Monday, August 18, 2008

Why Upgrade U Leaves a Bad Taste in My Mouth


Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a huge fan of Beyonce'. I think she is extremely talented, beautiful, intelligent, and classy. But I do have to say that I am disappointed in the message behind "Upgrade U." It's not so much the materialism evident in the song. But I feel it is reinforcing sexist attitudes when young women and girls need to be affirmed in their right to stand on their own two feet and next to their men, not behind them.

It didn't penetrate the first several times I listened to the song, which I really like on one level. It's got a great beat and Beyonce' sings wondefully as always. But the last few times, I realized that in this song, Beyonce' is embracing standing by her man. That's great in itself. But it comes off that she is saying that it involves standing back and supporting him in his success. But that doesn't mean that a woman should take a backseat to her man. You says something along the lines of "you can take me to dinner and I'll be the perfect accessory for you." That line really bothers me. I feel it is selling a woman short to say that she should just stand by and make him look good by looking beautiful. I firmly believe that saying that was good for the old days," Behind every great man is an equally great woman." Well women had to stand behind men back then because that was the only role they were given. Historical women fought very hard to gain the rights that we should have had as human beings. Clearly this battle is still being fought. I hear and see a lot of women in the media and in my personal encounters who seemed to have forgotten how far this country has come as far as recognizing women for their achievements. We are not second class citizens whose only worth is to look good and support our men. Women are capable of being the stars of their own shows and accomplishing much without the help of men. Does that mean I am saying that women don't need men? Not really. I think that having a man to love and support you is a great thing. It helps a lot of women achieve their personal best. I think that for some women, having a loving man as their partner completes them, and I'm all for that. But some women are so great already that a man is just the icing on their cake. I believe that girls and young women should get this message from the beginning that they are worthwhile, have the inate ability to be successful in life with drive and vision, and can be fulfilled in their own right. The sky is the limit, and life doesn't depend on finding happiness in a man and supporting that man. Yes, a woman should support the man she loves, but she should do it knowing that she is equally capable and successful, even if it is in a different way. Even if she is a homemaker and doesn't work, she is doing an incredible job, keeping a home and raising future adults that can impact the world one day. She is never less than her man, by any stretch.

I am happy that Beyonce' found a great love in her husband Sean Carter, and he helped her to see herself differently, and on one level it's not wrong for her to convey this in her song. After all, it is her song, and it is her personal experiences. But on the other hand, I think she should realize that she is a role model for girls and young women. She has become successful in her own right in part due to her determination, hard work, and her commitment to be successful, and also because her parents, family, and friends supported and continue to believe in her as a capable woman. Now she can embrace love with Jay-Z and continue to be successful. But young girls may not have her advantages, and hearing some of the things that Beyonce' has to say in "Upgrade U" may send a misleading message to these girls. That pains my heart.

I think that I have struggled just as much as many other women and girls struggle with their self-esteem where the media blasts us with images that convey a very one-dimensional and undiverse concept of beauty. Wondering why boys like some girls but not me is something that most woman dealt with at least once in their lives. Why is so much of a woman's self esteem tied into how good they look? They cannot be all they can be if they are not sexy and beautiful. Well every woman is beautiful because she is a unique creation. She doesn't have to fit traditional modes of beauty to be successful.

History has shown that some pretty wonderful women may not have been glamour girls in any sense. I won't mention any names because it's beside the point. They are beautiful to me because of their fortitude, their drive, passion, and ambition. I firmly believe in the sisterhood of women and that we are pretty wonderful creations, much beloved in God's eyes. Hopefully I will be able to have at least one daughter one day. If I could teach my daughter that this is what true beauty is, not how big her breasts are, how pretty her face is, and how many guys want to date her, then I feel that I have been a success at raising my daughter to be a woman of fortitude and accomplishment.

I know that this not the place for political statements. I scrupulously try to avoid doing that. But my heart told me to post this because I want to be at peace with myself. I want to continue to admire Beyonce', and she must not be put up on a pedestal where she is immured to criticism. If she happened to read this blog, I hope that she would come away with the genuine concerns of a genuine fan, and have some food for thought when she writes more songs that will fall across the ears of young, impressionable, and desperate for acceptance young girls. I think that an artist must always have the freedom of expression, yet also embrace how the impressionable, who often view an artist as a role model, will embrace the message inherent in her art.

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Blogger Evy said...

I am reading your notes here and you do have some valid points. As women, it seems we are wired to think we are inferior unless we are Pretty, Beautiful and Sexy in the eyes of the western world. I have a daughter who is 12 and she already has issues with her self esteem and worries about her weight. It doesnt help that I constantly talk about my own weight and my struggle to loose 30lbs from having other kids. Its a struggle but I hope in some way I can remind her she is beautiful, intelligent, funny and oh so sweet.

9:52 PM  

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