As a fan of R&B divas — I stand second to no one in my admiration for Erykah Badu and Amy Winehouse — I found this Beyonce video irresistible. Produced on behalf of Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign to improve children’s health, the choreography and staging dazzle, Beyonce plays the camera like it’s a fiddle, and what she does in 6-inch stilettos is an athletic feat worthy of Lebron James.
And as someone who can’t dance and wishes he could, the idea of inspiring kids to move their feet with rhythm seems great to me. Nietzche — who apparently could cut a rug — put it like this:
Dancing in all its forms cannot be excluded from the curriculum of all noble education; dancing with the feet, with ideas, with words, and, need I add that one must also be able to dance with the pen?
There’s also a solid policy basis in Beyonce’s foray into kids’ videos. A mounting body of research suggests that the practice of sitting around all day — which for too many people starts in school and continues into a life toiling in a cube farm — is extremely hazardous to health. That said, I have to add that I wish the First Lady and the pop diva would launch a campaign to defend PE classes, which across the country are being sacrificed to appease the False Gods of Fiscal Austerity.
All of which is to say that at first blush, I found the video fabulous. But then, on a listserv I’m on, several women started raising questions about the gender politics on display. Beyonce’s short shorts, stilettos, and, uh, bounciness present a hypersexualized image of femininity to school kids, they argue. So, readers, what do you think? Help me unpack the politics of this video, gender and otherwise.