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April 27, 2013  | by: Kelly Hanelt
Flickr (selmatenkmann)

Flickr (selmatenkmann)

 

There is a lot of uncertainty in the world. At times it seems life is little more than an ever-fluctuating state of limbo where down is up and up is off somewhere in the distance, toying with your dreams and sanity like child’s play. However, despite all the folly, there are two things we know to be true. Two tiny little factions of truth, stalwart and steady as they ground us in reality. 1) Michelle Obama’s judgment. 2) Beyonce’s fierceness. That was, until these very two things were brought to question and swiftly condemned in a very public letter… 

“Next time you’re presented with a shortlist of people in popular culture who you should spend time with or commend, think about how many young girls want to be just like Beyonce: Beyonce who sings ‘Bow Down Bitch’ and wears sheer bodysuits and high heels, singing about making money and being independent.”

So Rakhi Kumar presented the facts in an open letter to Michelle Obama about her decision to declare Beyonce as a role model for her daughters. Kumar continued,

“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 as long as she is, we are feeding a demonic myth that women must make themselves sexually available to enjoy ultimate success. And it is demonic because the impact this myth has on those most vulnerable young girls who fall pray to, is unimaginably horrible.”

If you’re a fan of Beyonce, which I definitely am, I bet I can guess your reaction right now…

STOP THE PRESSES.

Flickr (blackurbanite)

Flickr (blackurbanite)

Twitter (@CallumJames27)

Twitter (@CallumJames27)

 

Such was my immediate reaction. How could anyone condemn Beyonce, the ultimate icon of female empowerment, as a bad role model? When did embracing, or even acknowledging sexuality become such a crime? Are our stars expected to act sexless or else risk losing their message and influence to those who refuse to see anything past cleavage?

After some contemplation, I began to see Kumar’s point. It isn’t Beyonce so much as it is the current pop culture landscape. Subtlety had its moment and left, aggressively shouldered out by the sexmoneypower mentality that so dominates our culture. This isn’t Beyonce’s doing, her fault, or her byproduct. But it is her world, and she is among the most easy to identify and crucify because she not only represents this bombastic stardom, she embraces it.

While Kumar had a point about pop culture, and even to some degree about Beyonce, her aim was misguided. A majority of the complaint was centered around a bodysuit she wears during her Mrs. Carter tour that features sequined nipples. Crude? Obviously. A legitimate comparison to child sex trafficking? Hardly.

Kumar’s decision was to write as if Beyonce’s bodysuits and the hypersexualized celebrity image are the instigators of prostitution and child sex trafficking in this country. I wouldn’t be so naive as to say that children, especially those alone, vulnerable, and without role models are not affected by the sexual image Beyonce and other stars promote. But to locate this as the genesis of their corruption, especially in the context of sex trafficking and prostitution, is hopelessly narrow-minded.

Beyonce is and always has been a good role model. She is sexy. She sings about sex. She dances provocatively. Yes. But she is also married and a mother. She was in a committed relationship for seven years before getting engaged. She has and promotes a strong relationship with her mother and her sister. She loves and praises other women. She shows the strength of feminism without aggression. She is graceful and grateful for everything she has been given and worked for. Her music empowers. She is a product of the current music scene, but she is also defining it for future artists. To lose sight of all of this positivity in the glare of one questionable sequined bodysuit? That seems pointless to me.

What do you think of Beyonce as a role model?

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