Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Beyonce Syndrome: The Impact of Pop Culture on Young Women of Color

I must be one of the three or four Black Americans who hasn’t been bitten by the Beyonce bug… because I just don’t understand why she is worshipped like a deity, especially by the masses within “Black America”. The same goes for the rapper Shawn Carter or "Jay Z". I just don’t understand the fascination with either of them. Those familiar with my writing are aware of how I generally feel about rappers and the whole Hip Hop culture. Let's just say if I could be a dictator for a week, one of my first acts would be to round them up and drop them all off on an island out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean so that they could fend for themselves. Only half kidding. Needless to say, I pretty much despise the rap community.

Beyonce has had an enormous impact on the popular culture - 75 million records sold is a testament to her reach. But no demographic has been more impacted than Black Americans, particularly Black women & girls. Her appeal is so strong that even the First Lady of the United States, and her daughters adore & admire her. She has established a tremendous following. Beyonce on being a role model:

“Being a Role Model Is Something That I’ve Always Been.”

Beyonce revealed recently that Michelle Obama contacted her and expressed gratitude that she was a role model for the Obama daughters.

The above statement attributed to Michelle Obama appears to be backed up by a video from 2011, courtesy of ABC and Politico.

Really Mrs. Obama? Your Harvard law degree, successful career and strong family doesn't respresent a better example? I'm not going to beat up on the First Lady... but the idea of Beyonce being a top role model is troubling.

The influence, though huge, has not been all positive. On the surface- seeing a successful African American woman should appear to be positive & empowering. But in the case of Beyonce (and those like her) the facts underneath the surface have done far more harm than good to Black women and the larger Black community. Beyonce’s tremendous influence over such a large demographic has resulted in what I call “The Beyonce Syndrome”. This term is not meant to be assigned exclusively to this performer. It represents certain lifestyles & values that could be assigned to a number of entertainers more collectively. However, Beyonce has become a symbol that encompasses all of the traits that are problematic about women of color in the 21st century. She is a symbol for what is happening as a result of pop culture’s influence over certain groups, particularly in the Black community.

The majority of  Black American women & girls between the ages of 15 & 35 indeed have “The Beyonce Syndrome”. I hate to be anecdotal but I would say, just through observation, that 50% would be a huge underestimate. What does Beyonce really stand for? What kinds of values does she stand for? What does “The Beyonce Syndrome” mean?

The following Youtuber really does a great job explaining a large portion of what “The Beyonce Syndrome” is all about. He used the entertainer "Mya" as the example here, but it's all the same thing.

Part I

Part II

“The Beyonce Syndrome” is a system of beliefs, behaviors and values that:

1). Has implanted into the collective sub-conscience of young women, especially young women of color, the idea that thugs, rappers, drug dealers, gang bangers, criminals, abusers and womanizers are not only acceptable as mates, but should in fact be the ideal.

2). Has completely changed the perception for women of what the ideal man should be, with disastrous consequences.

3). Has given young women a value system void of substance, that cheapens their image/bodies, and works against establishing good strong families.

4). Teaches women to put undue value on material possessions and looks.

5). Teaches women of color to use sex/their bodies to get what they want and show as much skin as possible.

Now I won’t get into a debate about whether a large number of Black American women (not all of course…but vast majority) are infatuated by the “thug” or thug image or any of the different variations of the “bad boy”. I have already debated that issue and those who share my view have already won that argument. The evidence is pretty clear on that one. No one can honestly say anymore that this isn’t happening. But of course, there are plenty of Black women who will continue to argue that this is all made up. That the phenomenon doesn’t exist at all. Ignorance is indeed bliss.

Debating this issue with Black women is like being out in the middle of a typhoon and having someone standing next to you telling you how sunny & beautiful the day is. Their perception of reality is different from what everyone else in the world sees.

What “The Beyonce Syndrome” has helped to do (more than any other phenomenon in the past 20 years) is normalize thug culture. It has turned the thug into a protagonist of sorts (Tupac is considered a hero in modern Black culture on par with civil rights icons… complete insanity). It has made the thug the ideal. Now, Black men like “Jay Z“, “TI“, “Lil Wayne”, 50 Cent ______ (plug in just about any popular rapper of that genre) are held up as heroes in modern Black culture. Black men who pursue education stay out of trouble, go to work everyday and take care of their responsibilities, send flowers and believe in doing thoughtful things for women…are considered by women of color to be undesirable cornballs…men who are weak. In fact, the friendzone is awash with gentlemen who are considered “too nice“.

Young Black boys, knowing now that this is what the opposite sex wants, are encouraged to emulate these modern black cultural icons (tongue in cheek) even more. They are encouraged to act out, join gangs, disrespect authority, disrupt the classroom, disregard education, and disrespect women, etc. They are desperately trying to impress the young Beyonce’s. This is largely why Black male student achievement is in the toilet. This perpetuates the negative cycle that continues to strangle the so called “Black community“ -- high rates of out of wedlock births, sexual promiscuity, poor educational performance, poor parenting, poor treatment of women, values that don’t promote education, and so forth.

We now have generations of young women of color who want to emulate Beyonce, Rihanna, and all the rest of the glorified “video vixens” who have reached stardom. Young women of color today now believe that dating a drug dealer is really hot. The danger is exciting (this is what they believe). They want to be just like Beyonce (dating the former drug dealer Jay Z). The fact that this man was once a drug dealer… makes black women fawn over him even more. nevermind the fact that Jay Z has apparently even referred to his own wife as “his bitch” in one song. How is that empowering for women?

Just look at what Beyonce promotes in her songs. Listen/check the lyrics of her songs. Researching the lyrics for this commentary… I found that the songs are worse than what I even thought. Check on the songs “Thug Love”, or “Sexy Little Thug”, or her anthem “Soldier”. These are just a few. But they get to the heart of what Beyonce is all about. All of the songs are aimed at praising and promoting thugs and the so-called “thug life”. Check out one of Rihanna’s ode’s to the thug, entitled “There’s a Thug In My Life”. There is a pattern here… this isn’t by happenstance. The worst thing about all of this is that there are millions of young women of color who are emulating (or who want to emulate) these women as much as possible.

Beyonce as the example has given young women the green light. This is no longer the exception…. but the rule today. Non-black groups also have their love of the “bad boy”… but it has always been the exception. That was once the case in the Black community, but women like Beyonce have helped to turn that exception into the rule.

It’s not just Black women with low education or who are socio-economically disadvantaged who have been affected by “The Beyonce Syndrome” (although poorer women are much less able to mitigate the consequences and thus suffer the most). Black women who are college educated, professional, churchgoing, and seemingly responsible have also embraced the Beyonce value system. I would be rich if I had $10.00 for each time I have seen “good”, decent women of color walking around with thugs with tattoos all over their heads and bodies, and/or pants down around their knees - in public w/ no shame. I’m talking about women, some of whom are supposedly the cream of the crop. Take Eudoxie Agnan for example… she’s apparently the long-time girlfriend of rapper Christopher Bridges, also known as Ludacris. Agnan is a former medical student. Keep in mind, Ludacris is a clown who openly and routinely shows degrading images of women, refers to them as whores, disrespects women (and the more he does it, the more they seem to want him…and of course his money). Agnan maintained a gig as a groupie on the side, and it looks like that may have paid off for her. She dropped out of med school once she hit the Hip Hop groupie lotto (what they all do once they reach their goal of getting together with a rapper, professional athlete, actor, media mogul, wealthy business man…etc). Basically she’s another glorified video vixen by another name.. But the point is… it’s not just the poor and uneducated girl from public housing who finds these men irresistible. This is happening with women of color across the socio-economic spectrum. Gabrielle Union (another glorified vixen), Jennifer Lopez, Vivica Fox, Mariah Carey and a long list of pop stars, entertainers, and women who have gone to college find these men attractive…both physically and culturally. There are millions of young women of color who emulate these entertainers and follow their lead on dating and relationships, just as they do with fashion.

The story of Brittany Smith is one of many examples of the college girl with a promising future who loved criminals and losers. Smith was a Harvard University student who ended up throwing her future away taking part in her thug boyfriends criminal activities, and then trying to protect him.

This is an epidemic. But it’s not just young women under 30 who have this warped mindset. Older women of color well into their 30's & 40's (and up) also play this game of minimizing thug culture and making up excuses for what they find sexy and attractive in these men. A different variation of "The Beyonce Syndrome" perhaps, but it's the same thing. I see/hear this nonsense often. They try to change terminology, and come up with all sorts of reasons why these men are acceptable...and why their peers should pursue men who display certain characteristics that fit the thug image, while at the same time, reassuring women of color that it's OK to bring these men into their lives...minimizing/ignoring consequences, and ignoring the fact that the authentic/real family man or "good man" is not the thug. When I hear this crap, my head starts to feel like it's going to explode.

This is why I have very little in common with the typical Black American woman. Of course there are exceptions, but there are not many Clair Huxtables, Lisa Bonet’s, Halle Berry’s, or Rachel True’s around. It is not even a 1 in 10 proposition anymore. It used to be…. But not today. This is why I can’t see myself dating a Black woman. Never have. The worldviews just don’t match up. I have seen Black women who are the exception to all of this madness…but they are so few and far between that it’s just not worth the time it would take to ever meet one, let alone connect. By the time you weed through all of the trash to get to a gem, you have wasted so much time and effort… Interracial dating is no walk in the park either. Needless to say, my dating options have always been extremely limited.

I noticed the differences between Black American women/girls and others early on. I cannot count how many times I was seen as a cornball in school because I actually wanted to do the work. I was too young to understand why that was happening at the time (middle school). My first dance (in middle school) was with a white girl. My early experiences with Black women/girls provided the imprint for how I would see them in adulthood. I can say with confidence, that my views have only been confirmed and solidified.

No Black woman has successfully been able to debate me on this issue. Most often they have either reverted to name calling when they realize they can’t win the argument, or they have just avoided the debate. I recently tried to have this debate on the website “ThoseGirlsAreWild.com”. This is supposed to be a comedy/pop culture site run by 2 young women from Canada. They are kids basically. They are young women of color in their early 20’s… the demographic most influenced by the Beyonce world view. I would say they are above average… but I wouldn’t consider them to be “the cream of the crop”. They have a distorted view of relationships and pop culture. Nice young women nevertheless. It’s no surprise that they happen to be absolute devotees of Beyonce. I simply wanted them to admit to the harmful impact their hero has had on women of color. Of course they did no such thing and resorted to name calling. They refused to debate because in their minds, no problem existed.

The issue that caused me to raise the subject came about when one of the bloggers from “ThoseGirlsAreWild.com” (who I won’t name) criticized a Canadian entertainer for using sex appeal/or showing skin, to get ahead in her career. Since they are devotees of Beyonce, Rihanna, and several others who rely heavily on selling sex (people who can’t make it on singing/musical talent alone - who I would go as far as saying rely primarily on sex appeal as opposed to talent) I thought the comments were hypocritical.  They were unable to debate me on any of the merits of the argument that I presented. None.

What has become clear to me is that many of those with “The Beyonce Syndrome” don’t know that they have it. It is so deeply ingrained in their sub-conscience that they don’t realize it. That makes it even worse. That is like a child who doesn’t feel pain - they have to be monitored closely because they may kill themselves. They tend to dive into situations (literally and figuratively) because they can’t feel pain. When someone has behaviors, beliefs, and conditions that are causing them harm and they either can’t or refuse to acknowledge the problem…it makes it worse. It’s the same thing that makes drug addicts such a danger to themselves - denial, denial, denial. They are often unaware of how bad things really are.

What we have now are black women who are diving in head first into a relationship culture that devalues them. I have covered this before in “Black women & The Race to The Bottom”.

Writer Kerri Herndon gives some insight on the thinking of women who find these men and this lifestyle attractive.

So what has been the result of “The Beyonce Syndrome”? Besides the continued high rate of out of wedlock births, households without a good father, sky high crime rates in inner cities, and a culture of violence and criminality, we have young women of color who have not only embraced the Beyonce value system, but have become agents for those who abuse them. Listen to this recent NPR report on the domestic violence case involving the performer Rihanna (reluctant to call her a singer…because well… she can’t sing). The story is disturbing, but it didn’t surprise me at all. It supports everything that I have been saying over the past several years. After the beating… (just as I had predicted) Chris Brown is more popular than ever and the women crave him even more. I can recall one video clip where Brown was romancing a 16 year old girl on stage (not long after the beating)…. Makes you wonder what kind of mother would allow that…because you know what kind of message it sends. Horrible. I know one thing for damn sure…. that kind of mother will not birth my children. No chance!

BTW, Gina McCauley completely missed the elephant in the room in her comments in the NPR story. She spends the segment trying to come up with a way to blame Black men for the behavior of black women/girls, the mothers of black women/girls, and the entertainers who act recklessly when it comes to their responsibility as role models for young women.

What is it about the social DNA of Black women/women of color that makes them more susceptible to this madness? I understand socio-economic disadvantage… but that can’t explain it all. When will people admit that this is a problem?

Youtube Links:


Black woman admits

Thug Appeal

No Comments

I just don't have the time to police ignorant comments.