I have written before that Fox News’s daytime program “Outnumbered” is an act of wicked genius, bringing on men to say ridiculous things that a panel of women can then look reasonable by disagreeing with. Dorsey Shaw at Buzzfeed caught a truly marvelous example of said ridiculousness today when Jessie Watters, a Fox producer and regular on “The O’Reilly Factor,” tried to define a segment of the electorate he calls “the Beyoncé Voter.”
One might have thought that Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign, with its focus on “micro-targeting” small segments of the electorate, might have dampened commentators’ enthusiasm for this sort of thing. One might also think that long history would keep people from talking about pop culture they know nothing about. On both counts, you would be wrong.
“Hillary Clinton needs the single ladies vote,” Watters declared. “I call them ‘The Beyoncé Voters’ — the single ladies. Obama won single ladies by 76 percent last time, and made up about a quarter of the electorate. They depend on government because they’re not depending on their husbands. They need contraception, health care, and they love to talk about equal pay.”
Watters might have had a point during the period of Beyoncé Knowles-Carter’s career when she was part of a group act, Destiny’s Child. A song like “Bills, Bills, Bills” may suggest dependence on a man with its questions “Can you pay my bills? / Can you pay my telephone bills? / Do you pay my automo’ bills? / If you did then maybe we could chill.”
But the lyrics suggest that the singer is as irritated with the scrub in question for leeching off of her, “Maxing out my card (card) / Gave me bad credit” as she is by his inability to provide for her. The Destiny’s Child Voter was an “Independent Woman” who “buy my own diamonds and I buy my own rings / Only ring your celly when I’m feelin lonely.”
When she breaks up with her latest boyfriend, it only gives her more time to spend on her wildly successful career. “You thought that I’d be stressed without you, but I’m chillin’,” the Knowles-Carter taunts on “Survivor,” “You thought I wouldn’t sell without you, sold 9 million.”
As a solo artist, Knowles-Carter has continued to reinforce the idea that a woman relies on herself, not a man, but that if she has a partner, equality is an awful lot of fun. Those “Single Ladies” that Watters is so concerned about? She can buy her own drinks and designer jeans, and wants her man to know that he shouldn’t “Treat me to the things of the world / I’m not that kind of girl / Your love is what I prefer, what I deserve.” A “Grown Woman,” as Knowles-Carter “put it down like that, put down like that / And I’m making all these racks all these racks.”
That money means she can put her man in a Jaguar if she feels like it, and that she does not have to put up with his cheating if he should prove himself so foolish as to stray. Even after her marriage to rapper and mogul Jay-Z, Knowles-Carter told us on “Countdown” that “Yup, I put it on him, it ain’t nothing that I can’t do / Yup, I buy my own, if he deserve it, buy his s– too.”
But the Beyoncé Voter also knows that marriage is not only or even primarily an economic relationship. A good relationship requires a willingness to devote time and attention to another person, a sense of fun and sensuality, a tolerance for the other person’s flaws and a willingness to work through the little things.
“Beyoncé Voters” may be a real thing. But if they are, offering them handouts or husbands is probably not the way to win them over. Knowles-Carter herself has suggested that one good place to start might be with addressing income inequality. Maybe it is hard for Watters and company to get their minds around this, but for a demographic inspired by Knowles-Carter, girls run the world, and getting their votes will require Democrats and Republicans alike to acknowledge that.