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Women Of Colour Know The Real Reason Beyoncé Has To Dress Up On Stage

© Getty Images

A picture of Beyoncé and Ed Sheeran performing together in vastly different outfits has prompted cries of a double standard

There was a lot of outrage on Twitter last night, even more than usual. Some were up in arms about PETA’s list of animal-friendly idioms designed to avoid 'speciesism' – according to them we should be saying ‘feed two birds with one scone’ instead of ‘kill two birds with one stone’. Chip-lovers were defending their fries habit after a Harvard Professor recommended that people limit themselves to a portion size of just six french fries in order to avoid health problems.

And in the midst of all this vitriol, an image of Beyoncé and Ed Sheeran sparked a debate about unfair gender expectations. The pair performed ‘Perfect’ together at the Global Citizen Festival on Sunday in South Africa.

At risk of overanalysing an image that has already been poured over enough since the performance on Sunday, it is a pretty tidy representation of the expectations we put on women (and I’d say especially women of colour) compared to those we put on men (especially white men.)

‘We have to work twice as hard to get half as far’ is an old adage passed down generations of families of colour, and while opportunities for people of colour are changing, the reality is Beyoncé has always had to go over and above to stand out and be taken seriously in the music industry.

From the days of Destiny’s Child costumes have been important. Not only did their vocals have to be unmatched, but the band had to have choreography, matching outfits and angelic personal lives to match.

READ MORE: A Moment For The Destiny's Child Outfits Designed By Tina Knowles, Please

Ed Sheeran, and performers like him, have of course also worked incredibly hard, but it’s telling that he is able to show up to the same gig as Beyoncé in jeans and a t shirt, while Beyoncé wears a custom fuchsia gown by Lebanese brand Ashi Studio.

Another factor to consider is marketing, Beyoncé’s personal brand is based not just on her voice, but her fashion too. She sells the whole lifestyle package, from clothes to music to her very own vegan subscription box. I daresay searches for Beyoncé’s outfit from the concert are slightly higher than searches for Ed Sheeran’s.

Beyoncé and Ed could hardly have imagined that one image would cause such a ruckus, but such is the nature of Twitter, people waking up to gender inequality, and there not being anything good on telly these days.