We began with a shaded peak up her skirt, she struts out and then lays down for us, she brings her girlfriends, touches herself, moves her hips, takes full control, serenades, brings more friends, turns up the energy, looks us in the eyes, she’s sweating now, gets a little kinky, we are in ecstasy, heads are spinning, it is our Destiny, three in one, they have always been there, everyone follows, our hopeful bride, our queen, we raise our hands to her, she gives us poetry, soul of a goddess, there are fireworks, she gives a blessing, it is finished.
Let me put to rest some immediate misconceptions. One, I do not think Beyoncé is an evil seductress. Two, I do not think her performance should be censored from primetime network television. Three, I do not think soulful dancing is fundamentally sinful and therefore to be avoided at all costs. Let me explain.
Regarding the latter point, suggestive dancing has for a long time been a hot topic among those outside the mainstream. I put it this way because, despite the chuckles people receive when they question the appropriateness of certain dance forms, it continues to be a debate in traditionally conservative homes. Sure there is an extreme which labels all dance to be a precursor to sex and so in order to be sure, it is better to refrain completely. This doesn’t work for everyone. For most cultures, dance is a defining mode of celebration as is apparent in the vast diversity of dance forms. I would agree with the fundamentalists that it is often a precursor to sex, or better yet, a culturally acceptable means of courtship. Even in the most conservative of Ballroom dances, it is a place where partners move together in rhythm while in close proximity, in a safe and entertaining way. Since we marry and reproduce, we must court, and dance is often an expression of this.
From very early on in American culture, African-American dance has been a target of distrust. The soulful and vibrant nature of dancing in the black community looks far too suggestive to some European cultures. The hips move, legs stomp, and heads are thrown back. This is much different than the Waltz which many other cultures would not even recognize as dancing. But there is a language in the dance not being translated and many attempts have translated African influenced dance into inappropriate and sexually suggestive movements; as I said before dance is most certainly a safe mating ritual and while those dancing the Waltz would look at Soulful dancing as dangerous, fundamentalist Southern Baptists would see the Waltz the same way. There is no problem in the style of dance but in how it is being interpreted.
I saw a lot of comments on the internet saying Beyonce’s performance should not be viewable on primetime network television because of the suggestive material. For some reason the Super Bowl has become a place where debate about acceptable cultural practices is taking place. Well the reasons are actually very clear. The Super Bowl is the celebration and magnification of the quintessential American Ideals. Physical strength and hard work are elevated while the biggest and strongest male athletes compete for the greatest prize in sports. Capitalism and material wealth are lifted up with the “best” of our advertisers competing for the pocket books of American consumers. Sexuality and liberty are front stage when the halftime show puts on a spectacular display of musical entertainment for everyone to see. Power, wealth, and sex, drive our culture- if you don’t believe me, look at all the major headlines of the past few years and they will fall into one of these categories- and the Super Bowl is the Christmas, Passover, May Day, gladiatorial circus, of the Modern American cult of worship. For this reason, Beyonce will not be censored; whether the show was appropriate or not is moot. Arguing for the elimination of sexually suggestive Halftime shows will get you nowhere except the loony bin because it is heretical toward the public sphere. Besides, we have freedom of expression.
For these reasons Beyonce is not an evil seductress and attempts to label her in such a way are misguided at best. She is a beautifully and talented woman. She is hard working and dedicated. She is a devoted mother and saved herself for her husband. But was her halftime performance at the Super Bowl too sexually explicit? Conservative minded men are often first to make this accusation. Radically fundamentalist men take this accusation and turn it into a way to oppress and abuse women. Does this mean the conservative and the radical are inseparable? I don’t believe so. Very easily the comparison to oppression of women is brought up when women are asked to “cover up”. There are extreme examples, and it is of course wrong (when the extreme happens). There is a time when attitudes toward female beauty become fearful which is damaging, but there are times when men ask for modesty because they want respect. Respect for the fact that they struggle with sexual urges, and physically dominating, sexual images make that struggle difficult for even the most civilized men– i.e. Bill Clinton.
With some exceptions, physically sexual desire is the urge men deal with. Again with some exceptions, women deal with emotional sexual urges. For a man to exploit this, by gaining the trust of a woman for his own gains, physically or socially, would be disrespectful and even abusive to women. The argument that women must control these urges in order for them to be “civilized” is neglecting very real problems. In both cases, deception is employed. Women deceive men with their physically suggestive beauty, and men deceive women with emotionally suggestive security.
In all honesty we cannot determine for anyone else whether or not Beyonce crossed the line of appropriateness in our culture. I watched the Halftime show a day later with my wife. She found the production of the show incredible- the choreography, the wardrobe, the set pieces. As I sat there and watched it with her, she did not worry about its appropriateness, which is usually a good determining factor for me. But then there was my reaction, perhaps a better determining factor for myself, which saw who is arguably the most beautiful women in the world strutting around stage with no pants, sweating and shaking. I would lie if this did not elicit a sexual desire in me—something I struggle with. Maybe the best answer for me personally would be to simply change the channel for a few minutes.