Shakira and Jennifer Lopez Super Bowl halftime show 2020

Photo from @shakira.

Sexy halftime show too extra for some Super Bowl fans

Misogyny, racism and hypocrisy abounds in the controversy over Shakira and Jennifer Lopez’s performance on Sunday.

Full disclosure: I don’t care enough about football to watch the Super Bowl, even if one of our own was playing. Instead, I spent Sunday evening watching Adam Sandler give me an anxiety attack in Uncut Gems.

I did, however, get around to watching the Super Bowl’s halftime show, mainly because I saw so much controversy brewing online about Shakira and Jennifer Lopez’s “sexualized” performances. I had to see for myself how “damaging” and “degrading” the images were. The way some folks were talking about the show, you’d think smelling salts were being passed around in every American home Sunday night, along with second helpings of chili and potato salad.

I’m not a die-hard fan of either performer, so I didn’t watch willing to cheer on any old nonsense, but I thoroughly enjoyed their perfectly executed, high-energy performances and was in complete awe of their physicality and badass confidence. Also, if you’re sitting down to watch either Shakira or J-Lo and don’t expect some ass-shaking, that’s on you. It’s literally what they do every single time they perform. And halftime shows? They’re about pure razzle-dazzle, over-the-top, Vegas-style entertainment value and there’s absolutely no denying that these two ladies brought that.

Sexy halftime show fallout

Even more entertaining than their performances, however, were the reactions on Twitter. American Conservatives (who have no issues supporting a morally bankrupt president) seemed particularly adept at pearl-clutching. If you’re so concerned with “setting a good example for your daughters,” why aren’t your sensibilities offended by keeping a sexist abuser (and possible rapist) in power?

Also, has anyone taken a close look at NFL cheerleaders? They are as scantily dressed — if not more so — than either of the two performers people wanted parental advisories issued over, yet no one’s offended by them. Maybe it’s because cheerleaders are skinny sideline eye candy cheering on the “main act.” These two curvy Latinas were the main act for the halftime show. They didn’t know their place.

“Nothing more than a gross smut show that was degrading to women…” said Jake.

“Two talentless whores writhing around dressed as strippers,” said Lance.

“Way too much HOO HA in the halftime show,” said Liz.

“You can’t promote hypersexualized images and preach cultural virtue at the same time,” said Chad.

You can’t? Says who, Chad?

The problem with men like Chad is that they want to set the rules of the game and get upset when others live their lives according to their own. People like Chad seek to punish women who are sexual (no to reproductive rights and no to sexualization are just different versions of the same old song) because women shouldn’t be able to have their cake and eat it too! How dare you flaunt your sexuality and your perfectly toned ass and expect to be treated with respect! How dare you shake that booty and expect me not to harass or abuse or rape you. I’m only human after all!

Wearing too little or too much

I mean, Adam Levine was shirtless and hyper-sexy at last year’s Super Bowl halftime show and no one questioned how he could be a respectable rock star, a husband and a father and *still* bare his glistening chest for the public without being slut-shamed! (Roughly 50 took the time to complain to the FCC about Levine’s toplessness; over half a million people did the same when Janet Jackson accidentally flashed a nipple in 2004.) How is it possible and okay for men to be multi-dimensional, and yet women are reduced to only one facet of who they are? Why can’t they be allowed to be all of it, too? Why does a woman showing and celebrating her body immediately diminish her value in some people’s eyes?

The beauty of female empowerment is that you can be whatever it is you want to be. It’s your body, your life, your choices. The power lies in your ability to make whatever decisions you deem fit for yourself. Is anyone seriously questioning whether these two adult career entertainers aren’t fully in control of their image? Why is their agency questioned only when we personally disagree with their choices?

Women are constantly subjected to societal whims of modesty and decency, whether they wear too much (see the abuse Muslim women who wear head coverings get) or too little. Here’s a revolutionary thought: how about you let women decide what they want to do with their own bodies, without you assuming her choices are any indication of how she lives her life or what she thinks?

Madonna-Whore complex

Lost in the conversation about what women are supposed to look like and ultimately behave like (particularly when they’re older than 40) is this: the coexistence of substance and sexiness. The poly-faceted paradox of the Madonna-Whore complex continues to make many people’s minds explode. They can’t handle the complexity of seeing women be many things at once because it challenges their deep-seated biases about femininity.

You’re either one or the other, society says. You’re either a good girl or a bad girl, you’re either fat or happy, you’re either old or sexy, you’re either for abortion or a mother. When people who like to shove women into limited boxes are confronted with the fact that women can be mothers and sexual, women (like Lizzo) can be big and beautiful and radiate joy on stage, women can be older and extremely hot, women can be in favour of abortion and still want kids, they get really confused. And that confusion makes them angry.

These “talentless whores writhing around on the stage” are top-notch athletes, every bit as hard-working and ultra-performing as the football players on the field. They are professional entertainers whose livelihood and fame depends on how they perform. It takes years of dedication and work to make what they do look so effortless.

Decades of prep

Shakira has been an international singing sensation since she was 13. That means that, at 43, she’s been honing her craft for the past 30 years. She’s sold 75 million albums worldwide and is not only a talented singer and phenomenal dancer, she also plays the guitar and the drums. She’s also a proud Latina from Colombia with a Lebanese father who loves to share her cultural influences. Her joyful zaghrouta (aka ululation) is as much part of her heritage as her impressive Colombian Champeta footwork. As for her belly dancing? It is an extremely difficult art form. Attempting it will make you realize you have no discernible core muscles — and what you do have, you can’t control.

Whether you’re a fan of J-Lo or not, you can’t deny the woman is a powerhouse and a triple threat. She’s had a long and fruitful career, as a dancer, a singer and an actress. You can question her talent if you want to but questioning her work ethic makes you look silly. By the way, I’d love to see those criticizing her pole-dancing performance take a swing at it and report back. I have friends who practise it as a legitimate work-out and I’ve seen the bruises on their thighs and knees. It is extremely difficult to hold your body up there. You will land like a sack of potatoes when you try it the first time. Don’t ask me how I know this.

Message sent

Last, but not least, these two powerful Latinx women and mothers sent strong political messages about the U.S. border crisis. When Lopez draped herself in the Puerto Rican flag while her 11-year-old daughter performed Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA,” that was deliberate and bold. When children appeared on the stage in cages to the tune of “Let’s Get Loud,” that was a purposeful jab at the administration’s family separation policy. The message may have gone over the head of President Trump, who thinks Kansas City is in the state of Kansas, but it wasn’t lost on many of us.

Sunday’s performance was an athletic and sexy display of female power and sisterhood. Two women unapologetically showcased their talents, their hard-earned physical assets, their pride in their respective cultures, their political beliefs. You don’t have to like the overt sexuality, if it’s not your thing, and that’s more than okay. But I’m frankly sick and tired of women being accused of being too much of everything and never enough.

NFL fans routinely tolerate the league’s sexism, racism and track record of severe head injuries. Pretending to be offended by two top-tier female entertainers celebrating their sexuality is the ultimate in prudish hypocrisy. Find something else to be horrified by. Start with the caged kids. ■

Watch the full sexy halftime show below.

Read more editorials by Toula Drimonis here.

Read our article about the Montreal company that created part of the 2020 halftime show here.