During this Sunday's 2020 Super Bowl halftime show, nearly 100 million people watched two women perform a medley of their hit songs amid countless costume changes and head-spinning choreography. For many tuning in, however, the broadcast was an overly sexualized spectacle they wish came with a parental advisory warning. They were outraged that their kids watched as Shakira shook her hips and Jennifer Lopez climbed a stripper pole. Many rushed their children out of the room.
"What we say to our kids weighs so much more than anything they will see on a screen."
The debate over whether this was objectification or female empowerment is still rageing online this week, and I'll admit that as a mom who watched the performance alongside her two young daughters, I wanted to make sure my stance was right. I read articles lauding that the two singers "did nothing if not command power" by "deciding on their own terms that they want to show off not just the way their bodies look, but all that they're capable of doing" and other essays that bemoaned how these crotch-grabbing acts were "better belonging in a seedy strip club than on national television."
But then I read one mom's post on Facebook that offered such a powerful perspective that I'm certain it's one everyone can agree on.
"No matter what you thought, I hope you use it as an opportunity to constructively talk to your kids, without disparageing the women involved," Silvia Farahat wrote in a Facebook post.
Instead of deliberating over whose reactions were right or wrong, we should be talking to our children about them.
"Talk to them about objectification and how you perceived JLo and Shakira's costumes and dancing in a constructive way," she said. "Use this as a teachable moment."
She also suggested talking to kids about the different ways women can feel empowered and love their bodies as well as how TV and the internet are not real life.
"But don't bring another female down because you don't agree," she said regarding some of the slut-shaming on display since the game aired. "Because the way women talk about women in front of our girls is the way our girls will talk to each other. And the way our boys talk about our girls."
What we say to our kids weighs so much more than anything they will see on a screen, but only if we keep talking to them. We need to be able to tell our kids that although we don't agree with someone, we respect their effort, their talent, their training, their skills. We should be able to get our point across without bringing someone else down.
I hope that my daughter will grow up in a place where we help each other more and talk about each other less. Where we lift each other up and celebrate achievements.
But it starts with us. Because when women talk about women negatively in front of our girls, the cycle continues.
The performance itself matters far less than how we react to it. So, let's not simply make our children leave the room or avoid confronting the polarizing experiences they have. Instead, let's talk to about them at every opportunity.
Because as Silvia wrote, "They're listening to every word."