Retro Styles And Gender Play: Beyoncé’s ‘Why Don’t You Love Me’

Latoya Peterson over at Jezebel on the new Beyoncé video, “Why Don't You Love Me”:

Beyoncé's new video for “Why Don't You Love Me” debuted last week, with a nod to 1950s homemaker style — and interesting commentary on ideas of womanhood, past and present.

Over at Feministing, Ann cast an appraising eye over Beyoncé and Sade's retro styling in recent videos. However, Ann's observations confused me a bit:

But given that these are two women of color are playing roles commonly associated with upper-middle-class white women (Betty Draper being the most recent reference point), I wondered: What makes me call this “retro”? I know there were certainly upper-middle-class women of color in the '50s and '60s, but this image of the happy-but-secretly-unhappy housewife is stereotypically white. By virtue of race, Beyonce and Sade are twisting that stereotype. (Granted, Beyonce is a more pin-up than straightforward homemaker — but hey, that's transgressive, too, as pin-up girls were almost all white.)

It is occasions like this that remind me how complete and total segregation was, and how white washed history can be. 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. (Just as one did not have to be black to work as a domestic for a wealthier family.)

The archives of Jet magazine tell this story better than I can. In addition to its news and entertainment reporting, Jet published an entire Modern Living section, which was more or less dedicated to housewives in search of the latest and greatest fashions and appliances.

[H/t: Amanda Marcotte]