Americans value the concept of a personal bubble. It is the physical distance that’s necessary during interactions with people. This is particularly important during the #MeToo movement making waves globally. So you can imagine what happens when someone invades the personal space of a well-respected megastar.
Saturday, 30th March 2019, saw Beyonce crowned “Artist of the Year” at the NAACP Image Awards. It was a celebration of achievements in the African American community. But the happy moment was tainted when a clip surfaced of 45-year-old actor Omari Hardwick and Beyonce. At the event, he kissed her twice on the cheek, once dangerously close to her lips.
Bruh….😳🤦🏾♂️😑 “oh no baby, what is you doing” #TeamDL #nope #nah #nottoday #toomuch #omarihardwick #beyonce #jayz pic.twitter.com/AECRiRVslo
— DL Hughley (@RealDLHughley) March 31, 2019
Baba first give Beyoncé one for close to the ear, be like sey she no too feel am so he gaz give am one close to lips , make she know sey him no be Ghost today😭
— DREMO 🔥🐉 (@Dremodrizzy) March 31, 2019
Beyonce hasn’t commented on the incident. But she appeared visibly uncomfortable as the encounter played out on camera. Her husband Jay-Z was standing nearby. Her fans were quick to react, with many Twitter users lambasting Hardwick for breezing past personal boundaries.
Stay out of my personal space
There is the concept of a “body buffer zone” in which the area surrounding a person that, when invaded, triggers discomfort. This concept is highly valued in the United States.
The late anthropologist Edward Hall in 1963 coined the term “proxemics.” It explains the concept of necessary physical distance. According to Hall, the “intimate distance” spans approximately 18 inches (46 centimetres) out from a person’s body. This is followed by a personal distance for interactions with other close friends and family, a social distance for acquaintances and a public distance for speaking events.
According to Princeton researcher Michael Graziano, the zone is “more robust” around the head. On a crowded subway car, for example, “we’ll tolerate people pressed up against our shoulders, but not against our faces.”
Audrey Nelson, a Colorado-based communication and gender expert, told AFP the concept of personal space is “highly culturally variable”. In the US, it is a “very powerful communicator.”
In terms of Beyonce, Nelson said women are less likely than men to command their own personal bubble. “This ventures into blaming the victim,” she said. “Just because a woman is petite, has a soft voice, doesn’t command a lot of space, doesn’t mean you can invade it.” Beyonce, she noted, is “powerful. She’s a strong woman,” and actions like Hardwick’s can be a means to “equalise the power.”
The officiating pastor at Aretha Franklin’s funeral last year was involved in a similar incident. He faced accusations of groping pop royalty, Ariana Grande. This came after he wrapped his hand around her waist onstage in a move many cast as far too familiar.
For Graziano, some cultures dictate that, when it comes to touching, people should “just accept it and not complain too much. In other cultures, you’re allowed to be more outspoken and reactive.”
American women in recent years have launched efforts to reclaim their personal space. The New York metro system, for example, ran a campaign to end “manspreading,” or spreading thighs wider than the seat while sitting.
It’s an effort ushered along by #MeToo, Nelson said, saying “personal space has always been there. What’s changed is our awareness level.”
“Some men think they can take liberties,” she said, saying the #MeToo movement has said “no more.”
“It just comes down to basic respect.”