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Defending "Single Ladies" on CNN Headline News

Last Friday, I made a cameo on CNN Headline News’ “Prime News” with host Mike Galanos to discuss a recent viral video on YouTube. The piece in question showed a group of 8 and 9 year-old girls at a dance competition in Los Angeles. The girls wore very elaborate costumes that showed off their midriffs, along with knee-high boots – and mimicked the dance to the music video for Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It).”

Parents and counselors across the country voiced their displeasure in the dance instructor and the children’s parents, calling the choreography too provocative and the outfits too revealing. Lauren Lake, a former hip hop dancer who appeared on the same HLN segment with me, compared the moves to that of a stripper – asking if a pole would be the next step for dancers their age.

I’m sorry, but I have to draw the line there. These girls were in a controlled environment, with parents, supervisors, and teachers. The comparison to exotic dancers was extreme, out of line, and uncalled for. I concurred that the outfits were not age-appropriate. But the dance moves consisted of more ballerina-twirling than booty shaking, grinding, or gyrating.

Matter of fact, how much of the latter actually appeared in the video? The girls were moving around frantically, but I think the “gyrating” claim is a little generous – perhaps these critics need a tutorial on how one actually gyrates.

Galanos and Lake were both against the video – which made it very hard for me to voice my opinion in the two-part, 10 minute piece. The bias in the segment reached a fever pitch right before Galanos tossed it to me for my first of only two chances where I’d be allowed to speak. The anchor decided it would also be a good idea to question not only the dance moves and costumes – but the song as well – by picking the most provocative lyrics of the track and reading them, while the words were displayed on screen.

This is a classic example of people criticizing pop culture without understanding it. You could pick a segment out of any piece of art – a song, a movie, The Bible – and find something to demonize. What Galanos failed to understand is that taken its full, intended context – Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies” is an empowering song to women of all ages. In the track, which is one of Columbia Records’ most downloaded digital singles, Beyoncé sings about finding a man that will treat her right, and not needing any guy, especially one who won’t show her the respect she deserves.

Rolling Stone named “Single Ladies” the best single of 2008. The video has close to 90 million views on YouTube. Everyone from Joe Jonas to Justin Timberlake can be found on-line mimicking the dance… there is even footage of President Barack Obama, right before his inauguration, speaking to Beyoncé and noting that his daughters made him watch the video, attempting to teach him the infamous dance moves in the process. I’d hate to “pull a KanYe” – but Beyoncé has one of the best videos of all time!

“Single Ladies” is more than a song or a video – it’s a phenomenon that transcended to people of all ages and genders. Thankfully, there is at least a positive message to be taken from it.

That can’t be said for many other segments of our culture that 8 and 9 year olds are exposed to. Would Galanos and Lake rather see these girls hoola-hoop to Young Money’s “Bedrock”? How many of these dancers’ peers use a Lady GaGa song like “Just Dance” in a routine – yunno, where GaGa sings about getting drunk and hooking up in a club?

Galanos and Lake probably couldn’t answer that – which is another big problem with this whole ordeal. No one conducted a study to find out if “Single Ladies” is normally used in similar competitions, with comparable dance moves.

A TV network not giving a subject due diligence by reporting the facts? Maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised of my experience after all.