When I saw the tweets below last night from Dr. Kaila Story, an assistant professor at the University of Louisville and the Audre Lorde Chair in Race, Class, Gender and Sexuality Studies there, I had to agree. And then I had to figure out why.
The sensual, sexy feminine part was obvious: It’s in Beyoncé’s curves. Hair that flows down her back and blows in the wind (machine?). Skirted, lacy lingerie with sequins, fringe and frills as costume. The makeup. The face under it. That unabashed southern accent, unaltered despite her world-wide travel. Her mysterious Creole ancestry—mysterious because of pop culture depictions of New Orleans and Creole people—and its exoticism.
But the toughness was harder for me to pinpoint. I think it’s her deep and powerful voice, the physicality and military precision of her choreography, her size and last night, the black attire and dominatrix boots. She’s never been a waif, and in those boots, she looked like she could hurt someone.
Then there’s her power. A performance like the one she gave at halftime exudes it. I think it’s part mega-star status, part high from doing what she was born to do, part physicality as I referenced above and part feminine energy. I remember hearing her saxophone player, Tia Fuller, saying in an interview on a special program that aired on NPR last year (but that I can’t remember the name of and can’t find), that the way they communicated in the all-female band was a different experience, more intuitive, maybe because of the way women are built, with the intricacies of our genitalia inside. Whatever the that thing is that connects women, it works. Beyoncé is surrounded by women when she performs, and they always look like they’re a force to be reckoned with.
Other insights brewing in my head that I don’t have the capacity to analyze at this hour: Why does “tough” have to be made sexy for people to like it on women? Why aren’t toughness and sexy already synonymous? And what does it mean when your toughness isn’t sexy?