Unlike most pop culture things I talk about here, I actually lived through this. I was even the right age for it. I had followed Justin Timberlake’s career from his *Nsync days to his first album. Even the most successful Jackson siblings – Michael and Janet – had successful albums in the early 2000s, despite being a shadow of their incredible success in previous decades.
And then the younger, spunkier Jackson sibling got paired with the hot, young boyband member going solo (think Harry Styles, but with curly hair) for a widely broadcast half-time of an American sport and suddenly The Whole World had to know about it.
About one ill-fated nipple.
And the female popstar who possesses that nipple till this day has had her career forsaken too. But, the male hot, young popstar who did the actual ripping of the piece of clothing that exposed the nipple To The World only saw his profile rise and rise ever since. He even contributed to the Oxford dictionary, by terming This Case of The Exposed Nipple, “Wardrobe Malfunction”.
But, I’m not going to cry “double standards.” I’m not going to shame Justin Timberlake on his success following The Happening of The Nipple.
I only sigh at the loss of over a decade of great pop contribution by one of the greatest pop artists (male/female) ever. All because of One Stupid Nipple.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m sure it must be a great nipple. I’m not much of a judge of human bodies, but Janet Jackson has always looked flawless. She’s always been one of the best and most influential modern dancers, and her sharp yet graceful movements not only enhance, but perhaps supersede her anatomy.
There’s just too much talent in the rest of her body (especially her vocal cords) to be held back from getting what she deserves for her artistry for One Nipple.
It’s only a nipple. Nearly everybody in the world has got at least two. Just because most cultures don’t think there’s anything wrong with a man exposing his chest (as in, he isn’t likely to be sexually objectified for it if he does, and there is nothing wrong with it if he is objectified) doesn’t mean men’s nipples can’t be objectified. You don’t even have to look at gay erotic art for examples. Any man showing his six/eight/I’m-guessing-multiples-of-two pack on a visual medium is eroticising every inch of it. If Janet Jackson had ripped off Justin Timberlake’s top, everybody would have rejoiced. Right from the ancient Greeks, there’s always been something exciting about the male anatomy. The female anatomy has never nearly been as interesting. It’s only been suggestive.
Madonna, Beyonce, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga can all get up on that same stage as Janet Jackson, wearing translucent or fitted clothes. They can show their legs, their midriff, their back, their buttocks. Most of all, they can show their cleavage – the hollow created when you press two breasts together under extremely pressurizing clothing – and that is Absolutely Fine. That’s what you paid for. But, release that pressure, do away with any textile whatsoever, and you’ve done something massively offensive To The World. You have let The World know your breasts aren’t all smooth skin. Like Barbie’s. You have these mechanisms that actually have a function, which is to keep your progeny alive when they are at their most fragile. Unforgivable.
Janet Jackson even managed to give birth at age 50 last year. Her nipple may actually have aided her in what I’m guessing must be one of the most joyous experiences of her life. Now, I feel a bit unclean at invading her privacy like this. But, The World has had a lot to say about it over the years, and after all this time, having lived through it, I just want to have my say.
Which is not #FreeTheNipple
These conversations have resurfaced in recent months because Justin Timberlake has performed at the Super Bowl this year, the first time since the early 2000s. And, apparently, it wasn’t a good show. Some have even suggested Janet Jackson should be allowed to perform again, to show she’s the better artist. And my two cents on the subject is, Janet Jackson has nothing to prove to anybody. Most cultures are rough on their celebrities, for daring to be celebrities, when a celebrity wouldn’t be one if a mass of people didn’t put them on a pedestal. It is the misfortune of the Jackson family as a whole to be under impossible scrutiny which they are nowhere near savvy enough to handle. Talent they have plenty, but none when it comes to handling infamy.
I wonder, what would Madonna have done in Janet’s place? Or Cher? Well, Madonna had already done it, more than a decade ago, and people wouldn’t be shocked at all. It would be just Madonna being Madonna. With Cher, people would have thought it’s only a costume. If Nicki Minaj did it now, it would be owning her female form. That Janet Jackson felt shame, that she felt she had offended the world with her nipple even though she wasn’t the one who exposed it and apologised for it immediately meant the world could sit in judgement at her crime.
It’s not really about Janet Jackson’s Nipple after all, or nipples as a concept. It’s about a person feeling shame at being exposed without her willingness. If anyone should be feeling offended, it’s Janet Jackson. Wouldn’t you be mortified if someone violated your person? That they pulled at your clothing, exposing a part of you you’re not interested in showing? It was by all means, an accident. And should have been left at that, and not as Janet Jackson Going Too Far, when she clearly was not.
Like another recent pop classic, Let It Go.