It is no surprise Beyoncé’s performance at the 59th Grammy Awards last Sunday was a showstopper. However, it was not the vocals, dancing, or lighting that made it memorable. Instead, it was the performance’s overwhelming theme of motherhood.
This theme was apparent from the start, when the introduction was given by Beyoncé’s own mother. Immediately following was an image of Beyoncé, who is currently pregnant with twins, standing in an angled direction to display her very apparent baby bump. Her revealing outfit resembled that of a goddess, and the confidence she carried did the same. The performance consisted of multiple monologues about motherhood, consisting of statements such as “everything like your mother” and “women like her cannot be contained.” Additionally, it had an all female army of dancers and holograms of Beyoncé’s five-year-old daughter, Blue Ivy, running and playing in circles around her mother. It was, as Katie Mettler of the Washington Post called it, a “lady lovefest.”
Through this extravagant performance and all its elements, Beyoncé portrays motherhood as sacred, and the relationship between a mother and daughter as powerful; a mother is a daughter’s ultimate role model. We see this concept portrayed across many cultures and through literature. In Mountain Wolf Woman A Ho-Chunk Girlhood, we read that Mountain Wolf Woman “spent many hours watching her mother” to learn “the things she would need to know to survive” (23). When it was time for her to become a wife and mother herself she “knew what she was supposed to do because her mother had taught her well” (64). In The Journey Begins, Nez Perce Indian Kaya also learns skills by watching and learning from her mother. Additionally, she loves to hear the wisdom filled stories of Aalah, her grandmother, and wants very badly to be a “wise, strong woman like Aalah” when she grows up (40). In Little House on the Prairie, Laura and Mary also have these qualities, despite their very different lifestyle from Kaya and Mountain Wolf Woman. They learn to do their mother’s jobs and help her do her work. For instance, on the long trip heading west “Mary and Laura washed the dishes while Ma made the beds in the wagon” (42). Despite their differences in culture, it seems that Mountain Wolf Woman, Kaya, Mary, and Laura, are all in training from their mothers to one day fulfill a similar role, like Beyoncé’s monologue stating “everything like your mother” suggests.
In Erica Hateley’s Keywords essay, “Gender,” she brings notice to the fact that throughout history, particularly in literature, one of the most prominent roles of girls is to be “domestic souls in training to be housewives or mothers” (88). The skills a girl will learn in their “training” are skills that typically can be learned best from their mother, just as we see the characters in the readings do.
One can view the domesticity that has been paired with girlhood through a positive or negative light. It is often viewed negatively when considering its connection to limiting what the role of a girl in society should be. However, in her performance at the Grammys, Beyoncé, who has clearly broken the boundaries of having a domestic occupation, brings forth and emphasizes the positive and beautiful view of this domesticity – the powerful, sacred, and all important role of motherhood and a daughter’s beautiful desire to acquire the attributes of her mother. In front of over 26 million viewers, Beyoncé addresses this, and calls these viewers to embrace and praise the positive light of a mother’s domestic role in society.
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