The Beyoncé culture is nothing new. Sadly, neither is the scripted response.
– My grandfather… and every other grandfather in the history of grandfathers
I do not enjoy football. I can’t wrap my mind around what would drive someone to watch 20 seconds of action, followed by two minutes of people standing around, swinging their arms about. As a mother of six children under the age of 12, I see enough of this sort of thing at home – get us uniforms, have someone do running commentary, and we’ve got ourselves a football game. (We’ll take the multi-million dollar contracts too, OK?)
All this is to say that I don’t get into the whole Super Bowl excitement that appeals to others around me. Between the game, the commercials and the parties, it seems like most people have something to hook them into the extravaganza, but alas! – not me.
So it was with some amount of puzzlement that I read my social media feeds the next morning. There was a pitch to the outcry about the content of the commercials and halftime show that I haven’t heard in years, with the majority of these complaints directed at Beyoncé’s performance.
You know Beyoncé, right? The woman who brought you such tunes as “Bootylicious” and strutted her way through her “Single Ladies” video clad only in a leotard and high heels? Yes, that’s the one. I wondered what she could have done to create such an uproar, so I asked my husband, who does like football and who does watch the Super Bowl.
He shrugged. “She just did what she does. She wore fishnets and a piece of leather and danced through a sub-par vocal performance. It was just… Beyoncé.”
In other words, what you got from Beyoncé was exactly what you’ve come to expect from her – nothing new. Nothing new from her, nothing new from the Super Bowl. But to hear some of the responses, you’d think we’d reached some watershed moment in our sexualized culture, and that Beyoncé’s pelvic thrusting and leather leotard was singlehandedly responsible for the decline of Western Civilization.
My five-year old has an extremely rich imagination. His inner life is so complex that it’s often exasperating trying to get him to converse with people outside his head. (In fact, as I’m writing this, he’s run past me three times yelling, “The sparkles are glittering!” while nodding his head in agreement to this statement. Only God knows what’s going on in there.)
It’s his job to unload the dishwasher. Three times a day he’s expected to remove the dishes from the machine, put them in the general area they belong, and if you could do this without breaking too many, that would be great, yes? A simple, age-appropriate job.
On a good day, it takes him 30 minutes. On a bad day, it takes over an hour. He sings songs to spoons. He lays on the floor under the dishwasher door to make faces at himself in the reflection. He imbues the coffee mugs with family structures, cultural norms, and opinions.
“See this mug?” he says to me, holding out a particularly chipped cup, the victim of one too many falls. I nod my head. “This striped mug does not ever want tea in it. Ever. But this mug,” he holds out a second mug for my inspection, “this polka dot mug will let tea in it, but it doesn’t like it much.”
I stare at him for a long moment. “I see. How do you know this?” He looks at me, puzzled by my question.
“Because polka dots are circles, and circles are soft and nice. Stripes have mean edges, so they won’t hold the tea if they don’t want to.” Then he turns, puts both mugs away, and goes back to the dishwasher, muttering to himself.
This is my five-year old. He is what he is. My husband and I try to keep our temper during the marathon dish unloading sessions, because yelling at him seems as cruel and pointless as yelling at a caterpillar for not becoming a butterfly fast enough. Instead, we keep redirecting him back on task, over and over and over until he’s done and free until the next round.
One day, while the boy was milking the lunch dishes past the 45-minute mark, all hell broke lose in the living room. Simultaneously, an open jar of peanut butter was found under the couch, two feet of pencil scribbles were discovered on the wall, and the ten-year-old was being yelled at for turning a ten-problem math assignment into a three-day affair.
It was a bad scene: there was lots of yelling and arguing and the sound of a plastic jar of peanut butter hitting the floor as someone dropped it on the way to the pantry.
I ducked out of there and went to check on our dish unloader. He was standing by the sink, a single fork in his hand, staring off into the distance.
“Baby,” I said, in a voice heavy with annoyance, “just finish. Do your job! You don’t want to be stuck here doing the dishes all day, do you? Don’t you want to come be with the family?”
He shook his head solemnly. “I don’t want to go out there,” he said, “everyone is so mad. I’ll just get yelled at for how long I took to get done. Plus, I was the one who left the peanut butter out.”
I thought about that conversation as I read the reactions to Beyoncé’s act, most of which were vile in content and spirit. There were the predictable ones about how it didn’t matter how she performed, as long as she looked good doing it. That type of thing is to be expected – when sex becomes a commodity, it will be cheapened beyond recognition.
But more discouraging still were the reactions from Christians. “Whore” was used a lot, as were adjectives like “disgusting” and “nauseating”. So many hurtful words heaped upon a woman doing what she’d been doing for years, no different from many other women in the entertainment industry. She was just Beyoncé being Beyoncé, but for some reason, it was the Super Bowl performance that unleashed a social media firestorm.
Were her actions good? Beautiful? Pure? No, not particularly. Did her act affirm her God-given dignity as a human being made in his image? Nope.
But, like my slothful son who needs to learn a better work ethic than the one he’s currently displaying, yelling and name-calling is never an effective tactic to inspire conversion. Could Beyoncé, like the culture at large, benefit from embracing modesty? Yes. Is calling someone a whore going to convince her of this?
I’ve got an easily distracted five-year-old who could give you the answer to that one.
Cari Donaldson is a wife, homeschooling mother of six, and maker of pretty mean sandwiches. When her tiny overlords allow it, she blogs at Clan Donaldson.
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