (sorry, Chris). But I did watch a bit of the halftime show on YouTube after getting this email, and I certainly see my friend’s point. It’s not like it’s a concert here; this is a sporting event featuring men, and instead of showing off her talent, she’s feeding into a sexualized notion of women.
It’s not just Beyonce (I can’t figure out how to do the little accent thingy), of course. After all our progress and two female Secretaries of State and the fact that one of my sons just assumes every doctor he sees will be female at this point and Merida and Bronies, we still subscribe to stereotypes of what is appropriate for each gender. There is an important study that just came out saying that men and women are not actually psychologically distinct, yet here we are slotting people. (Go read that link, for realz.) This is incredibly injurious to people who push the edges of gender, but it’s also injurious to the rest of us because it limits our options.
What would happen, I wonder, if a man did what Beyonce did on stage? Or if women were out there playing football? Or, if, say, men stationed in Afghanistan did the same dance as the Miami Dolphins Cheerleaders?