Hard for me to see halftime show as empowering


Last updated 2/5/2020 at 4:44pm | View PDF

Everyone seems to be able to agree on one thing about Sunday's Super Bowl halftime show. It was sexy.

So sexy, in fact, that my 11-year-old covered her head at one point with a blanket and remained hidden for most of the performance by Shakira and Jennifer Lopez.

Two adult friends shared their feedback with me Monday. One guy, married with no kids, said he appreciated the Latina influence and enjoyed watching Shakira and J-Lo try to out-dance one another. The other, a mom who was at a party with families, including her son and many other seventh-grade boys, said the boys were outside playing football during the first half of the game. Then they caught a glimpse of Shakira through a bay window and spent the rest of the halftime show lined up, their faces pressed against the glass.

My favorite Tribune columnist, Heidi Stevens, penned two columns about the show this week. In her piece Monday, she calls it "muscular and sexy" and "unapologetic" and discusses how it fits into the #MeToo movement.

Stevens questions why a 15-minute halftime show would guide how we view women and reminded us of the presence of another woman on the field in Miami Sunday night - the 49ers' offensive assistant Katie Sowers, the first female coach in Super Bowl history.

Stevens seems to come down on the side of those who saw the show as empowering. She says the #MeToo movement is about moving away from a time when men treated women merely as bodies - ignoring their inhabitants - to a rejoining of woman to her body.

"The #MeToo movement doesn't say women can't be sexual. The #MeToo movement says women don't want to be raped," she writes. Good point.

And yet I find myself unable to fully agree with her. I'll admit that it made me uncomfortable. Some of that feeling would more accurately be described as fear - fear that I would have to explain to Ainsley what a stripper pole is. And there's a part of me that doesn't think sex needs to be so overtly the theme of a Super Bowl halftime show.

Cultural differences certainly come into play here, as I'm reminded every time I talk to my Brazilian friend about what her life was like growing up in South America and what it's like when she returns.

And I know we all bring our own baggage to these debates. (Thanks to my mom's influence, I think a halter top is too risqué and haven't worn a bikini since I was 6.)

But I know female friends who were told not to go college because it would be a waste of time. Phrases like "You'll never get a husband dressed like that" have been uttered during my lifetime.

We've come a long way, baby, as the cigarette commercial used to say. But all women still do not earn equal pay for equal work. Some still question the electability of a female candidate for president. Objectifying women still earns a tidy profit for those willing exploit them.

The message of the halftime show ultimately, I suppose, is in the eye of the beholder. Empowering exhibition of female strength and allure. Or one more opportunity to view women as sex objects.

I would like to imagine a day when everyone would watch a performance like Shakira's and J-Lo's and feel nothing but awe. One day we may be there.

But I fear we're not there yet.

- Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean. Readers can email her at [email protected].

Author Bio

Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean

Email: [email protected]
Phone: 630-323-4422, ext. 104


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