Beyoncé was criticized last summer by black entertainment legend Harry Belafonte for not doing enough to help others with her success. Her involvement in a new organization, Chime for Change, might be her answer to this critique. But some think her latest performance on behalf of the charity may have inadvertently harmed the group she seeks to uplift.
A new initiative, Chime for Change is aimed at empowering women and girls around the world, focusing on the areas of "Education, Health and Justice," according to its web site. Beyoncé has recently given greatly to the cause.
Launched with co-founders Salma Hayek, noted actress and producer, and Frida Giannini, the creative director of Gucci, Chime for Change held its first major concert on June 1 in London, "Chime For Change: The Sound Of Change Live." This star-studded concert drew megawatt power players, such as Madonna and Jennifer Lopez, who appeared before a crowd of 50,000.
Beyoncé was of course the headliner, treating the audience to her biggest hits, and even having hubby Jay-Z join her on stage for a rendition of "Crazy In Love." Their sweet kiss during one of her first solo hits was reported on around the world.
In addition to tremendous press coverage, the $4.3 million in ticket sales raised that night "will fund approximately 200 projects in 70 countries around the world," reports The Daily Beast. (Luxury firm Gucci is also the underwriter of Chime for Change.)
Yet, some were not pleased with the generosity embodied in Beyoncé's performance, which The Daily Beast called the hottest of the night amid a sea of stellar talent. Was it a lack of energy in her renditions? Did the energetic dancer stumble on stage? No. What turned many off was Beyoncé's clothes.
Or, it would be more correct to say, the lack thereof. While Queen B did wear the best of the best for the occasion, donning glamorous Gucci apparel, some believe her looks were just too revealing for a cause meant to champion women.
Much of this outrage over her sexy style being possibly demeaning was captured on Twitter, as black women's web site Madame Noire noted.
"I am all about female empowerment in every form but why does it have to be celebrated in spiked heels and knickers every time #beyonce," one user said.
"@Chime for change I'm all for your message... but these skimpy costumes and sex dance moves really don't do much for womens' empowerment," opined another.
"Huge concert promoting female empowerment... and Beyoncé's backing dancers are all wearing thongs," went a scathing accusation.
Jennifer Lopez and Rita Ora have also received flack for ostensibly showing too much skin, and acting hyper-sexually, in a context meant to celebrate the female sex.
Popular feminist web site Jezebel weighed in, questioning whether these entertainers were merely being typical pop stars, or should have engaged in better judgment.
"They always perform in slightly provocative costumes; wouldn't it be disingenuous to cover-up just this once?" Dodai Stewart, Jezebel's deputy editor, wrote. "Still, at an event about investing in girls around the world – 60 percent of the children not in school are girls – it's worth applying some critical thinking to the choices supposedly empowered women make."
Jada Pinkett Smith, a presenter at the Chime for Change concert, came to these ladies' defense on her Facebook page.
"Whose body is this anyway?" the movie star and noted activist working to end sexual trafficking began.
"There was some backlash about the performance outfits for the Chime concert," Pinkett Smith continued. "Since a woman's body has been deeply connected to sin, it's easy to forget all the power and beauty her body and sexuality possesses. Yes, with this power comes great responsibility, but how was Beyonce's tasteful outfit irresponsible? Here is the problem I see, a woman's body is too much power for one woman to have, even Beyoncé. Although we see corporations exploit this power through women and girls, with far less clothing on than Beyoncé, to sell their products, do we protest? But hey, a woman has to be in check, right? Know her position since we've all been taught that a powerful woman is dangerous and that a powerful man makes the world go round. Here's the deal... soon the reign of shame on a woman's body and her control of it will end. She will be autonomous. For she can't truly be free without it. And oh boy...what a different world this place will be...when she is free."
Sexual empowerment in the West might be seen as the final frontier for these women, while the women and girls Chime for Change wants to help have very different concerns. Some would agree that the provocativeness of a Beyoncé performance gives a British or American woman the inspiration to address the world with a little more empowering sass, but this will not directly help the young woman who does not attend school because her culture deems it unimportant for her to do so.
What we can say for certain is that by wearing leather panties and a sheer top, Beyoncé helped to sell millions of dollars in tickets to promote her cause. This may not be directly "empowering" for the women and girls Chime for Change was created to help. Yet, if she can use the same tools that help her sell records to fund programs that can directly impact those lives, perhaps Beyoncé's costume naysayers might be mollified by considering her underlying motivation.
(Follow Alexis Garrett Stodghill on Twitter at @lexisb.)