I worked last night, so I missed the Superbowl. Also, I do not particularly enjoy football, so the “Big Game” was barely on my radar—except that I knew Jennifer Lopez and Shakira would be performing the halftime show, and I had heard that they wanted to use it as a platform to speak up about immigrant, refugee, and minority rights in our country.
So I woke up and googled it. I watched their performance and held back tears as I saw these two women exuberantly celebrate their cultural heritage, singing in Spanish as well as English, dancing in ways I only wish I could, and highlighting the gruesome acts of our country’s treatment of refugees with the appearance of actual children on stage inside cages—including JLo’s daughter, 11-year-old Emme Maribel Muñiz. Muñiz then sang with her mother as JLo danced with a giant Puerto Rican flag cape.
Their performance held the power of true art: it was subversive and it was revolutionary.
And I’m truly disturbed by and disappointed in the people I know who have been lambasting these artists’ phenomenal performance last night as “inappropriate.”
Look, I am not shocked by alt-right or conservative outrage or pearl clutching about this. That is expected. That is perhaps even intended. But I am deeply frustrated with these responses that have come from people I know, individuals I have grown to respect as champions of social justice concerns, particularly women’s rights and refugee rights. To them I address this post:
“Have you ever heard of the Colombian dances called “Champeta” and “Mapalé”? Probably not, but you saw both on the stage last night during halftime.
Reminder that just because something is unfamiliar to you, it doesn’t mean it’s wrong or vulgar. Different cultures have different expressions through dance.
It’s art, which means not everyone is going to like it. But let’s try to focus on the beauty and athleticism of last night’s performance, instead of focusing on dragging down some incredibly talented women of color.” —Deanna Marie
Shakira and JLo’s performance at last night’s 2020 Superbowl was a celebration of Latin American, Lebanese, and African cultures, music, language, heritage, and dance used as a powerful message about the evils in our country and our need to stand behind our brothers and sisters.
Their performance reminded me of my time in Spain. I heard songs that I danced to (well, tried to, at least) in Spain with my fellow teachers. It reminded me of our school’s 50th anniversary celebration, and the joy on my students’ and colleagues’ faces as they moved their bodies.
And it reminded me of my sadness that I had neither the skill nor the athletic ability to fully join them, BECAUSE MY STUPID WHITE HERITAGE IS BEREFT OF DANCING ABILITY BECAUSE WE ARE PRUDES AND IT HAS GOTTA STOP.
So when you respond to last night’s performance and call it “inappropriate,” I hope you realize that this impulse is steeped in racism and fear of other cultures that do embrace sexuality in a powerful, healthy way. And when you demean their performance as “sexualizing women,” you fail to realize that you are the one doing the sexualizing. You are perpetuating the notion that women embracing their sexuality makes them less respectable or worthy (aka, you are slut shaming).
You are completely ignoring the fact that you have proved the power and subversiveness of the last night’s performance:
Two strong Latina women used their bodies, voices, and intense athletic ability to send a message about the glory of their cultures and that THEY AND THEIR CHILDREN BELONG HERE.
PS. I want to know if any of the NFL athletes you celebrated last night are able to pull off the incredibly demanding feats of athleticism that JLo and Shakira did.
Image Credit: https://commons.m.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Jennifer_Lopez_(8414252448).jpg