J.Lo’s new cover for her latest single just dropped.
And so did all our jaws.
The simplistic but statement cover art had some commenters jokingly lamenting the fact that she put up this picture on Thanksgiving Day, a day of overeating and drinking.
‘Having second thoughts about my thanksgiving meal/or any meal after seeing this pic’
‘(Puts thanksgiving plate into the garbage.)[sic] ’
‘Someone has to stay beautiful while I pig out for four days’
We totally get it. Standing there like a Greek goddess, J.Lo’s sculpted abs and toned body make us want to drop and give her fifty. J.Lo’s body has always been a key mechanism for her art. Famous for more than her enviable abs, Jennifer Lopez (51) has been a triple-threat performer from the earliest days of her stardom. Starting out as a dancer in the entertainment industry, her body is a carefully constructed and essential vehicle in her career. From the early days of performing, her choreography was award winning, with her second single, the 2001 ‘Love Don’t Cost a Thing’ video winning the American Latino Media Arts Award for Outstanding Music Video. The tight and controlled late nineties hip-hop of her earliest videos has morphed into a blend of urban moves and Latin roots, a nod to her Puerto Rican heritage.
Her performances are awaited with baited-breath, as she flawlessly delivers empowering and dramatic performances every time. Even this year’s Superbowl half-time show became a celebration of all things Latina and female with the synchronized, slick and cultural performance. Confident, sassy, expressive, J.Lo’s body performed feats of strength and acrobatics, showed off her personality and exuded an electric energy, all without ever missing a beat or a breath.
This is all to say that, while we love to praise and be in awe of her body at the Superbowl half-time show, some of the same women who adored her, turn on her, once she presents that body to us in its natural form. She has performed variations of the
‘So nasty!….No more shame or decency!’
‘I'm disappointed. Your beautiful without this’.
‘Her body is rockin, but I don’t think she needs to go this far her talent is all she needs she has children [sic]’
‘why does she feel the need to be naked to sell her music?’
‘It's nice an all but really you had our attention with your clothes on. This is not helping us women…keep your clothes on girls’
‘Shameful a woman with talent, children, family has to stoop so low.’
‘Am I the only that thinks mother’s shouldn’t post stuff like this? We already know she’s hot and in great shape. I think this was unnecessary [sic]’.
Salsa, Mambo and Samba, dances that evoke energy and sensuality, but when she displays that same energy and power for a photo shoot, it is thrown back in her face.
Commenters were a mixed bag on this recent post, but the sheer number of negative commenters was utterly disheartening.
Asking the age-old question ‘Why can’t we all just get along?’ isn’t enough anymore. We all know the reasons why this post is receiving such backlash. It’s spelled out in the comments. Misogyny, ageism, body-policing. It’s all there. And these aren’t just male commenters here, there are plenty of female haters scattered in there too. Internalised misogyny is as big a problem as misogyny itself.
What is interesting is that a lot of these commenter’s problem with J.Lo’s apparent lack of modesty is the fact that she is a mother. Where exactly, do these commenters think her children came from, if not from their mother’s body? Lopez is more than her motherhood. She is a performer, an artist, a choreographer and yes, a parent too. But why should one cancel out the other? Why does modesty and motherhood go hand in hand for so many people?
This is not a distasteful photo. In fact, in the post before this one on Lopez’s Instagram, she is also naked, and the comments are overwhelmingly positive. The difference, however, is in the pose. The positive post features a video with snapshots of Lopez in what could be considered modest poses, featuring different parts of her naked body, looking shyly and ethereally past the camera, her hands covering her breasts. Her whole body is not featured just partial shots. The comments read like this:
‘GOD IS JENNIFER LOPEZ [sic]’
‘I just have to say that my eyes are sooooooo blessed rn [sic]’
‘Instagram can't take all that hotness’
‘I have nothing to say I can't take my eyes off her beauty. Love u so much [sic]’
‘First the amazing AMAs performance and now this OMG [sic]’
‘I CAN’T WAIT TO HEAR THE WHOLE SONG [sic]’
Bearing in mind that the picture that is considered immodest is from the exact same shoot, why are the comment sections so different? Is it because the second photo, the official single cover art, features Lopez’s embracing her body fully? The pose is more confident, her entire body shows and she’s not hiding her power. It is muscular and strong, a vehicle for her talent. She doesn’t hide away but she also doesn’t exactly scream ‘Come and get it’. But she does own her body in a way that says that this is for her, not you. When her body is being displayed for our entertainment, we love it, but when it’s a conscious decision on her part to take control of that display, we feel unsettled.
Women wonder why their bodies don’t look like that and feel threatened. They find an outlet for envy in the comments, saying things like ‘Yes, if I had a personal trainer and nothing to do all day, I’d look like that too,’, disregarding the hard work and discipline that goes into a body like that, alongside being a mother. While, yes Lopez does have the resources to look like that, it is a key aspect of her job to be in top physical strength. Her body is part of her career. It must be in perfect condition in order to do the stunts that her routines require of her.
These harmful stereotypes of what a mother should wear or what a woman should look like lead to us taking out our frustrations on non-conformers instead of interrogating the restrictions that these expectations impose on us. Jennifer Lopez can be a mother as well as a performer who uses her body for her art. She can be a serious musician and artist with or without her clothes. Is the statue of David taken any less seriously for his lack of clothing, or is he considered more impressive for the rendering of the contours of his body? The limitation we put on ourselves and others are nothing but imaginary social rules that we have dreamed up to impose some sort of order for ourselves.
Taking down J.Lo in a comment does nothing but show your frustration with these restrictions. Jennifer Lopez is unashamedly embracing her body, her motherhood and her art, a shining example of a woman living on her own terms. And doesn’t she seem happier for it?
Instead of constantly taking each other down for our personal choices, is it not more important to build one another up? It is so important to interrogate why something like J.Lo’s photo makes you feel uncomfortable enough to put her down in the comments. Where is the root of that resentment? Is it because that is a choice we would never make or maybe worry that we aren't as confident as her?
Women need to support one another, no matter how different our lives’ journeys may be. There is enough working to divide us and disempower us. We are not in competition. Michelle Obama’s memoir, ‘Becoming’ eloquently sums up the struggles we as women face in our lives , showing how there is no longer room for women who help accommodate those indignities;
“Women endure entire lifetimes of these indignities—in the form of catcalls, groping, assault, oppression. These things injure us. They sap our strength. Some of the cuts are so small they’re barely visible. Others are huge and gaping, leaving scars that never heal. Either way, they accumulate.” ― Michelle Obama, Becoming.
Because if we as women aren’t here for each other, who will be?