I wrote a post about my thoughts speaking out against the Super Bowl Half-time show that got all kinds of attention from people. You can read the full post on Instagram and Facebook, but the summary was this:
“It’s difficult to teach our sons and daughters not to place a woman’s value on her body and her sex appeal, when this is what we’re feeding them for entertainment….When pole dancing and booty shaking become the talk of the evening, we shouldn’t be surprised when our boys grow up sex crazed and our girls grow up flaunting their body for love…I don’t believe the answer is to shut out society, but I do think we’ve got to take inventory of what’s becoming the ‘norm’ in our households. Because that norm is what’s shaping the next generation. Whether we think so or not.”
I didn’t think my thoughts were controversial, and I didn’t think I said that much, but the response I received told me I’d struck a nerve. The comments opened up heated but necessary topics of really important conversation. Most of the comments were kind and grace-filled, but others were scathing and disrespectful. You can go read through the comments for a fun afternoon activity.
But like or not — the conversation on this post pressed on my heart even more the need to explain three important truths:
#1 Your value and worth are based on SO MUCH MORE than your physical appearance and sex appeal.
There are so many people who are struggling under the implied truth from Sunday’s halftime show that a perfect body is what makes you valuable; that your ability to seduce and your sex appeal are what set you apart and make you desirable.
This is the message we’re sending when our “entertainment” – what “entertains us”, is sexually charged content. I got a message from a woman who said that “as a 32 year old woman who is very shapely, I struggle with what is valued more…I feel like who I am is not enough, and not allowing media to dictate how I feel about myself…but a lot of times, I feel like I’m not enough. God bless you for speaking out.” If grown adults struggle with this, how much more do our pre-teen and teenage boys and girls who are taking all of this in?
“It’s only sexual if you see it as sexual”, someone said in one of the comments. I wholeheartedly disagree! In fact, that statement couldn’t be more false and how DAMAGING that could be if we applied it to other sexual actions. “Porn is only sexual if you see it as sexual…affairs are only sexual if you see them as sexual…” you can’t take that line of thinking very far without hitting some major problems.
Clearly, if you look at a sandwich and see it as sexual, the underlying issue is you….but to say that seeing shaking breasts, half naked glistening men, crotch-grabbing, and uncovered bootys as sexual makes you the sexual pervert is absolutely ridiculous….those things are MEANT to be sexual. And we are sexual beings who respond to sexual things. SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH PROVES THIS!!! If that list of things isn’t sexual, what is? They’re sexual in the bedroom, and outside of the bedroom. Saying anything less is being ignorant to the reality of what sexual content actually is and how we’re wired to respond to it.
But this is not to downplay the importance of sex. Sexuality is a gift, and something to be treasured. I love sex with my husband and see sex as a beautiful experience.
But when sex becomes our everyday entertainment, we elevate it too high, put it on a pedestal, and give it a level of power it was never intended to have over us.
Our value does not depend on our sex appeal, and THAT’s what we need to teach our sons and daughters. If you look around at the statistics, it’s a lesson we’re failing miserably in.
#2 Just because it’s cultural, doesn’t mean it’s healthy.
“You’re a white American who is missing the cultural component of this type of dancing”. First of all, I just want to clarify that the white American culture is filled with all kinds of sexualized dancing (so we’re all in the same boat here).
Second of all, for those of you who might have missed it by looking at my picture in my bio: I’m not white. I’m Middle Eastern. And if you know anything about the Middle East, you know that there are a lot of similarities to the Latino and Middle Eastern/Arab culture. I come from a culture where dancing is also exotic. Belly dancing is part of our “cultural norm”.
But just because it’s culturally acceptable, doesn’t make it healthy.
What people don’t realize is a lot of our “so called culture” (American as well as other cultures) is actually rooted in ancient PATRIARCHY and SEXISM. It’s rooted in powerful men who wanted to see women as objects, and it’s reflected in how they dance and move. Just because something is culturally normal, doesn’t make it healthy, and doesn’t mean we can’t cross the line into inappropriate. One of my Latina sisters said it best in a comment when she said: “As a Latina, I appreciate the rhythms of my culture. I love the beat of the drums, the bongo and all the unique sounds. I DON’T appreciate the sexualization of the music, whether it be from them (halftime show) or many singers in our culture. It causes MACHISMO and it’s disheartening. I’m a whole person, but my body is not for sale.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself.
Just because it’s cultural, doesn’t mean it’s good. It’s sad that the beautiful message of equality, unity and power that could have come from Sunday’s halftime show was tainted with objectification.
Instead of accepting all things as our “cultural norms” we need to step back and see what those cultural norms are rooted in, and what they reflect about our image, value, and identity.
#3 Objectifying human beings is something that needs to be stopped by both men AND women.
“Where were you last year when Adam Levine took off his shirt? Why didn’t you speak up about that?” one comment said. “What about the cheerleaders acting sexual and scantily clad on the sidelines, why is no one saying anything about them”….said another.
The truth is, even people who are disagreeing, and saying that “it’s only sexual if you see it as sexual”, are perfectly capable of recognizing other instances when men and women are being objectified.
My response is that objectification of ANY sort is something we need to work to fight against…male or female. In our household, we apply the same standards to both genders. If I could talk about each and every point of objectification, I would…but it would take me a lifetime. The bottom line is this:
Respect yourself, and respect each other.
That’s where it has to start. We are in this together, and it’s JUST as wrong for women to objectify men (I wrote a frustrated article about Magic Mike when it came out….and you can see my 50 Shades of Grey Post as one example of many) as it is for men to objectify women. Why did I start with this super bowl halftime conversation? I didn’t start here. I’ve been talking about these things for a long time…this just happened to be the most watched event of the year, and our entertainment is a major reflection of our norms.
We’re all responsible for making the world a better place for the next generation. It starts with respecting ourselves and respecting one another. It starts with what we take in and what we normalize. It starts with the messages we send with the things we find “entertaining”. Men and Women. I’m thankful that we’re having this conversation…because dialogue has the power to change culture. Thanks for being a part of the dialogue – even if we disagree.
PS. Please remember to reflect respect and grace in your comments and interactions with one another that are likely going to make their way onto this post.
MORE BOOKS BY DEBRA
Get busy learning what you need to know about healthy singleness, dating, and marriage. Check out Love In Every Season: The Four Stages of Every Healthy Relationship, Choosing Marriage: Why It Has To Start With We > Me or True Love Dates: Your Indispensable Guide to Finding the Love of Your Life.
And Check out Debra’s Love + Relationships Podcast on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts!
DEBRA FILETA is a Licensed Professional Counselor, national speaker, relationship expert, and author of Choosing Marriage and True Love Dates, and Love In Every Season. She’s also the host of the hotline style Love + Relationships Podcast. Her popular relationship advice blog, TrueLoveDates.com, reaches millions of people with the message of healthy relationships. Connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, or Twi