Today as I was pursuing a social life, I got into a tiff with a young woman over the JLo Shakira issue. She is a young white woman who speaks Spanish well. She is also of the generation that has been brainwashed by people from MY generation in school. Her immediate reaction to me was NOT to listen to what I had to say but to jump to the conclusion that because I’m older, white and presumably well-off I must share the same objections with which “other” well-off white women of my age have flooded social media.

I learned about this apparently pretty hot dispute when a friend (Hispanic) shared an article written by a a Latina lambasting rich, white women who (in their turn) had lambasted Shakira and JLo for their “obscene” display at the Super Bowl. I reacted vehemently against the assumptions laid out in that article. ANY-hoo, that’s what the minor “set-to” was about today.

I have seen the performance. It’s just not my thing, though one part of it did upset me. Not because of its sexual implications but because, to me, it alluded to violence against women. HOWEVER what I tried to explain to this young woman was that the conclusion to which she’d leapt was wrong, that my big objection is to the over-generalization of any population of people.

In our racially charged world, white people are pretty much lumped into one pile by people of color. Not individuals who know each other, but the broad categories exist. I know this because I spent a good part of my adult life living in a racially mixed, lower-class neighborhood and teaching students who were most often Latino, Filipino or African/American. Just one example, one evening in an English class at an inner-city college in San Diego my students were loudly objecting to the way white stereotype blacks. I said, “Hold on a minute. Do you stereotype whites?” Their reaction was surprise. They had never thought of that. I said, “Stereotype me. I was in my early 40s.

“You drive a Mercedes,” said one young man.

“No. A Volvo station wagon because of soccer,” said another.

“You live in La Jolla,” said a young woman. “Your husband is a doctor.”

They went on in this fashion for a few minutes. They were not joking and they were sure they were correct. Then I asked, “If that’s my life, why am I here teaching night school at City College?”

“Oh you want to help minorities,” said one girl. “You might feel guilty or something.” Others nodded.

First I was surprised that they saw THEMSELVES collectively as “minorities” and me as part of a dominant class. They had fucking conferred “white privilege” on me that I didn’t even know about or claim! THEN having lived where I was part of a VERY small minority, surrounded by people who did not look like me, I’d kind of lost the ability to actively notice skin color. While in China, I’d even forgotten my own. Sure, in my class I could SEE they were all black people, but I saw them as assorted individuals with names and purposes and abilities. The group of 20 students included two Jamaicans, a woman from Nigeria and a young man from Somalia.

Mostly I was stunned that all of their conjectures were so far from the truth. It was like they had an equation, “If white, then rich.”

I said, “Ok, well, here’s my drivers license.” The address was a “barrio” not far from the college.

“You live down the street from ME?” said one guy.

“I don’t know. Do I?” He handed me his drivers license and yes, I did.

“What do you drive?” asked a girl.

“I have a used Ford Escort station wagon,” I answered.

The class broke open. We talked about how we really don’t know that much about other people and maybe stereotypes keep us from finding out about them.

That was the point I wanted to make in the imbroglio today. It’s not JUST that we have opinions. Sometimes there are reasons behind someone’s opinions that are NOT what we think they are. It was a mere coincidence that I happen to be white and objected to something related to that Super Bowl show. My most serious objection was being lumped into the category of “upset white women.” The second was that I spent most of my teaching career instructing and counseling students from Mexico and other Latin American countries. I spent a years helping my Latino students — male and female, but mostly female — contend with the challenges placed on them by their culture and the numerous ways it confounded their dreams and tore at their hearts.

The third has to do with the fact that I have been in physically abusive relationships. As far as the performance, I objected to Shakira dancing with a rope because of all the Latinas I taught who had to fight their fathers for the right to go to college, fathers who said, “You don’t need that. You’re a girl.” I objected on behalf of all the (again, Latinas, mostly) girls I taught who had abusive fathers, boyfriends or husbands, girls who came to class with their upper arms bruised, with black eyes, or swollen lips. I objected for the sake of all the Latina single mothers who worked two jobs and attended college because their husband left them, or they left their husbands for their own safety and that of their children.

I would never, ever say that Latino cultures are more violent than other cultures; I don’t think they are, but I do know that it is still difficult for Latina women to break away from the stereotype of their cultural identity, not because of white people but because of the culture itself. The word “Macho” is Spanish. Again, not to say that I think all or even most Latino men are brutes. I was physically abused in my first marriage and race was not a question.

Many of the girls and women I taught came from lower economic classes and from countries in which education was only for the privileged. Their parents weren’t educated. That alone is a challenge for the children who want an education. Many of my students had to fight for the chance to go to college, but generally the girls had to fight harder.

JLo and Shakira’s dancing was just a Super Bowl spectacle. Those women were sexy, skillful, physically strong, beautiful. I didn’t find it “obscene” or “pornographic” as my young adversary today seems to have thought I did, but what they did was not an expression of the “strength and freedom of Latina women” or any women. It was a show, nothing more.

This speech, however, is an expression of the “strength and freedom of Latina women,”

22 thoughts on “Imbroglio

  1. We changed channels and didn’t watch the show at all. I haven’t watched a video of it either. I don’t like interrupting sports with a stage show. It’s stupid and diminishes the sport.

  2. Interesting take. I enjoyed it, but I didn’t think it should be on in the afternoon, in the middle of an alleged family event. I didn’t think the shirtless man last year was appropriate either. I do recognize that my attitudes are getting further from mainstream “culture,” such as it is, but with near-nudity everywhere then what’s left for porn? Lol

    • I can handle porn, but not exploitation even as a metaphor. But for me personally the sexualization of everything just reduces life to the lowest common denominator, and that disappoints me. I’d hoped for more, but I guess that’s what we are, essentially.

  3. Such an interesting perspective. You are right, we should never assume we know anyone’s life and the experiences they’ve had. Especially based upon a group stereotype. That is so interesting that you were able to break through all of that with your class

  4. I completely missed the kerfuffle. I didn’t even watch the game. So I went to Youtube to see what the fuss was about.

    I couldn’t care less about the show of sexuality. Neither did my wife.

    I think the show was calculated to create “safe” controversy and they counted on a number of “old white women” to go into the blogosphere the minute it was over. The twenty square inches of the body that is required to stay covered to be family-friendly stayed so. They were smart enough not to have a wardrobe malfunction (not that I cared).

    There were moments when it shone. I liked the violins and the pole dance. The little samples of Led Zeppelin and Bruce Springsteen. Shakira is looking good for 43 and J-Lo is looking really good for 50.

    I thought the rope was just a prop, like a hoop or a pole, maybe a springboard for a little B&D fantasy. It doesn’t have to be taken as something oppressive. I didn’t read anything more into it. But then, I may be illiterate.

    I could see it being a testament to the freedom of very talented and beautiful women to become even richer than they already are.

    J-Lo should be getting her AARP card soon.

    • I think you’re right and way too much was made of it. At 50 I looked as good as JLo. I didn’t didn’t have a problem with the show but with the post game politization of it. But I didn’t like the rope

  5. I haven’t seen the performance so can’t comment, but we did have a woman called Mary Whitehouse in the 1960’s and 70’s who would complain about ‘pornographic’ TV programmes. She was the ultimate angry elderly woman, although her heart was in the right place. Recently there is a tory/brexit party woman called Anne Widdecombe who holds similar views. Both are strongly religious. Whether or not people agree with them I think they are in the category of angry white old people you talk about. But there is too much stereotyping….

    • Way too much stereotyping. And that kind of prudishness has been around forever and is often reflective of a double-standard, and sometimes a cloak for guilt. I’m not a prude at all which point never came across. I decided yesterday there’s no point attempting to communicate most of the time. And, having been a teacher so long I expect to be listened to. I don’t expect someone like that girl to go off on me. That’s probably not fair of me, either. BUT I was as adamant and mistaken when I was her age as she is. So… I’m not engaging again.

  6. I wish I had a body like JLo at 50! I say more power to her. I saw the show and was not offended or even shocked… Some folks go out of their way to find fault and are only happy when they are complaining. Broad generalizations are an excellent way to avoid learning about those who are different. That behavior stretches across generations, races, creeds, and colors. Now I know why you were exhausted!

    • It’s funny. At 50 I was in my best form of my life. I’m glad I took advantage of it because three years later, my right hip went very far south and I was suddenly in my 80s. Now I’m my real age, 68. I’m glad for having been what I was between 42 and 52, though. I was running through mountains. ❤

  7. It made the news here in Australia. I did watch some of the video, I found these two women amazing dancers. To see such wonderful women who have worked hard and become so successful, and to see the positivity of aging women. Shakira 43 and as said JLo 50 is wonderful.

    It is dancing as seen at things such as Carnival in Rio de janerio which many as people from their countries do, and I have to laugh when younger performers do the same on TV shows all the times, such dancing with the stars and those other idol type of shows no one is complaining and yet they are generally on at what is considered prime time family TV time.

    Murisopsis I like what you have written, Broad generalizations are an excellent way to avoid learning about those who are different. That behavior stretches across generations, races, creeds, and colors. We have come some distance. I hope that the distances decrease and become non existence soon.

    • I never objected to the show. The show is/was completely unimportant. I wish I’d never seen it or responded to a friend’s Facebook posting. I objected to having been lumped in a category and dismissed. I’m still pissed off about it, but I’ll get over it. 🙂

  8. First of all, that you taught – engaged with – people is a credit to you. You deserve, at this point, to avoid all people-related entanglements (I guess most of us who have to deal with people eventually tire of them). I avoid almost all forms of contention by claiming (even if falsely) ignorance; “Nope, didn’t see it, no idea what you’re talking about…” – works great. Of course, it also creates a loner effect because I do not engage in conversations that are controversial…and, now-a-days, most are.

    • Yep. On one level the whole JLo Shakira thing boils down to personal taste and that can’t been disputed. And then it seems everything in our world becomes political. I love the “Huh?” approach you describe here. I’m going to add that to my arsenal of feigned obliviousness. 🙂

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