Well, here we are in 2014 back at square one trying to explain that women—just like people!—have the extraordinary ability to enjoy sex without being completely defined by it. Didn't Madonna already cover this a quarter of a century ago?
Today CNN.com has published an essay titled "Beyonce, what have you done?" In it, journalist and concerned father LZ Granderson is thrown for a loop that Beyoncé's PSA for Lean In's #banbossy campaign can exist in the same universe as her hyper-sexual video for her song Partition. There is a disconnect for him that the pop star can so openly and aggressively express her sexuality—by wearing a crazy-ass cage thong on her crazy ass and singing about sucking her husband's dick in the back of a limo—while also taking part in an initiative that encourages girls to be leaders.
Granderson says, "Beyoncé the role model is questionable as hell."
Of course, he's not the first (man) to question the singer's cred as a role model. Bill O'Reilly, Fox News anchor and newly-appointed champion of young black women, grilled Russell Simmons earlier this week about how Beyoncé has failed teenaged women of color because her video "glorifies having sex in the back of a limousine."
Before we get into the basics of women's studies 101, does anybody else think it's weird that these guys are so weirded out about a woman singing about giving her husband a blow job? They should be deifying her, not vilifying her. Way to argue against your own interests, dudes.
But here's the thing: It's not only possible that a woman can be both sexual and a good role model, it's also more than likely. Most people like and enjoy sex. It's natural. That Beyoncé has chosen to embrace and so openly express her sexuality on the same album where she also sings about being a mother and identifies herself—in no uncertain terms—as a feminist is no coincidence. These things are all connected.
There's nothing like having a baby that'll make a woman step back and say, "Wait a minute, this shit isn't fair." If you were able to put your head in the sand about the inequality of the sexes for most of your life, it's something that you'll be forced to confront once you become a mother. The differences in responsibilities—physical and otherwise—are just so glaringly obvious and the lack of sleep will zap your patience for gender bias real quick.
Added to that is the physical and emotional journey one takes with her body. After not feeling sexy for like a year (or more) many mothers develop a completely newfound appreciation for their bodies. They become more comfortable in their own skin. Beyoncé spoke about this exact thing in a behind-the-scenes look at "Partition."
I was very aware of the fact that I was showing my body. I was 195 pounds when I gave birth. I lost 65 pounds. I worked crazily to get my body back. I wanted to show my body. I wanted to show that you can have a child and you can work hard and you can get your body back. I'm still finding my sensuality, getting back into my body, being proud of growing up. It was important that I expressed that in this music because I know there are so many women that feel the same thing after they give birth.
You can have your child and you can still have fun and still be sexy and still have dreams and still live for yourself.
One's body—and by extension of that, sex—is not something that should be shameful, but should be savored. But that's not how we're raised. Granderson's and O'Reilly's comments are evidence that "Partition" challenges the patriarchal ideology that women aren't supposed to like sex—we have to shield our daughters from it. Because what would that mean for the world if women were taught, even from a young age, to have sexual agency?
What's more is that on that same album, a few tracks after "Partition," Beyoncé sampled feminist Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's speech about feminism on "Flawless":
We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls, 'You can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful. Otherwise you will threaten the man.' Because I am female, I am expected to aspire to marriage. I am expected to make my life choices always keeping in mind that marriage is the most important. Now marriage can be a source of joy and love and mutual support. But why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage and we don't teach boys the same? We raise girls to see each other as competitors – not for jobs or for accomplishments, which I think can be a good thing, but for the attention of men. We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings in the way that boys are. Feminist: the person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes.
She literally spelled it out.
But according to Granderson, grown-up Beyoncé is for grown ups only.
If she truly wants to be kid-friendly, she should consider leaving the foreplay in the bedroom because trying to have it both ways makes parenting for some harder than it should be.
Sure, sexuality is a complex issue and takes some explaining (obviously). But the suggestion that Beyoncé suppress her sexuality or other aspects of her humanity just so that you don't have to have an uncomfortable conversation with your kid is absolutely ludicrous.
What people like Granderson and O'Reilly really need to understand is that they can't change Beyoncé or preclude her from speaking to young girls about women's issues. What they can change is their own paternalistic views about the roles that women play in this world. As Daenerys Targaryen said, "They can live in my new world, or they can die in their old one!"