Monday, 7 December 2009

The Problem With Beyoncé & Sasha Fierce

(Another BitchBuzz post)

After watching Beyoncé's 'Video Phone' about 163 times today, I've decided that I'm no longer content to waste hours watching her on Youtube, I want to be her. I want to be able to dance like her, sing like her and wear her clothes. There is a small problem though, according to Beyoncé, the 'her' I want to be isn't 'her' at all but her alter-ego Sasha Fierce.

Sasha Fierce is the one stomping about in the 'Single Ladies' video, proclaiming 'A diva is the female version of a hustler' and getting down and dirty with Lady Gaga in 'Video Phone'. Beyoncé explains,

“I have someone else that takes over when it’s time for me to work and when I’m on stage, this alter ego that I’ve created that kind of protects me and who I really am”.

Creating a persona for performance is something that many musicians do - Madonna and David Bowie are probably the most obvious examples. I can understand the need to do this in some ways. I'd imagine it can help with nerves, and you can disassociate yourself with more outrageous parts of your act.

This behaviour isn't confined to performers though. Many of us have probably found ourselves putting on an act when we're out with friends, scoping out potential bedroom-buddies. And in the bedroom, it gets more pronounced. Women's magazines are always telling us to dress up and create fantasy scenarios for our partners.

The problem is, you can hold an Anne Summers party and take the pole dancing class but the moment you stop performing and make it real, you are made to feel ashamed. Women's sexuality and sexual history is used against them in rape and harassment cases. We're supposed to be Sasha Fierce in the bedroom and Beyoncé everywhere else.

Whilst I understand that creating an alter-ego can be useful for performers, in this context, Beyoncé's insistence that Sasha Fierce protects who she really is seems a bit sad. Obviously, her sex appeal has helped her to sell a lot of records, but underpinning this is the idea that she's not really sexual, she's a good girl. Because, of course, women aren't allowed to be both.

This seems cynical to me. She knows that sex sells but she also knows that she must avoid being labelled as a 'slut' so she distances herself from her own behaviour. It's not totally her fault though, you only have to look at women like Gaga, Xtina, and Britney to see how woman who are openly and unashamedly sexual are demonised in the press. Who would willingly put themselves through that? Certainly not me.

People often talk about Beyoncé as a great role model for young women. In lots of ways I suppose she is. Her lyrics can be empowering and she seems pretty down to earth and clean living. The sexuality she portrays in songs like 'Single Ladies' is also mostly positive. It's assertive and powerful. Here's a woman who would be just as comfortable saying 'no' as she is saying 'yes'. If she owned this as part of her personality, she could well be a brilliant role model but as long as she distances herself from it, I can't quite buy into the idea of Beyoncé The Ultimate Empowerment Queen.