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Playing Housewife: Beyoncé in “Why Don’t You Love Me?”

Date: May 27, 2010 | Posted By:

Beyoncé’s new video for her track, “Why Don’t You Love Me?” has been a hot topic of debate recently on a bunch of blogs we read.

The clip features Beyoncé as “BB Homemaker,” a character that pokes fun at stereotypical depictions of both the pin-up model and the seemingly-happy-but-secretly-unhappy 1950s/1960s housewife.

“Why Don’t You Love Me” – Beyoncé on Vimeo.

Beyoncé prances around in the video doing all the activities a housewife or pin-up model might do. Except, as a housewife she is quite inept. At one point she is doing some dusting in a sexy dress, but when you look closer, you realize she is dusting off a row of gleaming Grammy Awards. Then she’s trying to bake some cookies, but she’s actually just throwing flour around in her underwear. She also burns some kind of roast she’s cooking. And gardening seems to be more about looking fabulous than anything else.

It’s hard to criticize this video. My first instinct is to just enjoy and not analyze. But there are a few interesting issues that arise, whether Beyoncé intended to address them or not.

We're used to seeing white representations of 1960s housewives, such as Betty Draper

Over at Feministing, Ann argues that the video is transgressive because it depicts a black woman in two roles typically associated with white women.

Latoya at Jezebel, who responds to the post, claims Ann’s logic is flawed:

If these images are associated solely with whiteness, it’s because the history of women of color has been systematically erased, deemed unworthy of inclusion in the general framework of ‘the way we were.’ There were upper middle class black women in the 50s and 60s, even entire enclaves like Striver’s Row in Harlem. However, one did not have to be upper class, or even upper middle class, to be a housewife.

Although Latoya has an excellent point, Ann’s argument that a woman of color playing these roles is transgressive is still valid; the history of women of color has been systematically erased to the point that women of color are not typically associated with these roles in the mainstream media, so Beyoncé’s portrayal is therefore still challenging stereotypes. Here’s a black woman poking fun at roles the media has typically shut her out of, and doing it gleefully.

Plus, these are roles for women intended largely to please men, and Beyoncé is mocking the hell out of them. Set against the lyrics, this satire becomes even more meaningful.

Let’s take a look:

 

Now, now, now, honey

You better sit down and look around

Cause you must’ve bumped yo’ head

And I love you enough to talk some sense back into you, baby

I’d hate to see you come home, me the kids

And the dog is gone

Check my credentials…

I give you everything you want everything you need

Even your friends say I’m a good woman

All I need to know is why?

 

Why don’t you love me?

Tell me, baby, why don’t you love me

When I make me so damn easy to love?

And why don’t you need me?

Tell me, baby, why don’t you need me

When I make me so damn easy to need?

 

I got beauty, I got class

I got style, and I got ass

And you don’t even care to care

Looka here

I even put money in the bank account

Don’t have to ask no one to help me out

You don’t even notice that

 

 

I got beauty, I got heart

Keep my head in them books, I’m sharp

But you don’t care to know I’m smart

Now, now now now now now now

I got moves in your bedroom

Keep you happy with the nasty things I do

But you don’t seem to be in tune

Ooh…

 

 

There’s nothing not to love about me

No, no, there’s nothing not to love about me

I’m lovely

There’s nothing not to need about me

No, no, there’s nothing not to need about me

Maybe you’re just not the one

Or maybe you’re just plain… DUMB

 

Beyoncé is saying that she “makes” herself easy to love, but the guy doesn’t love her anyway. In the end however, she realizes she is worth loving for all her qualities—smarts, ass, class, etc., and that he is “dumb” for not loving her. In combination with the video, in which the character of BB Homemaker makes fun of all the things she is supposed to do to make her man happy, the message seems to be that the idea of trying to make yourself lovable for a man’s sake is ridiculous.

Of course, the delivery of the message isn’t perfect. There are some mixed signals in the video and in the lyrics. At times, Beyoncé is playing the role of the pin-up quite straight, gyrating in sexy outfits to prove she is a desirable sex object for other, wiser hetero men. Latoya at Jezebel really gets to the core of the issue when she quotes a post on Beyoncé she previously wrote for Racialicious:

“…the woman Beyoncé portrays always defines herself against a man, and any empowerment she receives is from severing herself from one man and into the arms of another or attracting more male attention.”

This is exactly what’s happening in “Why Don’t You Love Me.” Nevertheless, I have to admit that I loved this video and I think that as long as we watch it without expecting Feminism with a capital “F” from Beyoncé, it’s worth admiring for its comedy, its camp and Beyoncé’s bomb body. Not to mention, of course, her wicked voice.

– Katherine Leyton




What Do You Think?

2 Responses to Playing Housewife: Beyoncé in “Why Don’t You Love Me?”

  1. HateSlayer on 06-16-2010

    Beyonce is always on the cutting edge of edginess. Of course the video is satire, and in being satire, it does trot out the "June Cleaver" version of 50's and 60's "Stepford Wives." This is done to mock that genre, not to celebrate it. And, call it "transgressive" if it floats your boat, but Beyonce is not doing anything in the video that can be classified as "white only." Cleaning and cooking and raising babies, and keeping up a home are universal attributes for a "good housewife." Not just for a "white housewife." Beyonce has done a great job, once again, of representing all she stands for. I'm a Houstonian, and we love our little B!
  2. MsAfropolitan on 06-23-2010

    I would not normally promote my website on another blog, and I won't now either (with a link), however, I recently posted a blog you might be interested to check out about how numerous female pop stars getting naked in videos to provide the ultimate male fantasy. This exposure might be as a convict (lady Gaga), a rock star or lesbian (rihanna) etc etc.
    With this video, I believe Beyonce continues to be part of this fantasy list.

    I like the colours and make up in the video, and I do like Beyonce as a performer and talent. I also like the interesting debate it has caused here about black women's housewife history.
    However, I don't think the video was meant to be a political statement as much as it was meant to be a sexy video from the male gaze angle