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A Review of Aisha Durham’s “‘Single Ladies,’ Sasha Fierce, and Sexual Scripts in the Black Public Sphere”

Aisha Durham’s “’Single Ladies,’ Sasha Fierce, and Sexual Scripts in the Black Public Sphere” analyzes the performance of Beyoncé’s top hit “Single Ladies” and molds it with the sexual scripts created by society as an instructional guide for the way women should perform their sexuality, experience their sexual selves, and engage with others. She expresses that Beyoncé strategically employs these scripts as she intertwines her art with her awareness of her “cultural currency as a black female entertainer.” In doing so, she uses the world’s objectification towards black female bodies to her advantage in order to gain wealth. 

The two main sexual scripts highlighted in this chapter are that of the “Freak” and the “Lady.” Mrs. Carter is able to bounce smoothly between each script, illustrating her classy, sexually reserved side while being able to quickly shift to the freak – one described as “a loose, sexually adventurous, and aggressive female who might engage in kinky or taboo sexual practices for pleasure or attention.” However, her freak persona does not solely exist in the male fantasy, as it also reaches her female audiences through a shared sense of empowerment and sexual liberation. On the other hand, the Lady must exude sexual appeal without directly demonstrating it to the public eye.

The Lady:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Beyoncé (@beyonce) on

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Beyoncé (@beyonce) on

The Freak:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Beyoncé (@beyonce) on

Also important to note, Ludacris, among other popular hip-hop rappers, have concluded that they love a financially independent woman. It is okay for her to take up the role of being a provider – under the condition that she continues to serve him in every other realm. Now Ladies, isn’t that comical?

Moreover, Durham draws attention to how real single ladies are seen as a threat to fragile black manhood and the broken black family. Independent women refuse to conform to gender roles that label them as passive and submissive; therefore, going against these sexual scripts and other popular, yet detrimental ideas about women can act as an intimidating force against men who believe their women should bow down to them and treat them like they are royalty.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by ?Musiqi Dünyasi? (@musiqi_dunyasi) on

This was evidenced in Slim Thug’s interview where he stated he did not like black women who did not “bow down,” citing Kanye West’s song about gold-digging baby mamas. That is to say, women who refused to follow these defined roles and those who do not meet much of these unattainable standards are deemed undesirable.

Durham also stresses the media’s influence on women’s bodies and their perception of themselves. Specifically, Beyoncé’s curvy, thin physique made being “thicc” a fad. There was a rise in plastic surgeries to achieve the now “symbolic” exotic booty in an effort to become “bootylicious.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Beyoncé (@beyonce) on

Instead of being able to negotiate beauty standards, women must find a way to fit the mold of what the world deems attractive and worthy of praise and respect. This not only contributes to the objectification of women but also creates severely false expectations of what the female body should look like. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Body Positivity ✨ (@hi.ur.beautiful) on

Things to ponder: When a woman with a platform positively embraces her sexuality and in some other ways participates in her own objectification, does this act as a form of empowerment (for themselves and other women) or does it solely perpetuate the idea that women are objects to be pornified and valorized for their promiscuity? Does it really “take the power back” as many claims it does, or does it continue to tolerate and disregard the sexist and misogynist ideals institutionally rooted in our society that are also too frequently perpetuated within hip-hop music?

Medina Karagic is a Tampa Bay writer, photographer, and spoken word poet who transforms trials and tribulations into art. Her work moves others to discover solace in introspection and the vulnerability of the human experience. Owner of élan vital photography: https://www.elanvital.photography/
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