We live in interesting times. While #MeToo has united women across the world under the banner of sexual abuse or inappropriate sexual encounters, many female entertainers still believe it’s empowering to sexualize themselves. The halftime show for Super Bowl LIV was far from empowering to women and sent very damaging messages to today’s girls and boys.
I’m reaching out to those who might want to use the performance by Jennifer Lopez and Shakira as a teachable moment or perhaps to be better prepared when the next teachable moment arises.
For those who didn’t see the show, suffice it to say the extremely provocative costumes, the lewd dancing, and the “stripper poles” (to list a few of the show’s less redeeming elements) gave the entire performance a highly sexual tone. It’s the kind of show that I wouldn’t have wanted my kids (or really anyone) to see. I watched it for the purpose of this blog post, and it made me incredibly sad for the performers and the viewers.
Had this been a prime-time show rather than a halftime show, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) would have given it a rating, likely PG13 or R. I’m sure many expected it to be risqué based on history, but there was no preassigned rating to help parents.
While I can appreciate the talent, the athleticism, and the display of Latino culture, I cannot appreciate the ways in which the performance spoke to children watching. We as a people have a responsibility to protect children, and for children who saw it the messaging was harmful.
Girls especially need to know their worth is not measured by the amount of skin they show or how sexual they are. Sadly, I think the performance sent a damaging message to them. Boys need to know that girls and women should be honored and respected for their innate value as image-bearers of God. I think to most boys who saw it, the tone was extremely sexual and actually dishonoring and disrespectful of women.
The dance moves and the skimpy outfits said very clearly, “Use your private parts to get attention, and give attention to women showing and gyrating their private parts.” According to interviews I saw, the performers’ intent was to display empowerment. But I saw objectification. I saw gender stereotyping. I saw soft-pornography displayed to families. It was far from empowering to women and girls.
If your children saw the show, what might they be feeling or wondering? What kinds of lies or half-truths might they have internalized? When their friends talk about it or want to emulate what they saw, how will your kids react? Would you like to be able to talk with your kids more authentically about this or other sexual encounters in culture without judging the performers or turning it into a lecture on morality?
If you’re currently having authentic conversations with your kids related to bodies, culture, porn, and sexuality, the ideas below may be second nature to you. If you’re new to these conversations, check out some of our previous blog posts related to becoming an ally to your kids in today’s hyper-sexualized culture. Here’s a link to Part 1 of my Ally series.
Talk WITH Your Kids, Not Just TO Them. Ask Good Questions, Listen, and Empathize.
How did it make you feel to watch the performance? What did you like? What didn’t you like?
Tell me more about what you felt. You know feelings aren’t “right” or “wrong”; they’re just the way you feel. (Be a good listener! It will help you know better how to pray or how to lead future conversations.) Most kids have a natural sense of right and wrong. Even if they saw no wrong in it, it probably left them with a variety of feelings you can discuss.
Share a similar experience from your childhood or mention how it made you feel. (Don’t turn this into a lecture. You’re trying to empathize. Lectures rarely give us the desired outcome which is deeper trust for future conversations.)
Are you glad you saw it? If so, why? If not, why?
If your child was disturbed by it, you can talk about things he or she can do in a similar, uncomfortable situation. You can help your child know that you’ll be there for them. You can walk away from or turn your eyes from things that you sense aren’t good for your soul. Let’s talk about some situations where you might need to do that. (Think of various settings: alone with a friend who begins talking about something inappropriate, in a group, in a classroom setting, on the internet, on the bus, while reading a book, etc.)
If something comes before your eyes that you know is not appropriate for you, turn away or say, “I don’t want to see that.” Then, talk with Mom or Dad as soon as you can. Be that safe person your child needs to process emotions with. Recognize good choices but also that we all fail to do the “right” thing at times and how God’s grace is for us. Failure is a natural part of being human. We can learn from our mistakes, and God can even use them for our good.
For children who are Christians, remind them that they have a helper, the Holy Spirit, who guides them into truth and helps them with their temptations. The Holy Spirit also helps with shame. He’s actually a good friend to alert them if they shouldn’t be doing or seeing something. (Conviction or guilt can be good!)
This also might be a good time to talk about private parts and how they are not for others to see or touch (except in the case of a husband and wife, or for medical reasons, or bathing little ones). And if seeing someone else’s private parts (as in this case) was interesting or exciting, it’s common to have those feelings. They are God-given and good! Talk about how to manage those feelings in a God-honoring way. (Check out the book “God Made All of Me. A Book to Help Children Protect Their Bodies by Justin Holcomb.)
Realize that your child may feel alone in an “anything goes” culture. Do you ever feel like you’re the weird one when it seems everyone else is okay with sexually charged images or performances? Ask your child to share with you what that feels like and help your child to not feel so alone. Christ is always with him or her! Be your child’s ally!
Talk with Those Responsible.
Finally, If you want to impact culture, you have to do more than post comments on Facebook or complain to your friends. While many parents err on the side of too much activism at the expense of engaging with their kids effectively, many others don’t speak up to producers or advertisers. One letter represents thousands of others who will never write in. The internet has made speaking out very easy to do.
Tell the FCC what you think: https://consumercomplaints.fcc.gov/hc/en-us/articles/115000430423-Tell-Us-Your-Story
And tell Pepsi (sponsor of the Super Bowl) your thoughts as well: https://contact.pepsico.com/pepsi/contact-us
For more information about God-honoring sexuality and how to talk with your kids about it, visit truenorthfp.org. We’d love to hear your thoughts, suggestions, or concerns related to modeling or teaching biblical sexuality in today’s culture. Please share about our work with other parents you know.
If you’re in the Atlanta area, please join us on Wednesday, February 12 at 7 pm for Allies: Parents & Kids Navigating a Sexualized Culture at His Hands Church in Woodstock, GA. Check out Events on our website for information on that as well as future talks for parents and grandparents. Or contact us about hosting an event! Hope to see you at an Allies event soon!
Founder and CEO, TrueNorth Freedom Project, Atlanta, GA.
Want to help us in our mission to help parents understand their sacred sexuality, live it out in the power of Christ, and lead the next generation to do the same? Click here. TrueNorth is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization. Donations are tax-deductible. EIN 46-5767272.