My favorite part of the Super Bowl was, of course, Beyonce’s hundred-yard dash into our hearts. There are a lot of great articles out there about her performance, but my favorite is this one:
Some (crazy) people may not have liked Queen Bey’s show. There’s an entire Buzzfeed article composed of pictures of her looking fierce and snarling–not typical sex-symbol pop star posturing. What it makes me think of–and what this article, which points out how female sexuality is just fine as long as the woman is owning her own sexuality, reminded me of–is a section of Tina Fey’s book “Bossypants” in which she talks about something that happened earlier in her career that made her love Amy Poehler just that much more:
Amy Poehler was new to SNL and we were all crowded into the seventeenth-floor writers’ room, waiting for the Wednesday read-through to start. There were always a lot of noisy “comedy bits” going on in that room. Amy was in the middle of some such nonsense with Seth Meyers across the table, and she did something vulgar as a joke. I can’t remember what it was exactly, except it was dirty and loud and “unladylike.”
Jimmy Fallon, who was arguably the star of the show at the time, turned to her and in a faux-squeamish voice said: “Stop that! It’s not cute! I don’t like it.”
Amy dropped what she was doing, went black in the eyes for a second, and wheeled around on him. “I don’t fucking care if you like it.” Jimmy was visibly startled. Amy went right back to enjoying her ridiculous bit …
With that exchange, a cosmic shift took place. Amy made it clear that she wasn’t there to be cute. She wasn’t there to play wives and girlfriends in the boys’ scenes. She was there to do what she wanted to do and she did not fucking care if you like it …
Just like Beyonce is my jam. Because how amazing is it to be able to do something because I want to do it, because it’s not hurting anyone else, but not because I think it will win me points with anyone?
To me, this story is the antidote to every “woman’s magazine” article on “what men want.” It’s the counterpoint to every unscientific survey asking what a guy prefers in a woman, that impossible-to-fulfill list: smooth legs and underarms, long silky hair, shapeless but fatless body, fit but not muscular frame. It’s a snap back to reality: Jimmy Fallon is a person. Amy Poehler is a person. Amy can do whatever the hell she wants, and in the long run, Jimmy can like it or lump it.
How many times have I worried away at something, gone out of my way to change something or mute something about myself, because I thought someone else wouldn’t like it? Not that we should become completely self-absorbed, narcissistic, solipsistic a-holes who never pay attention to other people, but isn’t it nice to give yourself permission to be the only one at the party in a gorey Halloween costume or to decide that “dignified” is an adjective you never want to hear applied to you? Honestly, I think most of us could use a little more “I don’t fucking care if you liked it” in our lives. I liked it. That guy or girl over there liked it. S/he and I are going to hang out some more, and you can get over it or get out.
So be (Sasha) fierce, Beyonce. Make faces your publicist later wants to censor as “unflattering” and then tell your publicist to shut the eff up. Tell the joke or the story the way you want to tell it. Deal with the reactions how you will. Let’s all just be ourselves a little bit more.
I was thinking about the above, and I want to qualify it. Being yourself versus subscribing to expectations of your age/race/gender/sexual orientation/ability/etc: Absolutely yes. Completely ignoring the opinions of other people and alienating yourself: Not so much.
I think the distinction comes in what I mentioned before: How whatever you’re saying or doing impacts other people. Because that’s not something you should tune out for better or for worse. There are different kinds of impact. For example, Jimmy Fallon’s reaction in Tina Fey’s story is just a socialized reaction to the behavior expected from a woman. He has no stake, really, in Amy Poehler doing something gross. He just doesn’t like it. That’s the kind of interpersonal interaction to which I say, “Cool, whatever, get the heck out if you’re not down with it.”
I don’t mean to say that it’s okay to be cruel/racist/sexist/homophobic/ableist if “that’s how you feel.” I mean, in a way, you’re just going to reap what you sow, and you might as well be called on your BS sooner rather than later. But these are attitudes and actions that can actively hurt other people, and that’s not okay.
Example: “I’m going to change my name to an unpronounceable symbol, and I don’t care if you like it.” Impact: Some confusion, some annoyance, but ultimately not far beyond you. Acceptable? Yeah, totally. You go, #%.
Example: “I’m going to graffiti hate speech over this queer man’s art installation, and I don’t care if you like it.” Impact: Personal attack. Real pain and consequences imposed on someone’s hard work. Acceptable? Not at all.
I’d love to believe that karma always kicks in and that I could just say, “Everyone be 100% yourself” and people whose selves are for whatever reason really terrible to other peoples’ selves would learn their lessons. Sometimes this does happen, but not as often as I’d like. So what I’m really trying to say is, be yourself. Be proud to be yourself. Celebrate yourself like Walt Whitman. But remember that everyone has a self, that everyone has value, and that celebrating you is not a zero-sum game. Don’t privilege your idiosyncrasies over the feelings or well-being of other people.
So there you go–for a week in which I missed one entry, two subjects, because I want to be clear what I think we should and should not be giving a crap about. Now go, my dears. Go out into the world and strut like Beyonce and laugh like Amy Poehler and don’t let anyone tell you what you have to do or say.
As long as what you’re doing and saying isn’t hurting someone else.
Good, because I’m about to go get myself a bunless cheeseburger, and I really don’t care how you feel about it.