It’s easy to brush off popular culture as a separate and contained sphere of life, but look no further than the latest issue of TIME Magazine to be reminded of just how completely false any such notion really is. On the cover of the annual “100 Most Influential” article is none other than Beyonce. In her underwear. Who wrote her endorsement? Sheryl Sandberg.
Of the honor bestowed on Beyoncé, Sandberg writes, “Beyoncé doesn’t just sit at the table. She builds a better one. She raises her voice both on and offstage to urge women to be independent and lead.”
Politics and pop culture are the two lungs with which our world breathes. It’s foolish to ignore one and not the other, or to pretend as if they can be analyzed as distinct and separate terrains.
Barack Obama wrote the endorsement for Pope Francis. Janet Yellen is mixed in with Amy Adams. The writers of the Frozen hit, “Let it Go” are apparently as influential as the leader of Germany.
Pop culture matters.
But let’s go back to Beyoncé for a minute. No doubt Sheryl Sandberg, who fancies herself the new face of modern feminism, could not have known that the woman she endorses as independent, honest, and authentic would grace the cover in her skivvies. Probably a little embarrassing for Sandberg. But really she should have known. The last time we saw Beyoncé, she looked no different than your average strip club pole dancer. But somehow Beyoncé has become the other face of modern feminism. She has a role in the Center for American Progress’ Shriver Report. She even writes an excerpt of the report entitled, “Gender Equality is a Myth!,” in which she uses her expertise as a scantily-clad sexual dancer and singer to advise the next generation of women on how to be empowered.
The TIME article is a useful tool in breaking down the evolution of modern feminism. Modern feminism wants both Beyoncé and Sheryl Sandberg as spokeswomen – at the same time. Degraded embodiment of sex for profit and powerful businesswoman. The culture tells women, either explicitly or implicitly, that empowerment means professional success and personal degradation. That what you do with your body doesn’t really matter, it’s what you do with your dollars and degrees. And if you use your body for dollars, that’s okay too, especially if it’s for degrees. Exhibit A, Duke porn star/women’s studies major.
Also known as Belle Knox, the porn star wrote her manifesto for xojane.com, “In Defense of Kink.” She writes, “Kink does not disqualify me as a feminist.” Apparently, Beyoncé feels the same way, and so does Sheryl Sandberg, despite her more elitist gloss. And the editors of TIME fell on their faces to agree by placing Beyoncé on the cover in her underwear. The piece on Queen Bey might as well have been titled, “In Defense of Kink.”
So in sum, what can we learn from the TIME article on the most influential people in the world? That you can draw a straight line from Sheryl Sandberg to female porn stars. It’s modern feminism wrapped up with a nice, neat bow
Photo Credit: Michael Solita
Ashley E. McGuire is the founder and editor-in-chief of altCatholicah, sister site of altMuslimah. This post was originally published at acculturated.com