Re: Put a Dress On

by Kathryn Jean Lopez

I suspected I would regret saying anything about Beyoncé’s performance during the halftime show, and sure enough . . . it appears that my supposed “freakout” has caused one. 

I’ll have to leave the majority of the criticisms alone because we are no longer in the fourth grade, most of us. But there is an intelligent conversation that can be had here. And I’m grateful to Alyssa Rosenberg for her thoughtful response to my Corner post this morning.

Yes, a woman embracing her womanhood is a powerful thing. Which is exactly what we tend to suppress in so many other contexts (say, federal policy mandating that we treat women’s fertility as a disease to be medicated). We absolutely are in desperate need of a sane, healthy embrace of human sexuality. But I have my doubts the halftime show pulled it off. Listen, Beyoncé Knowles is a successful woman, wife, mother, talent. And that’s a great thing, and a great model. As Rosenberg suggests, I celebrate much of what I know of the woman. Sometimes I even sing along to her songs. My simple offering: Maybe if she, with all her beauty, set a different standard, people would follow. That’s not an attack, that’s not me going nuts. Just a simple unsolicited suggestion. Isn’t art all about creativity and uplift? Reading Rosenberg, and even some of the ad hominem critiques, I think we have similar goals here . . .

In my syndicated column this week, I point to a book by a man named Christopher West, who is not of the trying-to-suppress-anyone’s-desires camp. In his new book, Fill These Hearts, he proposes that it is in fact the very design of the human body that helps us make sense of our lives. “Consider the idea that our bodies tell a story that reveals, as we learn how to read it, the very meaning of existence and the path to the ultimate satisfaction of our deepest desires.” He’s writing as a Catholic Christian and offers that from “the Christian point of view, our creation as male and female is a ‘sacramental’ reality: a physical sign of something transcendent, spiritual, and even divine. In the biblical understanding, there exists a profound unity between that which is physical and that which is spiritual. This means that our bodies are not mere shells in which our true ‘spiritual selves’ live. We are a profound unity of body and soul, matter and spirit. In a very real way, we are our bodies.”

I think Rosenberg might appreciate the book. It’s an unpacking of what it actually is that the Catholic Church proposes. It’s attractive for a whole host of reasons, and has nothing to do with hating or otherwise being twitchy about sex and femininity.

I meant it in my initial post that I really don’t want to linger too long here — it’s just a halftime show, after all, and Beyoncé is not what’s wrong with the world, needless to say. (I am, as Chesterton said. Many people on Twitter agree when I say it!) But then again, it is the Super Bowl halftime show, which we all watch. And imagine the opportunities . . .

As I say in the aforementioned column, this is a time for some fundamentals. We can all have a ball on Twitter treating brothers and sisters as enemies, but at some point, maybe we can sit down and try to make a little progress. The conversation could start with some of us actually being who we say we are (a little about what I mean here), about which there will be more tomorrow in an interview on NRO with George Weigel about his new book Evangelical Catholicism, released tomorrow by Basic Books. 

And that’s officially enough about the halftime show! 

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