Superbowl, Female Empowerment, and Marching Bands

This year’s Superbowl show featuring Beyonce began with a quote from famous football coach Vince Lombardi. “Excellence must be pursued, it must be wooed with all of one’s might and every bit of effort that we have each day there’s a new encounter, each week is a new challenge. All of the noise, and all of the glamour, all of the color, all of the excitement, all of the rings, and all of the money….these are the things that linger only in the memory. But the spirit, the will to excel, the will to win, these are the things that endure (echoing off).” Lombardi states what it takes to excel in a sport, but it could be extrapolated out to the pursuit of excellence, in general. All the glitz and glamour fades, but the spirit and the will endure.

This quote was immediately followed by a mix of Beyonce’s songs. Here’s a few of the lyrics pulled from the first minute or so of her musical mix:

“Baby, it’s you…you’re the one I love. You’re the one I need. You’re the only one I see….Look at me, I’m begging you not to go….say you’ll never let me go…I think about you all the time.”

The words in Beyonce’s song mix do not reflect Lombardi’s quote about excellence at all. There are no words about pursuing excellence or the spirit of endurance. Yet, her songs were mostly about the relationship between a man and herself; specifically containing lyrics in which she was begging a man not to leave her. Further, her songs were coupled with a flashy performance entailing much of the glitz and glamour that Lombardi says “will linger only in the memory” or will fade away. The overall message of this performance seemed confused. So I searched the Internet to discover what the show was supposed to be about.

In reading some of the articles about the Superbowl show, I found that Beyonce’s theme was “Female Empowerment.” As the Washington Post reports, this show was, “…a magnificent vision of female power, breathtaking in its scope.”[1] While I agree that the show was powerful, and that Beyonce is a talented artist, I do not see this show as excellent in empowering women; rather I noticed that it was a skewed view of her sexuality. The show seemed to center on female sexuality as empowerment. Is a woman empowered solely because of her sexuality? Or is a woman empowered because she is a creation of God?

Beyonce’s performance was indicative of the view of women in our current times: we’re not sure what female empowerment is supposed to look like. Is it wielding sex like a weapon (and in part of this performance, as a weapon to keep a man from leaving)? Sexuality shouldn’t be singled out as “empowerment.”  As the movie, Les Miserables, memorably portrayed in the character of Fontaine, reducing a woman to solely a sexual creature dehumanizes her. To my disappointment, female empowerment set in this glitzy and glamorous performance was mostly relegated to female sexuality. When we center our view of a woman on her sexuality, we potentially reduce her to an object of desire, instead of uplift her as the subject of our love and respect.

I’m not sure what I expected; maybe some pyrotechnics, some flashy outfits, and some fun music the entire family could watch together. Perhaps I was thinking back to the years of Bruce Springsteen, Patti LaBelle, U2, or to the university marching bands. I watched through some of the old Superbowl halftime performances and I realized that what I miss most is those marching bands. In these bands, the men and women stood side-by-side in uniform for one goal: excellence in what we can do together.  Gender wasn’t an issue. Sexuality wasn’t highlighted. It was equality in submission to one another for a greater purpose: unity and harmony in song.

In the marching band, I see a glimpse of “Godly empowerment,”[2]: knowing that each one of us is valuable in our own way as part of helping mankind achieve good and beautiful things, such as music. The message I took away from Beyonce is that I am powerful as long as I wield sexual power.  The message of God is that I am valuable and powerful, because that is the way God made me. Instead of attempting to imitate a glitzy show of female sexuality, I should learn first who God is, and second, who I am in God. Here’s where the enduring power lies: in chasing after Christ with all my heart, soul, and mind. This is pursuing excellence as a woman.

[2] I only use this term to stay in the framework of Beyonce’s theme of empowerment. I’m thinking of 2 Timothy 1:7 “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.”

*The marching band video I posted is a compilation of Drum Corps International bands; any one of which would be a great addition to any Super Bowl Halftime.

One response

  1. Pingback: The Unexpected Defenders « School of Christian Thought

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