She is only slightly more role model-esque than three of the four reality stars ironically gracing the current cover of Vibe. Let’s keep it funky, folks: Beyoncé’s talent — the one that’s made her a multimillionaire and a household name — is the ability to habitually line-step on the Madonna-whore dichotomy. That is to say, she has mastered the art of moving her tush like a stripper and her hips like a porn star, and she still manages to be perceived as a lady and some sort of feminist. Women who have done the same or less have faced more criticism.
Her lyrics fluctuate between empowerment lite and sending women nearly back to the June Cleaver dark ages. For every “Me, Myself and I,” “Irreplaceable” or “Love on Top,” there are songs like “Cater 2 U,” where Bey (during her Destiny’s Child days) does everything for her man, from untying his shoestrings to offering a manicure.
There’s also “Run the World (Girls),” which sounds pro-woman at first, but the lyrics, combined with the video, seem to say that a woman’s real power lies in her ability to persuade a man to action by enticing him with what lies between her thick thighs. (She undercuts the come-on slightly by saying, “F–k you, pay me.”) And then there’s “Ring the Alarm,” which is pure Birdism 101. Bey sing-shouts in her special way about not leaving a cheating man because she doesn’t want to lose (or have another woman gain) access to expensive material goods purchased by her significant other.
Consider a few of Beyoncé’s performances/publicity stunts (and I’m scratching the surface here), like the time she sang “Ave Maria” at the 2009 BET Awards while scantily clad in an outfit from Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” days. Or the entire year she didn’t wear pants while promoting B’Day. Or how she showed up to the Met Ball (aka the East Coast Oscars) in May wearing a dress that literally showed her ass.
This is the person with whom the first lady wants to trade places?!
For a woman of Michelle Obama’s caliber to uplift Beyoncé as a role model, and to speak of swapping lives with her, sends a damaging, demeaning and dangerous message to women and girls. It says that despite education and intellect, grace and power, what really matters is our looks, our willingness to submit and our ability to swivel our hips to sexually satisfy the opposite sex. We hear that message loud and clear every time a reality show airs. We don’t need to hear it from our first lady, too.