Tuesday 21 November 2017

Queen Bey syndrome: why do some women make us feel less than perfect?

Poker face: Lady Gaga feels Beyonce looks down on her
Poker face: Lady Gaga feels Beyonce looks down on her
Beyoncé and Jay Z have sealed a deal for the luxury mansion, 454 Cuesta Way in Bel Air in LA
Beyonce Knowles and Jay-Z look on before Miguel Cotto takes on Canelo Alvarez in their middleweight fight at the Mandalay Bay Events Center on November 21, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
GROWING UP IN PUBLIC: An eight-month pregnant Beyonce performing at last year’s Grammy awards ceremony
Katie Byrne

Katie Byrne

It's strange that the team behind Lady Gaga's recently-released Netflix documentary, Gaga: Five Foot Two, decided to leave one of the most tantalising vignettes until the very end.

Those who turned off once the credits started rolling may have missed the moment when Gaga turns to friend and co-conspirator, Mark Ronson, and says: "That was the night I gave Beyonce, like, a panic attack.

GROWING UP IN PUBLIC: An eight-month pregnant Beyonce performing at last year’s Grammy awards ceremony
GROWING UP IN PUBLIC: An eight-month pregnant Beyonce performing at last year’s Grammy awards ceremony

"I don't know, I just always feel like when I'm with her and Jay-Z, I'm always like hanging out in the corner with like nine joints hanging out of my mouth, being like 'What's up?!'" she continues. "She's like, 'You're not a lady, but why?' How is this working?'"

It's fairly safe to conclude that Gaga's behaviour didn't actually cause Beyonce to hyperventilate, yet it's easy to identify with her dramatisation of the night in question.

It paints a picture of Gaga letting loose while an uptight Beyonce looks on. It conjures up an image of Gaga in a ripped Ziggy Stardust jumpsuit, glitter eyeshadow melting down her face, while Beyonce peers into her compact mirror to ensure her micro-fringe is still perfectly symmetrical, before adjusting her piercingly on-point ensemble.

It suggests, perhaps unfairly, that Beyonce is the type of person who says: "Do you want us to call you an Uber, babes?"

When women who are fond of a few wake up with their tongue stuck to the roof of their mouth and only partial recall of the night before, their thoughts almost instantly turn to the simon-pure stares their behaviour elicited from these types.

They remember the slack-jawed consternation when they tried to snort a shot of tequila and the furtive glances when they attempted an electric slide on the dance floor. They think back to the moment they were tut-tutted for ordering two kebabs, and pray that it's just False Memory Syndrome.

Beyonce Knowles and Jay-Z look on before Miguel Cotto takes on Canelo Alvarez in their middleweight fight at the Mandalay Bay Events Center on November 21, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Beyonce Knowles and Jay-Z look on before Miguel Cotto takes on Canelo Alvarez in their middleweight fight at the Mandalay Bay Events Center on November 21, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

It's a subtle form of shaming that takes them back to their school days when the girls who had pressed skirts, velvet scrunchies and laminated copybooks made them feel like they hadn't done their homework.

These paragons of perfection blossom into the type of women who wear matching lingerie, pack sensible flats for weddings and never go anywhere without their lint remover. They start their day at 6am with hot water and lemon before gently pirouetting into their morning ritual of Buddhist chanting.

They can do the pilates 100 without sounding like they are in an advanced stage of labour, and they can somehow wear a silk shirt in high summer without perspiring.

Elegance and restraint are their watchwords; hence women who don't follow the protocol are treated like glasses of red wine that are positioned perilously close to a flawless cream carpet. They're not judging. No, no - they are just utterly repulsed.

Singer Lady Gaga attends The 59th GRAMMY Awards at STAPLES Center on February 12, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
Singer Lady Gaga attends The 59th GRAMMY Awards at STAPLES Center on February 12, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

This "you're not a lady" abhorrence, as Gaga puts it, is communicated by body language. They might raise an eyebrow when someone over-shares, or luxuriate in long, uncomfortable silences that let their target's last sentence reverberate around the room, or lift their chin ever so slightly higher when their eyes alight upon chipped nail polish. It's a subliminal form of one-upmanship that insinuates rather than confronts - a dark art that some women have made it their business to master.

A small, but nonetheless fascinating, study led by Dr Sarah Riley, Reader in Psychology at Aberystwyth University, explored this non-verbal communication among women by asking female participants to note when they received or gave 'a look'.

"When the other students discussed their experiences, it made them realise how often they looked or felt looked at in a judgemental way," said one of the lead researchers. "Even though I expected it, it's still shocking to see the pressure young women put on one another."

All women are familiar with this shadow side of the female psyche. Men, on the other hand, take any conversation around the psychological subterfuge of 'dirty looks' as evidence that all women are certifiably insane - just look at Ronson's face when Gaga shares her story with him.

Still, they would have to agree that men and women express hostility differently. Men are aggressive, whereas women tend to favour passive-aggression. Men can be violent, whereas women often prefer to inflict punishment by labelling, gaslighting and subtly ostracising.

When it was announced last month that Warner Bros are working on an all-female remake of William Golding's Lord Of The Flies, the Twittersphere ridiculed the premise and pointed out that the gender swap would fundamentally change the entire plot.

Granted, an all-female Lord Of The Flies scenario probably wouldn't descend into blood-and-guts, sow-slaughtering savagery, but it has the potential to be an excellent psychological thriller. Just ask Gaga.

Irish Independent

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