You Should Feel Uncomfortable (But Not for the Reason You Think)


Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Jennifer Lopez and Shakira made history on Super Bowl Sunday. This was the first time two Latina performers headlined the halftime show, and most fans will agree that their performance was energetic, fun, and easy to dance to.

However, some of that dancing sparked controversy. Both Lopez and Shakira wore revealing clothes and danced suggestively, including twerking and simulated sex. And when Lopez put her pole-dancing skills on display, people lost their minds.  

A lot of parents feel betrayed by the NFL for allowing a performance that was less than family-friendly, and people have argued over whether the women’s clothes and dance moves were empowering or just embarrassingly exploitative. 

If you watched the halftime show and felt uncomfortable, I completely understand. I’m uncomfortable, too–but not because of the dancing. 

At one point in the performance, Lopez’s daughter Emme Muñiz took the stage and sang Lopez’s hit “Let’s Get Loud” with a chorus of young girls – who were all in cage-like structures. 

Muñiz then joined Lopez to sing Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.” During the song, Lopez was draped in a red, white, and blue feathers with the Puerto Rican flag on one side and the American flag on the other.

The cages have been regarded as a comment about immigration and the current tensions surrounding the U.S.-Mexico border. The inclusion of Springsteen’s song and the flags is likely a criticism of the government’s neglect of Puerto Rico, including our failure to adequately help Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria in 2017 even though Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory.

These elements were a reminder that political injustices are happening all around us and our own government often perpetrates them. We can distract ourselves with football and flashy performances, but the truth remains: There is something seriously wrong with our country right now. And we aren’t doing enough to fix it.

So yeah, I can understand feeling uncomfortable. As I watched little girls emerge from cages, I felt more than uncomfortable. I was ashamed.

But we can’t handle a conversation about that. Instead, we debate dance moves. We tear down women.

Shakira and Lopez have been judged for the way that they decided to clothe and move their bodies. People are more concerned about controlling women’s bodies than fixing the political issues that their performance raised.  

And let’s go a step further – why did they decide to give such a sexualized performance in the first place? Maybe because that’s what we expect from female performers. 

Combine this with the fact that most female performers have to work twice as hard to maintain their careers after their thirties, and I’d say that Shakira and Lopez likely feel pressure to show off their bodies because they’re afraid of what could happen to their careers if they don’t.     

But even if I’m wrong about the pressures they faced, even if they chose to dress that way simply because they wanted to…who cares? They can dress and dance however they want. The fact that they’re being attacked for that shows how entitled people feel to control women’s bodies.

The debate over the halftime show has highlighted some of the biggest problems in our society. 

We’re obsessed with critiquing and controlling women. We get angry over what they wear and how they move. Meanwhile, we ignore people who are suffering. We avoid difficult conversations and overlook our failures. We fail to correct our mistakes and we let people get hurt. 

Yes, it should make you uncomfortable. Now, it’s time to ask ourselves how we can do better.