by Lori Twichell
You may think you know what I’m going to address in this article. After all, it’s what everyone is talking about today. But you might be surprised at where I’m going with it. Just stick with me – even if things get a little uncomfortable.
If the big game last night brought in the viewing numbers that it usually does, over 100 million people from around the globe joined together to watch this extravagant, over the top piece of entertainment. People who hate football tuned in for the commercials and the hype. People who love football obviously had their part to watch. And there was, as always, a subset of the population who probably only tuned in for the halftime show. And yes, that’s what people are all talking about today. It’s almost always what they talk about afterwards though isn’t it? That year with Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake kinda set the bar for ‘what’s gonna happen next’ attitude we all take when we watch.
This year was no exception. It’s was big. Huge. Over the top. Extravagant. And definitely water cooler worthy. Everyone has an opinion. Did we watch a strip show? Was it appropriate? Empower women! Should the show be for kids and families? Should it not? Why so much sex? It’s a culture thing. You just need to understand it.
Here’s the thing. I’m not very happy with the culture I see developing around this discussion. It’s not about the sex. It’s about the conversations themselves. I expressed my opinions last night on my personal Facebook among friends. Over the years, I’ve been very careful who I connect with on social media. and I cherish the conversations we have there. My friends list is diverse. I have activists on both sides of the aisle. Dems, Republicans, liberals and conservatives – across the board. It’s a really cool group of people. And last night, we had some deep discussions. I expressed some of my concerns over the show and I was open and honest about my thoughts. Many people agreed. A lot of people didn’t. This morning, I wasn’t worried I was going to be skewered for my opinions or thoughts on it. There’s a respect there that I cherish.
But when I went online and was reading all of the overwhelming amount of commentary on the halftime show, I was really bothered. It wasn’t the sex or the halftime show. On several major news outlets, women expressed concerns about the overt sexuality of the show. The comments that followed were absolutely horrifying. These women had both sexes going back to their profiles, pulling up pictures of the women or even, in some cases, their family members, and making derogatory statements about them. “If you didn’t like the program you must be…” is what bothers me the most. That’s the purest form of assumption. It assigns motives based on a simple statement. If you didn’t like the show you must be: uninformed, racist, stupid, overweight, idiotic, Trump supporter, jealous, lonely, pathetic…the list goes on and on. Likewise, if you enjoyed the show you must be a slut, stripper, whore, have no values…. Both sides of the coin represented by the ugliest part of both sides.
It’s when we create that dialogue in our minds of what they ‘must be thinking’ if that gets dangerous. There’s no point in listening to someone else if you already know what they’re thinking. And if you’ve built motives for them? Then it’s not a discussion anymore then is it? You know everything and there’s no need to listen. At that point, it becomes you educating the ignorant. Not hearing what the concerns really are and addressing them.
The culture that truly needs addresssed is those assumptions, backstories, and putting together an entire narrative about a person’s life based on a quick flash. We are NOT empowering women in any way, shape, or form, when if someone shares an opinion, we immediately begin to personally deride them. We are NOT empowering anyone when we pull up pictures of their private lives and pass judgement on them based on an image we don’t understand. (Have you seen this story? It’s older but it’s still relevant.) We are not empowering women when it’s immediately assumed that their opinion makes them an idiot, overweight, jealous, stripper, slut, or whore. We have to stop pulling other people apart because they don’t see the same things we do.
What happened last night among friends was something I appreciated deeply. Moreso this morning after reading other comments on news stories, etc. My friends listened to my opinions on the sexuality side of things. One of my biggest concerns was that we absolutely sexualized an entire halftime show, got viewers into a very specific headspace, and then brought little girls out to dance and perform. The timing of that was poorly done. The human brain links certain things and if Twitter was any indicator last night, there was a massive population of men watching that were aroused to a high level, and then presented images of little girls. This links ideas in the mind. It’s not something to dismiss lightly. I expressed the concerns of what my son took away when he watched. I didn’t even know what some of the things in the show meant and I asked those questions. My friends came back with enlightenment about some of the things I hadn’t understood. I pulled back on some of my concerns on that side of things. My friends actually hadn’t considered the things I had taken away from it. And in the end we all agreed that we want to empower young girls and young women to know who they are and be able to do what they want with it. We all agreed the messages need to be stronger on all sides. Women don’t need to take off their clothes to be of value but if that’s what they want to do, that’s not an invitation to men that anything goes. Kids must be protected and messages must be sent the right way. And there was no name calling, friendships falling out, arguing. We all ultimately wanted the same big picture things. But they look different to my friends than they do to me. In some cases, they look the same but the path we want to take to get there looks different.
Here’s my takeaway from last night. We need to change the culture. All around. Things are ugly everywhere. But we’re never going to be able to change the culture if the knee jerk and immediate response is to pass judgement, spread lies, create stories, and completely shred other people just because they have different ideas. ON BOTH SIDES. We need to listen. Be quiet. Stop screaming into the void and adding to the chaos. Time to be still, listen, show respect, and then course correct the best way possible.