It’s official. Beyoncé and Jay Z can’t even leave their house without a slew of Internet think pieces analyzing every aspect of their lives being written. But after the duo’s sexy Grammy performance, the web once again exploded with opinions about the Carters.
Metro UK called Beyoncé a “whore;” Akiba Solomon of Colorlines was disheartened Bey cosigned Jay’s “eat the cake, Anna-Mae,” line; and now New York Post writer Naomi Schaefer Riley is calling Jay a “poor excuse for a husband” because he stood on stage while his wife shook her groove thing for the cameras.
Oh the horror!
Now, listen, Bey and Jay are not above critique, particularly after that lazy-ass Grammy performance (yeah, I said it). We can take him to task for his continued use of the b-word and D-boy references, and we can discuss whether or not the message of Beyoncé’s music is truly empowering to women. But calling Jay Z “a poor excuse for his husband” because he “allowed” (uh, WUT?) his wife to perform in a manner that she has always performed seems like a bit of a stretch.
I’m certain if I look through enough Jay Z song titles, I’ll come up with the right name for his role in Beyoncé’s performance at the Grammy Awards Sunday night. Rhymes with Goodyear. . . ? Well, how about I just call him a poor excuse for a husband.
For years, these award ceremonies have pushed the envelope; Beyoncé’s booty-shaking was certainly no worse than Miley Cyrus’s twerking or any number of other performances by Madonna, for instance. But there’s something particularly icky about doing it while your husband looks on approvingly.
“Honestly, I didn’t want to watch Jay Z and Beyoncé’s foreplay,” says Charlotte Hays, author of “When Did White Trash Become the New Normal?” Indeed, the happy couple seems to have completely blurred the line between what goes on in their bedroom and what happens on national TV. So much for the woman that Michelle Obama has called “a role model who kids everywhere can look up to.”
Hays says, “It wasn’t surprising to see Jay Z, looking pleased at his wife’s hyper-sexualized exhibition on stage.” After all, “he’s made a living singing lyrics that call women ‘bitches’ and ‘hos,’ so we shouldn’t be surprised that he objectified his own wife on stage.”
It is a little bit surprising, though, coming so soon after Beyoncé contributed to the recent feminist manifesto, the Shriver Report. When she complains that “gender equality is a myth,” one wonders to what extent her consent to sell sexuality has contributed to the problem.
Something tells me that Riley has never seen a Beyoncé performance, if she had, she wouldn’t be so caught off guard by the diva’s Grammy chair dance (which, to be real, wasn’t as“sexy or dope as her other performances). But never mind all that. Calling Jay Z a pimp (as in “rhymes with Goodyear…”) and saying he’s objectifying his wife removes every ounce of agency that Beyoncé has in the situation. Moreover, her assertion that a woman cannot be publicly sexy while being concerned about gender equality is not only problematic it’s just dumb.
Aren’t men able to be seen as being sexy and serious (hello George Clooney, Denzel Washington, Idris Elba, Brad Pitt)? But Beyoncé, and by extension, all women, cannot twerk when we wanna and also talk about the wage gap or reproductive rights or politics, because…why exactly? Feminism?
Riley may have had a point had she’d kept her critique to the couple’s performance. I mean, it’s one thing to disagree with the couple’s racy duet and want pop stars to lay off the booty-popping on primetime TV, but it’s quite another to disparage what appears to be a really loving marriage simply because you don’t like the way they do their job or show affection.
Which brings me to this foolishness. Riley argues that Bey and Jay shouldn’t have been all over each other on the Grammys because they have convinced America they are an “adorable family,” and apparently, adorable families don’t twerk on TV.
“The sophisticates will say that what we saw Sunday were just the long-established stage personas of Beyoncé and Jay Z; why should their marriage change that?
Well, for one thing, the happy couple have invited audiences to admire their adorable family, with dad even joking about his daughter’s sippy cups when he accepted an award on Sunday. So they’re suggesting to audiences that this kind of public sexual behavior is compatible with a loving modern marriage.”
And this is my problem with all of the hubbub over what Beyonce and Jay Z do with their lives. Despite what Riley thinks, the couple isn’t “suggesting” anything about how modern couples should behave. They are performing—for money—and giving fans a glimpse into their own lives, not our own.
If you don’t want to see Beyoncé writhing on the stage, or Jay slapping her ass, Ms. Riley, I have a simple fix for you: don’t watch.