The Halftime Controversy
What it Means to Empower Our Young Girls
Perhaps you saw it … perhaps you didn’t. Maybe you have your own opinions. Maybe you don’t. Regardless, I bet you’ve seen the comments flooding social media. They range from praise to disgust.
Before I go further, let me say there is no judgment here. I let my four girls, ages 2-9, watch the Super Bowl Halftime show. If I’m honest, it was less about making a conscious choice and more a matter of passivity. I was in the kitchen preparing dinner. I knew who was on stage. I grew up listening to their music. I felt OK with the performance being on our screen because I too had viewed it on my screen when I was younger.
I should have been wiser.
It wasn’t until later that evening that I started to really think about what my daughters had seen and how those images might influence their young feminine brains.
And that’s when my heart began to break.
What message did my daughters infer about their own bodies and their sexuality while watching the halftime show? What about young American girls all across the country? What message lodged itself into their brains and etched itself onto their hearts? Couple that with the fact that this took place during the #SuperBowl, which is annually the largest human trafficking event in the US, and it’s only fair to ask …
Can’t we do better?
Amidst the varied comments regarding the show, those that have struck me as most interesting have been those that have said the show was empowering for women.
Empowering? I guess that depends on your definition of the word.
If your definition of empowering means the freedom for a woman to flagrantly display her body and sexuality in a public arena … then yes, I guess it was empowering. And I’ll admit … seeing both artists perform with such stamina at their age was impressive. But that’s not what my daughters saw when they watched the show. They weren’t viewing the performance through the eyes of a grown adult. They simply aren’t capable of that yet. What my daughters saw when they watched that show was the success and praise of a woman who displays her body and her sexuality for all to see.
All faith and moral arguments aside, in this age of insatiable sexual consumerism, is that the message we want to convey to our daughters, our sisters, our mothers? In light of the #MeToo movement and the #ChurchToo movement and the #EndIt movement—movements that bring to light the heinous taking of sex by force — is it wise to convey from a national stage the message that sex sells?
According to Geoff Rogers, co-founder of the U.S. Institute Against Human Trafficking, “The United States is the number one consumer of sex worldwide … we are driving the demand as a society.”
I would say the halftime show affirmed that.
Performances like the halftime show are successful and lauded, not so much for their artistry, but for their expression of sexuality to a society that has an insatiable appetite for sex. What was once beautiful and sacred and protected has become the largest currency of our modern marketplace.
Need some convincing? Consider this:
Porn sites receive more regular traffic than Netflix, Amazon, and Twitter combined each month. Economically, porn is a global, estimated $97 billion industry, with about $12 billion of that coming from the U.S. Recorded child sexual exploitation (known as “child porn”) is one of the fastest-growing online businesses (fightthenewdrug.org/). Furthermore, human trafficking earns global profits of roughly $150 billion a year for traffickers, $99 billion of which comes from commercial sexual exploitation (dosomething.org).
Our obsession with sexuality and sex is clearly rampant. And performances like the most recent Super Bowl halftime show feed that frenzy and bolster the beasts of pornography and human trafficking — while minimizing and objectifying women.
This does not empower our young girls. It enslaves them.
If we want to empower our young girls, if we want to end human trafficking, if we want to ensure that our daughters don’t have their own #MeToo and #ChurchToo stories, then we need to communicate a different message.
We need to redefine the message of female empowerment.
It is my hope that one day the Super Bowl halftime show can seek to truly honor and empower women, rather than objectify them. It is my hope that, eventually, we can show our daughters that female empowerment is not defined by a brazen expression of our bodies and sexuality, but by a beautiful, powerful expression of our multifaceted talents, abilities, and intellect.
It is my hope that one day #wecandobetter.
Written by Shalene Roberts
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on faithandcomposition.wordpress.com.