too sexy? | the body policing of beyonce


Over the past few weeks, the Christian blogosphere has been buzzing with conversation surrounding sexuality and the church, the harmful consequences of hyper-vigilant modesty codes, and the idolization of purity culture. I was so encouraged to see this type of dialogue taking such a prominent place in the online Christian community. It was refreshing to see people of faith speaking out against the rigid policing of women's bodies, the double standards women face in regards to sex, and the guilt and shame that many Christian women feel over just simply being women. 

But that was before the Superbowl.

From the first few seconds of the Superbowl halftime show, I was mesmerized. Beyonce looked absolutely stunning. Her dancing was incredible. The lighting, the staging, the band...everything was basically immaculate. Compared to Madonna's hot mess performance from last year, I was thrilled to see a professional, entertaining, relevant, and fabulous half-time show. Not everyone likes Beyonce. Not everyone is into her type of music. But I know a great performance when I see one.

And then I made the mistake of going on Twitter.

Apparently Beyonce's performance was "too sexy" and I didn't get the memo. Beyonce. At the halftime show of the Superbowl. Not the ballet. Not the opera. The Superbowl. Mmmmkay. 

In order to wrap my mind around this notion of one being "too sexy" for the Superbowl halftime show, I decided to explore the main points of contention surrounding Beyonce-gate. 

The Costume

People seemed concerned that Beyonce wasn't wearing enough clothes. Because dancers are known for their conservative performance wardrobe? Alright. Let's examine the evidence: 


Across the board, it seems like "sexy" is the norm for Superbowl halftime shows. So if you're going to complain about Beyonce's outfits, then at least be consistent. I'm not trying to put a value judgment on these particular outfits, I'm just confused why Beyonce is all of a sudden getting singled out for her sexiness. I personally don't see how Beyonce's outfit is "too sexy" compared to female Superbowl performers of the past (or ice skaters or gymnasts or dancers), so let's move onto the next complaint. 

The Dancing

When I saw complaints about Beyonce's dance moves being "overtly sexual," I sort of chuckled to myself. Perhaps they had never seen Beyonce before? Perhaps they've never seen this music video or this one or this one or this one or this one or this one. As a longtime fan of Beyonce, I would say her halftime performance was tame! If you know that, in general, Beyonce dances to most of her songs and some of the dances could be described as "sexual," then why would anyone expect something different from her halftime performance? People are acting very shocked that Beyonce acted like Beyonce. Personally? The whole time I was thinking, "Wow. Bey can move!" It made me want to dance! She was captivating and energetic during the whole performance. She showed off her strength, athleticism, curves, confidence and magnetic stage presence. And yes, it was definitely sexy!

Not Family Friendly

Of all the complaints, this one baffles me the most. For reasons. Why is it assumed that the Superbowl or football in general is a family friendly event? Football glorifies displays of violence and aggression. Beer and alcohol commercials abound. Superbowl ads are notoriously degrading and sexist towards women. And if you thought Beyonce's outfits were "too sexy"...

Super Bowl XLVII - Baltimore Ravens v San Francisco 49ers
I applaud parents who are discerning about what their children watch. If you felt like Beyonce's performance was too mature for your child and you needed to change the channel, then I seriously respect that. But that doesn't mean it was too mature for everyone. I would venture to say that the Superbowl is meant to cater to a more adult audience. Again, I don't see how Beyonce's performance was somehow a deviation from this alleged "family friendly" atmosphere of the Superbowl.

Too Sexy

I keep coming back to this phrase "too sexy" because I'm not sure what it means. How sexy is sexy enough? At what point does "sexy" cross over into "too sexy?" When is it OK for a woman to be sexy, if ever? Who gets to decide the appropriate level of sexy for a grown-ass woman? Seriously. I want to know.

Because to me, all of these complaints sound exactly like the body shaming, body policing, and modesty codes that the Christian blogosphere was railing against just last week. So we don't want to be judged for how we dress, but it's OK for us to do it to Beyonce? So we don't want to be told how much we can reveal or not reveal with our clothing, but it's OK for us to do it to Beyonce? So we don't want to be held to impossible and subjective standards that try to shame women, but it's OK for us to do it to Beyonce? So we don't want to be told that our sexuality is something we should try to suppress and be ashamed of, but it's OK for us to do it to Beyonce?

Hm. Interesting.

So why are people (OK, mostly Christians) really upset and unsettled by Beyonce's performance? And why aren't men held to these same standards and levels of scrutiny? 

Society sends women such mixed messages. If we reveal too much then we are "too sexy." If we cover up then we are "prudes." If we put effort into our appearance then we are "fake." If we try to age naturally then we are "letting ourselves go." And let's not even get into slut-shaming. No matter what we do, it seems like we will always be on the losing side.  

I've read stories of many women over the past few weeks who have expressed so much hurt and pain over the exhaustion of trying to keep up with these impossible standards and constantly feeling ashamed about their bodies. So maybe we all need to channel our inner Beyonce every once in awhile. Maybe we need to own the stage, strut with confidence, and not ask permission to be who we are.

And maybe instead of constantly scrutinizing women, we need to be more focused on setting an example for future generations that it's not OK to determine someone's worth based on what they look like. Or dress like. Or dance like. 

So what does everyone else think? I would have never guessed this would be such a polarizing topic, so feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section! 

There's so much more I could say on this topic, but to read more insight from others, visit The Smitten Word and Joy In This Journey and Nish Happens