This year’s Super Bowl halftime show was like no other. Two of the most famous Latinas in the world, J.Lo and Shakira, mesmerized the entire country with 15 minutes of sensual, embodied, powerful movement.
They expressed their talent, erotic energy and precisely orchestrated moves with unwavering confidence. They shook it and owned it while navigating an array of musical genres and got loud on their creatively crafted political messages that were heard around the world.
Now a debate whether this stunning performance was empowering or objectifying is in full force.
A feature in USA Today baited readers with the question: Was it empowering to watch two women of color over 40 performing in a provocative way? Or had we reverted back to a pre-#MeToo moment of objectifying women?
For me, it was gorgeous, and inspiring—and most of all—empowering.
It’s exactly my PleasureMuse approach to embodiment.
Yet many wondered how a woman--a mother no less—could dance on a pole in front of the world?
Pole dancing women have been demonized for years. Yet, as Sheila Kelly, the founder of S Factor pole dancing classes says, “There’s a deep connection between female physiology and vitality that gives women the opportunity to reclaim a core aspect to their nature previously buried in cultural and societal protocols.” This movement is truly about feminine empowerment that allows us to reconnect to our natural curves and who we are as women.
And, as my torn bicep tendon can attest, it’s also challenging and requires real athletic skill and upper body strength. When I took pole dancing classes at S-Factor, I loved every minute of it. I was in awe of the representation of different ages, sizes, ethnicities, and abilities. Even though I’m on a pole dancing sabbatical, I still indulge in sensual, sexy movement daily. And even was inspired to dance - sans pole- at my birthday party to one of my favorite rock songs (pictured below). I truly was able to surrender and let the music move and inspire my body.
Sensual dance fuels me, my creativity, my sense of aliveness, and who I am as a woman.
And I do this kind of movement with my female clients.
Sometimes my clients will say “I could never move like you, Dolly” or “I feel embarrassed to move this way.”
I’ve even had clients tell me “I don’t know if I can do that because I don’t consider myself that type of woman.”
Bingo. This last statement is part of the bigger (slut) shaming sentiment that likely pushed the buttons of the Super Bowl halftime critics.
As a culture, we are getting more and more disconnected from our bodies. And, as a result it could easily not feel safe to even witness what they perceived as an erotically charged J.Lo - Shakira whirlwind.
I get it. Truly.
I deal with it in my office weekly.
The difference is, my clients have come to me because they want to shift their relationship with their bodies. They want to feel more. They want to unwind shame. They recognize it as a habit that’s holding them back from experiencing more of life.
Whenever we explore sensual movement, my clients report an immediate feeling of connection to their bodies that they never felt before. Many don’t even know that their body can move this way until we try it.
Sometimes, their bodies don’t move at all. And that’s okay because they are breaking a habit. They’re releasing their body from a sort of invisible binding that’s made them feel locked or even repressed.
And with more “music tasting,” as my pole dancing teacher says, the music washes over them and begins to awaken their body. With more practice and focused attention, their body gets curious and moves more and more. Making them feel more free, more uninhibited.
These ideas about sensuality and sexual expression cause us to differentiate ourselves and brand each other as a certain kind of a woman. But sensual movement is really just a deep feminine trait, available within us all. Every one of us can access and unleash this powerful part of ourselves.
And when we choose to go there, as Shakira and J. Lo did, it’s not objectification. It’s a reclamation.
A colleague and mentor Pamela Madsen says it perfectly, “Erotically empowered women understand that our sexual energy is a source of power within us. The erotic becomes the energy that powers the most essential parts of a woman's life; and that's when she becomes a force of nature. And you can't control a force of nature.”
Shakira and J. Lo are erotically empowered women who used their music and movement to tell a story.
Unfortunately some people were blinded by their judgement of that “pole" and those writhing Latina hips, that they didn’t see the bigger picture of how Shakira and J.Lo blended their power, their skill set, their musical diversity and their political messages into a cross-cultural representation of what it is to be a woman.
As a Latina myself, I feel personally very grateful and patriotic to live in a country where we can dance and dress how we want. Where we can speak our political mind. Where we can define what kind of woman we want to be. When that seemed to be questioned, I felt a tightening contraction in my body that reminded me of John Lithgow’s character in Footloose as Reverend Shaw Moore who called dancing a sin.
I know not everyone is ready to get their belly-dancing, salsa or pole dancing on. That’s ok.
But don’t disparage those of us who do.
However, when you feel like your body is stiff and locked, you can choose sensual, embodied movement to tap into and experience the power you hold in your body. It’s yours and waiting for you to get loud and claim it.
When you unlock that power (on your own terms) and own it as Shakira and J.Lo did, the possibilities are truly limitless.