The Superbowl has garnered some Christian criticism. I’m going to quote and comment on the following two posts:
Calah at Barefoot and Pregnant, has written a very good post called “Slut-shaming and the Attractiveness Factor” about how we should not judge Beyonce’s performance, and women/girls in general, on whether or not we find their behaviors “attractive” or sexy, but rather we should judge the objective morality or immorality of those behaviors:“I do not want my daughter to grow up in a world where the boys and men around her constantly judge her morality in terms of physical attraction. I don’t want her to hear things like, “waiting till marriage is sexy” or “it’s a turn-off when girls smoke”. I want her to hear things like, “your virtue is worth too much to throw away on someone who is not going to commit his life to you.” I want her to hear someone say, “smoking damages your body, and you’re too precious to damage for recreation.” I want her to grow up in a world where men and women talk about issues of virtue and modesty in terms of objective truth, not in terms of sex appeal.”
i) I’m partially sympathetic to what Duffy (and Calah) are trying to say. However, her disapproval is conspicuously one-sided. Does she think the pecking order only applies to women and not to men? Take junior high and high school. Does she imagine that’s a level playing field for boys? Don’t a lot of girls judge boys by their appearance? Or the cars they drive? So why is she dumping on men and boys? Why is that the impulsive, reflexive reaction?
ii) Also, let’s not overreact by acting as if sex appeal is inherently unchristian. God designed us to find the opposite sex sexually attractive. Within bounds, there’s nothing wrong with that. That dynamic is normally present. Let’s not pretend that we either can or ought to turn this into a purely Platonic dialogue, divorced from our physicality. We’re not angels.
The problem with Beyonce’s performance is that it focused unjust attention on her sexuality. And yet, I suspect the performance did not portray “her” sexuality so much as a sexuality imposed on her, not only by culture at large, but by marketers, choreographers, costume designers–a team of people who had to agree on the image they wanted Beyonce to portray to America during the Super Bowl.
Once again, we’re treated to the blame-men-first mentality. This is ironically paternalistic. In also involves a degree of self-denial.
Duffy is casting Beyonce in the stereotypical role of the passive victim of sexual exploitation. Let’s get real. Does Duffy really think female pop stars like Beyonce don’t know what they want and how to get it? Does she think women can’t be calculating or take advantage of men (by mutual consent, to be sure)?
Nonetheless, teaching both Sociology of Religion and the Sociology of Sport, my attention is piqued when these two subjects intersect—when sport and religion combine in an almost seamless garment of praise. Putting on the full armour of Christ seems to include a helmet, shoulder pads, and a fierce sense of team loyalty during the early part of February—Super Bowl season.
What does Matthew Vos intend to accomplish with a snide comment like that?
And in my experience, theology can't touch the Super Bowl. Churches near where I live cancel evening services for it, and some even project the festivities on sanctuary screens. We're a far cry from theological forbears like Calvin, who, according to author Shirl James Hoffman, made quite a stir after soberly reflecting on what sort of recreations one might participate in on Sunday, and indulged in a game resembling bowling in his after-worship time on the Lord's day.
That’s a legitimate issue to raise. Keep in mind, though, that the Bible doesn’t command Christians to celebrate the Sabbath on Sunday according to the Gregorian calendar. That’s just an ecclesiastical custom.
First, women play minor roles in most parts of the Super Bowl, and when they are present and featured, they are usually eroticized. Their agency is not chiefly linked to their minds or the wholeness of their persons, but is unmistakably connected to their bodies.
i) Is the agency of football players chiefly linked to their minds and the wholeness of their persons? Isn’t their agency chiefly linked to their bodies? Their athletic performance? So why is Vos pedaling this politically correct double standard?
ii) Becoming a cheerleader is voluntary. And cheerleaders, along with jocks, are at or near the top of the pecking order in junior high and high school. The queen bees.
iii) In addition, for all I know, female fans who go to football games enjoy watching buff young men in spandex. Why are there no complaints about women objectifying male athletes? It’s not as if women don’t have an eye for hunky guys.
iv) Also, it seems to me that football players often play, in part, to impress female onlookers, like girlfriends or cheerleaders. So it’s not as if the cheerleaders are purely decorative. Men like to impress women with their athletic prowess. That inspires them to win.
v) In fact, aren’t there male cheerleaders? Don’t the girls need beefy guys to stand on or to catch them as the girls perform their acrobatic stunts?
Well-known Sport sociologist Jay Coakley explains that most sports coverage prioritizes the interests and concerns of male athletes in ways that reaffirm traditional gender ideologies—ideologies glamourizing violence, dominance, aggression, and social distance from women, that we Christians should probably be careful about endorsing.Perhaps we might more soberly contemplate the meaning of our cavalier approval of brutal body hits (Coakley's term) during the game, and passive consumption of hyper-sexualized images of women between plays. What do we think of these things, and what is their spiritual meaning? Does a theology of the body—if we even acknowledge one—make any difference when it comes to sports?
i) What does Vos intend to accomplish? Is he sincerely trying to change social attitudes inside and outside the church? Of is he just using this issue as pretext to engage in moral posturing?
If, in addressing male readers, you begin your sociological analysis of football with the men-are-pigs spiel or make snooty comments about “glamourizing violence and aggression,” I think it’s safe to say the average guy in the audience will tune you out after the first or second sentence. That’s not persuasion–that’s moral grandstanding. It doesn’t convince–it repels.
ii) There’s also the unargued assumption that male aggression and rough-n-tumble sports are unchristian. This, in turn, is related to his evident egalitarianism.
Coakley concludes, "Women are seldom seen except when portrayed in sexual terms, or as cheerleaders, spectators, and supportive spouses and mothers on the sidelines."Second, women are depicted in the Super Bowl and other televised mega-sports in ways that proclaim, "This world is for men, about men, and because of men. You women may participate, but only in forms that are pleasing to men."
As a matter of fact, football is primarily by and for men. So what? Men and women are psychologically and physiologically different. There are some things men like to do that most women don’t, just as there are some things women like to do that most men don’t.
One problem Shirl James Hoffman, author of the outstanding and sobering book, Good Game: Christianity and the Culture of Sports, finds with practices like Tebowing (genuflecting after a successful play), sports evangelism, and prayer in the end-zone, is that they can help to make sacred some of the practices and postures with which we should take issue.
That raises a legitimate question. On the one hand, there’s the danger of sanctifying what might be something essentially worldly. On the other hand, shouldn’t we bring Christian influences to bear?
With prophetic acuity Hoffman writes that "as human experiences, our sport spectacles seem unlikely places to find God 'softly and tenderly calling'.
That takes for granted a disputable view of Christian theism. Is the God of the Bible a God who only calls softly and tenderly? For that matter, is he a God who only calls?
Rather than feeling sadness, we laugh when a woman’s body sells a car. Rather than outrage, we watch it again on YouTube.
i) As a matter of fact, yes, I do laugh it off. It’s laughable because it’s such a cliché, because it’s such a patent way of pandering to men. You know the advertiser is trying to manipulate you, and there’s something comical about anything that obvious, predictable, unoriginal.
ii) Why should I feel sad or outraged? I didn’t put the bikini on the model. I didn’t put the model on the hood of the car. I didn’t operate the camera. And I didn’t ask to see it. I’m not party to this transaction. It’s just one of those fleeting things in life.
Save your indignation for a worthy cause, like combating child prostitution in Asia.
And in the end, without many scruples about the ties between demeaning ads and supermarket products, we buy their wares.
If it’s a good product, why should I boycott the product because of some cheesy commercial?
Will we pretend that we can simply mentally dismiss particular components of the Super Bowl "package" and in this way resist its hegemonic control?
As a matter of fact, I, as a Christian, living in a fallen world, must often dismiss particular components of the package that’s foisted upon me. This is the world I have to live in. I can’t avoid everything that’s inappropriate to see or hear. So I do some mental sorting.