Super Bowl LIV was quite interesting in our household. My son was recovering from a weeklong virus which made going out or inviting friends over impossible. So our little family of four stayed in to watch the Super Bowl (i.e. talk about the commercials, eat snacks, and anxiously await the half time show).
My son fell asleep early which gave my 5 year old daughter and I time together to talk about the game and the upcoming “dancing” as she called it. Dance parties are a regular thing in our household. We use our fireplace as a “stage” to do performances, check out new moves, and feel ourselves in the privacy of our own home.
Leading up to the show we talked about how incredible it is that a stage is made in the middle of the field that the players will return to in such a short time. We talked about how long and hard each performer (including the other dancers, set up crew, managers, and stage directors) had to work to get ready for this one performance. We talked about how some performers go to special schools to learn how to dance and to sing and that even if you are the most talented, it’s still very hard to get a gig as big as the Super Bowl.
Then we saw Shakira! My daughter’s mind was blown by the beauty of the costumes, makeup, and of course her body. She asked how she was able to move her belly in such a way and I explained how talented she was as a dancer. It was also clear to her that neither her or I had embodied that type of talent.
Next came J-Lo. My daughter was mesmerized that she could hold onto a pole only using her legs and not her hands. She had no doubt that she must be very strong and that she practiced hard to be able to do such a trick on a stage in front of so many people.
It did cross my mind that she might ask me about the costumes and why they were so, ahem, “revealing.” I remembered how my son had asked me why anyone would want to go on stage with their shirt off (like Adam Levine had done in his performance last year). But instead of giving her my thoughts that the outfits might be a little “skimpy,” I decided to let her form her own opinion.
She went to bed thinking that Shakira and J-Lo were beautiful and amazing performers, who had talents that not everyone has, and who work harder than a lot of people. I mean, to hold onto a pole using only your legs? That’s impressive!
When I woke up the next morning and started scrolling social media I saw the posts bashing both of these women. This piqued my interest greatly. I saw posts like “glad that’s over!” and “why would the Super Bowl allow such a vulgar performance!” Everyone seemed outraged.
Outraged that J-Lo and Shakira moved their asses and wore tiny outfits. Outraged that they were sexy. Outraged that our children were exposed to such vulgarity. Blah Blah Blah….
Meanwhile, not a single concern about the promotion of alcohol (the most dangerous drug that kills 88,000 people per year-10,000 more than opioids) to our children was mentioned. Not a single word.
Why? For starters, women are screwed in our thinking about bodies. We live in a world obsessed with bodies. We have a trillion dollar diet industry that is focused on getting us to hate our bodies. So when we see another person’s body in all of it’s glory, shaking without shame, showing it off with love, and leaning into their beauty we revolt! We feel threatened. We cover up our eyes and tell our little girls that bodies are shameful, private, and that anyone showing theirs is bad.
Next, women are confused when we see other women doing their thing! We’ve been oppressed our entire lives. We have been sold that our role is to please others. We have been quiet, insecure, scared, and felt unworthy since the beginning of time. There is no doubt in my mind that Shakira and J-Lo knew exactly the kind of backlash that they were getting themselves into when they planned their performances. They have seen enough scrutiny in their day to know the hurtful comments, threats, and anger that this performance would induce. After all, they are women (and minority women at that).
But they did it anyway. They did their thing unapologetically. They were asked to perform because of their skillset and their talents and so they did just that. They showed up as themselves knowing that they couldn’t please everyone. And that is something so many women (myself included) have yet to figure out how to do. It scares us when women show up as their whole selves.
Finally, the fact that we care so much about J-Lo’s body being shown to young people and we have not a care in the world about alcohol being shown to young people concerns me. It feels like we’re being distracted from some of the real dangers of marketing to young minds. Alcohol always gets a free pass.
Do we not care about how many people left a Super Bowl party and drove home drunk from the alcohol that was advertised? Do we not care about how many people called in sick the day after because their bodies were trying to eliminate the toxins that they consumed from the alcohol in the commercials they watched? Do we not care about the spousal abuse that took place, the date rape, the liver cancer, or the addiction crisis among women all being promoted? Do we not care what kind of message that sends?
Young minds are being influenced, that’s for sure. I’m just thinking it’s less by a 3 minute performance during the half time show. Let’s not give our power away so easily. It’s more likely that they pick up on the constant marketing of alcohol on tv, on street signs, and in the hands of most of the adults they know. They’re also likely influenced by the way women talk (bash) to each other, how they look at themselves in the mirror, and the constant shaming of our bodies.
No? It’s easier to project our fears and to blame Shakira than it is to go deep and take a hard look at some of the bigger issues we’re facing right now. People are entitled to have opinions and I respect those opinions. But, the whole debate leaves me in wonder and awe.
Originally published at https://www.spaliveaf.com on February 4, 2020.