“If I were a boy, I think I could understand.” Beyonce Knowles said it best in her 2008 song, If I Were a Boy. In today’s society, it is not uncommon for a woman to muse over her life as the opposite gender. In fact, I think B and I can speak for everyone when we say, as women, we would love to spend today in a man’s shoes because in reality, we are treated differently than men. It may not be as prevalent today as it was ten, even five years ago, but if you look close enough, you are sure to see it. In the excerpt, Is Paris Burning? from the novel Black Looks, women and “drag-men” are pulling a full on Sasha Fierce to prove a point.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, median weekly earnings for women in 2010 were $669, while men earned $824. This is nearly a 20 percent gap in wages. The self-identified women of Is Paris Burning? are trying to bridge the gap by eliminating the gap all together, even if it’s only for a couple hours out of the day. They are experiencing the differences first hand. And if it’s good enough for Beyonce, why shouldn’t it be good enough for society?
The focus of the article is not only how women are treated differently than men, but also how gay/transgender/transvestite men are treated differently than men (mainly of the straight, white origin), as well. These men and women would dress and act the way a typical “straight” man is expected to act in our society. The differences they experienced, just by changing who they are, were extremely recognizable. An average man in America is faced with very little problems, culturally. Chances are, if you are straight, white, and a male, you can slide under the radar fairly smoothly. In Beyonce’s words, men can “kick it with who they wanted and never get confronted for it”. What the lyrics lack in creativity, they make up for in substance. Beyonce is making the point that men rarely get flack for what they do, while minority groups are often placed underneath a microscope.
Think about it. When was the last time you opened up your morning paper and read the title, “White Heterosexual Man Goes to Bar With Male Colleges Who are also White and Heterosexual”? Probably never, because that would be an awful headline, but you get the point. These men and women in the article are just trying to feel what it would be like to be accepted for the first time in their lives. If that is what it takes, than there is something extremely backwards with the way we run our country. The people of Is Paris Burning? should be applauded for the courage they have to go out and be who they are because they are unique. A society filled with sameness would be a travesty.
Even if these women are garnering negative feedback from doing this, they are creating a social experiment that is obviously proving a point to both men and women today. They are being treated differently, and they are seeing a difference in the way men and women are treated in their day-to-day lives. While Beyonce may be over-exaggerating when saying, “If I were a boy, even just for a day. I’d roll out of bed in the morning, and throw on what I wanted, and go drink beer with the guys”, there is still relevance to what she is saying because, yes, we as women need to be more professional in the way we act than men if we want to be taken seriously.
The women of Is Paris Burning? have made this distinction and can realize that this is a problem for women everywhere, but where is the solution?
Sadly, there is no definite solution. All we can do is educate the people who haven’t the slightest clue that this is a real issue. This is not just a problem of educating men, but women and children too. We need to be sure that every person is aware that we cannot have people like Mitt Romney running our country. We have to move forward, not backward. We need to open the eyes of the people who are blind to the issue. If we all can realize that this is a problem in our culture, according to Beyonce, we’d all be better men.