February 5, 2013

Beyonce and cheerleaders and studies, oh my!

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?

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  • Reply life in eden {amy} February 5, 2013 at 5:10 pm

    omg — I let the groceries sit and the frozen things get melty just to watch that whole thing! that was hysterical. what a spectacular group of men! and the mops at the end had me busting up!

    and for what it’s worth, I thought the Beyonce performance was pitiful. not just for all the sexist gender related issues — but it was just plain not good. she really didn’t SING much at all. and the sound mixing was bad in parts. just disappointing on so many levels.

  • Reply Melanie February 5, 2013 at 5:34 pm

    During the half-time show I commented to my little gathering that Beyonce truly always seems to wear some version of the same thing. She has a fantastic body, there is no doubt, but it certainly is predictable. My group thought her performance was fine, but it wasn’t until I looked on FB and twitter and the next morning tv shows that I realized the rest of the world thought it was fantastic. I still don’t know what I missed or why everyone else was so impressed.

  • Reply Shari February 5, 2013 at 6:19 pm

    Those guys are amazing. Has this gone viral? It’s completely brilliant.

    • Reply Shari February 5, 2013 at 6:19 pm

      or are we, as a country, Call Me Maybe-d out? (I can hope, can’t I?)

  • Reply Catherine February 5, 2013 at 9:03 pm

    I don’t watch football OR television (except, of course, Downton Abbey online) so I guess I’m not properly desensitized to our culture or something. But I did happen to watch the game AND the half time show and I was a bit shocked and appalled at the over the top show of “masculine” and “feminine.” I really thought we had moved further than grunting, aggressive, scowling men and half naked/half lacy women trying to pack as many sexualized references into each second of body movement as possible. Both were so in my face I couldn’t really focus on anything else. I told my husband that I can’t speak for the football players but its clear from a brief look at her that Beyonce is an intelligent woman (not to mention an excellent business woman) and yet, in 2013, we are still on square one of the definition of “male” and “female.” Very disappointing.

  • Reply Catherine February 5, 2013 at 9:16 pm

    I’m reading the article now, which is good. Shame on me for listening to NPR so much, because it seems I really am totally out of touch with culture by about 50 years… ahead. I can’t believe this is news?

    “the researchers concluded that differences between men and women were best seen as dimensional rather than categorical. In other words, the differences between men and women should be viewed as a matter of degree rather than a sign of consistent differences between two distinct groups.”

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