Jamie Foxx's "Break-Up Body" Joke At The BET Awards Perpetuates A Harmful Assumption
On Sunday night, Jamie Foxx took the stage at the BET Awards to present the Best Male R&B And Pop Artist award to Bruno Mars and introduce a trailer for his new film, Baby Driver. But in following up Mary J. Blige's performance, the actor made an tactical error. Jamie Foxx made a joke about Blige's "break-up body" on the BET Awards, and it perpetuates the assumption that women only take care of their bodies so that those bodies can be pleasing to look at. Before presenting his award, Foxx joked, "Mary J. Blige got that break-up body. She got that, woo! You know when ladies break up, she was in the gym…" The actor mimed sit ups to drive home his point.
And after what was an amazing performance from Blige, the joke brought the mood down, rather than building on the excitement her great performance generated. Because while Blige definitely wowed, Foxx's joke objectified her more than it celebrated her, focusing on how her body looked than how confidently she owned that stage. And reducing her stunning performance to a reaction to the breakup of her marriage? That's making a man the center of the story, rather than Mary's message, which was quite literally, "love yourself." Not... "everything women do is in service of a man."
Unfortunately, Foxx kept focusing on the so-called "breakup body" rather than pivoting to show proper deference to Queen Mary's singing skills. "You know when ladies break up, they, ‘When he sees me out, I’mma be right.’ She look amazing. Ain’t that right ladies? Ladies if you’re mad at your ex-boyfriend make some noise right now!" Yeah, there wasn't much of a response after that.
Based on his delivery, it certainly seemed like Jamie Foxx may have been improvising, and even the funniest comedians can say an ill-considered joke when speaking extemporanouesly. But even though it was a minor moment, it went over poorly, and it should serve as a reminder that every action a woman takes doesn't have to be immediately credited to a man, nor does her body need to be immediately critiqued. Even though she performed breakup anthem "Set Me Free," there's no reason to assume that Mary J. Blige's revealing outfit had anything to do with a man — let's keep the focus on her incredible talents.