Halftime Show Complaints Highlight Double-Standard for Women of Color

Happy Women’s History Month! As we celebrate the accomplishments that women have made and those we have yet to fulfill, I wanted to highlight some news that came out last week. The 54th Super bowl was last month and for the halftime show, Shakira & J.Lo performed; both are artists of Spanish descent. They used their time on stage to highlight their respective countries’ history as well as current events here in the states. The show was entertaining and I think they both did an amazing job!

It was reported that the FCC received 1300 complaints about the show not being family-friendly. Granted that’s not a big number compared to the millions of people who tuned in to watch the show, but there was a lot of backlash about the show being very sexual and not fit for the eyes of children and men.

J.Lo and Shakira are not the first female artists to perform at the Super bowl scantily clad. In recent years, Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Madonna, Britney Spears have all performed in the attire they normally wear and there wasn’t this much backlash.  All of these artists have music that is sexual and many times perform in a sexual nature. I think the real issue is that J.Lo and Shakira are Latinas and we live in a society that fetishes women of color.

In 2019, Maroon 5 was the Super bowl Halftime headliner and Adam Levine literally spent 15 minutes stripping and gyrating suggestively on stage.  The FCC received 100 complaints after his performance. We treat women and men differently when it comes to sexuality and we treat white women and women of color differently when it comes to how they express their sexuality.

In 2004, the Super bowl Halftime show included headliners Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake. At the end of their show, he ripped off the covering on her chest exposing one of her breasts. As a teenager, I remember sitting there watching the show and seeing the moment it was ripped off, Janet’s reaction, and then it was off the screen. Women in America were furious the next day. How dare their husbands see another woman’s breast? Let alone a black woman’s breast. Justin Timberlake could slink away unscathed from the incident even performing at the Superbowl Halftime show again in 2018.

The argument that wives all over the country were making then and are making now made as little sense to me when I was 14 and even less now that I am 30. In our culture, sex is readily available and I can see a breast watching primetime TV. The true issue is that the bodies of these women are considered other. From the moment colonizers landed in Africa, black women have been overly sexualized and objectified for how our bodies look; Latina women are painted in a similar way.

It’s unfortunate that in this era of feminism and female empowerment we’re still fighting these battles. Part of female empowerment is supporting your sisters not tearing them down. Ladies, let’s try and do better.

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