At a press conference last week, Jennifer Lopez was asked about the prospect of being one of the two stars of the Super Bowl halftime show, billed as the first time two Latinas would do such a concert together. Lopez replied, “That statement alone to me is empowering. When I think of my daughter, when I think of all the little girls in the world, to be able to have that, to see that two Latinas are doing this in this country at this time, it’s just very empowering for us.”
Given the character of Miami, where the game was played, it makes sense for Latinas to perform in the Super Bowl halftime show, but let’s not mistake Lopez and Shakira’s double-booty shake as a feminist breakthrough. Lopez and Shakira wore Vegas showgirl costumes and Lopez cavorted around a stripper pole. I would not expect either of them to come out on stage in a tweed jacket and recite Shakespeare’s sonnets, and I’m sure each of them cashed a large paycheck for their gyrations, but let’s at least be honest about the meretricious nature of what the show was. It was pure self-objectification, flaunting feminine sexual appeal for the purpose of titillation. Everybody’s got to make a living, but some careers are more worthy of respect than others.
To me, an excellent test for whether something is “empowering” for women is the following question: Is this the best you can picture for your daughter? Daughter as astronaut, daughter as president, daughter as physicist: empowering. Daughter as stripper: not so empowering.