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Female “empowerment” has gone the way of any flashy trend: someone takes it too far, it loses any impact it had, and it becomes a parody of itself landing at the butt-end of a Babylon Bee joke or “South Park” episode. Congratulations, Super Bowl LIV Halftime Show, you were the venue to finally break the glass ceiling – liberating countless female “adult entertainers” and sending them to the high holy ranks of empowered women. Move over Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Trixie Vixen is the new (very glittery) face of women’s rights!
I’ve long given up on the entertainment industry exercising any type of self-censorship in the interest of good taste or what is appropriate for public consumption. I was a kid once (at least as evidenced in family photos) and, although I never took much interest in them, the magazines aimed at teens contained all sorts of information that would make any adult blush.
If you think there is any possibility the current environment still contains relatively minor risqué topics, the April 26 issue of Teen Vogue ran an article titled “Why Sex Work Is Real Work.” I feel empowered just by reading that headline. The entertainment industry is not made up of a bunch of dummies; they know a certain level of undress and controversy translates into viewers and dollars. Remember those suggestive “Go Daddy” commercials (they debuted during Super Bowl XXXIX)? The originals created enough buzz that most people didn’t know exactly what Go Daddy was but they sure knew the commercials. And how about the Clairol Herbal Essence advertising campaign – not exactly “Where’s the beef?”
In the Entertainment-News Media-Politics echo chamber/hot-air tunnel, the Shakira and J-Lo show from this year’s Super Bowl is the stuff of dreams. The artists get the immediate spotlight and publicity while the NFL receives a lot of advertising dollars. News media pads their shows with puff-piece interviews with the stars and mutual pats on the back. The networks showcase how groundbreaking it is to have two strong females (Latinas, no less!) headlining an enormous event. Surely such great talents are role models for millions of girls around the globe. This is the definition of female empowerment!
Then post-performance disapproval by conservative prudes (natch) only lends fuel to the fire for progressive politicians and pundits. There must be racism or misogyny behind any criticism, and Trump must be to blame somewhere in there. Both women chose to perform something resembling a million-dollar burlesque show rather than showcasing their true singing and dancing talents. It reveals that those in charge think the Neanderthal American audience finds more value in an appeal to the basest appetite instead of trusting that we are smart enough to appreciate the actual singing and dancing (not the pole-type) talents of these women.
It takes an amazing amount of double-think and lack of self-awareness to insist a woman’s value lies only in her being a sexual object, all the while trotting out and celebrating – as role models – a show where the two women stars are highlighted as sexual objects. I thought it was hilarious that Shakira and Jennifer Lopez were a square-inch of fabric away from being blurred by the network while the male lead performer wore a full dress suit, hat, and overcoat. In my experience, it’s usually us women who are overdressed. Does it take male “empowerment” to reveal some abs? Ladies watch the Super Bowl, too, and if we’re talking about equality…
The Super Bowl LIV halftime show solidified gratuitous displays of sexuality and objectification of women as “empowerment.” That mentality is here to stay, especially if it continues to draw money for the entertainment industry and there exists a progressive media and news culture pushing a narrative that modesty is an oppressive construct of the patriarchy. The government is not going to be much help in this realm, either. It doesn’t do censorship well. Other than the already established Federal Communications Commission, do we really want the Feds dictating what speech should absolutely be acceptable? That’s a dangerous tightrope to walk. Last week, the FCC modernized the broadcaster notification rules for cable and satellite TV providers in order to reduce paper waste. I’d rather that be the big news than what speech or messages are deemed allowable any given day. And isn’t the goal of conservatives less government, not more?
So it leaves us as the custodians of our kids’ futures. We can feed them a steady diet of contradicting messages: women are not to be viewed merely as sexual objects on one hand, while pointing to celebrities who present themselves as precisely that as role models for female empowerment on the other. Or we can guide them through an overly sexualized pop-culture in which adult videos and images are available at their fingertips, teaching and modeling for them that an intellectually curious mind is true empowerment. An appreciation for selflessness, compassion, courage, honesty, virtue, and pursuit of the truth – the things one might not necessarily find in the nearest gentleman’s club or the pages of Cosmo, but around the kitchen table or the pages of a classic novel.