Before Alabama topped Clemson to win the 2016 College Football national championship, recording artist Ciara took the stage to sing the national anthem. Her boyfriend, Seattle Seahawks star Russell Wilson, approved.
Her dress caused quite a reaction on the Internet from critics who chose to shame her for her wardrobe choices, as opposed to, say, the quality of her singing.
Veteran sports journalist Bonnie Bernstein complimented Ciara before telling her how to dress.
Fox Sports’ Jason Whitlock echoed those sentiments.
Why are these critiques problematic? For multiple reasons.
The main one being that women should be allowed to wear whatever they want, wherever they want, without facing the scorn of someone who has arbitrarily decided that their own beauty norms must be imposed on others in public spaces. We saw the fallout from this in Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show “controversy,” an event that basically changed broadcasting standards forever, all over a quasi-exposed breast.
Secondly, even if you are going to entertain the so-called notion of modesty, the dress Ciara wore was not any more revealing than anything we see cheerleaders, dance team members and attending fans in the crowd wear to any other game on any other day.
The patriarchally condescending approach that many take toward women in performance, play and public spaces is one that helps no one. The “cover up” argument is akin to telling women that they shouldn’t be allowed to breastfeed in public. Of course, we’re talking about the same woman who has been accused of lying and withstood constant mocking after saying the she and her boyfriend practice abstinence, as they are not yet married. Apparently, she can’t win on either side.
Luckily, the irony of complaining about a singer’s clothing while watching student-athletes engage in potentially brain-injuring collisions (while being cheered on by scantily clad cheerleaders) wasn’t lost on viewers.
Ciara did not formally respond to either journalist, but did tweet out a pretty incredible photo during the game.
For what it’s worth, before the game, the Texas-born singer rehearsed on the field wearing a Seattle Seahawks jersey with her boyfriend’s number on it. Now who could find an issue with that?