What a Therapist Wants to Say to People Who Are Upset By J. Lo and Shakira's Super Bowl Performance
Rachel Wright, a psychotherapist and marriage and relationship expert, weighs in on the backlash against the Super Bowl LIV Halftime Show performance.
Shakira kicked off the performance in a bright red two-piece dress with some serious "Hips Don't Lie" dance moves. Then J. Lo brought back the '90s with "Jenny from the Block", "Get Right", and "Waiting for Tonight" while donning a sexy leather look. The 50-year-old superstar even brought a very special guest, her 11-year-old daughter Emme, to perform with her during the show.
Together, the two pop stars put on a show to remember, honoring their heritage while showing off their talents and unparalleled athleticism.
The Response to Shakira and J. Lo's Super Bowl Halftime Show
Unsurprisingly, most people on Twitter loved the iconic performance. Specifically, many people appreciated how well both Shakira and J. Lo represented their Latina cultures. "The Latino community was represented proudly tonight by two queens and we love that," tweeted one person. Others said the performance symbolized girl power and did its part in bringing women of color together.
On another note, some fans took to social media to remind everyone that age really is just a number—and that J. Lo and Shakira proved that sentiment better than anyone during their Super Bowl Halftime Show performance. "One is 43 and the other is 50. One word: QUEENS," tweeted one person.
"What a show of talent, strength, athleticism, and beauty," added another. "I'm so happy for both of them and their fans, who have waited a long time to see them conquer the world." (Related: Jennifer Lopez's Best Fitness Moments That Will Inspire You to Attack Your Goals)
The Backlash Against Shakira and J. Lo's Super Bowl Halftime Show
What would the Super Bowl be without some controversy? Despite the outpouring of praise for Shakira and J. Lo's Super Bowl Halftime Show performance, several Twitter users felt the show was "inappropriate," "overly sexualized," and "not family-friendly."
"I am embarrassed for my kids to watch this halftime show," tweeted one person. "Stripper poles, crotch, and rear end shots...no dignity."
A similar tweet read: "The show was beyond vulgar and having stripper pole dancing, crotch grabbing and rolling on the stage half naked being brought into living rooms across America filled with families and children is abhorrent! The Super Bowl is for everyone and should not be rated XXX." (Related: Does the Fitness Industry Have a "Sexy-Shaming" Problem?)
Some people also argued that the show wasn't empowering to women, suggesting that it was more of a "setback" to feminism than anything else. One person even tweeted that the performance was "showing young girls that sexual exploitation of women is okay."
"With the exploitation of women on the rise worldwide, instead of lowering the standards, we as a society should be raising it," he wrote.
Another person felt that Shakira and J. Lo's performance was "trashy" and "hypocritical." (Related: Lena Dunham Says Fitness Lifestyle Is Not Anti-Feminist)
"The feminists scream about respecting women then they objectify women with their trashy low class 'dancing'," continued the tweet.
A Therapist's Take On the Criticism
In response to this criticism, several people came to J. Lo and Shakira's defense. Among them was Rachel Wright, M.A., L.M.F.T., a psychotherapist and marriage and relationship expert. In a thoughtful post on Instagram, Wright shared her thoughts on the criticism, saying she felt "incredibly compelled" to comment on the matter. (Remember that time Lady Gaga fans took down body-shamers during the Super Bowl?)
"Human beings wearing what makes them feel sexy and empowered is a good thing," Wright wrote in her post.
Of course, as a general sentiment, commenting on anyone's body, overall appearance, and/or clothing choices isn't cool—full stop. It's their choice and their business. That said, as Wright points out, there are so many double standards for men and women, especially when it comes to physical appearance. Case in point: Remember when Adam Levine took his shirt off in the middle of his 2019 Super Bowl LIII Halftime Show performance?
"[Levine] was up there completely topless," Wright tells Shape. "Don't get me wrong, it was beautiful. But he had his nipples out, and no one felt that wasn't family-friendly. So, why are these two women, [who are] showing off their talents, considered inappropriate, even though they were fully clothed?
Plus, if you look closely, J. Lo actually appeared to be wearing multiple layers of leggings underneath her outfit, notes Wright. Shakira, on the other hand, only exposed her legs and midriff, which is no different than wearing a swimsuit on the beach, says Wright.
"They're wearing just as little clothing as women in the ballet," she adds. "But ballerinas are considered classy and are appreciated for their athleticism, whereas these women are not. It's actually the association we, as adults, put on performances like this that is problematic, not the performances themselves."
It's those associations that made so many people feel uncomfortable with the pole dancing aspect of the show, Wright wrote in her post. "Dancing on a pole is a challenging, athletic and beautiful form of dance," she shared. "It’s called POLE DANCING."
In reality, several fitness experts have shared how challenging pole dancing can be: "[Pole dancing] effectively combines strength training, endurance, and flexibility training into one fun activity," instructor Tracy Traskos, of NY Pole, previously shared with us. "It's yoga, Pilates, TRX, and Physique 57 all wrapped into one. And in high heels!" (Here are 8 more reasons you need to try pole fitness.)
It's also quickly becoming one of the hottest fitness trends, thanks to the way it pushes both your body and mind. "Pole dancing accomplishes so many things at once. Not only is it an incredible core and upper-body strength builder, but it is also sexually liberating, emotionally cathartic, a form of expression, and an exploration of self," Amy Main, co-producer of the film Why I Dance, previously told us. "It's the most transformative type of fitness I've ever experienced. And I've never been so in love with my body and curves!"
Even J. Lo—a woman who is, by all accounts, a beast in the gym—has been open about the physical strength and resilience it takes to learn pole dancing: "It's rough on your body," she said in a behind-the-scenes video used to promote her recent film, Hustlers. "It's really acrobatic. I've gotten cuts and bruises and stuff from movies, but I've never been bruised like this from anything I've done." (BTW, here's how Shakira and J. Lo prepped for their Super Bowl performance.)
The Bottom Line
Destigmatizing different dancing styles is one thing. But Wright took serious issue with the suggestion that Shakira and J. Lo's Super Bowl Halftime Show performance was somehow a "disservice" to feminism.
"It's the exact opposite," Wright tells Shape. "The whole point of feminism is that people should be able to do what they want and wear what they want because it's their basic right." (Related: Women Shared Some of the Nasty Comments They've Received About Their Body)
In fact, Wright would argue that insulting or criticizing another woman for how they choose to dress is anti-feminist in itself, she adds. "If you respect women, you have to respect them while they're sexual, not sexual or anything in between," she explains. "To question that, and [to go] against how a woman chooses to embrace her body, is simply not feminist."
Even though there's been progress in the movement toward mainstream feminism, Wright says she feels that there's still work to be done. "We have to start taking responsibility in these situations," she shares. "We need to ask ourselves why these things make us uncomfortable and be willing to hear other people's opinions."
It all boils down to being open-minded, says Wright. "We have to start educating ourselves and learn to empathize instead of berating each other," she tells Shape. "When you limit your perspective like that, you trap your world view. That's when progress becomes difficult, if not impossible."