Tuesday, February 05, 2013

All Hail Entertainers

Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse, comprising a group of individuals which periodically contributes to Daily Kos, explained

When you look at individual ads or pictures that objectify women, it's not that a single ad directly causes violence or is the sole contributor to harm against women. When society and culture turn women's bodies into objects, this creates a climate where "violence and exploitation of women are both tolerated and tacitly encouraged." It makes it easier to mistreat women when we have the status of objects rather than people.   Whether it is racism, sexism, heterosexism, transgender discrimination, or terrorism, objectification is "almost always the first step toward justifying violence against that person."

Sometimes when a woman objects to a picture that objectifies women and girls, she is accused of being a sexual prude, or previously abused by men, or just can't take a joke.  However,there is a difference between our sexuality and women as sexual objects. It is the objectification that dehumanizes women, and harms women personally, and in all spheres of our lives, including economic, political, educational, health care, social and cultural.

The post was dated August 12, 2012, which apparently was a long, long time ago.  Today, Think Progress' Alyssa Rosenberg sharply criticizes the Weekly Standard's Kathryn Lopez, who blogged of Beyonce's halftime performance

I don’t want to linger on this, but last night’s Super Bowl half-time show was ridiculous — and gratuitously so. Watching Twitter, it was really no surprise that men made comments about stripper poles and putting dollar bills through their TV sets, was it?

Why can’t we have a national entertainment moment that does not include a mother gyrating in a black teddy?

Rosenberg argued

What Lopez appears to object to, and what overrides for her any other consideration of ways in which Beyoncé might be a role model—including her financial success and careful control of her image— is the sight of a woman living in and very much enjoying her body, without needing to secure anyone else’s approval or ensure anyone else’s enjoyment. One of the hallmarks of Beyoncé’s lyrics, both with Destiny’s Child, and as a solo artist, is that no one is entitled to access to her. “Move, groove, prove you can hang with me / By the looks I got you shook up and scared of me,” she sang in “Bootylicious,” with its famous chorus. She warned a loutish boyfriend “Don’t you ever for a second get to thinking you’re irreplaceable.” In “Countdown,” she describes a relationship of equals, where she’ll “Do whatever that it takes, he got a winner’s mind / Give it all to him, meet him at the finish line,” and where “Yup, I buy my own, if he deserve it, buy his shit too.” And in “Independent Women,” Beyoncé and Destiny’s Child warned women “If you’re gonna brag make sure it’s your money you flaunt / Depend on no one else to give you what you want.”

This wasn't a Beyonce concert nor a brief appearance singing on a television program which would be watched disproportionately by her fans, but a performance before a (nearly captive) audience of hundreds of millions of individuals, young, old, and middle-aged, and of every demographic stripe.  It was, presumably, geared to the enjoyment of a tremendously wide swath of the American people- and of people worldwide, to innumerable individuals who also don't know much about Beyonce nor much care. So in the interests of full disclosure:  I, like those individuals, don't know much about Beyonce's lyrics or whether Rosenberg has quoted them in context, nor do I care. Nor do I know of the performer's careful control of her marriage, nor do I care- anymore than I cared about whether President Clinton "had sex with that woman" or President Obama goes skeet shooting.  All that now has been eclipsed by a performance on the third most-viewed television program in American history.

My impressions, therefore- like those of the others- are not likely to be of Beyonce's fine marriage or compelling lyrics but of her objectification, or what liberals/progressives as recently as six months ago identified as objectification.    Nor are those impressions intended- by CBS, Beyonce, corporate sponsors or anyone else in any way involved in the production- meant to be of her lyrics or marriage.  Rosenberg has been played, and is blissfully unaware.

Rosenberg can be forgiven for being manipulated.  She likely was provoked in part by the swipe taken by Lopez at the wife of the President.  The NRO blogger had remarked "it seems quite disappointing that Michelle Obama would feel the need to tweet about how 'proud' she is of Beyonce."

Lopez does not go into detail about being disappointed but she might have added "revealing."  Dictionary.com defines "proud" as "feeling pleasure or satisfaction over something regarded as highly honorable or creditable to oneself."    Merriam-Webster gives examples:   They are the proud parents of a hero; I was proud that I never gave in; She's the proud owner of a new car; Her proudest accomplishment was to finish high school.

In what sense, then, is Michelle Obama- a big fan of Beyonce- proud of the performer?  Is Mrs. Obama, unbeknownst to most of us, a relative?  Perhaps she was once her agent? She was, at least, once Beyonce's mentor, no?

No.  In addition to being gleeful about Beyonce's performance, Michelle Obama is- if on the left we're allowed to say so- a bit prideful.    The second definition Dictionary.com gives for "proud" is, conveniently, "having proceeding from, or showing a high opinion of one's own dignity, importance, or superiority."  While Michelle Obama ought to know a great deal about pride, she clearly knows less of women as sexual objects.  But so it goes with Mrs. Obama, and so it goes with entertainers.  It would be so declasse to linger.

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