Gender-Bending and Super Bowl XLVII
Last night’s Super Bowl was full of firsts, at least according to the commentators. First interception thrown by a San Francisco QB, longest kick return, longest TD scored by a San Francisco QB and so on. But the commentators didn’t mention the one that caught the attention of our party:
Beyoncé’s Half Time Show performance featured no men. At all.
That’s notable, particularly since the Super Bowl has become a sacred man-holiday in the American consciousness. It’s the high holy day of our most manly sport. And yet the Half Time show, another sacred aspect of the day, was purely feminine.
As any good show is, Beyoncé’s performance instantly polarized the internet. Many lauded her with cries of “Girl Power!”. And the New Calvinists were quick to cry Lust! as the excellent “Stuff Christian Culture Likes” twitter account was happy to showcase.
Whole discussions can (and most definitely will) be had about how Christians should respond to the Half Time show. But you can probably already guess what those “discussions” will be. I’m more interested in what the night reveals about our culture.
Gender is the conversation our culture is having right now.
Whether it’s Happy Endings‘ gender-bending cast, the new Ke$ha album (both of which I’m writing about in the coming weeks) or Beyoncé’s female-empowerment anthems smack-dab in the middle of the Temple of Man, we are trying to figure out just what gender is, how it relates to biology and who we’re all supposed to be.
Ironically, the commercials didn’t get that memo. From the Audi commercial glamorizing sexual assault as bravery, to the cross-dressing Doritos commercial to the-always-offensive-in-innovative ways Go Daddy, this year’s commercials – much like last year’s, and the years’ before them – played up traditional gender roles for laughs. They didn’t do anything interesting, push the status quo, challenge what we all already knew.
So how will the Church respond to this conversation?
Will we continue to insist that gender is anything more than a cultural construct, to plant our flag in 1950 and insist that mythic time was somehow sacred?
Or can we take a page from Beyoncé and the Super Bowl and begin to imagine a world where strong women don’t have to diminish strong men? Where I can celebrate the success of my wife without worrying that I’m losing my Man Card?
(And that’s not to say I particularly enjoyed the Half Time show. For me, you can’t get better than U2 or Prince.)