On Jan. 24, 2020, the President of the United States stood before the March for Life and, contrary to his past and his reputation, he recognized women across America with dignity and reverence:
“You make it your life’s mission to help spread God’s grace. And to all of the moms here today, we celebrate you and we declare that mothers are heroes. That’s true. Your strength, devotion, and drive is what powers our nation. And because of you, our country has been blessed with amazing souls who have changed the course of human history.”
On Sunday, Shakira and Jennifer Lopez were given the great honor and spotlight of representing Latina and American womanhood at the Super Bowl halftime show. Rather than celebrate the heroism of motherhood, the women stood before millions of spectators and delivered a message that a woman’s worth can be reduced to sexual appeal.
The show received mixed reviews. Those who enjoyed it acclaimed that it was the “best and sexiest show in history,” while those who disagreed found it objectifying and offensive.
Whichever camp one’s opinion falls into, there are some bipartisan facts everyone can agree upon. First, it was a fitting idea to celebrate the Latin culture of Miami with two Latina performers. Secondly, the show was not family friendly. Thirdly, the Super Bowl is linked to a spike in prostitution and trafficking every year.
Given the fairly-fresh national awareness of this spike in trafficking, many details of the performance were distasteful and offensive to victims of sexual abuse.
Take, for example, Shakira’s belly dancing while simulating being tied up with a rope. Regardless of whether or not it is consensual or attractive, tying a woman up gravely disorients a moment of physical intimacy from its necessary emotional intimacy and mutual respect for the other person.
Or consider the white-gowned girls spread across the field in cages. This was intended to be a subtle political statement on the conditions at the southern border. There’s a reason why it’s natural to see a bird in a cage, and disturbing to see a person: human dignity makes us different. While this could have been a powerful testimony to human dignity and natural law, the statement was squandered on a few thoughtless mistakes. For example, the racy dancing, which distracted from the intended message of the cages, hinted at validating the sexual exploitation of women and children.
Perhaps a co-ed selection of children would have eliminated the confusion, considering the border crisis in question bears no correlation to the sex of the immigrant. But dozens of young girls running onto the stage at the end of a decidedly adult performance had parents everywhere shuddering.
The moment that stands starkest in my mind is Jennifer Lopez’s duet with her daughter, Emme. Eleven years old and dressed in white, she danced and sung next to her half-nude mother. Parents are the primary educators of their children, and it is their duty and privilege to do so. On Sunday evening, Lopez taught not only Emme, but also the millions of impressionable adolescent girls across America, a lesson. They will be told that those two women are the image of liberated, happy, and empowered womanhood.
But that empowerment was based on partial nudity and pole dancing — a sorry definition of what it means to be empowered.
As President Trump remarked two weeks ago, mothers are heroes of strength, devotion, and drive. Women should be reminded of the many elements that are innately her, which are much more than skin deep.
By our example, we should celebrate a different definition of empowerment than the one this year’s halftime show represented. Let us be examples to our daughters, nieces, and little sisters that women are empowered by their integrity, courage, strength, virtue, and happiness. And may we never cast a shadow of false fulfillment on the ones looking up to us.
Reagan Cool is a senior studying philosophy and religion. She is a columnist on faith and culture.