What are women “allowed” to wear?

Deep in a musty electronic basement, I found a piece that I started writing but didn’t finish or publish about the 2020 Superbowl halftime show. What better day to publish it than today? 

Some themes are evergreen and while the event is a long time ago, the problem persists.

The performance that year was Shakira and J-Lo.

As always, there were a lot of opinions. Many pearls were clutched.

I’m going to just start with: if you don’t want to watch it, you could go do something else for 15 minutes. Or for 14 minutes, after watching a minute and deciding it’s not for you. Rocket Kid was upset by material shown in probably 1/3 of the commercials. So you know what we did? Went and did something else during the commercials or distracted him during those that would cause issues.

People who know more than I have already written about the cultural pieces in Shakira’s stuff. (This one is good, if you want to learn.)

Lots of stuff going around about racism, and there are always pieces of that, but assertions I’ve seen saying white women aren’t subjected to the slut-shaming that we’ve seen since Sunday evening are just wrong. There’s a racism piece in addition to that, but this isn’t treatment that any scantily-clad women who can and do move their bodies are exempt from. (See Miley Cyrus, for an old and easy example.)

The most common argument I’ve heard is that it was inappropriate.

Inappropriate for what?

It’s not Disney on Ice. (And I’d argue that Disney princesses aren’t a better diet.)

Clothes were inappropriate?

They had more clothes on than the cheerleaders.

I have quite a few friends arguing that this bucks female empowerment.

Except they have it wrong, in my opinion.

This is female empowerment.

Why does a woman need to dress the way you conservatively think she needs to dress in order to be empowered?

Conservative and not conservative dressing—and the labels that come attached to each—are two sides of the same coin and are both rooted in the gaze of men.

“She was dressed like a slut.”

What is a slut? A woman who enjoys sex and doesn’t stick to one sex partner. (Maybe enjoyment isn’t necessary.)

Why is the number of sex partners a woman has relevant? Because, back in the day, wives were made from perceived virgins and women needed to be wives to have social value and economic security.

We don’t need to be wives to have social value or economic security any more. We can have multiple sex partners and still get married if we choose to get married. Even if “the milk is free.” (So many problems with that analogy.) We can be single and have a job and support ourselves.

And of course, men aren’t called sluts. Well, straight men aren’t.

A woman can wear tight clothes without either having had sex with anyone or intending to have sex with anyone. Because it’s what she wants to wear.

Why does she want to wear it? Who cares? Since when does anyone have to get your permission before they get dressed?

Instead of trying to convince women that they need to dress as you see fit, how about we disentangle clothes from sex?




• the children are watching people dance (and likely enjoying it, as children are way less judge-y than their parents about such things) and have no idea that there could be anything sexual (because they don’t even know what that means because they’re children) or 

• the children understand that there is innuendo and you need to be talking with them about sex and innuendo and consent and that sort of thing because it’s everywhere. Actually, if you have kids, you should be talking about and modeling consent and respecting people’s physical boundaries years before they know much of anything about sex. 

Your discomfort isn’t entitlement to the entertainment industry only producing Rated G materials. (It’s really hard to even find G-rated movies nowadays.)

Also, the children in the show were conservatively dressed. Kids at dance recitals are less covered than those kids were. But it shouldn’t matter either way, because you’re not sexualizing children, are you? A child in a bikini is simply a child in a bikini, not a child being sexy.

I watched this and three or four other halftime shows after the game and noticed that regardless of the dress of the woman or the way she was dancing, the camera angle was often up her skirt (as a direction—they weren’t all wearing literal skirts). You can’t pin that on the performers.

“Why can’t we celebrate more than sex appeal?”

If all you saw was sex appeal, you missed a great performance. They were singing and dancing, and whether you like their style or not, they did it really well.

People who are up in arms about women being more than sexy are requiring women to be not sexy. Kinda like feminists who don’t think women should stay home with kids.

The point isn’t to go from one rigid structure to another, but to have options.

What if they had danced in skinny jeans (which would have been impossible for those dances, but suspend disbelief for a minute) and T-shirts? Would that have eliminated the sex appeal? Or did they need mom jeans and sweatshirts?

Just about any woman can tell you that attention from men is not dependent on sexy clothes. 

But wait—haven’t we been working on changing the notion that you have to be skinny and scantily clad to be sexy? Aren’t there women worldwide who look nothing like what sexy supposedly looks like who are super sexy? So what then?

Maybe this isn’t actually about women…

On a small tangent, I saw a video where someone dubbed a tune from Chicago over a portion of the show. It fit perfectly. To many, suddenly, the dress was “appropriate.” Check your assumptions if that was the case.

I will also own that my default reaction is with the “put some clothes on!” crowd because I was raised in America by conservative Catholic parents. But I recognize that that’s my conditioning, and I’m able to take that reaction, set it aside, and choose my mindset.

You can, too, if you choose to.

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