Editorial: To Infinity and Beyoncé!

There was more or less a general consensus in the wake of the performance. Many said hers would go down in history as the best halftime show of all time, most lauded her all-female band and killer talent as revolutionary, and almost all agreed: it was near perfection.

That is, until a writer by the name of Kathryn Jean Lopez wrote a little post for the National Review Online’s blog entitled “Put a Dress On”. Uh-oh.

“Why can’t we have a national entertainment moment that does not include a mother gyrating in a black teddy?” wrote Lopez, who went on to criticize First Lady Michelle Obama for congratulating Beyoncé on her performance and said that it was “no surprise” that men had been making sexist comments about the singer.

Lopez’s fatal assumption is that any display of female sexuality inherently strives to appease male consumers. Given this criticism, made even worse by the fact that it comes from a fellow woman, what could possibly be the proper way to own and embody one’s sexuality? One must be married, doubtless; ideally between the sheets and hopefully thinking of England at the time.

In other words, on the other end of the patriarchal Madonna/Whore Spectrum. Lovely.

Without making too fine a point of it, male performers can essentially do whatever they want onstage without assuming that they’re demeaning themselves to appeal to female viewers – because male sexuality is not popularly defined by female response. The sheer attempt to separate female sexuality from the male response left detractors reeling and denouncing Beyonce as a bad role model.

“If what you saw was an offensive, inappropriate hypersexual display of legs and barely covered unmentionables, let me suggest you saw only what you were staring at, not what actually happened on that stage,” wrote progressive Episcopal theologian and blogger David Henson of Beyoncé’s Super Bowl halftime show. “This is a gift Beyoncé gave to the world last night in her performance. For 14 minutes, women were owned by no one.”

Given the dearth of prior examples, viewers like Lopez were left with few tools to even interpret the performance. Of course she would think Beyoncé performing for the male gaze –that’s the only terminology we have, the only lens the media give us, to define public displays of female sexuality. It makes a sad sort of sense.

“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,” wrote Mychal Denzel Smith for The Nation. “Not everything is about us. In fact, most things aren’t, we just pretend they are so we can feel good about ourselves.”

Let Lopez and other naysayers write Beyoncé off. The rest of us will continue to strive toward her greatness.