As a former teenage purger, I did not appreciate seeing Bey photogenically bent over a toilet bowl - but the singer, and the director Melina Matsoukas are so proud of their work that they have put together a short behind-the-scenes documentary explaining why women shouldn’t worry about their looks and invest so much effort and energy pursuing physical perfection. “The concept…is really a behind the scenes look into society’s take on beauty and how it doesn’t bring you happiness and it doesn’t move you forward in life. It’s really finding yourself that brings you happiness.”
So far, so admirable. It’s a message we definitely need to hear more of - but it’s an odd sentiment coming from someone who’s just worked with a woman who is routinely heralded as the Hottest In The World. Beyoncé explains what’s going on in the video. “I'm pretending to get a face-lift and Botox. It represents all the things that women go through to keep up with the pressure that society puts on us.”
Society, Beyoncé? Was it society that presented me with a pair their crystal clad, practically spherical bazoingas in the Partition video, leaving me to gloomily compare them with the contents of my sadly unsparkly bra and find myself disappointingly lacking? Was is society that denied Photoshopping a thigh gap into its own Instagram pictures prompting me to email my friend with the subject head ‘WHY DO BEYONCE’S THIGHS LOOK LIKE THAT NATURALLY WHEN MINE LOOK LIKE PORRIDGE?!’ Was it society that made the maple syrup cleanse famous? Admittedly, society was definitely involved, but Beyoncé didn’t seem to protest about the fact she had been made into a poster girl for this societal pressure.
It is not Beyoncé’s responsibility to make decisions about her image and career based on the insecurities of one woman in London who spends too much time sitting on her well-upholstered bottom, eating burritos. Although I’d love to look more like her, I can also acknowledge her beauty and sexual power is probably one of the greatest aesthetic wonders in the world, and she wants us all to enjoy it. But it seems disingenuous of her to pretend she feels our pretty pain when she’s part of the problem.
Beyoncé grew up in an industry that forced her to perform a specific sort of prettiness in order to succeed, sell records and make money. She’s a product of the unrealistic standards women are subjected to. But I grew up watching her, and although I loved watching and listening to her, I envied her body as much as I envied her talent.
If I read that Beyoncé was using a particular beauty product or working out in a certain way, I couldn’t help but wonder whether I might harness some of her magical powers if I tried to copy her regimes and routines. Beyoncé is under no obligation to be real and relatable for the sake of her female fans and their relationships with their bodies. But she can’t empathise and offer help and understanding in one breath if she’s going to keep playing the game with the next.