I skipped the halftime show during the Superbowl last night. I deliberately waited until this morning to sit with a freshly brewed cup of coffee and every single one of my morning wits about me because I was definitely expecting a giant side mug of controversy. Of course, the internet’s barista certainly did not disappoint. I didn’t even have to search for the JLo and Shakira halftime performance because it was one of the priority items featured on my newsfeed.
If I’m being honest, however, I wasn’t nearly as interested in the performance, as I was about how people would respond to it. I knew that the gorgeous Latina duo had been chosen to take the stage last month, and they delivered exactly what I would have expected. Their exciting performance was not the least bit surprising to this Latina woman. It was, as expected, a sensual, colorful frenzy of Latin rhythmic expression, choreography, and electric passion that virtually exploded on cue and brought the audience to their feet.
Also, as predicted, the armchair commentators had really outdone themselves, leaving seething vitriol all over the web with statements citing the sizzling performance as “piggish,” “shameful” and “definitely lacking in class.” The mommy faction of the world wide web seemed to be particularly bent out of shape, decrying the entertainment as “dangerous” to their children’s young, impressionable minds. Some of these Brendas were so vocal about their disdain, one might think that little Timmy’s eye sockets combusted in real-time as Shakira manically shook her hips and gyrated on a megawatt flashing stage, surrounded by electric backup dancers in red-hot spandex. And let’s not even get started on JLo’s pole, ‘mkay? Because I’m not.
Unfortunately, as much as our nation strives to be progressive and diverse, we still can’t find a way to get comfortable with the idea that performative dance is a glorious, celebratory expression of one’s body and all of its incredible power. JLo and Shakira happen to be two sexy Latina women wrangling that glorious celebration of physical power – and joyfully shaking it in front of the world, while wearing sparkly outfits.
Yet, in a sad, ironic twist, many of the people who decry this epically-charged, ethnically-embracing, female-driven performance and who were put off by its message of Latina women empowerment and sexuality, are the same folks who excitedly prepared chicken wings and nachos in order to cheer on at least three Superbowl players who have a dark history of domestic violence against women. Weird, right?
A dangerous, double-standard is being played out in front of the world, and nobody seems to notice that nearly as much as JLo’s sequined booty shake. As a stadium full of sports enthusiasts stand and cheer for Tyrek Hill, the player recently accused of choking his pregnant girlfriend, thousands more stand in judgement and disgust of two, strong Latina women who refuse to tone-down their sexuality, cultural prowess, and power in order to satisfy those who aren’t quite “comfortable” with it.
Lookee here, Brenda. Do us all a favor and take your hands away from in front of Timmy’s face and let him watch JLo shake her moneymaker. Then, have a conversation about how he views her performance. Go deeper and ask him how he views her as a woman, and then loudly correct any statement he may make about her being “less than” just because she tosses her head back and shakes her hips. Then go even deeper than that and let him know that a woman who dances on a pole deserves more respect than any man who lacks self-control and humility. Perhaps that is a conversation Tyrek Hill’s mother should have had with him at some point.
Keep on shakin, JLo!
Jennifer Nance is a Michigan-based freelance writer and essayist.