Like every year, the fashion at the MET Gala made the whole social media world stop. The evening’s Chinese theme inspired an array of sartorial expressions, from Rihanna’s show-stopping yellow fur cape, to Solange’s out-of-the-box Chinese fan creation.
No female guests, however, garnered more attention than Beyoncé, who wore a jeweled, nude Givenchy couture gown. Reactions to the entertainer’s dress varied from “she SHUT DOWN the red carpet!” to “Blah.” Most were more on the affirmative side. But as in most cases, many accused Beyoncé of showing too much skin. Some critics felt the singer was screaming for attention, while conservative-minded folk deemed it too risqué (Jennifer Lopez and Kim Kardashian wore similar dresses).
Quite a few people on my timeline took to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to bemoan their annoyance with female entertainers’ propensity to bare it all. “Why can’t they put some damn clothes on!” or “She is REACHING!” they quipped. This isn’t the first time Beyoncé, in particular, has been held to the fire of judgement for being “too sexy.” The mother of one, arguably the biggest female entertainer on the planet, has many of times been called out for not being classy enough, not being a good role model, etc.
After Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee took aim at the singer for her “provocative” ways, it became clear the over-sexualized argument is quite old, considering Beyoncé has rebelliously continued to showcase her body and sexuality as she pleases. It’s obvious that she doesn’t care what the public thinks.
But all the chatter surrounding Bey’s nude dress isn’t just old and overdone; it also speaks to American culture’s problematic view of sexuality and all its liberties. Why are we, in 2015, still trying to patrol how a woman presents her body? If anything, the public’s condemnation of the gown is more about them than it is about Beyoncé. People are not bothered by her nudity as much as they are embarrassed by sexuality in general.
American culture, as well as many other cultures around the world, teaches us that the body is to be covered because, God forbid we acknowledge that underneath all these garments we are nude beings. Nudity is natural and should be seen as beautiful, yet we constantly shame others for wanting to showcase that. There’s a stark difference between what Beyoncé wore and her prancing around showing her nipples, wearing hooker boots or Daisy Dukes–and even if she did that’s her God-given, womanly right.
On another note, Beyoncé is an entertainer and the MET gala is about dressing up in costume. The full theme was “Chinese: Through The Looking Glass”–suggesting her choice to go see-through was more about sticking to theme more than anything else. Not to mention, if you ever see Bey in her everyday life you’ll notice she dresses like the average 30-something woman (just a tad bit more fashionable). But when she’s on a stage or red carpet, her job is to wow and dazzle. She’s not telling your daughters to dress like her nor is she trying to influence all women to. She’s a fantastical fixture in pop culture who inspires women (and maybe even men) to strive to be their best self. A utopian reference point. She’s built her entire career and brand around that, so why do some continuously try to demand anything else from her? Not to mention, if Beyoncé is proud of her body, she should be allowed to express that.
Naturally, being at the top of the world will garner heavy criticism and scrutiny. But sometimes people need to take a chill pill and get a grip.
If nudity isn’t your thing, fine. There were plenty of fashion on the red carpet for everyone. Janelle Monaé, Gabrielle Union and others showed little to no skin, and looked beautiful doing it. But acknowledging their form of beauty does not and should never infer that Beyoncé, or anyone one else who decides to boldly express their nudity, are not equally beautiful.
Nudity isn’t for everyone, but we’re all nude underneath it all.