The Super Bowl half time show. It’s a big event every year. Almost as big as the game itself (for some people). And every year, without fail, somebody finds something wrong with it. You can’t please everyone, especially when it comes to musical preferences so it is what it is. The half time show for this year’s big game featured Lady Gaga. Now I’m not a huge fan of Lady Gaga but I do appreciate that she oozes talent. She can sing. Actually sing. And she has a style you just can’t miss. Fun fact, I actually saw Lady Gaga perform at Madison Square Gardens at a charity concert in 2008, the year her first album came out and just before her name became one that just about everyone knows. I didn’t catch her half time performance. I don’t follow the NFL so I wasn’t tuned into the game. In fact I didn’t even know who the star of the half time show was until it was all said and done. And at that point it was hard to miss.
The next day as I was scrolling though social media I quickly noticed that Lady Gaga was trending all over the place. I assumed, correctly, that she must have performed last night at the Super Bowl. Curious about how her performance was I followed one of the links to a story on it. The first thing I saw was several pictures of the performer on stage in an outfit that was actually somewhat muted compared to fashions she has sported in the past. She was clad in some silver glittery “boy” shorts and a white crop top with some space age looking sleeves. It didn’t strike me as an inappropriate outfit for the venue. As I read the article it was over all a thumbs up for a lively and entertaining performance by this super star. But when I closed the article and went back to social media I saw something else entirely. The chatter wasn’t about the awesome show she put on. No, it was all about that little bit of flesh that she showed. And not just because she dared to show flesh but because, apparently, she dared to show a belly that has more than zero body fat on it.
I’ve since gone back and actually watched the half time show. It was pretty impressive. She starts off standing under a sea of twinkling stars with God Bless America, which seemed fitting not only because she was, you know, in America, but because America could use a little unity right now. Then she seamlessly moves into This Land is Your Land, another lovely coming together song and then right into the Pledge of Allegiance. After getting all of your patriotic hearts aglow she then leaps from the building (on cables of course) and flies down to the stage. Now the show really got started. 13 minutes of lights, dancing, acrobatics and the voice and sass that is Lady Gaga. I don’t think you could ask for much more really. She clearly put her all into it and the crowd clearly drank it up.
And then the social media world went mad. Just because they can. All over some skin. I know, you probably weren’t one of those people pounding your keyboard with insults and jokes about Lady Gaga’s midsection. Because you are better than that. I like that about you. Maybe you were one of these people coming to her defence saying how “brave she was” to not be perfect and still sport a crop top. But hold up just a minute please. Was she brave? Because she leaped off a tall building? Yes! Because she performed in front of millions of people (111 million to be precise)? Yes! Because she showed some skin while not meeting everybody’s idea of the perfect body? Nope. And we need to think about that. Really stop and think about it. Are you pleased that we live in a society that believes it’s brave to go out in the world just looking like you? I’m not. I don’t feel brave when I get dressed and come to work every day. I don’t want my daughter to feel brave when she puts on her body suit and goes to dance class. Would you have called Taylor Swift brave for wearing that outfit?
We need to change our body language if we want our kids to grow up thinking less about how others perceive their bodies. And it’s really easy. Just stop commenting on other people’s bodies. Because truth be told our opinion, good or bad, on someone else’s physique means nothing. Well, it should mean nothing. But we know that’s not true, yet. Even your well intended comments can be damaging. When I was 17 and went from being a chubby teenager to a slim one nothing fuelled my anorexic tendencies more than hearing “wow you look great now!” You wouldn’t walk up to a friend that’s put on a few pounds and say “hey you look chunky now!” right? Every time you make a remark about how someone looks little ears are listening and filing that info away. They are learning that YOU care about how other people look and if you care everybody else probably does too. They are learning that they will be judged on how big, small, lean or heavy their bodies are. It’s not just magazines and TV shows that are doing that. It’s us. Every comment we make about someone else’s body perpetuates the problem. I’m not saying don’t stand up and say something to the trolls who were blasting Lady Gaga (or anyone else) for how they look. But I am saying, when you hit that reply button think about the message you are sending back. “She was so brave” or “I wish I had her body” is just feeding the message that our value is calculated (even partly) by our body size. We can do better.