The reactions to their Super Bowl performance pointed out a sexist double standard.

By Sam Reed
Feb 03, 2020 @ 5:15 pm
Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

Following Sunday night’s Jennifer Lopez and Shakira concert, the internet was alight with variations of “yas, queens!” as well as sincere inquiries about their fountain of youth-mimicking skincare routines.

But where there’s a celebration of women over 40 at the peak of their careers shutting it down on America’s biggest stage, there are haters. This year, the haters took the form of social media users wearing a mask of “concern” for the culture, and the “pornification” that J.Lo and Shakira hath wrought upon it.

“Please don’t preach to me that a show of hyper-sexualized, crotch grabbing women are some how 'empowering' to women and girls,” tweeted user Penny Nance.

“I watched this last night grateful my daughter was too young to see the show,” wrote Washington Post reporter Amber Phillips. “It was a powerful performance, but I have no idea how I'd explain to her why these women were so blatantly sexual — while the men were fully clothed.”

Another mother, Stacy Wilson, tweeted, “Trying to teach my daughter that flaunting her body does not equal empowerment and then we have strippers for the halftime show. With CHILDREN on the stage! Beyond Disappointed.”

Jennifer Lopez and Shakira’s performance — their sermon on the fifty yard line was sexy. On that point we can all agree. The issue, it seems, lies in whether or not it was too sexy. Was J. Lo’s pole dancing routine “inappropriate”? Was Shakira’s reminder that her hips have never not told the truth taking things “too far”?

On these “concerns” I’d like to call bullshit. First, let’s look at the sexist double standard. How can we still be discussing the validity of showing sexy women on primetime television when last year, Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine was praised for gyrating while fully topless on stage? Were we calling him a stripper when he disrobed? (We were not.) And when Justin Timberlake ripped apart Janet Jackson’s costume at the 2004 Super Bowl to expose her breast, was he the one who was canceled? (Nope.)

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Let’s not forget that women of color, like J. Lo and Shakira, are more likely to be on the receiving end of criticism about their sexuality. The negative hypersexual trope of Latina women — that they are sex objects purely to be enjoyed by the white male gaze, with no real contribution otherwise — in media is one that has persisted, and was definitely projected onto their performances on Sunday night, whether it was consciously or subconsciously, by fans and critics alike. When these conversations about women of color, or any minority group trying to shake a stereotype, happen at such a loud volume, the stereotypes are only reinforced.

The hooplah begs the question: In 2020, haven’t we had the discussion about feminism and sexuality? Do I really need to dig up a relevant Emily Ratajkowski quote to make the point that being a positive role model for women and girls and being sexy are not mutually exclusive?

Here’s one, just for the hell of it: “The implication is that to be sexual is to be trashy because being sexy means playing into men’s desires,” Ratajkowski wrote in 2016 on Lena Dunham and Jenny Konner’s since shuttered Lenny Letter. “To me, ‘sexy’ is a kind of beauty, a kind of self-expression, one that is to be celebrated, one that is wonderfully female.” Amen.

RELATED: The Celebratory Cultural Moments You May Have Missed From Jennifer Lopez and Shakira's Performance

Second, there’s the issue of the pervasion of sex on primetime TV. How can we still be discussing what is and what is not appropriate to be shown on TV when the President of the United States was heard bragging about grabbing women “by the pussy” — a story that ran on every major news network in 2016? (Am I telling you to blame the president of the United States for contributing to the real “pornification” of the culture? I’m not not telling you that.) Sex is part of the world we live in, it always has been, and picking and choosing what we call “inappropriate” — on the basis of gender, no less — is not OK. The conversations about sex are happening in the mainstream, and exposure is invetiable for those people who own a television. Why tear down two women who are owning their sexuality, flaunting it on their own terms, and empowering others to do the same?

Kevin Winter/Getty Images

If you don’t believe that your children should have eyes on the TV at halftime, it’s your prerogative, as a parent, to shut off the TV. However, as far as we’re concerned, role models don’t get more top tier than J. Lo and Shakira. 

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