There’s been a lot of chatter over the lack of feminist outrage over Beyonce’s half time show which, as one blogger complained, was “overly sexy,” and “felt more like a Victoria’s Secret runway than mid-field at the Super Bowl.”
But Beyonce’s wardrobe and performance were in no way deserving of feminist ire.
And what has been lost in all of the post-Super Bowl blather is that it was not just the Ravens, the 49ers, or the ads that helped make Super Bowl XLVII a huge, commercial success.
Five intelligent, beautiful, well-respected, and phenomenally successful black women made the evening — power outage and all — an evening for the history books.
On an evening when a 30-second commercial cost upwards of $4 million, it was Jennifer Hudson, a black woman, along with the Sandy Hook Choir, who sang “America the Beautiful.”
It was Alicia Keys, a black woman, who sang “The Star- Bangled Banner.”
It was Beyonce Knowles, a black woman, who along with Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams of Destiny’s Child (also black women), entertained the nation. Shortly after the half-time show, the Ravens’ Jacoby Jones returned the opening kickoff with “a record 108-yard kickoff return for a score.” It was a history-making evening that all Americans should be proud of.
In a few weeks, the Suffrage Centennial Celebration of women winning the right to vote will begin. Long before the 19th amendment was passed, it was black women who were fighting for women’s rights and the abolition of slavery, but to be seen as women as well.
It was Sojourner Truth, a former slave, who in an 1851 speech before the Women’s Convention in Akron, Ohio, declared, “I have borne thirteen children, and seen most of them sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?”
Not that long ago, black women were routinely raped by their slave-holders and sold into slavery. We were not treated with the respect, dignity, or opportunities that we fought for, side-by-side with so many of our white sisters.
We were not considered intelligent. We were not considered beautiful. We were not considered sexy.
There was a time when black women were simply thought of as “Mammy” or “Aunt Jemimah”. Later, we were stereotyped as prostitutes or drug addicts. Then, there was the “angry black woman” who is either sexually promiscuous or repressed, emasculates her man, has multiple “baby daddies,” and is a welfare queen.
Blessedly, those days are over.
The black women of Super Bowl XLVII showed the world five shining examples of what so many black women are — committed to their craft, committed to achievement of the American Dream, and committed to a nation that once rejected the very notion of black womanhood.
Yet what she wore and how she wore it was her choice. For all of the black women who were Broomhilda Von Shaft, the German-speaking slave in “Django Unchained” forced into a hot box as punishment for wanting to be free, the welcome sight of Beyonce Knowles, Alicia Keys, Jennifer Hudson, Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams did not come soon enough.
Michelle D. Bernard is the president & CEO of the Bernard Center for Women, Politics & Public Policy. Follow her on Twitter @michellebernard.