Why did I watch it?
Francesca (aka Sabeya) posted on Facebook saying she wasn't watching the Super Bowl & asked if other people were not watching it too. Someone commented that Francesca was missing the halftime show & she replied saying she watched the halftime show. I wondered why, so I checked out the details and learned that JLo and Shakira were performing. According to article I read, Shakira's been belly dancing since she was young. Suddenly, it made sense. Francesca is a professional dancer. She teaches a belly dance fitness class I attend & she's the person who started Shimmy Mob, the world's largest belly dance flash mob! So I decided to watch the halftime show.
First, let me say there were some things I really liked about it! Shakira and Jennifer Lopez are both talented entertainers & they put on a great song and dance act. I thought it was very cool that both of the women featured weren't young; Shakira is in her 40's and JLo is 50! I also liked many of the songs and artists that were featured. I love Reggaeton. I often dance to it at clubs & Mi Gente is on one of my playlists. :)
Now let's get to some of the problems, starting with this. I think this image really sums up one of the biggest issues I had with the show. Here we see JLo in a nude bodysuit with sparkles that strategically cover some parts & mimic the look of lingerie. And we see J Balvin next to her fully clothed and covered. We see her dancing suggestively & him pointing at her butt.
It used to be you had to be young too, but with Shakira and JLo being featured it seems like being young isn't necessarily a requirement anymore. But being hot and wearing lingerie-like outfits is required & don't forget those moves! Crotch grabbing, twerking and pole dancing!
I know some people defended the outfits Shakira and JLo wore saying they were similar to the cheerleader's outfits & I agree cheerleader outfits are often skimpy. But why do skilled singers need to dress in outfits to match the cheerleaders? And why do cheerleaders wear those outfits? Where are the male cheerleaders dressed like Chippendale dancers?
Others have pointed out that the outfits and dance moves are just like what you see at concerts done by these women. I agree, but why are women expected to wear revealing outfits and move suggestively and sing? Why is this standard? Why is this considered not just normal and acceptable, but the ideal? Why is THAT what's required to become popular, or even break into the industry? Why is THAT what it takes to become the richest woman in the entertainment industry? Is hot & sexy STILL the only way for women to get ahead?
To me, the halftime show looked like it was crafted for the male gaze, an adult heterosexual male gaze.
I know some people pointed out that a male singer sang without a shirt last year & no, that is not the same. When the standard becomes that male singers have to wear lingerie & dance around suggestively, then we'll have some gender parity!
Maybe the NFL could get Todrick Hall to wear a nude bodysuit like JLo's, with sparkles just covering the crotch and he could do his routine from Nails, Hair, Hips, Heels. That *might* begin to even the scales.
Just take a look at listings looking for female singers. They say openly they want young, hot looking women. The entertainment industry is one of the few industries where it's perfectly legal to choose based on looks, ethnicity, age...you can feel free to be biased! It's an industry where you're often judged on how hot and sexy you look, more than your talent. This is part of the reason why plastic surgery is so popular, particularly with female entertainers.
Women like Shakira and JLo know how to cash in on this. Same with Beyoncé, Kim K and dozens of others (including lots of Instagram influencers). These women choose to flaunt their bodies to promote their talents, or in the absence of talent (e.g. Kim K.'s infamous comment that she doesn't know how to sing or dance…).
I know personally I've felt torn by this. I've always wanted to be recognized for my talents and skills! My intelligence and the fact that I can act, dance, sing and create art. I've purposefully downplayed my appearance and covered my body, but I've seriously wondered if that's the wrong choice! When I see examples like Beyoncé and Kim K. being some of the richest and most powerful women in the world, I wonder if maybe I should be flaunting my 34H cup tits and shaking them for the world, because it would probably earn me a lot more money! And when these women are held up as examples of being feminist, I wonder WTF am I even doing?
I used to think such behavior would hurt your reputation and damage your professional career, but seeing women like Kim K. go from sex tape to one of the richest women in the world, it makes me think it doesn't matter. You can release a sex tape, do porn, wear revealing outfits, pose nude, etc. and it won't hurt your reputation or damage your professional career. In fact, it can make you rich, famous and popular!
I've seen how women like Cardi B. have openly admitted to not just stripping, but drugging and robbing men. Like she actually did what's portrayed in Hustlers in real life, which is a crime! And somehow there was no outrage. She's not considered a pariah like Bill Cosby. Why?
And as much as I love some of Lizzo's songs, that outfit she wore to the Lakers game with the cut-out butt? Ugly AF & why a sports event? And it’s not about her size, that outfit would look ugly on ANYONE, any gender, any size! But I'm not a fan of ass-less pants either. I feel like the *only* place I can imagine a use for bottomless pants and dresses is a kink club. Not a sporting event.
And here we are at another sporting event, sporting things that make no sense. Like that POLE! Seriously, WTF? Why was there pole dancing during the halftime show? Pole dancing is something that happens at strip clubs. I mean, where else does that happen? (There IS an answer to this question later on in this post.)
I asked my mom for her view, because a number of comments I read from moms said they wouldn't want their young daughter or son to see that halftime show. She commented on the crotch grabbing moves, the skimpy outfits, the pole dancing. She didn't feel it was appropriate for what was supposed to be family entertainment.
She recalled a scene from an old black & white movie where one woman is giving advice to another saying to always remember, "British in the parlor, Parisian in the bedroom." She feels like she’s pretty liberal and her 30 year old friends agree, but she feels like you should be tasteful, refined, elegant in public & feel free to go wild in your bedroom. She felt that movie quote sums up that idea nicely.
She asked, "Why are we celebrating just their bodies and shaking their booty?" She told me she felt like feminism had somehow gone from being able to pursue any job you want for equal pay to let's flash our boobs & crotch. She questioned what kind of values modern feminism was putting forward. "How is this encouraging women to be confident & free? Free to do what? Vulgar movements?"
She thought some of the dance moves were "simulating having sex" and she found that distasteful. "And then to have the children there” commenting on children's choir, my mom sounded truly sad for the young children exposed and involved.
I asked her what age she thought would be appropriate for the program. "Teens?" she said hesitantly, "but even then", she commented again about the "appalling" content. She said she felt "over 25 would be better, when you've had some life experience.” I laughed and asked why 25 and she commented on the values being conveyed and the lyrics in the songs.
I hadn't even paid attention to the lyrics. My mom had! She commented how "She-Wolf" is a story about a woman who feels neglected by her partner, so she goes to a bar looking for casual sex. "What is this teaching you?" she exclaimed. "Rather than talk to your partner, you should go cheat?"
Then she commented about "Hips Don't Lie" and how the message was that if a woman swings her hips and dances suggestively, then it means she wants to have sex with you. Now every guy at the club is going to think I want to have sex with him!
My mom mentioned the halftime show reminded her of the documentary "Generation Wealth". I wasn't familiar with it, so I decided to watch it.
Generation Wealth: Pornified Culture & Where Else Do You See Pole Dancing?
So I watched the documentary & at the start I didn't see the connection, but then Chris Hedges commented, "We're a completely pornified culture. The images of porn are now so pervasive and accessible throughout the society they've leeched into popular culture."
The on-screen images reflect this and include a pole dancing fitness class. Oh yeah, that is a thing! I know they exist locally here in Vancouver too.
Last year I even signed up for a couple of dance classes focused on hip hop that advertised themselves as being for fierce, independent women, using names like "Army of Sass". When I showed up, I found out the classes were focused on teaching you how to dance sexy in heels. Yes, they were using some hip hop moves, but in heels. Needless to say, I dropped the classes. I like sneakers for dance. :)
Generation Wealth now had my attention & it is related. Chris Hedges comments later in the documentary that "unfettered, unregulated capitalism does what it's designed to do, which is commodify everything. Even human beings become commodities that you exploit for profit, until exhaustion or collapse."
Kacey Jordon, the former porn star is interviewed at one point. She talks about that fact that when she started she wanted to be an actor. When she was offered porn she agreed, because it seemed similar and related, it seemed like a way to get into doing films. She commented about Kim Kardashian's success saying "Kim is my inspiration for, I can still make it, you know, because I have lots of sex tapes to show & maybe I'll still come out on top somehow."
So Beyoncé, Shakira, JLo, Kim, and all the female celebs and influencers, I call to you. I want you understand what kind of inspiration you are giving to the young women of the world. I want you fully comprehend what kind of influence, what kind of role model you are. I want you to understand the kind of messages you're sending. Honestly, not just to young women, the kind of messages you're sending to ALL women, and to men too for that matter.
Every time we use SEX to sell, we are feeding into the system that says that being hot and sexy is what matters the most. It says that how hot you are is more important than how intelligent you are. That how sexy you are is more important than your talents and skills. That a woman's body is her most important and valuable asset.
I'm not saying you have to wear sack dress to perform, but there is a time and a place for lingerie and I don't think it should be the stage (or videos for that matter). But I know that's the path to millions. It's the path paved with gold. The temptation is strong. I know it is. I've felt it. I've had friends who have given in to different degrees. I know women who post sexy selfies & I've known women who have been strippers & women who have done sex work. I know sexy pics get lots of likes and followers. And I know you can make a lot of money being a stripper and doing sex work.
At one point in Generation Wealth, a young girl named Sheena is interviewed, she's 15 and she says "I wanna be a topless dancing showgirl...if I can accomplish being that, then I can accomplish anything."
I think this quote points to what I think is horribly awry with modern feminism. Women are being told and shown that the way to get ahead, the way to accomplish ANYTHING, fame, fortune, success, etc. is to show and shake your body! That the path to power as a woman is to take off your clothes, to be hot and sexy, that that IS empowerment, that that is feminism.
Sadly, I read that Jennifer Lopez thinks this debate is “silliness” and she feels the halftime show was “really well reserved”. In her interview with Jimmy Fallon she says, “and that small faction of people who want to be negative about it, I can’t even let in because it was such an amazing night.”
So apparently she thinks it’s just a “small faction” of people who think the performance was inappropriate and that they’re just being “negative”, so she won’t even listen to what they have to say. :(
I think that’s really sad, because it makes it clear to me that she not going to listen to anyone who doesn’t agree with her. She’s not interested in hearing how her performance showed that women are on top of the world when they’re half-naked twirling around the top of a pole.
I wish I could end this post on a more positive and hopeful note, point to some bright spots, some hope for change, but this is the same issue and same messages I’ve seen since I was a child and things don’t really seem to be getting better. In some ways it seems like things have gotten worse.
My mom asked if I was going to encourage people to write to the NFL & I feel like go ahead if you want, but I think the issue is larger than that.
I think it might be more effective to write to female entertainers to try to change their minds, but I’m not sure if they will listen.
I guess I should thank JLo for making it crystal clear what it takes to get to the top of the world as a woman. The halftime show made it clear that as a female entertainer, what really matters is how hot & sexy & scantily clad you are. But if you’re a man, you can wear baggy sweatpants and glasses, because men just need talent.
I wish I felt like I could stand up and say, no, I won’t do that! But I know all too well that my success and even my ability to get jobs is directly related to how many followers I have on social media.
I guess I should post more hot and sexy pics. Goodness know lots of guys asked about that bikini pic after I did the Dolly Parton Challenge. I’m sure my social media following would increase if I did!