Thursday, May 9, 2013

An Open Letter to Michelle Obama: Beyonce is Not a Role Model.

By Rakhi Kumar
Dear Michelle Obama,
I'm addressing this to you because I admire you. Because you're smart and a mum to two young girls. And you're the First Lady of the USA. And because you were recently quoted as saying that Beyonce is a great 'role model' to your two daughters, and because you recently tweeted, after the Superbowl, that you were 'so proud' of her.
I'm writing because everything you do is admired and emulated by so many; but when you endorse a recording artist like Beyonce, I see the most misogynistic aspects of the music industry (that prefers girls to be no more complex than dolls) interpret your comments as a seal of approval for the

This is not as cut and dry for me as the open letter indicates. 

Females in the music industry have a far more difficult path than males. They get judged 10 tomes harsher for any use of sexuality. Any display of sexuality is demonized yet man can flaunt theirs like a battle flag. 

While Beyoncé DOES make music about sex and uses sex as part of her image, it is not all that defines her. She wears things that are outrageously sexually supercharged on one occasion but she also wears elegant gowns and portrays black woman as sophisticated equal in all ways to white women. She is not just a piece of meat to men but yet very few would kick her out of bed. More so, most would like to marry a woman like her. She is beautiful, talented, sexy, successful, classy... She is neither a saint nor a tramp. That is a very hard road to navigate for a woman. She goes out in public in jeans and a shirt, sometimes even in sweats with little to no makeup on. She is a woman and more importantly a black female that walks that very fine line. 

She does not make children's music but most of her music is playable in the company of children. All of this is dicey material deciphered and ingested differently by everyone according to their own individual tastes, morals and opinions, but what I think Michelle Obama is mostly talking about is her business acumen, her drive for perfection, her work ethic and her ambitions to succeed that has borne fruit. This is a lesson every women need take heed of. My daughter is a very talented singer with ambitions of pop success... And there is a lot she can learn from Beyoncé .. Including what NOT to do. I would never want my daughter to be Beyoncé but there is a lot to look up to and even more that she can learn from her.

Role models of any kind that are blindly followed are dangerous. No one is perfect... No one has ever had a perfect career and personal life. As a young black boy growing up, I idolized Malcolm X... He was a criminal before the greatness he achieved. I also idolized MLK who was an adulterer... James Brown had me chanting "say it loud, i'm black and i'm proud "with clenched fist raised, but he was a wife beater. Same thing with Jim Brown. Should children no longer look up to these people? Or should we teach them that we are all human and make mistakes. Follow their greatness, learn from their mistakes and don't repeat them.

Same should be said of Beyoncé  Maybe Michelle's big mistake is not saying what exactly her girls admire about Beyoncé and why. Beyonce has many applaudable traits and talents... Model, actress, singer, mother, songwriter, dancer, etc... And successful at them all (though the jury is still out on the mother part). She has done and accomplished much that any father would be proud of. She has also done much that many would cringe at were she their daughter.

Just because someone is a role model doesn't relieve us of our duties as parents... We can't just say follow "them" and wash our hands of it divorcing ourselves of our responsibility to guide our youth.


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