What Is Empowerment?
By Hannah Harrison
What is empowerment?
“[It is} The message of standing up for yourself, being a woman – that’s what I want to pass on to little girls – everything about you – be proud of it,” Jennifer Lopez’s response to her halftime performance of Super Bowl LIV.
“It’s about women empowerment!” someone commented on a Facebook post following the performance.
After doing some digging, I decided to look into just what “empowerment” was and what it stood for concerning women in the United States. Shockingly enough, Ms. Lopez does not understand what it means to stand up for women and little girls.
As my family and I watched the game, and as Shakira started on the stage, my sister said, “She has more clothes on than I thought she would.”
However, it was short-lived. It didn’t take long for the Hips Don’t Lie singer to remove clothing as she played with a rope, attempting to portray rope bondage. After this happened, Jennifer Lopez (JLO) strutted on stage in a see-thru onesie while dancing on a stripper pole, thrusting, and giving the crowd a striptease. Later, JLO’s daughter joined her on stage after being caged with other young Latinas while singing, “Born in the USA.”
The cages were a political statement, no doubt. However, the overarching theme of sex remained throughout the night even after the performance ended. I don’t know about you, but as a believer and advocate for victims caught in the sex industry, I can’t see any reason that this type of entertainment should be accepted or coined as empowerment.
Ironically, the Super Bowl represents one of the largest sex trafficking venues of the nation. In the past three years, the FBI has arrested 446 people in connection with trafficking. Yet, these women stood on the stage objectifying women and the sex that was to be sold after the game was over.
Suffice it to say, my heart was troubled. Because not only do these women think sexual objectification is “empowerment,” they are encouraging this type of ideology in the minds of their daughters and women across the nation.
After reading Ms. Lopez’s recent quote, there was no denying that these performers are clueless about the realities of sex trafficking. After the game, they went home. They had someone waiting on them to cuddle and a safe place to sleep. They either don’t realize or care about the dangers that women and children face within the sex industry. Regardless of what they think, in no realm does empowerment equate to selling one’s body.
I repeat, never.
The definition of empowerment is “becoming stronger, more confident, and authority is given to someone to do something.”
Nowhere does it say that it is required or necessary to hang from a stripper’s pole or dress as though you’re going clubbing.
If that’s empowerment, does it make sexual abuse or harassment okay?
Of course not.
After the 2017 Harvey Weinstein allegations, the Me Too movement spread throughout the nation like wildfire. The movement produced many actresses and common women alike who were subjected to sexual harassment and misconduct. It proved that while some women faced inappropriate behavior with high-profile bosses; others found it in churches or walking towards their college classes.
At 22, I haven’t met a woman who hasn’t been subjected to some form of sexual misconduct. So, I’m left curious as to why JLO and Shakira thought broadcasting their bodies across the nation was going to bring righteousness to women suffering from catcalling or work-induced harassment while dressed appropriately?
While these Latina performers paraded and glamorized the sex industry, they not only garnered buyers for sex, but they delegitimized the lives of the ones suffering and those inside the dark industry.
True empowerment is shining through the women who were brave enough to come forward, those who stepped by their side, the ones who defended them, and the ones who managed to leave the lifestyle of regret and hopelessness.
Not those who are encouraging the sale of sex and the glorification of a lifestyle that steals the innocent, hurting, and hopeless.
In our culture, boys are subjected to pornography by the age of nine, young girls are told they must act, dance, dress a certain way, and college students are tempted to enter the sex industry simply to pay off school expenses.
I’m all for true empowerment of women. Women should be proud of themselves. We, just like men were created by the Lord of Lords. But unlike what was presented on the stage of Super Bowl LIV, empowerment is not objectification. Instead, it is becoming a voice for the voiceless (Proverbs 31:9), exemplifying a gentle spirit (1 Peter 3:3-4), and being full of compassion (Colossians 3:12). So, I disagree with Ms. Lopez. Instead of “standing up” for women, she and Shakira chose to glorify their own dreams, bodies, and careers by continuing to contribute to sexual objectification. Until Hollywood realizes what their actions are causing, I’m afraid true empowerment will never be realized.