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Wednesday
Feb062013

Beyoncé Owns It at the SuperBowl

By Lucinda Holt

As a child, I can remember being admonished in subtle and not-so subtle ways—especially by people like my grandmother—to represent the race well through how I did in school, spoke and carried myself. The pressure of Dont embarrass us was ever present as I was growing up, and part of not embarrassing us was always being seen as respectable and never sexual. The last thing you wanted to do as a black girl or woman was feed into the already hyper-sexualized image of the black woman that is alive and well in the American imagination.

Of course the problem is that black women are human beings, who also happen to be sexual people. Can I be a fully realized, complicated person who is many things, including sexy? Do I have to be the poster-child for respectability?

Photo by AP

We all come up with ways to express our full humanity in spite of the racist and sexist notions that would limit who we are and how we express ourselves, and I have to say that I'm not mad at Beyoncé for expressing that sexuality in all its glory in front of millions of people during the SuperBowl. Beyoncé is an amazing performer who dances and sings better than any of her critics ever will, while being very sexy. Do we need a variety of images of black women that aren’t limited to the sexual images that we often see? Yes. But let’s not disavow the power of owning one’s sexuality and determining how, when and with whom we share that part of ourselves.

I love what The Nation’s Mychal Denzel Smith had to say about these issues in his blog post  Michelle, Beyoncé and the Fruitless Politics of Respectability.

What Beyoncé did was own her sexuality, for herself and no one else, in a public space—and it freaked some people out. Whether you think Beyoncé was ‘self-objectifying’ is a question of whether it’s possible for a woman to publicly embrace her sexuality without being defined by the hetero-male gaze. As a hetero-male, I hope I’m not speaking out of turn when I say: Not everything is about us. In fact, most things aren’t, we just pretend they are so we can feel good about ourselves.

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