I Don’t Think You’re Ready for This: Beyoncé’s SuperBowl Halftime Show

Posted on February 5, 2013

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Many of you know that I have a younger sister named Rose who I love dearly. Perhaps many of you don’t know the extent to which my life is inspired by her. For example, one of the largest reasons that I write on this blog is so that I can try to find the right words to share with my sister. From the day she was born, every time I have hit a struggle like body image or doubt, I have wondered, “How should I talk to Rose about this someday when it’s her turn?”

I believe words are powerful. When I talk to Rose about concepts like body image, I want to fill in the gaps of language and not just use the words provided to me by the culture.

Lessons about modesty and lessons about body image are inextricably linked. The words that are used to teach about modesty can either teach a woman that she is valuable, in control of her own body, and worthy of respect, or that her body is something to be ashamed and afraid of.

For example, if I teach Rose, “Don’t cause men to stumble by dressing immodestly,” I am subtly using rhetoric to teach her that she must think of her body in reference to men. That phrase teaches her that she can cause or not cause men to “stumble,” that she is the cause of inappropriate attention or advances made towards her, and that it is her job to protect men from her body.

I don’t think this is true. Instead, I think that our society is saturated with violence against women, and that the main issue is not the way Rose does or does not dress, but the way she will respond to a culture that teaches her that (sexual) violence against women is okay.

So instead, I talk to Rose about respecting her body. This means that when (not if) that inappropriate attention or behavior is directed her way, she will be empowered to own her own body and not think that something she has worn or something she has done gave her rights to her body away. She will also still feel free to approach God in these times, knowing that, “therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” (Romans 8:1) and that “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you“ (James 1:5).

God does not condemn or find fault with a woman who is perceived by other people as sexual. It is important to me that Rose knows that as she looks at herself and as she looks at other women. This is why I try to be so careful with words. For more of my thoughts on this subject, see link #1 below.

There is a corresponding theory called the Mute Group Theory that points out many of the experiences and words that our language is completely missing as the result of a language manufactured by groups that are in power. There is a hypothesis called the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis that states that our experience is limited by our vocabulary: if we don’t have a word for something in our culture, it doesn’t exist. If we do have a word for something, even a fictitious idea, the word nevertheless provides the culture with a symbol for a common reference (think for example of the Loch Ness Monster). This is why I believe words are powerful. The words we do say, and the words we do not say.

And I have come to the conclusion that our language has not given us a word for Beyoncé.

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Beyoncé is powerful, talented, rich, black, and female. She is assertive, a singer, a dancer, a wife and a mother. She is strong, prolific, award-winning, and as much a daughter of God as you and me. She is also imperfect. Somehow this complicated persona that is full of so many positives has been boiled down to one word that I have seen posted on blogs and facebook statuses for the last two days: SLUT.

I was horrified when I read this article and those like it: “Watching Beyonce’s Halftime Show with Kids Raised Eyebrows, Questions” (like #2 below). Do we truly think it is more appropriate to teach our daughters to use the word “slutty” in reference to other women than it is to let them see Beyoncé perform during Halftime?

Last night, Beyonce sang original lyrics, she danced, she reunited with her friends, and she performed in an all-female show. What does it teach our young women that the main conversation after all of this is about what she was wearing?!

Let’s get words like “slut” out of our culture so that they no longer exist, and let’s think of new and better words to discuss women like Beyoncé: complicated people with both good and bad qualities worth sifting through with care.

As my fellow blogger said in a post worth reading (link #3), “This is to women with young daughters, who hear every tsk tsk and “We need more role models, not scantily dressed women on stage!” you utter. Because you are the main role model, and at this very moment, you are teaching them how to treat other women.”

Some good follow up questions for children who saw the SuperBowl halftime show:

  1. What are some positive words that you like to use to describe other girls? What are some of these positive words that apply to Beyoncé?
  2. You’re right, Beyoncé is a very [positive adjective they used, i.e. powerful] woman. What are some things that you will want to do someday when you are a [powerful] woman?
  3. (If they mention Beyoncé’s outfit) What kind of fun outfit would you think Mom/your sister/female role model would wear in the same situation? What would you want to wear that is different from what Beyoncé wore?
  4. What would you want to talk about if you got to be in front of such a large crowd?

Linked Articles (sorry my linky tool wasn’t working tonight):

1. https://abelovedone.wordpress.com/2010/11/03/i-dont-believe-in-sluts/

2. http://www.today.com/moms/watching-beyonces-halftime-show-kids-raised-eyebrows-questions-1B8242498

3. http://thesimplecountrylife.com/2013/02/04/a-letter-to-beyonce-and-those-she-offended/

 

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