In her cover interview for the new issue of Complex, Jennifer Lopez takes a stand against those who’ve criticized her overtly sexual “Booty” video, pointedly asking, “I’m not allowed to be sexy because I’m a mom?”
Laughing, she adds, “How do you think I got my children?”
Right, though? Still, despite appreciating Lopez’s logic here, my own experience with motherhood has led to a lot of introspection on this subject lately.
With each passing day, I notice the subtle ways my young daughter is beginning to be influenced more by the media and by societal standards of beauty. And I’m not sure I want my daughter’s version of “sexy” to be the version set forth by Jennifer Lopez and Iggy Azalea in “Booty.”
Here is a woman older than I am essentially putting out the message that desirability is linked to sexuality. Plus, the juxtaposition of the two women at such different ages — JLo at 45 and Azalea at 24 — shaking their bare, slick asses on each other raises the question: When can we stop trying so hard? At what point do we accept that we can be sexy without putting on a big production for men?
Surely, at some point, this sort of behavior simply becomes inappropriate. Lopez hints that, yes, there will probably come a time when she feels she has crossed some imaginary threshold of sexiness.
“The truth is, I don’t want to do anything that they would be embarrassed of in the long run,” she told Complex of her kids. “But at the end of the day, they care more about me being there, taking care of them, than if I’m sexy in a video. And I’m not saying that one day they may not be like, ‘Mom! Why did you do that?'”
She won’t, she says, be making videos like this forever. “I don’t think that in 10 years I’m going to be doing that either,” she said. “Again, it’s about what feels good to me in this moment. It felt right.”
There’s something to be said for Lopez’s brand of confidence, too.
I want my daughter to be secure in who she is. I want her to be proud of her body. After all, Lopez works hard through exercise and eating right to maintain her physique. As she points out, “It’s a good message for women. I’m standing next to this girl who is 24 years old, and I’m in my 40s, and there’s no difference. Women need to see that and feel that.”
It has to be positive for young girls to see their moms set examples of living a healthy lifestyle.
Alternately, in my life, I struggle with insecurity. I sometimes change my outfit 20 times before leaving the house, all the while muttering under my breath that nothing looks good on me. I talk about the things I need to change about my body — the things I need to make better.
So which is more damaging to our daughters: having mothers who are confident — but whose confidence manifests in overt sexuality at times — or having mothers who lack confidence and, as such, are prone to self-criticism?
And is it naive to think that we can strike a better balance between the two?
As The Middle‘s Eden Sher recently pointed out, Amy Poehler and Tina Fey — 43 and 44, respectively — are doing a pretty good job of setting a positive example for young girls that isn’t predicated on their sexuality in any way.
Even Lopez confesses that she worries how the things her daughter sees in the media will affect what she wants to do or how she will feel about herself. But while JLo hopes to teach her daughter by example that you have to love yourself for who you are, she does allow room for “enhancements” like working out, “or if somebody wants to get a nose job.”
Which brings me back to the heart of the issue: In allowing for those kinds of concessions and in putting out videos like “Booty” — and even in being insecure — aren’t we telling our daughters that we’re just not enough?