Can you believe it? It’s been 15 years since the phrase “wardrobe malfunction” entered our respective lexicons.
I didn’t watch one second of the 2019 Super Bowl on Sunday. But thanks to the internet and digitized programming, you can pretty much watch an entire show via social media commentary.
Blah blah blah lowest score in history blah blah blah boring game blah blah blah the Patriots winning in 2019 is the most Trump’s America thing in sports.
Oh, and E! News referred to single solitary Big Boi as whole ass Outkast, despite no Andre 3000 appearance. Did they think Sleepy Brown took 3 Stacks’ place? Lawd.
Anyway, like most Super Bowl days—especially for people who refer to sports as “sportsball”—the big game is really about the commercials and halftime show.
As planned, Maroon 5 performed during halftime and towards the end of their set, lead singer Adam Levine decided to go full rockstar mode and rip off his shirt to reveal his sweaty tatted up chest, which looked like it was doused in Axe Body Spray.
This action may seem harmless on its own, but context is a thing.
Speaking of said context, we all remember that fateful Sunday night on February 1, 2004 when Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake performed “Rock Your Body” during Super Bowl XXXVIII. Once Timberlake aptly sang, “gonna have you naked, by the end of this song,” he ripped off part of Jackson’s corset top with the apparent intention to reveal her bra underneath, but her breast was exposed instead.
The incident, also referred to as “Nipplegate,” was deemed a publicity stunt and cast a dark, blacklisted cloud over Jackson. Like, seriously: Les Moonves demanded CBS’ parent Viacom enforce an actual ban on her songs throughout a corporate family tree which included MTV. Timberlake, who dodged any responsibility via a tearful televised apology, was let off scot-free. Jackson also apologized, but to no avail.
Huh. Funny that.
As such, fans have in recent years renamed Super Bowl Sunday “Janet Jackson Appreciation Day,” given the hypocritically harsh treatment.
Cut to Super Bowl LIII, and we have close-ups of Levine’s nipples on the same television show geared toward “families.” But did the FCC budge with any network fine threats? Was there uproar of indecency in the same vein? Wouldn’t somebody please think of the children?!
Nah, it was none of that. And the double standard was palpable.
Yeah, yeah, yeah—I know someone is going to lick the remaining mediocre pizza bundle buffalo wing sauce from their Super Bowl platter off their fingers to remind me how “different” it is to show a woman’s nipples versus a man’s, but allow me to point out a few major factors:
1. We never ever saw Jackson’s nipple on live television that night. She was wearing a nipple patch/petal.
2. Despite its primary function being to serve nutrition, nipples are vastly sexualized for women in ways they are not for men. Take a good look at any debate surrounding a woman’s ability to feed her own fucking baby (who, sorry-not-sorry, can’t quell their hunger on demand until the breastfeeding mother can get to a place that makes you more comfy) and you get the gist.
3. Probably the most important—even if it was an FCC infraction-worthy flub, it took two to tango in this particular choreography and only one got blacklisted, as a result. Again, the white man is coddled here when the black woman is not.
Thankfully, Jackson’s fabulousness rose from the salty ashes like the bad bitch Phoenix she is, despite the targeted blacklisting. But we won’t ever forget what happened to her.
Yet somehow, the FCC and conservative screechers (conveniently) forgot how big of a deal nipples were on the biggest night in sports. We’re not going to ignore the historical hyper-sexualization of black women and blatant misogynoir that went into play with Jackson when it’s sitting right there. And the blasé reaction to Levine’s strip tease only shines the brightest hypocritical light on the whole thing.
If you want to check out the halftime show, which rounded out its performative blackness trifecta by adding the foolproof black choir, see below.