Superbrawl: Why are Women Performers Constantly Pitted Against Each Other?

As is now common in modern sport, the comments rocking their way around the internet about last night’s Super Bowl were less about the players’ performances and more about the big names. Thankfully, however, we weren’t having to worry about what was coming out of John Terry’s nasty little cakehole, or which footballer’s wife was getting their bottom remolded this week. Last night’s action was taking place across the pond, and Twitter was going nuts over Madonna. 

Yes, the original material girl, who at 53 is older than the Super Bowl itself, pulled it out of the bag once again. “Madonna won Super Bowl” proclaimed one euphoric Tweeter as her performance drew to a close. Clothed in Givenchy couture, she looked both theatrically and physically strong, a warrior queen in black and burnished gold, her headdress invoking ancient Egyptian feminine power. Her glassy eyes pierced the crowd, inviting criticism from anyone who dared. And dare they didn’t, for the most part.

What irks, though, is how many of the comments on my Facebook and Twitter pitted her in competition with other successful female performers. “Step aside Lady Gaga, the high priestess of pop is back”, proclaimed one Twitter user. Why are we always insisting upon one reigning champion when it comes to talented women? Even the guys in helmets running full pelt into each other on the pitch weren’t subject to such a stark league table of talent.

Of course, the comparison between those two female performers is nothing new: they are both women who subvert the idea of the slut for their own empowerment when on stage. But why can’t we have them both, and be content? Why must be choose sides? We are stuck in the Team Aniston v Team Jolie cycle of winner and loser.

As if to cement the less than genial accord between the women performers on the night, the shock event this year (or this year’s version of Janet Jackson’s timely nipple exposure) was fellow half time singer M.I.A mouthing an expletive at Madonna during her performance, and then flipping her the bird. The mutual accord between powerful women has broken down, to be replaced by a masculine angst that overpowered the men running about beneath them.

Feminism is no longer simply about matching men, it is about women carving their own narratives from the tired rock face of patriarchal society. We need to stop competing with each other on such a personal level. Madonna’s talent, ego and individuality may have been enough to fill the Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis last night ten times over, but there will always be room for Gaga as well. Just so long as they don’t accidentally wear the same ancient warrior headdress to an event. That would be awkward.