Tackling The Patriarchy: A History Of Female Body Shaming At The Super Bowl
It’s time to bench the body shaming and fragile masculinity.
As Justin Timberlake took the stage at this year's Super Bowl halftime show, it seemed like most viewers were still fixated on his controversial halftime show with Janet Jackson from years ago.
Many fans and critics alike pointed out the unfair double standard that allowed JT to come out of #Nipplegate largely unscathed and perform at three different Super Bowls and while Janet Jackson was essentially blacklisted by Viacom and the NFL.
Like Jackson, plenty of other women have faced double standards and scrutiny for their Super Bowl halftime performances, as recently as last year.
If you thought Lady Gaga’s stomach “flab” was distracting at the 2017 Super Bowl halftime show, you should see mine after I’ve devoured a platter of nachos.
Lady Gaga is thin and fit by any sane person’s standard. It’s absolutely absurd for a bunch of eggheads on Twitter to hide behind the keys of a message board to body shame Lady Gaga — let alone any other female performer.
Her stomach moved when she danced. SHOCKER.
I’d like to see those trolls post a swimsuit picture and have the rest of the internet dissect it.
Like it or not, our current sexist society has a bizarre fixation with women’s bodies, appearances, and actions. This fixation is only amplified when it comes to celebrities and other public figures. It seems like the only way for a woman to ever avoid society’s judgement is to be completely invisible.
Any woman who hasn’t been living under a patriarchal rock knows that she’s always on the verge of hearing unsolicited comments about how “slutty” or “fat” she is by some sexist guy with fragile masculinity.
Patriarchy feeds off of women’s insecurities.
From slut shaming to body shaming, these forms of oppressive masculinity and misogyny are rampant both on and off the Super Bowl field.
It is all about ridiculing women . . . policing women . . . hating women who don’t meet a man’s definition of “the ideal female.”
Lady Gaga’s halftime show hate is a concrete example of the gender bias and societal norms that cause us to expect women to look pretty and perfect 24/7. Every seemingly harmless comment about her stomach is a subtle reminder to women that their bodies should be for a man's aesthetic and physical pleasure.
But Gaga isn’t the only halftime performer who has been the target of body shaming. Practically every other female performer in the past 15+ years has been ridiculed for sexist reasons.
Here’s a look back at the rampant female body shaming at Super Bowls throughout the years:
2001: Britney Spears
It’s no secret that early 2000s Britney had the most amazing body. Her abs were basically the Kylie Jenner lips of 2001. Back in her prime, Britney did a purported 1,000 crunches a day. But despite her flawless physique, that didn’t stop critics from commenting on her body. Poor Brit got slut shamed constantly for showing her bare midriff and cleavage in tight, skimpy outfits. The public relentlessly blamed Britney for the sexualization and exploitation of women and young girls rather than the corrupt, male-dominated, music industry. In the words of a wise YouTuber, “Leave Britney alone!”
2003: Shania Twain
Not only did viewers lash out at Shania over accusations of lip syncing, but also for her edgy outfit choice. Many people criticized the country singer’s sparkly bra and leather jacket as over the top or mocked her outfit as being “from the Ron Popeil Bedazzler collection.”
2004: Janet Jackson
Who can forget the most infamous nip slip of all time — Nipplegate. The controversial halftime show ended with Justin Timberlake singing the lyrics, “I’ll have you naked by the end of this song,” while simultaneously ripping off part of Jackson’s bustier and exposing the legendary boob seen ‘round the world. It’s funny how everyone at the time got angry at Janet for daring to have boobs, but no one was mad at Justin for his literal hand in the matter. Janet was disinvited from the Grammys that year; Justin not only attended, but also performed. In response, Justin recalled, “I probably got 10% of the blame, and that says something about society. I think that America’s harsher on women.” The saddest part about all the outrage is that the incident lasted less than one second and her “oh-so-shameful” nipple wasn’t even fully exposed — she was wearing a nipple shield. Regardless, it’s time we #FreeTheNipple once and for all.
Despite Madonna’s widely popular halftime performance, that didn’t stop her critics from spewing vitriol about the 50-year-old’s looks, outfit, and age. Piers Morgan notably called Madge’s performance “gruesome” and that “it was like watching your mad drunken aunt at Christmas.”
2013: Destiny’s Child
The much anticipated reunion of Destiny’s Child at Beyoncé’s halftime performance was all any 90s child could seem to talk about. But the second Michelle Williams and Kelly Rowland stepped out with Queen Bey, the attacks started flying. The trio of singers got called “trampy” and “classless” for their low-cut leather costumes. Others were offended by the risqué performance because it was “too sexual” and wasn’t “family friendly” enough for them. Keep in mind these same people are perfectly okay with their children watching cheerleaders’ dance provocatively in skimpy outfits and countless hyper-sexual commercials during the Super Bowl. Talk about hypocrisy!
2015: Katy Perry
Katy Perry’s Super Bowl performance seemed to go off without a hitch . . . with one notable exception. While Katy herself had to deal with her fair share of internet trolls commenting on her outfit, makeup, and hair choices, the harshest critiques were actually aimed at a different performer — none other than Left Shark. Katy’s backup dancer, clad in an ocean blue shark costume, appeared to forget his choreography. Left Shark’s performance became sensationalized due to his less-than-precise dance moves. Undoubtedly, the trending #LeftShark memes distracted the public from over-scrutinizing Katy’s own so-called shortcomings during the performance.
Just three years after her first halftime performance, Queen Bey was back at it for another show-stopping performance. This time, she faced tons of media scrutiny for her racy costume choices — which appeared Black Panther-esque. Viewers suspected the performance made a statement about police brutality against minorities. Beyoncé got called every name under the sun, from “raunchy” to “radical” for daring to be a woman with a booty and political opinions to boot.
2017: Lady Gaga
Most recently, some 'little monsters' decided to body shame Lady Gaga for having a real person’s stomach. The horror. Some critics told her to “do some crunches,” while others claimed they were too “distracted by the flab on her stomach swinging around” to enjoy the performance. The pop star took to Instagram to address her cyber bullies directly, writing: “I heard my body is a topic of conversation so I wanted to say, I’m proud of my body and you should be proud of yours too. No matter who you are or what you do. I could give you a million reasons why you don’t need to cater to anyone or anything to succeed. Be you, and be relentlessly you.”
Both on and off the football field, it’s time to bench the body shaming once and for all.
SHARE your thoughts on female body shaming!
We hope you love the products we recommend! Before you continue, we’d like you to know that there are affiliate links in this article. This means Women.com may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the following links. Price are accurate and items are in stock as of time of publication.