You are here

Femininity and Female Empowerment in Commercial Dance

Cover of book Dance in US Popular Culture includes line drawing of dancer balancing on one hand
Cover of book Dance in US Popular Culture
McMains, Juliet. “Femininity and Female Empowerment in Commercial Dance: Shakira and J. Lo at Super Bowl LIV.” In Dance in US Pop Culture, edited by Jennifer Atkins. London and New York: Routledge, 2023.

Through a close reading of Jennifer Lopez and Shakira’s 2020 Halftime Show performance and ensuing public controversy, this chapter argues that although gender binaries are still a dominant lens through which femininity is constructed in American pop entertainment, decoding embodied language reveals a counter-text that simultaneously works to destabilize gender binaries. The author explores multiple and contradictory interpretations of this performance and its discourse of female empowerment as differentially refracted through viewers’ own experiences of gender intersecting with race, ethnicity, sexuality, and age. Because femininity, especially as encoded in the body through fashion and dance, has historically been represented as outside of politics, the author argues that these female pop stars can exploit their own success within the gendered matrix to push at the limits of what it affords them, using embodied language to expand the range of how women in mainstream pop culture express femininity, sexuality, politics, and cultural pride.