A Defiant Dance of Power, Not Sex: Beyoncé, the Super Bowl and Durga

A Defiant Dance of Power, Not Sex: Beyoncé, the Super Bowl and Durga February 4, 2013

If what you saw onstage last night at the Super Bowl’s halftime show was a singer wearing too little clothes, let me suggest it is says more about the eye of the beholder.

If what you saw was a singer selling sex to the masses in a skimpy outfit, let me suggest you saw what you hoped to see.

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.

If what you saw was a performer causing men (and women) across America commit the sin of lust in their hearts, let me suggest you completely missed the point.

Because Beyoncé’s performance Sunday night in New Orleans wasn’t about sex. It was about power, and Beyoncé had it in spades. In fact, her show was one of the most compelling, embodied and prophetic statements of female power I have seen on mainstream television.

That a Black woman claimed and owned her power during the misogynist, consumerist celebration known as the Super Bowl only highlights Beyoncé’s brilliance and boldness.

It’s no wonder some people attempted to wrest back control over her and her body by marginalizing her performance by sexualizing it.

Was Beyoncé attractive, sexy even? To be sure. But more than anything, she was powerful. Few things are more threatening to a male audience than a beautiful, powerful woman who doesn’t need a man, or even a male gaze.

Perhaps folk didn’t consciously notice there wasn’t a single male performer on stage. But for those few minutes, there were no male voices and no male bodies in control, only women who refused to be owned. And it wasn’t women just dancing up there, though the cameras largely focused on that. The women onstage were creating, everything.  They appropriated traditional male images and transformed them female ones — not women just imitating men. They were claiming roles and instruments traditionally held by men: the horns and saxophones, the pyrotechnic guitar solo.

They were fierce, but refused to be masculinized or objectified.

A number of my male friends scoffed at Beyoncé, posting insults like “worst halftime show ever” and “get this crappy excuse for music off the field.” One simply labeled the entire performance “Breasts of the Southern Wild,” a decidedly racist and sexist quip. My friend Joy has even more here.

The response from my female friends were markedly different. One exclaimed, “Her body is amazing! I love that she has meat on her bones! I want her figure and her stamina!” Beyoncé’s body is important — not because it is hypersexualized — but because it was a women’s body only, not a woman’s body sculpted for a man.

So here, in the midst of commercials and a culture that objectified women and their bodies and in the middle of a sports spectacle that construes power in terms of violence, Beyoncé began her performance by upending the narrative. As she walked the length of the stage, Beyoncé showed more power in a handful of purposeful, defiant strides than both sports teams had during the entire first half. In short, during those few steps, walking as a woman, Beyoncé declared ownership of that stage — that stadium — and, more importantly, claimed ownership of her own body in the most misogynist and objectifying four hours of mass culture.

It takes a warrior to be able to do something like that. No surprise then that halfway through (6:04), the Hindu warrior goddess Durga shows up, incarnated by Beyoncé. Against the pop-up screen, hands emerge and encircle Beyoncé from behind. These are not male hands. These are not Justin Timberlake’s hands threatening to disrobe her in a “wardrobe malfunction.” These are her hands and they reach out and around her, not to possess her but to expand her power.

Durga at Kumartoli
Copyright Shahnawaz Sid

Durga is a fitting image for Beyoncé’s performance last night. Durga, whose name means a fort which cannot be overrun. Durga, the mother, the warrior, the protector from evil. Durga, the female warrior who battles demons, who defeats them.

For the past two weeks, criticism has been heaped on top of Beyoncé for lip-syncing the national anthem at President Barack Obama’s inaugural festivities. She has been lampooned and dismissed. But last night, Beyoncé laughed last.

When the former members of Destiny’s Child left the stage, Beyoncé erupted into a powerful dance number. In that moment, it seemed Beyoncé was dancing on the fresh graves of sexism, male supremacy, all her talking-head concern troll critics that sought to reduce her to anything other than the powerful woman and artist she is. She dared them to think of her as something less than beautiful, something less than talented, something less than powerful, something less than a woman.

It was a dance of defiance.

And all the women on stage joined in.

There was no shame.

This is a gift Beyoncé gave to the world last night in her performance. For 14 minutes, women were owned by no one. Instead, for those few prophetic and powerful minutes, Beyoncé and the women onstage with her owned the night.

Last night, men, misogyny, objectification, or sexism didn’t win, even though they got most of the airtime.

Rather, last night, thanks to Beyoncé, women owned Super Bowl XLVII.

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UPDATE: I have written a follow-up here all the challenging and helpful conversations and criticisms that have occurred following this post. Thank you all for commenting and reading.

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  • David,

    I love your thoughtfulness. I am disappointed that you limited reactions to either/or. I noticed she had an all-female performance, too. I was stoked that she sang live. I appreciated that her moves were not seductive like Madonna. I noticed and applauded all of this to my girls and son, wholly ignorant of Durga.

    But, I was also disappointed by the choice of attire. It is the design that bothers me. Was I guilty of lust? Nope. Was the initial piece with the jacket okay? For me, yes. But, as an art lover, I know that Beyonce’s and Kelly’s attire was designed to draw attention to the breast. I see this in comic books that I love all the time.

    I want my girls to be strong and independent. I do not want them to have to draw undue attention to their bodies in order to feel empowered. Beyonce has enough going on that there is no need to do that (if ever). Maybe more males missed a lot of this because of the attire? And, being disappointed in her attire does not necessarily mean that comes from perversion or lust.

    • …Are we talking about the same outfits? Because these: http://24.media.tumblr.com/9bd44558afefc8186d8c81b9417c5a0b/tumblr_mhomppq9eO1qkfzdlo1_500.jpg Don’t draw attention to breasts really at all. Leg, yes? Breasts? Naw.

      • Greg Hahn

        Well…. it drew *my* attention to her breasts, depending on the shot. I won’t say it enticed me to lust… I don’t think any of the show did that.

      • That seems like a personal problem.

      • RescueRules

        Personal to 80% of the viewers. I’m not saying they don’t have some responsibility to.. uh… I guess not look at breasts… but to ask “Why does a women wearing a lacey black leather swimsuit dancing on stage in front of millions of Americans have to be sexualized?” is kind of like asking “Why does a man staring at your breasts have to be sexualized?”

        And I say that because my instinctive answer to both those questions is “Oh come on!”

      • Josh

        Does being sexual automatically strip a woman of her power, independence, and respect? It’s silly to say that the perfomance wasn’t sexual -it was (however benignly) and it was meant to be that way to a certain degree. A man becoming aroused by watching that halftime show is only a sexist if it takes him, personally, to sexist conclusions. But that, I’m afraid, is about his morality. You can be attracted to a woman and still show her respect.

      • RescueRules

        In answer to your question, no. I’m not sure I implied that, nor did I intend to, and I’m certain I didn’t say that. Are we disagreeing over what it means for an action to be “sexualized?”

        Anyway, I do think it is pretty disingenuous to say that viewing Beyonce’s performance asin some part sexual amounts to a “personal problem”, hence my post above.

        In response to the rest, I agree. I have been know to show respect to both people I am attracted to and people I am not attracted to. I have also been known to look at breasts on occasion. Once I even glanced at a woman’s wrist but I don’t think she noticed.

    • Guest

      She wore pretty much a one piece swimsuit. But because she actually has breasts and hips, it is construed as overtly sexual. If she was a human twig up there, you wouldn’t even be upset at her attire, but because she’s a curvy women it is seen as overtly sexual. Also, saying that it’s okay or “modest” with a jacket but not without it is highly trivializing, and as a man you probably don’t have the right to judge modesty of others, unless you want to turn out like that weird guy who ran the Is This Pure? blog.

      • Guest,

        “But because she actually has breasts and hips, it is construed as overtly sexual. If she was a human twig up there, you wouldn’t even be upset at her attire, but because she’s a curvy women it is seen as overtly sexual.”

        That is not true.

        Consistency when it comes to modesty is tricky. I don’t use “length” as a standard because we can act indecently in apparel deemed as modest.

        I would not mind a continued conversation on this. I hope the tone can change a bit. If my being a male bothers you discussing issues of modesty, then I don’t see how we can.

      • BSM

        Everyone- let’s be careful of creating straw-persons when depicting the other……

      • Thank you, BSM.

      • what a great response James. (to the guest comment)

      • Thank you, Michelle.

      • Renard

        I hope you’re working in irony there. Author of this article laces with sanctimony to the hypothetical subjects of his contrived moral Rorschach test.

      • Renard

        should read, “laces with sanctimony the”

      • Golden_Eyes

        I find the whole idea of immodesty being shameful really problematic. As a teenaged girl, I’m frustrated by living in a culture that simultaneously teaches me that my sexuality is the greatest value I possess as a female, and yet that expressing that sexuality is ‘slutty’ and shameful and/or implies I’m dependent on men. I think that empowerment is in the eye of the beholder. Some times I choose to wear ‘immodest’ clothing as a way to say “f*** you, I feel no obligation to be a pure, virginal ingenue.” Some times I choose to wear baggy/masculine/high-cut clothes as a way of saying “f*** you, I feel no obligation to be sexually appealing.”

        I understand why you’d feel uncomfortable with your daughters being exposed to the same kind of culture that has kindled these conflicting feelings in myself. I would suggest that you teach your daughters to think critically about the feminine paradigms they’ll inevitably be bombarded with, instead of asserting that there’s something inherently ‘bad’ (or weak/dependent) about sexualized attire/women.

      • Kara

        Thank you, Golden Eyes, for spelling out what it is that bothers me when people equate female sexuality with female power. In my experience, the power of my sexuality is a distraction. For people to claim that her performance was a display of power camouflages the injustice of the fact that our racist, sexist culture offers few other forms of power to a black woman, or any woman, for that matter.

      • Cb

        Exactly, a black woman can get up in front of the world and shake her ass but what else can she do in front of the world that is life changing and shattering. I don’t think the performance is as deep as this article. But I respect her strength that she has displayed throughout her career and her family’s commitment to live out HER dream!

      • Winningham

        Thank you for your articulate and in my mind extremely relevant comment.

      • Colo. mom

        I wish my kids had you as a mentor. Thanks for sharing your perspective – I think you hit the nail on the head.

      • I agree with you, James. This article is laughable. A feminist does not get her [or his] point across by wearing a swimming suit. If this was a private concert, I wouldn’t have cared. This is the super-bowl. I’ve watched it off and on since I was in 5th grade. A quarter of the country watches it. Beyonce literally set feminism BACK this superbowl. I’ll give some examples.
        1.) The initial silhouette, the cliche sexualized image that we normally see in the neon lights of strip clubs. Does this look feminist to you?

        2.) Her attire- less of a point, I respect the fact that she wanted to be ‘sexy.’ But really, saying that it wasn’t purposely trying to be sexy is stupid. It was trying to and it did.

        3.) Her dancing. REALLY. There was no shame, but neither was their respect for anything other than sex-appeal and athleticism. Was it impressive? Yes. Was it what the crowd wanted? Yes. Was it feminist? Of course not.

        Then, just in case we couldn’t see her legs and crotch well enough: http://www.wotyougot.com/pictures//2013/02/beyonce-superbowl-leg-up.gif

        What was wrong with a dress like she wore for the press conference? http://redcfa.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Beyonce-Knowles-In-Olcay-Gulsen-Pepsi-Super-Bowl-XLVII-Halftime-Show-Press-Conference.jpg

        4.) Her message. She sings, Girls Run the World with a reference to Durga, yes. But if she was a real feminist, she would have used her platform for a good point. She would have addressed the double-edged sword of sex-appeal that women have, which she so clearly doesn’t understand at all. She would have addressed the fact that GIRLS DO NOT RUN THE WORLD. Look at the super-bowl ads. Did they have empowered women in them? No. As the case is every single darn year, often with the same companies, the ads have naked bikini models washing new cars as men pull down their sunglasses.
        Remember this?

        The super-bowl is a male-dominated event in many ways, and Beyonce’s concert simply served as a smoke-and-mirror show to prevent the unorganized feminist population from getting upset. In reality, Beyonce’s performance, in my opinion, set American feminism back. It certainly didn’t help it in any way, shape, or form.

      • Josh


        You’re still approaching female sexuality from only the standpoint of how it affects men. So, a powerful woman expressing her sexuality in an assertive way onstage, is considered by you to be antifemenist. Feminism doesn’t mean that women need do be asexual and defeminized, it means that women can celebrate their sexuality and femininity on their own terms -without shaming from men. I actually find your definitions of feminism to be incredibly sexist, because it falls right into the victim-blaming traditions of the past (and present). Your commentary essentially boils down to “If women don’t want to be objectified, they shouldn’t dress and act in a sexy way”. This absolves the man of any misogenistic notions that may arise because it is putting women in the position where they are responsible for your feelings. They are not, you are. If you watched that performance and felt lust, that is just fine. It was sexy. But if you felt that she was degrading herself JUST BECAUSE she was modestly expressing her sexuality, well, that is what YOU saw.

      • Trudy

        Brilliant comment Josh. Many perceive feminism as anti-sexuality and view it through the perspective that IF men are aroused THEN a woman is no longer feminist, versus realizing HOW women CHOOSE to express sexuality, freely, with power, is empowering for many women.

      • Motherhoodandmore

        Actually, as a woman and a feminist, I am in complete agreement with Bryan.

      • Josh


      • Guest

        I suppose that is why like many things in life, everyone perceives things entirely different.

        I couldn’t agree more with Joshua, and I’m also a feminist.

      • All you have said doesn’t change the fact that it was just another T @ A show.

      • Josh

        It’s a shame that’s all you saw, Susann. It’s THAT attitude that sets feminism back decades.

      • Mike

        No, no. She just typically goes to really expensive, big budget, well choreographed, female-empowering T & A shows. It was just another T & A show FOR HER.

      • Emckusick

        What the heck is feminism anyway? That is a word kind of like “god” or “love”- different people construe it in different ways. I fail to see how a woman being sexy, powerful, talented, and commanding sets back the plight of all women to claim their equal power in the world.

      • Guest

        It’s too bad you didn’t see the core talent Beyonce has not as a stripper but as an ARTIST! Had she been wearing “suitable” attire, then maybe, just maybe, more people would have thought of her as a true talented, uncensored artist?

        Too bad, so sad!

      • Hanan

        >I actually find your definitions of feminism to be incredibly sexist, because it falls right into the victim-blaming traditions of the past (and present).

        Do you think women EVER hold SOME responsibility in how they are perceived? Look, we can be all hyper intellectual about this as we want, but the point of these dances, these outfits etc. IS to illicit sexual feelings in their audience. It sells. The reason why so many women have been brainwashed to think that celebrating their sexuality LIKE THAT, is any form of positive feminism is simply a retro active argument for what these women, men and the market really want…. a half naked women dancing to the desires of their onlookers. Men love to look at her in only one way, and too many women look upon her with envy. In my opinion, men have stopped sexualizing and objectifying women; women have taking over the reigns and are doing it themselves under the guise of “empowerment.”

      • Slimjimsquinn

        Please do not deem to suggest how YOU think feminism should be enacted.

        Feminism can come in all forms; the relevant question is: did it leave women empowered? And for me, it did. The realization that not a single man was on that stage was a profound one.

        Furthermore, I don’t think that she has the responsibility of carrying the feminist torch. This is who she is: an entertainer. Both sexiness and power is a paer of her being. I’m not going to ask her to redefine herself just so she could be our ideal female role model.

        Frankly, I think you’re way too judgamental and infringing on her right to be who she is.

      • I’d also note that Beyonce’s outfit was exactly as revealing as a normal dance leotard. The same dance leotard dancers wear all over the US in dance class all the time. The dance leotard that evolved out of the tutu, which itself evolved out of long formal dresses pinned up high. Why? Because the dancers were training incredibly talented and intricate performances that were hidden by the traditionally modest clothing.

        Is beyonce sexy and attractive? I certainly think so.

        Was her sexuality what struck me about her performance Sunday? Not remotely. I was open jaw stunned at the production quality she put together for her halftime show. I’ve never seen a live show so well designed with lighting, framing and camera shots that looked like a painstakingly edited product rather than a planned live execution. While everyone else was worried about her being a woman, I was more impressed with her intelligence and work ethic.

      • My daughter has been in dance all her life and does not wear gear like that. What Beyonce wore was a sex stage get up.

      • Lynn Grey
      • smpanther

        My question is where is the line? I don’t think it’s one sided but is it wrong for a guy to stare/look/comment on the body/look of a lady whether she’s “immodest” or not? What about a guy? Is it wrong to stare/look/comment on the body/look of a guy? There are places for nudist to go and they wear nothing but when we get to the subject of how close can you get to almost nothing it because this big problem. I never understood why it was okay for me to swim without a shirt yet I couldn’t walk to the pool with my shirt off, like being in the water made not wearing my shirt “okay” (btw I rarely swim and when I do, I wear an A shirt).

      • Yeah, I have a hard time believing a jacket is the deciding factor between “modest” and “immodest” here.

      • Guest

        I don’t really see why you feel the need to refer to skinny women as “human twig”s. Is it necessary to put down one to lift up the other?

      • guest

        a 6 year old’s one piece swimsuit…….. with lace

    • I went and rewatched the performance to see if I was missing something but I don’t think her outfit draws attention to her breasts at all.

      • Okay. Well, no sense in going back and forth, then. I know there are males and females with different impressions about it.

        Thank you for your time.

    • Erm.. no. If those outfits were designed to focus on the breasts they were poorly designed. They were designed to focus on the legs which is AWESOME because they don’t have skinny little frail legs.. they all have powerful, feminine legs which could probably crush a soda can.

      • I have skinny legs. Are they frail? No. If someone had shapely legs, they could also be frail.

    • Sal

      That you even began a paragraph with “I want my girls to be…” speaks volumes. They’re not girls and they’re not yours! In America, men don’t get to make the decisions about how “their girls are” anymore. Beyonce’s outfit is Beyonce’s game and she’s calling the shots. Your sexist values don’t fit in anywhere.

      • jason

        Sal, I think it’s possible he was referring to his daughters. I don’t have daughters, but I have sons. I refer to them as “my boys” and I don’t think that’s sexist.

      • What does Beyonce have to do with his daughters? Is she supposed to cover up in a burka to protect his daughters? I have a five-year old girl. I don’t need to worry about media portrayals for her.

        Because her parents love her.

      • jason

        First, my comment was a clarification to Sal’s objection to the phrase “my girls.”

        But in response to your question: I think that children aren’t immune to the culture in which they live. The parents certainly play a vital role but not the only role. Loving your children certainly the most important thing you can do for them, but teaching them to think critically is pretty helpful too.

      • Why does another person need to match up to your standards of what is or is not “modest” to protect your daughters?

      • You can teach them how to think critically without needing a celebrity to dress up to your standards to do so.

      • Sal, my daughters are still girls. Eleven to be precise.

    • Rebecca

      ” I do not want them to have to draw undue attention to their bodies in order to feel empowered. Beyonce has enough going on that there is no need to do that (if ever). Maybe more males missed a lot of this because of the attire?”

      I am always disappointed in this kind of argument. It’s not about dressing in order to feel empowered. It’s dressing because we feel empowered. And showing cleavage does not have to be sexualized. As a large breasted woman I can tell you that my closest friend is way more sexy in a top that shows no cleavage, but goes down her navel, than I do in a top that shows an inch of breast. Men will miss a woman’s message all the time, cleavage or no. If you’re not going to hear me when I’m showing cleavage, you’re not going to really hear me if I’m wearing a nun’s habit.

      • RescueRules

        I’m sorry I missed that, what did you say you were wearing?

        And I totally understand where you are coming from, more than a few people have missed what I’ve said while I was wearing my ass-less chaps. I wear them for the comfort, and to make a statement about pride in my buns of steel, but it seems no one at the office takes me seriously nor cares about what I have to say. I can make the most insightful point at the conference table and it will fall on deaf ears and ogling eyes. Ridiculous… its two patches of flesh people, grow up.

        Why, if I didn’t know better I’d think the responsibility to communicate an important message falls equally on both the speaker and the listener.

      • Josh

        I think context is important when considering clothing choices. I expect to see leotards at a dance performance, but assless chaps at the office are usually indicitave of a breakdown in processing social cues. Just remember: leotard when dancing, business/business casual at work, assless chaps…well…look around to see if there are other people wearing assless chaps before you put yours on. Usually a safe bet.

      • RescueRules

        I too would think a leotard would be appropriate at a dance performance. And a black leather semi-transparent leotard with lace is contextually appropriate for a sexual dance. So is crotch thrusting and slowly licking ones finger.

        My point above is that people listen to the message you send, I can’t write an email in all caps and the complain when people perceive me as yelling, even if I claim to be coopting the tradition understanding of all caps for my own empowerment. The audience saw sexual attire, and sexual moves, and now people are faulting them for thinking the message was about sex. The poster I responded to above seemed to think she could have been wearing military fatigues and men everywhere would have missed her clear message of… whatever her perfectly clear message was. I’m sorry if it wasn’t sex I really did miss it.

      • Guest

        It wasn’t about sex. And yes, you missed it.

      • RescueRules

        My post wasn’t about that comment. You missed it.

        Obviously this is your problem.

      • Guest

        Totally irrelevant! Why would anybody compare the dress code of a performer on national TV to proper dress code at an office? That makes no sense. When Beyonce is interviewed or goes to the MTV awards, or whatever other event you don’t see her with a leotard or skimpy clothing, in contrary, she’s dressed really nice, and lady-like, with elegance and grace.

        You see, the problem seems to be that people for some odd reason can not separate an act vs. reality. Beyonce is a different person on stage, far different then how she carries herself off stage.

        So sad that our society doesn’t learn to see the true meaning and beauty of people and their craft. An artist with as much talent as Beyonce deserves some credit and recognition. It’s not like she was humping a pole, her entire routine was meticulously choreographed.

      • Hanan

        So because there is a difference between wearing something on stage vs wearing something in an office it means all of a sudden society is not effected? So wearing half naked outfit in an office is not appropriate. Why? It would affect the business climate and professionalism in how collegues and clients view the woman if she wears revealing leotard in the office. We accept appearance and how we present ourselves to the public is important and it affects people’s perceptions. How does this all of a sudden change when that same woman steps on the stage; wearing something purposely revealing and dancing in a way to SPECIFICALLY make you look at her sexually. I am sorry to be so blunt, but you can’t act like a nice cut of meat and then complain when others perceive you as one. I’m not saying Beyonce is a piece of meat. But her performance is one to appeal to the very basic sexual drive in people and nothing more.

    • This comment should be rated SS for Slut-Shaming.

    • zzzzz

      this is exactly what beyonce knows. “i want my girls to be strong and independent. i do not want them to have to draw undue attention to their bodies in order to feel empowered.” IT ISN’T FOR YOU TO DECIDE, a male-bodied person. you can feel disappointed. the point is YOU, AS A MALE, DON’T GET TO DECIDE WHAT SHE DOES OR DOESN’T WEAR.

      • RescueRules

        Can I decide what she does or does not wear if I don’t have a penis? What if I do but I wish I didn’t? This is confusing… so how much say do I have over what my daughter wears? Is it more or less than the control I have over what my son wears? What if I have both male and female parts? You know… like I have a penis but also two elbows?

      • Guest

        Sarcasm, apparently, is your alliance in this debate and/or discussion….

      • RescueRules

        Telling someone their position is ridiculous is not as easy or as convincing as showing them it’s ridiculous in a mirror.


        What the hell does being male have to do with that? And the original poster was talking about his daughter. He expressed what he wanted for his children, is that really worth such aggressive criticism? Or earlier in the thread where I responded to:

        “Men will miss a woman’s message all the time, cleavage or no.”

        Deconstructing the nonsense here is difficult, and simply saying “that’s idiotic” or “that’s overly simplistic” is not helpful. I got that posters message, despite her breasts and despite my penis. And to the extent I missed the message… it’s not due to my y-chromosome. But here’s the kicker…. if my y-chromosome did cause me to miss the message, it’s hard to say that’s my fault. I don’t use sign language when communicating with the blind and a certinaly don’t write them off or blame them for not trying hard enough to communicate with me,. To the extent she actually believes being biologically male prevents me from hearing her words she needs to try a different mode of communication because there is nothing I can do about that chromosome.

        I rely on metaphor. It only sounds sarcastic when the analogy is to an equally (but apparently less obviously) ridiculous statement by the previous poster. In keeping with that theme please enjoy the following response to your post above:

        Brevity, apparently is your alliance in this debate.

        (That means, please explain you implied statement that sarcasm is not a legitimate or appropriate rhetorical tool).

      • Hanan

        So my wife DOES? Why? Because she has a vagina?

        Does zzzzz even have children?

    • Camille

      “I want my girls to be strong and independent. I do not want them to have to draw undue attention to their bodies in order to feel empowered. Beyonce has enough going on that there is no need to do that (if ever).”

      Did you ever consider that she doesn’t need her clothes to feel empowered, but is simply proud of her body? There’s no shame in that. In fact, more women should feel proud of their bodies, but the media rarely allows us that simple pleasure. We’re judged against the mythic norm and therefore we never win. If Beyonce – or any woman – wants to delight in her body, she has ever right to (that includes being able to show it off in whatever way she sees fit), and to say that she shouldn’t is very disempowering. You’re free to decide what’s “undue attention” for your own body, but not for hers.

    • John

      James, your “draw undue attention to their bodies in order to feel empowered” sums up the problem in your thinking.

      You’re expressing here how “undue attention” from men to female bodies would be an immediate actual factor to their personal self-esteem and that actively not drawing such attention would be a better way to a healthy self-image. You’re doing something very harmful here, that is usually denominated as “slut-shaming”. Your words put women, and the women your daughters will become, at fault for any inappropriate actions against them and their self-esteem were they to express their sexuality openly and that social prejudice would be warranted. It is an actual issue how many well-intentioned men and women fall unintentionally to this thinking. If you disagree that you have, then just remain aware of it.

      I think you should only worry that your daughters develop enough critical-thinking to know they can handle their bodies and sexuality anyway they want, as can you with your own.

    • Modesty is an interesting issue. I was taught as a kid that showing certain parts of my body (like my knees) was “immodest” and that it might cause the men around me to “stumble”. I was taught in so many words that it was my responsibility as a girl to protect the purity of my “christian brothers” in addition to my own. Talk about mixed messages. It took me until my 30s to come to grips with the fact that I am only responsible for my own thoughts and cannot do anything about anyone else’s.

      I think people often assume that if a woman is calling attention to certain curves or body areas that it is purposeful in the sense of “attracting” someone or getting attention. I think more often, a woman looks in the mirror and likes what she sees and goes with it. I think that is how it should be. I spent a lot of time early in my marriage concerned with how my husband thought I should dress. We’re both happier since I gave up on that.

      Now obviously, Beyonce has a stylist and that outfit was carefully chosen for whatever reason(s). But that’s her right. For me, part of becoming strong and independent–or I should say realizing that I was already strong and independent– includes the freedom to wear what I choose when I choose for whatever reasons I might have and not spend time thinking about how it might be perceived by others.

    • Modesty is an interesting issue. I was taught as a kid that showing certain parts of my body (like my knees) was “immodest” and that it might cause the men around me to “stumble”. I was taught in so many words that it was my responsibility as a girl to protect the purity of my “christian brothers” in addition to my own. Talk about mixed messages. It took me until my 30s to come to grips with the fact that I am only responsible for my own thoughts and cannot do anything about anyone else’s.

      I think people often assume that if a woman is calling attention to certain curves or body areas that it is purposeful in the sense of “attracting” someone or getting attention. I think more often, a woman looks in the mirror and likes what she sees and goes with it. I think that is how it should be. I spent a lot of time early in my marriage concerned with how my husband thought I should dress. We’re both happier since I gave up on that.

      Now obviously, Beyonce has a stylist and that outfit was carefully chosen for whatever reason(s). But that’s her right. For me, part of becoming strong and independent–or I should say realizing that I was already strong and independent– includes the freedom to wear what I choose when I choose for whatever reasons I might have and not spend time thinking about how it might be perceived by others.

    • Ballerinas wear a similar attire for most stage performances. So, really, is there an issue here? And as someone else said before me, there is nothing wrong with revealing clothing. There is something wrong with someone forcing a woman to wear that kind of clothing , but if it’s the woman’s choice (you KNOW Beyonce is the one making the decisions when it comes to that sort of thing – I mean, she has had an all-female band for several years now) then it’s fine. Whether or not you choose to be offended is your own doing.

    • Guest

      I certainly welcome a discussion of appropriate female clothing choice. Given the fact that modern women are already making what must be such a tough adjustment for them to full time work, having to also make decisions about how they present themselves through clothes, makeup, and manners adopted, etc, clearly would seem to be too much.

      Therefore, it is my hope that with this thread we can resolve what is appropriate dress for our women, which again, would benefit them greatly by lifting this decision-making burden. Being enlightened people, I think we should also accept input from female commentators during the discussion.

  • I love what you wrote here David. I was just having a conversation this morning with one of my sons and we were saying that we didn’t understand why people didn’t “get it”.

    To be fair I also saw some comments online from some women stating that they thought the performance and dress were too sexual but that didn’t strike me at all when I was watching – I loved her performance. I thought she looked great and sounded great and I felt uplifted. I also know men who felt the same as I did (including my husband) so I wouldn’t say it is just men who didn’t get it but I definitely think that the way one sees and thinks about women probably determines what they “saw” when they watched Beyonce’s performance.

  • Livin4jcd

    What a nice perspective and tribute to women!!

  • Deborah Davis

    Oh, I noticed!
    All Women
    Great Power
    How could one see something else!!!!

  • BOOM. thanks for this, david. christians aren’t generally comfortable with women owning their sexuality, confidence, beauty (or God forbid, power!) in any public way at all, and this needed to be said.

  • There was a guy on the stage — the guitar player with the exploding guitar (phallus) at the beginning. She did a lot of squatting and crotch flashing. I get tired of that dance move, it’s over-used. Other than that, it was a stunning and interesting performance.

    • guest

      that was actually a woman too

  • Brandenharvey.com

    This is perfect. Well said. Thank you for articulating everything I’ve been thinking and more.

  • Mommaneedsleep

    DISAGREE. Completely.

  • jeskastkeat

    What a great piece! I found Bey’s performance to be quite empowering. The people I was partying with last night made comments like “She inspires me to care for my body and work out.” Not because we want to be like Bey but because we want to be our best, powerful, sexy selves, too.

    Cheers to dances of defiance in our lives!

  • Great analysis. I was sadly not surprised to read my evangelical male friends post about sexuality, making sure to publicly post that they were looking away, etc. My wife loved the halftime show, and my wife, generally speaking, is all about modesty in dress and not being oversexual.

    • jason

      Evangelical males aren’t the only people who had problems with that performance. Many liberal feminists did, too.

  • Grandmother Angri

    Opinions say more about the opinion-holder than about the event. And I very much like your well-informed opinion which indicated your awareness of the Indian Goddess Durga. That was the unifying message. Obviously, some folks didn’t get it.

  • TTA

    I completely understand your point, but let’s be honest here… this wasn’t a rally for equality or empowerment and this wasn’t some pornographic display of lustful outfits. This was halftime at the Super Bowl, a place where 30 seconds of commercial airtime can cost advertisers over $4 million.

    Ask yourself this…

    Did Beyonce bring out Destiny’s Child as an act of women’s solidarity or as a means to advertise the new reuinion album?

    Did Beyonce accept the spot as headliner to further women’s equality or was it motivated by unprecidented commercial exposure?

    Did she announce a “Mrs. Carter Tour” the day after the Super Bowl as an sarcastic critique on the gender roles in our society or because it after being watched by millions upon millions of users, it time to convert eyeballs to dollars and cents? And because it doesn’t hurt to namedrop your uber-famous husband’s name while you’re she it?

    (the list goes on and on)

    So when we look at Beyonce’s performance, I think it’s only fair that we judge them under the pretences of the setting, which, let’s face it, is probably the A#1 example of American Capitalism.

    Long story short, claiming this was a “dance of power, not sex” is getting it wrong twice. And Beyonce is neither sinner nor saint, she’s just a popstar taking every advantage she can get to remain on top of dwindling music industry in a brutally competitive marketplace.

    • So because she’s a capitalist everything else is moot? I think you are not engaging with the content of the post, but rather offering a different critique of the same event. Which is fine. It’s just not really pertinent to what I’ve written here. Nothing you’ve said here argues against or even speaks to what I’ve written.

      • TTA

        I’m not trying to argue with you, I just think you’re glossing over a substantial piece of this pop-culture moment (particularly, the commercial setting) in order to praise a pop-star for being more than what they truly are, which is a commercial entity.

        Here’s the thing… you say that “For 14 minutes, women were owned by no one. Instead, for those few prophetic and powerful minutes, Beyoncé and the women onstage with her owned the night.” And that this was Beyonce’s “gift to the world.” Meanwhile, the entire performance, all 14 minutes of it, were indeed owned; owned and paid for by none other than Pepsi Co.

        Say what you will about how great Beyonce looked, how wonderful it was that only women were on stage. All that is fine, but to say this was a giant step for women, for equality or some kind of benevolent gift to the women of the world is quite stretch in my opinion.

      • Slimjimsquinn

        If you are a performer, in this day and age, you have to operate in a commercial world.

        You think she’d have the same impact if she was doing her dance number in a small, independently owned theater somewhere? Or a public performance on the street? The fact is there are very few non-commercial stages on this scale. Trust me, if this was an unsponsored event there would not be hundreds of articles and thousands of discussions.

        And who said she claimed to be against capitalism? I think you’re putting too much expectation for what YOU want her to be.

  • mishael53

    You, sir, are AWESOME

  • I read that image as a woman co-opting the male image.

  • Wow this is a perspective I hadn’t heard before! It seems like Christians think that anything sexual in the media is just BAD, without appreciating the nuances and the power behind it. (Like the fact that there’s a difference between sexuality and sexualization.)

    I liked Beyonce’s performance. 🙂 I think you’re right about her having power- and it didn’t feel like she was dancing “for” any men.

  • Rory Tyer

    This is a valuable perspective, but it rings hollow to me when I consider that the conditions that made her performance possible and accessible to so many are the very misogynistic ones you claim her performance subverts. From where I sit, her performance capitalized upon – rather than subverted – those conditions. Furthermore, with Beyonce the line between power and sex isn’t very pronounced. There are many ways to phrase this that could be equally true: she wields sex appeal as a tool of power; part of what she may perceive as true power is the freedom to use sex appeal in any way she wishes. It is questionable whether these things are actually “power,” or “freedom,” at least in thick and meaningful senses.

    It is certainly true that overt sexuality is often in the eye of the beholder; from my perspective, though, the sort of overt sexuality that is so conveniently commercialized and packaged and sold for millions was, and remains, part and parcel of her persona, as with so many other (but not all!) high-powered female pop stars. This raises broader questions about the nature of human sexuality and its purposes and whether it is ever appropriate to speak of its expression in some contexts but not others, etc.

    From a much broader perspective (eschewing for a moment the binary opposition between man-driven misogeny and woman-driven subversion of it) the Super Bowl and its commercial involvements on all levels raises broader questions about the place of spectacle in American mass media and entertainment.

  • Anonymous

    Sex is power. Why would you try and separate the two? Beyonce didn’t….

  • Henson pretty much summed it up in the beginning: You see what you want to see. Nothing new here.

  • Eliana

    it would have truly been a display of female ‘power’ for her to sing and dance without flaunting body. i was not looking for it. i am sick of it. so, do woman have to dress like that and gyrate like that to be powerful in the face of men? your argument does not follow thru

  • Cl

    The premise doesn’t fit the performance. Beyonce might not have been selling sex, but she sure was using it to get attention. If she had sat on a piano stool, wearing unrevealing clothes, and sung her heart out and captivated the audience that way (a la Alicia Keyes at the same event, or Nina Simone from another era) that would have been the kind of demonstration of power the author describes.

  • Kwatkins56

    This article is trying very hard to convince me on what I actually saw. But, I have to agree with its premise of hypocrisy and double standards. Can America sensibilities let a black woman be totally free and in control or is that a bridge too far?

  • Aeolfwyne

    First off, let’s avoid any language that makes out that “real women” have curves, or thick thighs, or large breasts. “Real women” come in all shapes and sizes and all women are capable of modesty and charitable acts in their mannerisms and behavior.

    Secondly, I find it insulting — as a woman, a mother of two, a wife, and the breadwinner of my family — when it is implied that women must be overtly sexual in order to “be powerful” or “embrace” our sexuality. Clothing is about what we cover up, not what we reveal. The argument that if a woman dances seductively and dresses scantily, and a man finds that her act creates lust in him, it’s his fault for being spiritually weak, is insulting to both men and women — as well as uncharitable to men. I do not wave fresh-baked cookies under the nose of someone on a diet. I don’t flaunt my breasts in front of a brother who is attempting to remain sexually pure. My strength comes from my faith, my heart for others, my ability to provide for and care for my family — not from my body, or how I display it to others. My body is not who I am, it is merely what I occupy.

    If a man can view such behavior and not find it sexual or exciting lust, I would not assume it’s because he’s so pure that he’s above such things, but that he’s so saturated in our sex-crazed culture that his heart is hardened to it. What I saw on stage last night was modern burlesque, pure and simple.

    • Kenyattawilcox7007

      Beyoncé and destinys child have always been about being beautiful and dressing a certain way. Not in a nun habit or button down shirts so why would the super bowl be any different. She is above all an entertainer…a performer.. that being said how she dressed for the innaguration is not gonna be how she dresses and performs for a stadium of fans. Her platform for the super bowl performance was female empowerment and I feel she nailed it…now how she was dressed was no different from or sexier than female performers and dancers in the past…madonna..janet jackson..etc..I think its just something to talk about…her performance was flawless and I am usually not on the bey wagon…

  • Meika

    Skeptical. Would you have perceived her as equally powerful if she’d danced in a pantsuit?

    • I would have.

    • Aeolfwyne

      I would have perceived her as more powerful if her wardrobe was designed to bring attention to her voice, her face, and her modesty — so no, not equally as powerful, more so.

      I’m in the military, and let me tell you, the most powerful women I know are ones who wear a neck-to-feet uniform every day and do the same work as the men, side-by-side and every bit as well. I’ve worked in units where the ratio is one woman to five men and the women kicked ass. You want to see girl power? Watch a female Marine lift a pack on her back that weighs as much as she does, then go for a 5-mile “fun run” with the guys and laugh while they sweat. That’s power.

      Shaking your thighs, gyrating your crotch into the camera and flipping your hair over people groping for your body is not power, it’s playing to the sexist notion that women exist to be looked at.

  • guest

    Impressed that you pulled that much out of a short piece of pop culture. I ignored it just as I have every half time show in any sporting event. After their few moments in the spotlight each of them is irrelevant.

  • mother of 3 girls

    Hilary Clinton’s a powerful women and I don’t recall her performing her Senate or Secretary of State duties in a leather teddy. There are plenty of other powerful women who exude power while wearing clothes and not gyrating.

    The performance was good and powerful, and it would have still retained all this power if Beyonce wore clothes.

    • Sal

      Equating a politician with a pop star? Very misguided. Two different functions, two different awesome representations of power.

      • Lasvegasdeathray

        One of them is totally dependent on the male gaze, though. Sexy musicians (does Beyonce actually play anything?) rely on the male gaze. Politicians do not. Is selling one’s sexuality actual power?

      • First of all, she’s a song-writer and singer… Second of all, the only male gaze is the one that is brought into the situation. What people are not getting is that Beyonce and all those women on stage are women, and not dependent on the male-gaze. They are not props in a pornography. They are not the objects of a “stolen kiss” in a male-fantasy automobile ad. They did what they did as people.

      • Slimjimsquinn

        “Does she play anything?”

        She’s a singer. And yes, she’s a helluva one at that. If you’re missing that one obvious fact because you’re so fixated on what she’s wearing, well, then that’s your fault.

      • Evo Brax

        Totally disagree with your premise – which is an insult to all vocalists. the voice is a complex instrument….which demands as much, if not more than a physical piece that acts only in one way at all times…

  • Amaryah Armstrong

    This is so weird to me. Uh, how, exactly is this a victory for black women or women in general? Beyonce is an entertainer. She is getting paid millions of dollars. Last time I checked, none of that was going towards ending patriarchy or white supremacy. She’s great at what she does, but please, lets not try to make it more than it was. Her representation is not uplifting the race or the gender.

  • Guest

    I’m a woman and admire Beyonce’s success and her powerful gift as a performer. I also admire women that have fought hard to make it up the ladder and land positions “reserved” for men and/or white men or women. I however dislike women and performances that reduce their smarts and talents to sexual behavior/manipulation. And while I appreciate your observations and well thought out article, I have to respectfully disagree with some of it.

    I don’t want my children or my friend’s children to ever watch the Superbowl halftime shows. They are frankly, not appropriate for children. You can’t tell me that Beyonce’s sticking out her tongue and licking her lips, as she did towards the end of her performance last night, wasn’t sexual. It was in that moment that she reminded me of what I’ve always thought about her and other artists that have performed at the Superbowl halftime shows… She may be talented and powerful, but she’s no “Durga.”

  • Give me a break. So if it’s not about sex or lust, then she would not have torn off the bottom and prance around in something that resembles lingerie or one piece swimsuit. She also would not have appeared in the media leading up to the Superbowl appearance wearing underwear in photos, and in other shots, no shirt whatsoever. The fact is sex sells and these people know it. If Im wearing something that looks like lingerie, then it’s in my bedroom. A swimsuit, on the beach. Let’s see then Mr. Henson if I walk into your church wearing my naked breasts barely contained under an unbuttoned jacket and my underwear,then it’s about female empowerment, right? How about leading a board meeting with hot pants! I also find it interesting that if she is ALL about female empowerment, she would not have gotten breast implants. Because you know now she can sell those too! Hello, I’m sick of being told I am empowered because i let my breasts show or wear clothing where you can see my ass. Thank you

  • Jaci101

    I am a middle aged woman, a Liberal, and a Feminist. Although I do not care for football, and did not choose to watch the Stupor Bowl last night, I did see a lot of comments on Facebook about some of the cute commercials at one point in the evening, so I turned on the show, without the audio turned on, just to see if any of the commercials might still be on. What I caught, however, was part of the halftime show with Beyonce. As an aside, I had seen her singing the National Anthem during President Obama’s Inauguration, so I thought she would be singing something equally beautiful and powerful during her half-time performance last night, as well. I must admit, however, that I was very disappointed and concerned by what I saw. As a Feminist, I watched a young and talented woman like Beyonce use her body to sexualize a musical performance that really didn’t need to be sexualized, and I felt that it represented a huge step backward in cultural evolution for the female gender, specifically, and for all of the rest of humanity, in general. Women are still being marginalized as sex objects by men all over the world, although I’m pretty sure Beyonce didn’t understand the gravity of what she did. As far as “claiming power” goes, I’m wondering why anyone would say that a scantily clad young woman who spreads her legs and thrusts her crotch at the audience repeatedly throughout a song, as if she is wanting to have sex with everyone, is in any way claiming female power? You could be right, Dave, what you saw in her performance definitely says something about what you and most other men really want to see women doing on stage.

    • jason

      Jaci101 – this is a very thoughtful response and I’m glad to see it. Thank you.

      I’m currently pursuing a PhD and enrolled in a Feminist Theory seminar and I can attest that there is certainly more than one way to view Beyonce’s performance (as opposed to the dichotomy implied/stated in David’s post). While some “third wave” feminist theorists may claim power in a woman “owning” her own sexuality in the manner that Beyonce demonstrated, the majority of intelligent critical feminist theorists help us see the highly problematic nature of last night’s show. Beyonce was certainly not the only one doing the “owning” (or buying/selling/consuming) last night…

      David – I suggest rethinking your approach to this performance.

      • Josh

        Are you pursuing a PhD in Feminist Theory, or are you just taking the seminar? Could you tell us what the majority of theorists thought was highly problematic about it?

    • ilovebey

      what??? I don’t get it. “it represented a huge step backward in cultural evolution for the female gender, specifically, and for all the rest of humanity, in general”…wow, that is beyond extreme. Beyonce has a beautiful body with beautiful curves and she is and should be proud to show them off. I don’t understand why people are so offended that she is NOT ASHAMED to show her body. And if she wants to shake her hips and thrust her crotch, then so be it! (and as a side note, a good portion of her dance moves was her “whining” her waist which is a popular dance move in the Caribbean, so..I guess we should start shaming Jamaicans for bringing their antifeminist dance moves mainstream??) Girl loves to dance and loves her body and that’s why so many people love her. I’m a liberal black female, and I thought a feminist, but I guess not because I LOVED Beyonce’s performance. Please don’t demonize Beyonce because she has a lot of self-confidence. Beyonce should be able to do as many crotch thrusts as she wants. If people construe that as her “wanting to have sex with everyone” then that is totally on them; girl is just trying to get down and ain’t nothing wrong with that.

    • Guest

      The bottom line is She is a one man woman, she doesn’t sleep around and have sex with an entire audience of men.

      Feminism is not about abiding by certain rules of how a woman should act or dress its about being comfortable in your skin and being proud of being a woman.

  • C403256

    A warrior against misogyny, consumerism, and female objectification whose battle tactics are marry a rapper whose claim to fame is “Big Pimpin'”, dance under a Pepsi logo for $50,000,000, and shake her butt in a corset?

    As a man, I think I can get down with this kind of feminism.

    What a rube. Have I stumbled onto The Onion?

    • Lasvegasdeathray

      I am a woman, but otherwise these are my thoughts exactly.

  • DK

    so getting paid millions to strip down and shake her derriere is a prophetic statement of female power? hard for me to see it. it’s ironic that you accuse others of seeing what they wanted to see.

    • DK,

      That is what surprised me about the post. Not so much defending Beyonce but the basis upon which he criticized those that did not like her attire. I am not used to that kind of slight from David. This is def. an exception to how he writes and represents people. David does try to fairly represent people on both sides of an issue. I just hate that did not happen here.

    • Sal

      No, being amazing at singing and dancing is a statement of power. Not needing a guy guitar player is a statement of power. Look alive, DK. Women are people too

      • DK

        “Not needing a guy guitar player is a statement of power.”

        I rather see it as a statement of making a statement. Pretty hollow and, thus, powerless, in fact. Hiring a roster of studio musicians whose most important qualification is their genitalia says absolutely nothing I feel the need to pay attention to.

        When I think of someone making a statement of female power in music, I think of someone like Mary Lou Williams, who went into a “boys’ world” and whose talent simply shined a lot brighter than most of the boys.

  • Posting as a Guest again

    David, women’s empowerment is about having confidence in who you are, and what you know. Not what you wear, what you do with it, and how many women do it with. But more importantly, for a Christian woman, empowerment comes in the discovery of who we are in Christ – knowing how to be the “salt of the earth” in a broken world that desperately needs ethical role models, and caring leaders, that “live in the world but are not of the world.”

    Geesh, what is the church of Christ coming to when our views can be so easily distorted??!!

  • Sbwnola

    You don’t have to embody the world’s idea of beauty to be a threatening woman.

  • maribelle1963

    Terrific: the flies have conquered the flypaper.

  • Anna

    Her performance was exhilarating. I found myself envious of her freedom to show herself, not her skin, her SELF. She was…tremendous. THank you for articulating it so well.

  • “If what you saw was an offensive, inappropriate display of legs and barely covered” That’s what I saw, and as Gods child its given to me the right to say that. I place this hedge around myself he has asked me to for my own good. I will allow the holy spirit to guide me on this. Try to be holy as I am holy. he said that. so maybe cover up your crouch a little. I said that. Some times you guys seem to be crushing the holy spirits work in others. SOME TIMES.

  • Tyler

    I thought it was great. But I do want to point out this:

    “If you saw a woman announcing her feminist ways to a waiting world, let me suggest that you saw what you wanted to see.”

    Otherwise, great points were made!

  • WOB

    “It’s no wonder some people attempted to wrest back control over her and her body by marginalizing her performance by sexualizing it.”

    The perfect example of being so “opened minded” that the brain falls out.

  • Janai Peters

    This is really insightful, I would have never thought about the underlying meaning of her performance. And to everyone who thinks that this was a hypersexual performance, I would say, yes, she was sexy, but in a classy, dignified, and confident way. The choreography and coordination were amazing and no one can deny that was a solid performance.

  • DeeWW

    I suggest you prove you believe this by having the choir at your church dress like this in a similar fashion – and if people complain it is inappropriate – just tell them they are only seeing what they want to see.

  • Jmac74

    I’d hit it!!!

  • Micahweedman

    From a certain critical distance, this contains latent sexism and racism because you did not mention Alicia Keys in your analysis of the empowerment of women of color at the super bowl; instead, you noticed the woman of color who presented herself as sexualized and sexually available. That’s no comment on Bey, but a comment on how white men have long only noticed black women in a sexualized context. That you call it something other than sexualized rings hollow–it’s hard to interpret a woman licking her finger and running it across her breast as “mere” power. Again, I don’t think there’s reason to fear black female sexuality, but we should definitely fear when that’s the only display of black female power we feel the need to comment upon.

    • I think that’s a solid observation about Alicia Keys, and I appreciate you making it. To be fair, the half-time show has a much larger profile and is much more a part of the hype of the Super Bowl. I can remember dozens of half-time performers. None of the National Anthem. So I think I am right to focus here on the cultural zeitgeist and am responding to the cultural narrative that emerged toward Beyoncé in that moment.

      Still, I take your point. The article would be stronger balanced with a comparison with Keys’ performance.

      • jason

        1991: Whitney Houston’s anthem certainly is more memorable than the New Kids on the Block / “Small World” halftime show. just saying…

        (yes, I had to look up the halftime show, but I remembered the year of Whitney’s performance)

      • Micahweedman

        That is a fair point about the half-time show, and you could even add that since Beyonce had recently sung the National Anthem, and famously, Alicia Keys was doomed to forgottenness from the get go. But interrogating her overlook-able-ness was my point.

      • Certainly. I hope you’ll check out my follow-up piece in which I try to address some of my blindspots. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/davidhenson/2013/02/pharaohs-in-america-on-beyonce-and-blindspots/

  • tracy

    So if she had been wearing trousers would she have been less powerful? Send less of a compelling message? I am confused that you mention the judgement of dress as being superficial then mention her dress as powerful. I guess if scantily clad equals pride and power police officers ought to rethink their uniforms as well as men and women in armed forces.

  • As a woman and I am a dancer, I was disappointed because the choreography was fun and yet the clothing and running a wet finger down her chest and grabbing her crotch and hitting her rear end, distracted from it all.

    Regarding power, a woman’s power is not about showing off her body. Nor is it about having to do everything without a man.

    As for the different responses you encountered, my experience rather differed. I have heard mixed responses from both men and women.

    As a mom, I want my girls to be confident. But never at the expense of exercising their power over another person – whether that power be sexual or not. I want my girls’ confidence (in fact I would prefer if everyone’s confidence) were rooted in knowing they are valued by the Lord as human beings.

  • Craftydap

    She basically did a pole dance like a stripper. The crotch bumps, tongue and other lewd gestures had nothing to do with power. It was more like playing to the lowest common denominator. There were millions of kids watching last night many of them girls. I ask you if you think this kind of “power” display helped them?

  • earthchick

    I really wish I could believe that Beyonce’s performance was some sort of prophetic statement about women’s power, but I just don’t see it. I love what you’re trying to claim here, but I think it’s an overread of what was actually going on in the performance, for many of the reasons already named in the comments by others. There was a lot about her performance that was powerful and beautiful, to be sure. And I always love seeing a stage (or chancel) full of women using their gifts well. But to me it just seemed to be in keeping with the superficial notions of “girl power” that we’ve been hearing and seeing from entertainers for awhile now – notions that are primarily in service to consumerism. As a feminist, I also have a really hard time understanding how women singing “if you liked it then you should have put a ring on it” could possibly be a part of a subversive moment – it’s a statement that seems, on the surface, to be about power and independence (you can’t have this!) but that “independence” is only based on the absence of traditional contract (you can’t have this because you don’t own me! but you could’ve! you should’ve!). That’s not the kind of “girl power” I want to see perpetuated.

    • jason

      Well said

    • Mike

      Very good points. The notion that the Beyonce performance is a watershed moment in progress for women’s rights is kind of ridiculous. Also great point about rings and symbolic “ownership” (although that might also cut both ways at least in many modern contexts). Still, the notion that other people have a say in how a female person dresses seems quite wrong, and can ultimately lead to ideas of male excuse for rape (as in the case of Michael Sanguinetti statements).

      A parent that feels that what is on TV may be too much for how they want to raise their children, should turn off the TV. But as adults, it is not our place to tell people how to dress. It seems that the logical conclusion of some of the arguments here is that we need to become a society of burka wearers. Also, in general, if you find a person in some way attractive, you should aim to not make that influence your judgement of their competence or goodness or worth as a person.

      • earthchick

        Hi Mike. I’m not sure if you meant this as a response to my comment or not. The first three sentences seem directed at my comment but I’m not sure about the rest – I didn’t say anything about how she dressed, and I definitely didn’t say anything about parenting and children. [My kids didn’t watch the Superbowl (nor did I – I watched Beyonce’s performance online the next day, to see what everybody was talking about).]

      • Guest

        I couldn’t agree more to every word you said!

    • Guest

      “Put A Ring On It” does not mean “you can’t have this because you don’t own me! But you could’ve! you should’ve!” Which seems to me you think that marriage is one party “owning the other” but the lyrics are implying that “you can have me if you commit to me fully and only me.”

      In an earlier part of the same song the lyrics state that committed “love is what I prefer, what I deserve.” A pretty powerful statement that reveals that she knows her worth and anything less is unacceptable.

      • earthchick

        No, I actually don’t think that marriage is one party “owning the other,” but I do think the symbolism of a ring given to a woman by a man has a long history of implying that. And the use of “it” has an objectifying quality that I hear as reducing the woman to her body.

        Don’t get me wrong – I actually like the song. I just don’t hear it as prophetic or subversive.

    • Guest

      I was actually digging your flow until I reached the bottom portion of your comment “you can’t have this because you don’t own me! but you could’ve! you should’ve!”. I don’t look at marriage as ownership but more so a partnership, where two people are bind to a life long journey. The song, to me, instead, points out the fact that if you would have appreciated me when you had me (hence, giving me my place as you’re #1) perhaps you’d still have me. The song goes on by mentioning “I cried for three good years, you can’t be mad at me” suggest that the woman was either being mistreated, cheated on, or whatever else and now he’s lost her for good.

      The message “if you like it then you shoulda put a ring on it” is another way of saying, if you love me then you should appreciate me, not cause me heartaches and treat me like the woman that I am.

  • Andrea_Videographer

    My husband and I regretted over and over putting our daughter (2 years old) to bed before she could see the amazing spectacle. Women playing drums, women playing guitar, dancing/marching it was inspiring!

  • Sparklesprinkler

    She relied on theatrics and sexuality to give validity to her show. Her facial expressions were all about how much she “knows” everyone wants to f— her. This article about female empowerment does not accurately describe what message she was sending. I find it ridiculous that women want equality, yet separate themselves from men and use performances like Beyonce did for the halftime show to say “we don’t need men”. That’s hogwash. That teaches separatism. We need each other. We are indeed equal to the opposite gender in our value as a person. I can’t stand this extremist horse dung.

  • Yousuck

    LMAO. Actually I think her performance was plainly made to draw attention to her being a fine piece of ass.

  • BonfireMaiden

    I can appreciate what you are trying to do here. My sense is that you are a pro-feminist man and honestly see Beyonce’s performance as an expression of sex equality so I think it’s worth taking some time to engage you.

    The notion that wearing tall boots with jacked up heels and a black leather and lace teddy and dancing in front of millions of “viewers” at a male dominated sporting event isn’t playing into the male gaze – but rather a form of female empowerment – is just baffling. Beyonce was clearly appealing to porn-influenced heterosexual masturbatory fantasies, evidenced not least by the exploding phallus’ (aka “money shots”). What about this display is female defined? How are women reappropriating male images and turning them into female ones with guitar solos that climax with phallus ejaculating from their strumming? Having all women in the band is refreshing but hardly a sign of liberation given the context.

    My other question is around your use of the word “prophetic.” Could you define how you are using it here? I use the word “prophetic” in reference to an act that evokes or embodies an alternative to the dominant consciousness. Half naked women gyrating in front of a camera challenges…what exactly? I realize we don’t see much of anything prophetic on television, but you could have changed the channel to HBO and seen a documentary on Gloria Steinem, a true warrior for women’s equality.

    I wonder if Beyonce appeared powerful because she IS physicality strong, and she’s not afraid to take up space. That is profoundly refreshing in a woman, but she’s not subverting the script. Her body is still portrayed as an object of male adoration.

    I long for pro-feminist men to be in alliance with us in our struggle for sex equality but fear that sexism has won again – not only on TV but right here on Patheos.

    • Let me just clarify that I am not a pro-feminist man. I am a feminist and a man.

      • BonfireMaiden

        Thanks for the clarification. I wasn’t making any ideological statement by using the term “pro-feminist,” just using the language some of my male friends/allies use to describe themselves. I’m delighted you are a feminist.

  • Love this! Great piece, David.

  • catalinakel

    I come nowhere near being even close to agreeing with anything this writer states. Maybe I need to get out more. Or become more of a feminist, but I just don’t get it. Ok, so she’s powerful. To what end? And there was “no shame”…well, for shame! There certainly ought to have been. If “men, misogyny, objectification or sexism didn’t win,” I’d say they got a pretty good dose of consolation.

  • I dunno, David. I like that you’re making me look at it from another angle, and I did notice that all the musicians were ladies. But a woman in a bustier, wearing high heels, straightening and lightening her hair, and starring in makeup commercials…I’m just not seeing the girl power.

    If she came out with her natural hair, maybe. Until then, she plays the role of the type of black woman that is sexy enough and of enough indeterminate race to capture our imaginations. That’s not quite the good news I want for my girls.

  • If it was about ‘power’ why did you have to write so much about sex and lust and unmentionables? If it was about ‘power’ it needs no apologies, it needs no qualification, it exists as a powerful thing, without your help.

    Nice try to desexualize that outfit and performance. I enjoyed it very much because Beyonce does ‘entertainment’ so very well. She is fit and healthy, her vocal talent average, but her energy and presence, excellent.

    Please don’t undermine what truly powerful women have achieved.

  • catalinakel

    “…brilliance and boldness?” More like bawdy brashness, I’d say. If that is power, I’ll take weakness any day. But I don’t need to. I am already a fort that cannot be overrun. A warrior (look up my name), a mother and a protector from evil. And, I’ll tell you what. I’d want to protect anyone I know, either male or female from the likes this year’s diva superstar. Beyonce may think that she is “owned by no one,” but I beg to differ. She is quite mastered by the spotlight, I’d say. Lord have mercy.

    a few seconds ago · Like

  • ric hudgens

    Female power? I think of Aung San Suu Kyi or Vandana Shiva or perhaps on this day Rosa Parks who would 100 years old. I was intrigued by your attempt to think against the grain but I just don’t think it holds water. Beyonce dominated the headlines for the last two weeks with her Inagurual National Anthem and her Super Bowl halftime show. This is form of power for sure – but it is celebrity power, market power.

  • just me

    This article is so wrong on so many levels… “prophetic, warrior, a Black woman claiming and owning her power during the misogynist, consumerist celebration known as the Super Bowl”??!! I don’t want to imagine what my black sisters would think about this. All I can say is that progressive Christianity just took a turn into a very dark, dead end street.

    This article has generated a lot of discussion but it adds absolutely nothing to the “conversation on faith.”

    • Agape

      Many black women loved the show and agree whole-heartedly with this article. Myself included.

      • just me

        The show and this article are two different things. My comment is not about the show but of the observations of the writer of this article.

        Note that I am a Latina Christian, professional woman and have worked very hard to succeed in a male dominated industry. I was in a house last night full of professional Christian black men and women. We got together after the church service for dinner and to watch the game. We enjoyed the show, but let’s get real — there was nothing “prophetic” about that show. And it certainly did not empower any of us. On the contrary, we were ordering (jokingly) our men to cover their eyes so they wouldn’t have painful fantasies later that night.

        A good example and true discussion about black woman empowerment and the prophetic is Rosa Parks’ actions on December 1, 1955 — when she boarded a city bus to go home from work. That day she initiated a new era in the American quest for freedom and equality.

        Let’s get real. Beyonce is an excellent performer. That’s it!

  • Lindsay

    I appreciate what you share about Beyonce portraying herself with power, and inviting all other women (both on the stage and in the audience) to do the same. However, it still does not answer the question of why a woman who claims to yield so much power still wear such revealing clothes. When a woman wears skimpy clothes, she is inviting others to stare at her body, rather than drawing them into recognize the entire person God created her to be – body and soul. Beyonce didn’t need to dress as she did. She has the voice, the dance moves, the artistic vision, and the stage presence to give an incredible show. The fact that she is so talented and “powerful,” and yet continues to show off the most intimate parts of her body shows a disheartening lack of power. It’s as if she is relying on sex appeal as a back-up plan in case her talent and charisma fail to satisfy. Anyone can wear skimpy clothing. It takes no talent or power to do that. But, to perform in the biggest venue before an overly-sexualized culture and have the self-confidence that you can captivate their attention without relying on sex appeal? That’s true power.

  • 3rdeddie

    Beyonce only has power because she is sexually attractive. If she wasn’t hot, she wouldn’t be a commodity. (pun intended).
    Yes, she’s displaying her power. She can sing. But her power is in making men drool. That’s it. That’s what we monetize and sell and it’s what makes Beyonce rich.

  • mountain mama

    Beyonce’s half time performance was a”dance of defiance” on the “fresh graves of male supremacy”? egad. She had energy and beauty and power-but please-shelve the purple prose. She was a commercial doing a commercial-she has a great body and a great voice but-hey-unless you feel that SandM symbolizes female power, get real.

  • Cpk45

    this is a lot of words trying to convince people that the number 3 is actually the number 4.

  • CMC

    David, this article deeply disturbed me. Calling Beyonce “prophetic” is a slap in the face to all of the many women who have completely dedicated their lives to empowering the poor through education, welcoming the marginalized and the abandoned, and going to prison for their activism — women like Dorothy Day, Mother Teresa (remember she stopped a war in the middle east for a full day to save sick orphans: look it up), and many others that are still ministering in the world today. Those are the ones who turn the ideas of power on its head. You will not see them on TV (and they probably weren’t watching the game). But their the ones YOU should be watching and writing about. David, you seem like a thoughtful guy, and you’ll probably be a good minister. But for the Church’s sake, don’t waste your thinking and reflecting on this…please. The Church benefits more when we put our efforts towards lifting up the women who are the salt of the earth…not the sugar.

    • CMC

      One last thing…we need to stop throwing around the word “prophetic.” It’s starting to sound like the new word for “cool” for theology students.

  • Francoise Crisp

    Is this a joke? So either we can see Beyonce as a feminist heroine that will save us all or a skanky ho? Have you ever heard of nuance? Or is this actually The Onion?

  • Guest

    Author probably could have made his point better by not framing a prime time entertainment event as a moral Rorschach test with a straight face, little humor, much sanctimony, and a strange lack of irony. . .

  • Renard

    Author prob could have made point better by not framing a primetime entertainment event as a moral Rorschach test w a straight face, little humor, much sanctimony, and apparently little sense of irony. .

  • Seeker

    The article does play up a different view then I had thought of. However, I would still have to turn to the bible -1 Timothy 2:9-10-Likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works.
    I understand that he is suggesting that this is an example of her showing power. But is this how we as a nation are wanting to portray how women are to achieve or display power? Are we telling women that to achieve power they have to dress and act as she did? Whether you like Hillary Clinton or not is irrelevant, we can all agree that she has displayed womanly power without having to fall into the over sexualized society that we have created.

  • Bad_boy_112233

    The fact that you had to write this article just shows how deceived you are. It was about power alright, power of sexual corruption. Disgusting.

  • Guest

    I just don’t understand how you can seem to *certainly* draw this specific of a conclusion from a dance… :/

  • Beyonce responded to her critics the best way she knew how-her music. She didn’t play “tit-for-tat” as others would have. No, the woman took control of the halftime; and with other women, flipped a bird at those who tried to criticize her. And she used the venue most of her critics probably were enjoying-the Super Bowl halftime.

    It’s sad that in our age a woman of color who has talent and brains cannot be appreciated for who and what she is. She’s still the object of nit-picking. However, Beyonce changed all that within 15 minutes of halftime.

    And you know what’s even cooler? Beyonce’s performance is forever recorded for posterity for future generations to enjoy (and be inspired).


  • Bernadene

    What drivel. well not exactly, but you’re almost there. I am in the soft porn camp and posted it almost right away every where I thought it would make anyone think. No sarcasm, just admitting what I saw in it’s entirety. And yes i have seen soft porn and porn of any kind is not to be admired. It’s a new feminist thing, you know. Yes, it is about power…and asserting the same kind of male power that is destroying us all. Go Beyonce! Now YOU TOO can be just as shallow a corrupted American culture media driven, externalized and admired thing as the guys on the gridiron! Wonderful news! So Durga was represented and since Durga is the warrior aspect, next, Beyonce join the military, where YOU TOO can become a killing machine! YAY!

    “Last night, men, misogyny, objectification, or sexism didn’t win, even though they got most of the airtime. Rather, last night, thanks to Beyoncé, women owned Super Bowl XLVII.” BZZZZ. wrong answer. Yes they did. You just did not recognize it. Keep trying, you’re almost there. As if owning Super Bowl XLVLL is anything FOR ANYONE to care about.

  • Guest 2

    James Michael Jones,
    You do not have the right to be disappointed in a females outfit because you are male.
    You’re trying to be understanding but as a white male- the most privileged of all people- you do not have that right. Your want for modesty are essentially how you want the MALE gaze to see it. So the female body is seen as an object to be hidden as you please. It seems you just want the right to control misogyny and direct it back at females because you’re trying to keep your privilege while trying to erase its consequences. Comic books are proven to be heavily misogynistic with male heros and femals in distress that need saving, so perhaps comparing her outfit to a comic book character wasn’t for the best since most comic book creators are men- and I’m not surprised you love them. It is a fact that womens breasts and mens breasts are the same. Your dislike for emphasis on female breasts will affect how your daughters are raised to be ashamed of their body.
    Oh, and please don’t diss QUEEN BEYONCE.

  • Thomas

    What a bunch of BS! Beyonce was entirely attired and performed for the male gaze as it is formulated in the culture of American sports. And the male power has always been contained by the system of rules exemplified and extolled by the very game of football played there. Beyonce was permitted to flaunt presumed limitless female power because that power was already confined by the container of male gaze and its accompanying system of rules (e.g. about how much skin can show). What a charade!

  • Guest

    I find it hard to take this commentary seriously at all. Beyonce and a troop of other women, all very attractive by our culture’s standards, performing suggestive moves in revealing attire…wonder why those in charge of the halftime show didn’t choose someone like Roseanne Barr and let her dance in the same kind of outfit? That would be a message of empowerment that would speak to a hell of a lot more women than Beyonce. As much as you venerate Beyonce as a woman with real curves and whatnot, she still fits comfortably into our demanding and unrealistic standards of beauty. She’s not a twig but neither is she an average looking, average figured woman – there’s nothing average about her physical looks.. I can assure you that 99% of men watching were just fine with her figure, and would have also been fine with a thinner supermodel peddling her wares in the same manner – sex sells after all…er, I mean empowerment sells.
    As a father of a soon to be 4 year old daughter, for her sake I will search elsewhere for role models of female empowerment – women who succeed and thrive through intellect, character, perseverance, self-confidence, self-sacrifice, and the building of a better world. Hopefully I can find a few that manage to do so without stripping down to their undies in view of half the world….and whose chief vocational goal is something other than money & fame…quite honestly I think the biggest challenge to her empowerment will be undoing the explicit messages she will be fed from Beyonce and countless other entertainers that reduce the value of women to their sexuality.

    • Bernadene


    • Slimjimsquinn

      Then I suggest you look outside the entertainment industry, as this is the norm.

      Why people are suddenly throwing up arms over a couple outfits when this is the industry standard is beyond me.

      I hope, sir, that you take some time to consider what you are doing is shaming a woman for the way she looks rather than what she does. If you heard her voice, listened to her music or lyrics, or realized the hard work she’s put into making a career for herself, you might realize that she would indeed make a good role model. Perh

      aps not one to your standards, but at the very least, acknowkedge the positives outside her outfit.

  • jwar1138

    “True glory consists in doing what deserves to be written; in writing what deserves to be read; and in so living as to make the world happier for our living in it.” – Pliny Maior

    As with most performances by today’s musicians, I think Beyonce’s falls short. I saw no radical statements on morality or ethics, nor a subversive political or social commentary, nor a concretely uplifting message. The imagery of having no men on stage was a stunt that proved and accomplished little (women have performed alone before). What remained was a string of vapid pop songs filled with tired and platitudinous phrases.

  • Jello404

    I have a real problem with people thinking that to be a “proper” feminist,we all must look a certain way. Carry ourselves in a certain way. It’s toxic. It’s wrong an “feminist” should be ashamed of theirselves. If a woman enjoys being sexy,let her. It’s her vagina to do with what he wants. It’s her body. She owns it. And if she wants to sell sex,who are YOU to tell her that its wrong? If she wants to be specialized,who are YOU to tell her that she’s wrong. I did it hilarious how you woman pretend to be fighting for women’s rights. For women to have choice…but then demonize a woman for “choosing wrong”. Who the hell are YOU to tell Beyonce that her expression of feminism is wrong? IS THERE A FEMINIST HANDBOOK THAT EVERY WOMAN MUST FOLLOW? And if this woman happens to fail the rules in said feminist hand book,DOSE SHE FAIL AT BEING A WOMAN? Is she a bad woman now? What are you idiots trying to say here?

    Beyonces choice was to proudly celebrate her post baby body that she is clearly proud of. It was Beyonces choice to celebrate her sexuality in a way that SHE deemed appropriate and powerful…not the way MEN or “feminist” women would deem appropriate.

    Her vagina,her rules. And another thing. her world tour name is Mrs Carter. You know that Jay Z also took HER last name?

    Also,what if she WANTS to be her husbands property? What if she likes being “owned”? Is she a bad feminist? What if that makes her happy? Are you going to TAKE HER CHOICES AWAY FROM HER BECAUSE SHE ISN’T BEING A FEMINIST THE WAY YOU WANT HER TO BE?

    Another thing,how dare you tell a woman that she needs to cover her body in order to be empowered? HOW DARE YOU! How dare you tell me that I have to cover myself up in order to be seen as a woman of worth and intelligence? How dare you tell any woman how to properly display herself? So are you telling me that the only way I can be empowers is if I LOOK. A certain way? If I look conservative? If I don’t shave?

    Are you telling me tradition feminine attire is not feminist enough? Who decided these rules of what is or is not acceptable feminism?

    I’m sick and tired of women telling other women how they need to dress,how they need to present themselves,what kind of sex to have,what kin of opinions to have…instead of allowing her to use her own brain to create the life she wants to live.

    There is not a right or a wrong way to be a feminist. And for beyonce her prancing around on stage in a skimpy costume made HER feel empowered while it possibly made YOU feel powerless. Notice that this performance was about HER. Not YOU. Not YOUR DAUGHTERS. It was about MRS BEYONCE KNOWLES CARTER and she should be able to express herself any way she sees fit. JUST LIKE THE MEN DO!

    And to all the idiots in this post and otherwise who see female nudity as degrading,a sign of a lack of respect,you’re the scum of the earth. In regardless of my tits being out or not.my words have value,my opinions have value,my thoughts have value.And if the only way you can listen to me and have respect for me is if I hide te very things that make me a woman…you need to look in the mirror and realize that tore sexist,you’re a misogynist and I will never allow you to dictate my behaviors.

    Why is it only seen as female empowerment when women are dressed in a masculine conservative attire? Why can’t I r empowered in a mini skirt? Why can’t I be empowered in 8 inch heels?


    No matter if a woman wants to cover up or dress up,her body. Her choice,and as a feminist,I will not take that away from her.

    It’s not up to you or anyone else to decide if beyonce is feminist enough.

    And let’s kit forget that a man would NEVER receive this type of scrutiny in the media over his actions. EVER!

    It’s wrong.

    • imonetoremember

      Hell yeah Jello404!! Right on! It kills me when I hear women calling Beyonce a slut for her attire at a concert. I’ve seen worse in many theater productions and other concerts. Beyonce who’s been in a committed relationship for over 10 years, is still seen as a slutty woman because they disapprove of what she’s wearing at a show. Men can sleep with hundreds of women, get high-fives from his buddies for it, even tell the next notch on his belt how many women he’s been with and it’s all okay and perfectly acceptable but a woman can’t even dress how she wants without massive backlash and heaven forbid if she’s not a virgin or had many sex partners.

      I also find it interesting that these conservative Christians want to shield their daughters from this kind of display but what about their sons and if I remember right, those where the girls in school that were the wildest and ended up pregnant because birth control is not talked about. I think the approach of calling exposed flesh “shameful” and placing complete control over what is acceptable female behavior and what is not, causes much more damage than watching any show where the woman is in what is deemed as sexy clothing. There’s no shame in living your life as an independent woman, dressing the way you dictate and not worrying about those men who can’t control themselves and what prude women say behind your back once you leave the room, after they gushed over how great they said you looked to your face.

      Look at all the women who fail to have an orgasm because society puts these ridiculous expectations and constraints on women. Women need to be virgins. They can’t like sex or talk about sex like men do. This is evident when you can’t dress provocatively because women will call you a slut and men will claim that they are looking for sex. Men wear those insanely revealing speedos. Men don’t wear shirts when some men clearly should but an overweight woman wearing a bathing suit will get the most negative comments at the beach, but not the fat slobby guy with no shirt and a pee spot on his shorts because he should have shaken twice.

      People are being absolutely insane about Beyonce’s performance, even though a bunch of guys are violently bashing each other on a field but it’s okay, it’s men, it’s their sport that they love and you can’t take that away from them. However, studies have found that young boys who watch violence on tv are much more likely to act out in school but the study found no difference with girls. That says it all right there.

      If people don’t like Beyonce’s performance then they don’t have to watch, they can wear their ankle length jean skirts and button up to the neck blouses and worry about themselves instead of worrying about what others are wearing and placing judgement on others because they don’t have shame for their bodies.

      Both my husband and I felt uplifted and impressed by the performance. We were shocked to see nothing but negative comments after the show.

  • You’re kidding, right? Beyoncé’s dance was a dance of seduction with the lustful looks and the opening and closing thighs of a cabaret performer. All that was apparently missing was the stripper pole. I suppose the short-shorts, the pushed up breasts, and the masochistic butt slapping were on display for other women. No, I believe the intent here was the gaze of a male audience. It’s difficult to believe the simulated sexual gyrations were meant for anything more than titillation, the coquetry of the courtship dance, and a beckoning of full on male admiration. It was after all entertainment at a male sporting ritual. Very much like the entertainment found at a bachelor party only the bachelors were married, and not a few of them brought their children along. The notion of women seeking power by flaunting their physical attributes is beyond grotesque and diminishes women who struggled for equality and recognition through use of their minds. The only female power on display during the half-time show was the certain power women have always had—the power either to use sex to their advantage or the power to withhold it for even greater advantage.

  • actually the best part about her performance to me was that it appeared that her band consisted of women musicians.

  • in reaction to the article i too think it’s a Rorschach read. Lots of projection by reviewer. as to the content of the “performance”…I’d be interested in who the choreographer was…

  • Claireplater

    As a Christian, I wouldn’t want this part of the Super Bowl played in my home. A little bit of modesty would not go amiss…then we might actually notice Beyonce’s VOICE and DANCING. Sure she looks great, very sexy, and I wear this kind of thing for my HUSBAND to enjoy. She should save it for her husband, her own husband, not mine and everybody else’s, along with little prepubescent boys who want to watch the Super Bowl. Each to their own, we all make our own decisions… but I wouldn’t want one of my friends showing up in front of my husband dressed like that – so why allow some stranger in my lounge? You can paint it any way you like – but her outfit was immodest. Admittedly – no different to most music videos out there…but I don’t play those either. I much prefer my life without half naked women in my living room. It’s far healthier for our marriage and for my two little boys. I try to teach them good values … And these sorts of things undermine good values.

  • RP

    “There was no shame.”

    The epitaph of our fallen world.

  • Angelval55

    She played to her male audience, very much a business, societal decision.
    In case you are not aware, the Superbowl is the number one human trafficking event in the US…I found her style not only exploitive of women, but a step backwards in the struggle to be seen as a fellow humans, rather than an object of satisfaction or a source of pleasure.
    We need to be mindful of the messages both subliminal and overt that we are sending to our children, both girls and boys.
    Thumbs down here.

  • Guest

    Why are you even talking about this? Do you not have anything better to do/

  • Camille

    Funny thing, but THIS woman didn’t think she was any of those things. And no, I don’t care what she was wearing, and I didn’t think it was “too sexual” or any of those things. When her show started, I walked out for one simple reason. Two weeks ago, when she gave birth, she had the entire maternity ward blocked off with HER security. Simply because she didn’t want anyone seeing her, OR any her famous guests in the hallways, the kept several OTHER parents from being able to get to the NICU, where they had sick, premature babies. I get that she is a celebrity. Fine. Have your guards at YOUR door….but to do what she did just proves she has the “I’m better than you, I’m a Diva, it all revolves around ME” type of mentality. I won’t support ANY celebrity who would do this to other parents. Famous people have babies all the time and you don’t hear of them pulling this kind of crap. I have nothing but contempt for her, and it has NOTHING to do with how much she wiggles her ass on stage or how sexual her performances are. You say she shows “Power?” YEP, that is EXACTLY what she was trying to show at the hospital, and it didn’t matter who she stomped on. Shame on her!

  • Ginny Bain Allen

    You have got to be kidding me! Sasha Fierce and her husband Z have sold their souls to satan, and you as a Christian are down with her satanic practices? Did ya get warm fuzzies when she held up the sign of the Illuminati during her halftime performance? How about when she seductively placed her hand by her vulva? Did you not notice the evil sparking from her eyes that was clearly apparent at many points throughout her entire performance. Do you honestly believe that for Beyonce Z to forcefully display the power, you purport she displayed,was any better than the sensuality she also displayed? The power she displayed was from satan. How is that anything to praise?

  • Sickened

    This entire post is sickening. There’s no substance. You just seem to be on some sort of crusade against reason and logic.
    Her body is indeed sculpted just as men desire, and the dance was incredibly sexual. Beyonce is a natural-born entertainer, I’ll give her that. But then somehow equate that with a feminist struggle is just ridiculous.

    To repeated the unsubstantiated claim that the Super Bowl is misogynist is immature. It let me know immediately that you don’t care for reasonable discussion.

  • Drewstpaul

    Sorry, this is an interesting critique with shards of truth in there, but I read this and came away slightly pissed off. Wasn’t about sex, it’s about power, REALLY? These things aren’t at the very least intertwined??

    It WAS most definitely about sex, even if it was a positive celebration of female sexuality (and POWER!), it was about sex. Woe be the man, Mr. Henson seems to be saying, who watched all that gyrating and hip shaking and saucy over the shoulder looks and prayed for a wardrobe malfunction, you there! Go stand in the misogynist’s line, YOU JUST DON’T GET IT! Any man who might objectify this impossibly beautiful woman as anything but a feminist roll model is a ‘troll’ Mr. Henson?

    Few things are more threatening to a male audience than a beautiful, powerful women who doesn’t need a man, or even a male gaze. . . Dancing on the fresh graves of sexism? WHAT??? Beyonce??? Give me a break.

  • Reality speaking

    She drops her butt low multiple times which is a seductive behavior, she literally licks her finger then slides it down her body. How numb to sexuality are you, is our society that blinded. Because they flood the media with this kinda material it takes a lot more to shock people or stand out to them. If there is any statement of power here, it is that a woman can use her sexuality to entrance thousands of people, but I pretty sure we all already knew that.

  • Ginny Bain Allen

    If Beyonce were worth her salt, she would have immediately set the record straight as soon as the questions began swirling around about the possibility of her lip-synching at the inauguration. Au contraire, she realizes her position as an idol, and is adept at capitalizing upon it. The worship of Obama and many other celebrities is unfathomable!

  • Damn, this is such an amazing commentary. Thank you so much for this.

    My wife and I were watching the show and when Beyonce stepped out, it seemed to me her feet were like thunder, her smile glowed, so powerful, so confident. The closeups of her face showed exultation, not a puckered seduction. We both noticed that there were only women on the stage and even the few glimpses of stage hands seemed to reveal women on everything. Her choice of songs, the empowerment. It was incredibly obvious this wasn’t a top 5 rehash, it was a strong statement.

    Coincidentally, a good friend sent me a link to a Ted Talk by Sheila Kelley. When women let a man tell them that they are too sexy, too beautiful, too slutty, to cover up, they are also letting men tread on them and destroy their inner woman. My advice to men that can’t take a woman’s power, avert your gaze then brother. I saw her halo and to me it was divine.


  • TechTock

    Well, I think it was sexual and not powerful. It looked like a Las Vegas showgirl revue. Unlike a Madonna show, there was no featuring of the band. She has a mostly women backing band that no one got to see because Beyonce would rather dance with herself on a video screen. Also, Madonna’s shows often were powerful because of her stage set. They were usually huge and industrial. Every set piece was about Beyonce. As a matter of fact, when some Super Bowl performers would often include locals into their show to endorse the local city or NFL she choose to have her face illuminated on both sides of the stage. There was no shout to New Orelans or the Super Bowl.

    The show was disappointing especially the Destiny’s Child reunion. Let’s she how ‘Bootylicious’ she is 10-15 years from now.

    • Evo Brax

      In 10-15 years, she has already said she is not going to be “Bootylicious” and has not interest. Beyonce will be performing OPERA with her 4 octave (not 3), coloratura range – sounds laughable at best to non-fans…. but frankly its not something for me to defend.

      Beyonce has the utmost dedication to her band and her dancers – who have been with her for YEARS, if they so chose. She is not trying to “sell” a female band, they are just that, her female band…. featured dancers, multiples of them have been with her for YEARS – which is unheard of for an artist that can hire new blood at will. These people are in her shows, her videos, her tours, everything- almost a decade in some cases – AND AT THE SUPERBOWL.

      • TechTock

        First of all, Beyonce pays a very low retainer fee for her band. Very low. So low that the band members pick up other gigs or teach. And her Suoer Bowl show didn’t feature the host city or its denizens, it was a ode to Beyonce. And Beyonce singing opera is laughable. And don’t care if she has a six octave range if he can’t get through a 5 min or 2 hr show without lip syncing. What makes you think she has the stamina to sing an opera?


        And have you heard Beyonce’s latest masterpiece ‘Bow Down’? Beyonce is concerned with making dough while she’s young and doesn’t care what she sings. She’s overrated and overexposed. And her claims of trying to be powerful and not sexual as this article suggests is laughable. 10 years from now, no one will want to hear her music. And 20-30 there will be no musical tributes either,

  • camandlynds

    Hi David, appreciate that you sincerely crusade for female empowerment. However, I feel compelled to offer my different perspective as a woman who has struggled with that universal female plight of body image and false notions of “female empowerment.” I’ve reached a point in life where I more fully understand what “female empowerment” means, and this understanding has been unspeakably life-giving. I hope you’ll consider my input. I pasted the link below since it’s too long for the comment box. Thanks again for your perspective.


  • CC

    Sorry David, but you’ve missed the boat. Yes, Beyonce has a great figure, and yes, it was a terrific display of female power. But honestly, as a woman, I wonder why it’s necessary to show off quite so much. The Super Bowl used to be a family friendly event. Now between the commercials and the halftime show…. well, have you tried watching with pre-teen boys in the room?

  • Ignatius Twain

    Dear future priest… I think you may need to loosen your padawan clerical collar– it’s cutting off the oxygen to your thinker. This article is fraught with so many illogical graffiti, and strawman fallacies that it’s difficult to find a starting point. Before I start, I would like to say: I love Beyonce. I think she is just amazing. And she’s beautiful. She’s kind of a crybaby sometimes (see academy awards fit over Jen Hudson, even though I thought she was as good or better than JH.) I thoroughly enjoyed the halftime show. It was: Sexy, smart, creative, fiery, fierce, and just flat-out great entertainment. It was such a breath of fresh air from the garbage of the last 5 super bowls. It made Madonna’s *thing* look like the overblown Spinal Tap fiesta that it was. But back to your article here…

    Your foundational argument:
    “That a Black woman claimed and owned her power during the misogynist, consumerist celebration known as the Super Bowl only highlights Beyoncé’s brilliance and boldness.”

    This is one of those comments that sounds on the surface like something you can really make you pump your civil-rights fist and cheer for progress, but in truth, the comment darn-near makes absolutely no sense and I wouldn’t say that reeks of condescension, but it certainly smells like you stepped in some before you typed it. “That a Black woman…” Why not just a woman? Is a Black woman the lowest on the cultural totem pole in your cultural construct? Try studying the CURRENT slave trade in the US alone. It’s asians and Indians. (real Indians, not the true Native American that Columbus named Indians and we still idiotically call them that.) You basically go on to insinuate that she was singing at a KKK rally and dancing the seven tenants of civil rights behind a single veil of lace banging all who watched into submission by the power of her hips alone. All to demonstrate… drum roll… HER POWER. Really? I think that’s what you are basically suggesting after 3 full reads. I’m not sure. What I am sure of is that most of the players on both teams are black and powerful millionaires. Yeah, the knock each other around, but there is so much padding on their bods that the Rugby players across the ocean think we are wusses. Beyonce herself is a brilliant entrepreneur, entertainer and performer and millionaire. I doubt she struggles with power issues. She gets whatever she wants when she wants it. My wife delivered our first baby in the same hospital that she delivered her baby. However, Beyonce was able to buy out and renovate a whole wing of the hospital. Whereas were moved to three different rooms, each one with malfunctioning equipment, showers, etc. She got Lennox heaven and we got Lennox Hell. That’s what I call power.

    Rather than suggest that she’s on a black panthress mission to dominate all mankind from the high throne of Black voluptuousness, I would suggest this: Beyonce is an amazing talent and entertainer. Just like Elvis, she knows her audience well and she knows how to ride the line without ever really “riding” it. She is also a student (in spirit) of Bob Fossey who centralized sexuality in dance (rather than exploiting it gratuitously) thereby amplifying its effect. Have a look at “Put a Ring On It” and you’ll see a Fossey tribute. All except the part when the three girls step away from the Fossey-way for about 5 seconds and start doing the sex-romp hip gyrating for her hip-hop fans. Everyone I know kind of winces at that part. But overall, the video is absolutely genius. I actually agree with drunk Kanye on that one. She was robbed.

    Absurd sentence numero zwei:

    “It’s no wonder some people attempted to wrest back control over her and her body by marginalizing her performance by sexualizing it.”

    GBLOLSOHIPAL. (Giant belly laugh out loud so hard i puked a little) Excuse me. I didn’t hire the army of hotties and dress them in lingerie to dance around with madame hips and lips herself. There’s nothing to “marginalize” here. There was nothing peripheral about what was going on up there. She has a sexy body that hetero men find attractive (and so sexy that it’s attractive to some gay men I know!) and she knows and she used it. Are you going to try and convince anyone that there was nothing “sexual” about the lace draping over her half-exposed booty? I can’t think of a culture throughout the history of time that hasn’t made an art of the “veil” in eliciting a sexual reaction from the male animal. She didn’t strip it off, but if you are crying foul on men who are saying she was sexy then Beyonce is at the very least complicit. Then she hired about 100 other women with bodies just as exciting as her own and handed them the similar veil-things. Granted, I wasn’t sitting there shielding my poor helpless lustful heart, lashing my back to ease the guilt, nor was I imagining here naked, but certainly her sexuality and beauty was an ingredient used in the set before us. In short: it didn’t suck to watch. Why? Well, no matter how much you’d like to let the artist formerly known as Beyonce off the hook, this is a woman who acutely understands the workings of the man’s mind and she also knows how far and no further. And God bless her for it. There’s a great musical that you should see to help you with this concept: Gypsy. Actually, there’s quite a few. Cabaret… Chicago… eh, pretty much all written since the 70s except for disney and wicked. It’s just ludicrous, what you are saying. You might as well say that men when marginalizing Norma Jean when she stood over the subway vent and had her picture taken. Poor Marilyn. She just ‘HAPPENED’ to be standing over that vent during her film and all those evil men just took that all out of context. It takes two to tango.

    Hilariously goofy statement number three:

    “Beyoncé began her performance by upending the narrative. As she walked the length of the stage, Beyoncé showed more power in a handful of purposeful, defiant strides than both sports teams had during the entire first half. In short, during those few steps, walking as a woman, Beyoncé declared ownership of that stage — that stadium — and, more importantly, claimed ownership of her own body in the most misogynist and objectifying four hours of mass culture.”

    Simply put: There is another profession where a woman can exercise the same power that you describe and with a similar audience: A stripper at a strip club. The only thing missing in your description was a pole at the end of the stage. She certainly had power, but to deny that she used her sha-bang-bang to enrich her “power”, with full knowledge of what her bod does to the football-loving man’s brain. It’s really absurd, sir. And if you say that it’s different because Beyonce never actually let a man use her body like strippers do, well, you aren’t allowed to touch strippers either. Lest a GIANT bouncer grab you by the hair and toss you into the darkness and onto the cold cold pavement. (I have a friend who’s wife was just recently hit by a man being thrust from a stripclub by a bouncer. she broke her elbow in the fall.)

    You wrap up your article here with some nice sentiment and a little homage to Durga and draw parallels to Beyonce. However, I think your description of Beyonce’s purpose and performance lends itself more to Mahishāsura, the goddess that couldn’t be defeated by any man and was destroying everything with her power. Durga, in turn, was actually created by the men and women gods alike to defeat Mahishāsura. It’s almost like comparing Mother Mary to Salome. Mary’s seed (the power to create life and nourish and protect and love- all characteristics of Durga as well, more or less) would crush the head of the evil enemy and mocker of man… Solome’s dance, however, cost John the Baptist his head because it wielded such power over the King. My opinion: I don’t think Beyonce was either. She’s a spiritual and thinking person so she was probably inspired by the possibility of this theme, but it quite possibly was conceived by a (probably gay) choreographer who gave her the idea. That’s there job, really. Shoot, it might have been Jay-z. I think Beyonce falls into a different category: art. She was dancing and singing and using her sexuality as a major paintbrush but all-in-all it was still art. She’s so darn beautiful that she could wear mom-jeans and a sweater and men would still say it was sexy and talk about her sexiness. But that’s not what happened. She knows her audience and she did it up nice for them. It wasn’t all about the good of womankind, though.

    Where I agree: I think Beyonce for sure silenced her lip-syncing critics. But we all knew that she could sing live. That was just people being people wanting to destroy celebrities like we love to do in this world. Beyonce is probably the best live performer since Michael Jackson.

    You think it was all about women power. I think it was this: Hetero men like to watch beautiful women. They also like great singers and performers. It’s true. It’s super-awesome when they are both. That doesn’t make us barbarians. And it doesn’t make the performer an exhibitionist. It’s just nature, padre. It’s what makes the birds sing and fan their feathers once a year for a mate and what makes the 7th grade boy hit the bench press. Don’t go all gnostic on us.

    Lastly, hetero, misogynist men, as you call all of us men that find women attractive, also have no problem with women guitarists and drummers. We find it quite awesome and sexy, as a matter of fact. Robert Palmer’s video “simply irresistible” changed music videos for ever. Why? Because when it premiered there came such a cry from the MTV male (mostly teenage) audience that all who heard it in marketing were forced to heed the call. What was the call? “MORE OF THAT. PLEASE. YES. MORE HOT WOMEN PLAYING GUITARS. OH. MY. LORD.” But that’s a little unfair. There are plenty of women rockers out there who don’t dress like that, and we love them all. Beyonce, being the brilliant, beautiful, fantastically entertaining, and incredibly knowledgable about the man’s psyche, used all her powers during the national hetero-man mecca hour, to wield a completely rocking half-time show. To prove my point about Beyonce, this goddess of feminine truth and justice, this paragon of feminine power, dancing upon the graves of sexism in a black one piece bathing suit and a lacy frock, because that’s what you do when battle sexism. You get all gussied up in sexiness and sing bootylicious on its grave. Saying she was fighting sexism in that performance is kind of like saying -though less extreme- that Penthouse is fighting sexism by hiring an all gal-cast for their feature films. If that’s true, then i think your anti-sexism crowd just grew by the millions, possibly trillions, overnight.

    And with that, I’d like close with a word from madame fierce herself. I think that it succinctly qualifies my argument and absolutely crushes yours. Heed the words of Beyonce, your holiness. For this was her shakra last night:

    Baby can you handle this?
    I don’t think you can handle this

    I’m about to break you off
    H-town goin’ hard, read my hips
    Slap my thighs, swing my hair
    Squint my eyes

    Lookin’ hot, smellin’ good
    Groovin’ like I’m from the hood
    Over my shoulder I blow you a kiss
    Can you handle, handle this?

    I shake my jelly at every chance
    When I whip with my hips you slip into a trance
    I’m hoping you can handle all this jelly that I have
    Now let’s cut a rug while we scat some jazz

    I don’t think you’re ready for this jelly
    I don’t think you’re ready for this jelly
    I don’t think you’re ready for this
    ‘Cause my body’s too bootylicious for ya babe

    • Guest

      illogical graffiti? what does logical graffiti look like (plural or singular)?

  • Guest

    “They were fierce, but refused to be masculinized or objectified.”

    Was the refusal to be objectified before or after they sang “My body’s too bootylicious for ya, babe”?

  • Oh. So when conventionally “feminine” women claim roles and instruments traditionally held by men, it’s beautiful and powerful… but when women who choose not to follow obsolete, artificial standards of conventional “femininity” claim roles and instruments traditionally held by men, they’re just “imitating men.”

    Thank you so much for mansplaining that to me.

    • I think the issue is when women are forced into those roles. Either way. What is feminine is up to the woman not anyone else. I don’t necessarily agree that he was saying that following those traditional roles aren’t beautiful or powerful. But often times women are forced into that and it becomes problematic.

  • Lockhartv10


  • Beyonce’s Reckoning


    Making a duckface in the picture of this article… she’s really claiming her body.

  • Alex Davies

    Incredible piece of writing! Loved every thought and can’t agree more! She was incredible and owned the night!

  • I think a lot of people are missing the point of the article. Women are taking back control of their bodies. Beyonce, Michelle and Kelly were highlighting that. Black women in particular have a history of their bodies never quite belonging to them being a topic of discussion both in and outside of the Black community. I saw women existing beyond being just an extension of men…existing as individuals fully capable of achieving great things on their own. Cover yourself up or show some skin…whatever it is, just do you.

  • Phoenix

    It was a dance of defiance one can achieve through sexual power. So I have to disagree. Young kids watch the Superbowl. What do you think my 12-year old niece saw: defiance? Or that your body gives you power–not your mind, your accomplishments and your successes and failures.

  • Hyaah

    Nice article and all, but all you do is ramble. How was it powerful, how was it fierce. Though are just your thoughts and opinions. Fact, there were no men on the stage. Fact, all the women had very little clothing on. Fact, football is a mans sport with lots of drunk male fans. Perhaps the ladies were playing it up for them. See, that is an opinion. She did a fine job singing and performing as she always does, but the fact remains that she was wearing very little clothing and dancing provocatively. So if the only reason you have for it being fierce and powerful is because there were no men on the stage, that is very unfortunate.

  • kristen inDallas

    I think the only problematic assumption is that Beyonce does in fact “own” her sexuality and that she is in fact “empowered” to make all those choices about what she chooses to wear and how she choses to represent herself. To pretend that there aren’t choreograpers, wardrobe consultants, agents, managers, the superbowl committee itself sitting behind the scenes weighing in on every decisions seems a little naive. And what role does money play? Is she under contract, and if so what are the terms? How much of what she agrees to is what she really “wants” and how much of it is buying the power of wealth by trading in the power of her body? I agree that we shouldn’t be making assumtions that she single-handedly destroys feminism, but we can’t make assumptions that she’s empowered either. It all depends on motive, which no one here knows.

    I’m commenting as someone who is a female performer and musician, who does have to think about these things and make these kinds of decisions. Some of the commenters have brought up the idea of an artist using sexuality as an empowered “f you” to people who expect you to act a certain way (an androgeonous feminist or a demure housewife) in order to get any respect. There’s something to that. However I’m much more likely to interpret graphic sexuality as an artistic “f you” when it comes in a context you wouldn’t expect it at. (If she had worn that outfit to the inauguration, say, I’d believe her as the empowered feminist doing what she likes in spite of cultural norms becuase, art.) But portraying that image at the superbowl, exactly in the way so many males have come to expect and even demand, sorry, I’m not buying “high art” or “feminism” without a really inspiring speech out of the mouth of Beyonce herself. It’s not new, it’s not unpredictable, it’s not inspiring, it’s exciting maybe, in exactly the same way all halftime performances (featuring females) have ever been exciting. At best, it’s average pop-art. At worst, very effective product-placement of the “Beyonce” brand.

    Citing Beyonce as an example of the liberation and empowerment of women is about as misguided as using her as a counter-example in favor of something more or less “feminine.” No matter what side of the fence you’re on, all of those conversations revolve around what she looks like. When’s the last time someone had a thoughtful conversation about any of her lyrics? Like it or not she (and her management team) are not fostering those kinds of conversations.They are fostering a conversation about her looks. Sure, maybe they’re stirring up some new opinions on “another way it might be okay ofor a woman to look,” but the topic is still the same. I personally don’t find it very helpful, but I also never assumed it Beyonce’s job to change the world.

  • Elspeth

    This article is mundane at best. Have we forgotten to whom football caters? Men. It caters to men. She looked stunning, yes, but Beyonce still had her breasts hanging out. This is a pitiful excuse for true power.

  • it was genius. and for those that paid attention, there was no cleavage…no ass cheeks…just women ruling that stage. we should never apologize for being women and owning our power. 108 million people watched this woman give a SHOW during one of the biggest performance of her career. she was ON. she was brilliant

  • Nyshay24

    I truly agree with all in which was written above as far as powerful women. And that it showed nothing but that women are so powerful by themselfs, just to hear the next day, the announcement of “Bey’s” upcoming tour, labeled “the Mrs Carter’s Tour” , can someone explain that part.

  • Susannparlee

    Beyonce has not been the only strong female performer at the SUPERBOWL. While I respect what you are trying to say, the fact that her attire was just another sexy get up in a large public is a fact. Women in the industry use sex for attention. Whether it be to liberate themselves or to show strength. It is still selling sex. Superbowl is an adult event that is viewed by thousands of people of all ages and gender. Shouldn’t it be treated as such? Well, not anytime soon in this country or any other as a matter of fact because there will always be people like you praising the act of courage, but never facing the reality of what it ultimately stands for.

  • annoyed

    you’re dumb.

  • Caltico13

    I find this to be an extremely silly article.

  • “If what you saw was a singer selling sex to the masses in a skimpy outfit, let me suggest you saw what you hoped to see” – What a brave and presumptive declaration sir. What I hoped to see was musical talent and a female empowerment that didn’t need to be sexually enhanced.

    If you’d like to send your daughters to school dressed like that, then I’ll believe that you actually think the show wasn’t tainted by overt sexual overtones. Until then, feel free to tell me what YOU saw, but don’t presume that everyone saw it the same way.

    • Adavis2087

      Huge difference between a daughter who is underage and getting sent to school and a daughter who’s a woman at 31, married and a mother. Huge disparity.

  • amtp21

    This article is hilarious. Seriously dude, you cannot say that when a woman is dancing on a stage wearing a “skimpy outfit” (thats putting it nicely) that you can blame any guy for looking.
    Btw you missed a heck of a football game because you were placing undue attention on someone who was by definition a sideshow to the main event that was the super bowl. It’s the same as watching the NBA finals to watch the cheerleaders, except for she was on the stage for a longer time.
    The game was about 4 hours not including the blackout, Beyonce was on stage for 15 minutes. Watch what is important, because you missed it.

  • Blogofstench

    Power to do what exactly? Force the re-authorisation of the violence against women act? Push through the reproductive rights bill? No? Then power to do what?

    • Adavis2087

      Is power only attained and wielded in the realm of politics and government?

  • Thawhiteshadow

    Give me a break. People discussed he legs the next day; not a tired rhetoric of the plight of male dominance. Rather, you bloggers need something to invent so that you have something to say.

  • ALii

    As a woman excitedly watching this female display of power, I felt an extreme absence when she didn’t sing at least a few bars from “Run the World (Girls).” That would have punctuated her performance, and this article. I have to wonder who’s artistic/political decision it was to leave that out. I guess I could (and do choose to) see some of that song represented on stage by the all-woman synchronized dance routine when “all the women on stage joined in.”

  • Guest

    So you’d be cool with your wife replicating this in front of all your guy friends as a show of “female power”? Would it also have been just as effective if she had worn a turtle neck and jeans if it was about defiance? There’s no chance she wore something different from what you see on the street everyday because that’s what media/fashion/men pay attention to?

  • djsnl

    So sluttiness & bad vocals are merely in the eyes of the beholder, not the exhibitionist? I think not! If this was really a “defiant dance of female power” by “women who refused to be owned” and who “refused to be masculinized or objectified,” then why were the attire, the dance moves, the pre-planned camera shots, the instrument interactions, and the set all designed repeatedly to call attention to her body? That emphasis is pretty blatant without any wishing for it on my part.

    The author’s claim “in the midst of commercials and a culture that objectified women and their bodies and in the middle of a sports spectacle that construes power in terms of violence, Beyoncé began her performance by upending the narrative” is a noble one that I so very much wish were true; instead, her whole performance was completely the opposite. Instead of relying on her natural talent and beauty, she sold out to sensuality and consumerism, resorted to erotic mimicry of male sexuality, and gave up what “power” she had to become merely an object, culminating in appeals for the masses to worship her.

    I laughed out loud when I read that “Few things are more threatening to a male audience than a beautiful, powerful woman who doesn’t need a man, or even a male gaze.” Really? Didn’t “need” a male gaze? This performance was an example of the opposite – it only worked BECAUSE she had an audience that was predominantly men (and as far as I’m concerned, she could have done it out in the desert with no cameras and no one watching if she truly “doesn’t need a man, or even a male gaze,” and we would have all been better off for it). No, I think the only guy who “saw what he wanted to see” was the author of this article, and it’s a pretty lame and over-genericized effort at that.

  • Msloan

    I saw what I saw David and was not impressed. This is not the kind of power I want my daughter to display. Shame on Beyonce. Not Superbowl material. I could barely hear her voice so the show pretty much simulated a bunch of women pole dancing in very little clothes. Hummmm, I think there are a lot of women that could do that…..

  • You’re the one who completely missed the point. She made a joke of herself, in objectifying her body, & confusing certain reactions (presumably yours) with a sense of empowerment; when, all along, she was simply being hooted & hollered at like any prostitute, to whom money is more important than value. There is a difference. You missed it.

  • Clearly, not as dumb as you!

  • SugarWaterMama

    The most empowering part of the performance, I thought, was the $50 million dollar endorsement deal for schilling sugar water to little girls and boys. I hope my daughter is brave enough to own that sort of empowerment. Except, of course, the part where she is complicit in the biggest American export of global disease (obesity) since cigarettes. But, hey, cigarettes were empowering for women, too! Fight the power. David- you seemed to have missed MIA giving you, and everyone else here, the finger during her halftime performance last year. Literally. She. Gave. Us. All. The. Finger. And her songs directly address global inequities and violence.

  • ADT James


    I honestly think you thought way too hard about the performance. I think more than most you read her performance through some very thick interpretive lenses. She was basically wearing lingerie on stage. She sang very little, mostly chorus. Yes, the all-female performance was great. Everything else was terrible and definitely demeaning to her and women in general. Behind the performance, the choreography, the set-up, the industry, are men who intentionally objectify women, because that “sells.” Gay men, older straight men, younger money-hungry men, are behind the scenes, laughing all the way to the bank.

  • Guest

    After reading this I felt “Hmm, that’s a very positive way of looking at this. Maybe I can see that aspect. I’m sure there are plenty of people who did feel empowered by this.” But only a bit, because the act can’t be seen as not sexual and as selling that sexuality, no matter what her intentions are she is a product. She is selling her brand and is no different (I assume) from a concert of hers. She has said herself that this is a persona (Sasha Fierce) up on stage that is more sexual and aggressive and not like how she actually acts in everyday situations. This was very intentional and meticulously planned. Does she have that right, of course. Her empowerment intentions aside, it also says a lot of other things about sexuality and worth and adds to the mountain of like messages in our culture. I’ve “liked” a lot of comments that expressed my feelings more eloquently than I can, and I’m linking to this blog post that does the same:

  • Mikki

    “i don’t think ur ready 4 this jelly…cuz my body’s 2 bootylicious”, “got me looking so crazy right now, ur love’s got me looking so crazy right now”, “if u liked it then u should have put a ring on it”….well i def as a woman feel empowered by these lyrics….seriously???

  • Sullivans41

    Wow i ❤ beyonce! She is amazing and a whole lot of woman!

  • Tif

    Well written article. Women empowerment is a good thing as long as it doesn’t go overboard like anything else. My only gripe is that I thought her iguana swimsuit was quite ugly. She knew she was going to be getting into exposing poses and I don’t think a swimsuit was the right choice.

  • YES

  • Well I missed the performance live and whatever she did she sucked up the last electricity which caused a major black out in the second half. This also turned out to be a hail mary for the home team, although they still lost. Anyway, that’s sports, sex, drugs and Beyonce!

  • Hetheru

    The cheerleaders wear less, I see no complaints about their attire.

    • Ginny Bain Allen

      Then you’re not paying attention.

  • Amckeever

    David: I’m a priest in your neighboring Episcopal Diocese of Northern California who loved Beyonce’s fierce and powerful performance at the Super Bowl. Thanks so much for expressing yourself so well as a Christian, as a father of sons and as a husband of another strong woman, Your Wife The Medical Student. I just read your Gospel of Our Lord according to the NRA and have officially become your Number One Fan. And no, I don’t at all resemble Kathy Bates.

  • Diocletion

    How is it empowering to dress like a whore? Modern feminism has completely lost its way, focusing on sexual liberation/empowerment, while being oblivious to the fact that you are setting back actual feminism by more than a hundred years

  • I am not sure if anyone who actually grew up with Durga has seen or commented on this rather fascinating post about Beyonce, power, and sexuality. I have spent more than a quarter century since I came to the US from India trying to explain to a psycho/spiritually patriarchal America what Durga and my own “Kali” might mean to a woman. So when I discovered this post about a powerful American superstar being compared to Durga, I am compelled to say a couple of things. First, it will take a while before a “sexist,” “racist” and “Father God” saturated “monotheistic” psyche of America to even begin to understand what Durga might mean. However, the culture here has changed enough that a theologian sees the connection between a dancing superstar’s all female performance and Durga’s story.

    Not having anything to do with the Super Bowl, I watched Beyonce’s full performance online only after I read this. Sure enough there is a curious similarity between this all female star performance with choreographed multiple hands, and the final scene of a lone Beyonce dancing by herself, and the mythic tale of Durga. However, Shakti, the Divine Mother as the energy, force, and power in the universe, appears as a “defiant” woman only to the Asuras, our own egotistical delusions that she must destroy, not to the worshiper.

    I can assert that hardly anyone who grew up in India, however benighted s/he may be by its own patriarchy, will see Durga as anything but a spectacular manifestation of a Divine transcendent power. Yes, utterly female and supremely beautiful with no mind-body duality, Durga could make women recognize their own divinity. But how can a spiritually patriarchal America from whose psyche the Divine Feminine has been erased understand this comparison! And yet I am glad that Beyonce, whom I adore without understanding her music, who supremely exudes that energy women like me call Shakti, has managed to initiate such a dialogue. I congratulate the author for recognizing that Shakti dances for herself in supreme joy of existence.

  • I am not sure if anyone who actually grew up with Durga has seen or commented on this rather fascinating post about Beyonce, power, and sexuality. I have spent more than a quarter century since I came to the US from India trying to explain to a psycho/spiritually patriarchal America what Durga and my own “Kali” might mean to a woman. So when I discovered this post about a powerful American superstar being compared to Durga, I am compelled to say a couple of things. First, it will take a while before a “sexist,” “racist” and “Father God” saturated “monotheistic” psyche of America to even begin to understand what Durga might mean. However, the culture here has changed enough that a theologian sees the connection between a dancing superstar’s all female performance and Durga’s story.

    Not having anything to do with the Super Bowl, I watched Beyonce’s full performance online only after I read this. Sure enough there is a curious similarity between this all female star performance with choreographed multiple hands, and the final scene of a lone Beyonce dancing by herself, and the mythic tale of Durga. However, Shakti, the Divine Mother as the energy, force, and power in the universe, appears as a “defiant” woman only to the Asuras, our own egotistical delusions that she must destroy, not to the worshipper.

    I can assert that hardly anyone who grew up in India, however benighted s/he may be by its own patriarchy, will see Durga as anything but a spectacular manifestation of a Divine transcendent power. Yes, utterly female and supremely beautiful with no mind-body duality, Durga could make women recognize their own divinity. But how can a spiritually patriarchal America from whose psyche the Divine Feminine has been erased understand this comparison! And yet I am glad that Beyonce, whom I adore without understanding her music, who supremely exudes that energy women like me call Shakti, has managed to initiate such a dialogue. I congratulate the author for recognizing that Shakti dances for herself in supreme joy of existence.

  • My dear,
    If your “ideal” of womanhood is a depiction such as Beyonce treated us to on SuperBowl Sunday, you have lost your soul to the idea that women must compete against men in their world in order to “gain power” in order to fully embrace their own identity as women.


    If Beyonce was “showing power” to the males as a “liberated woman” to claim female independence from men, she failed miserably and totally.

    Instead, she treated us to a spectacle of “woman is sex” – which is, if you truly believe women are not here on this earth just to please men, exactly the wrong message to send.

    Trying to call it anything else is just pitiful.

  • Torger Helgeland

    David, do I have to watch Beyonce’s halftime show to be enlightened? This after tryiing to commit more resolutely to my conclusion that I must stop playing morality cop by sampling all the sleaze in too public places just so I can know what the bad guys are up to, only to find, once again, that I was really looking for an excuse to lust. Do I have to watch to be enlightened, when she has already responded to an interviewer’s observation that she is seen as a temptress with the smiling comment, “Thanks, I’ll take that.” Do I have to watch someone who has deliberately displayed on camera her ability to jiggle her butt as an isolated skill? I thought I was over this and now you’re saying I need to sample such again so I can be blessed with a new vision of beautiful female empowerment? How did you get over the lust, David? How did you become an enlightened one who can see in the skin and gyrations beautiful female empowerment? I’m not addicted to porn. I’m tempted, but, thank God, I haven’t given in to the obvious stuff in years (only the morality cop stuff) and my soul rejoices in the freedom. I do not envy the hell my friend lives with who is addicted, and I need to watch Beyonce’ again??? So, yes, I’m criticising what appears to be liberal christian madness, but if you truly are on to something, I honestly want to be set free as well. But you’re going to have to steer me to more thorough source material, and some scripture would be nice, to convince me. Til then I can only ask you to your face, what in the world is the Bible for if it’s so difficult to interpret that enlightened guys like you are needed to disclose it’s real meaning as being so completely opposite to what much of it seems to be saying so plainly? Why is God such a wimp that he can’t move wiriters to write more simply and clearly? Why not “… and when you view a woman coming into her sexual beauty and strength of soul amidst the oppressive glare of the blind and spoiled male populace, thou shalt rejoice and affirm her daring so that all women can be freed in like manner…” There, that wasn’t rocket science, and I’m just a has been high school journalist. Why couldn’t God get the writer’s of the Bible to say that? I suppose you’re one to interpret liberally and that’s the point and the excitement, to find the truth amidst the corrupted scriptures? I so, then OK, OK I see your point, but then where does your authority come from to speak with conviction as if commanded by God? Are you the almighty arbiter of truth now?

    Thanks for reading, but I just had to say something. Now to decide if I should watch that dang video. I can’t believe I’m considering it. You’d better hope you’re right or you’re going to wish you’d been fitted for a millstone necklace, ya know.

    Torger Helgeland, torgbob@yahoo.com

  • Eliana

    THIS is women empowered, dancing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fL5N8rSy4CU

  • Mike

    Don’t demonize men. You’re making the same mistake men have made about women for thousands of years.

  • jim

    This article is a liberalist peice of junk. HOW in the world you can spin this as a “nobel reflection of female power” from that show is beyond me (and millions others). Get a grip and let the show be remembered for what it actually was…. over exposed jiggle factor from an actress that has little else to offer.

  • sandy

    Well David, You go tell your wife to dance like that in that outfit infront of millions of people

  • sandy

    Well David, why won’t you tell your wife to dance like that in that outfit infront of millions of people. Thank you.

  • sandy

    Well David, why won’t you tell your wife to dance like that in that outfit infront of millions of people.