Why #JanetJacksonAppreciationDay was food to my Black woman soul
Regardless of how strong the world thinks we are, Black women need and deserve to be affirmed as much as anyone else.
by Tynesha McCullers
This past Super Bowl Sunday was one of joy for me, and the NFL had nothing to do with it. Nor did the underdog Philadelphia Eagles beating out the New England Patriots. Nope. This Sunday I got to see something that I believe isn’t done often enough — a Black woman being celebrated, defended, and redeemed.
If you weren’t on Twitter this past Sunday, you missed a glorious day of praise and flower-giving to the one and only Janet Jackson. This amplifying and celebration of a legend was an effort created to boycott the Super Bowl Halftime Show starring Justin Timberlake, more significantly to show support for Janet Jackson in the midst of this performance.
Fourteen years ago, she experienced a “wardrobe malfunction” while headlining the Super Bowl Halftime Show with Justin Timberlake as a guest. As their performance came to a close, Timberlake grabbed onto her shirt and snatched part of her clothing from body. In doing so, he exposed her breast on live television. The two had been performing “Rock Your Body” and the shirt rip coincided with Timberlake last refrain of the lyrics “gonna have you naked by the end of this song.”
At the time, most viewers and witnesses wondered whether or not the “malfunction” was a publicity stunt, but it seems to me that the horror apparent on Jackson’s face said it all. Since then, there has been much speculation about whether or not Jackson was banned from attending or performing at future Super Bowls after 2004. The NFL only recently officially denied that they ever banned her.
Nevertheless, what has always been disconcerting is Timberlake’s level of complacency and lack of support to Jackson, who has faced over a decade of scrutiny for what happened during that now-infamous moment that changed television forever. He remained mostly silent while Jackson was vilified in the public eye, but did offer an apology for his part.
Regardless of whether you believe it was orchestrated by one or both of the singers (and there has been much speculation), the reality is that Timberlake’s career skyrocketed after the incident, while Jackson was subjected to unchecked misogynoir.
When it was announced that Timberlake would be headlining the Super Bowl Halftime Show back in October, people were understandably frustrated. There came calls for the entertainer to provide Jackson with what they believed was a long-overdue apology and suggested that he invite her to share the stage during his performance. From there grew the decision to organize a boycott of sorts during the Halftime Show in a show of support using the hashtag #JanetJacksonAppreciationDay.
It became a day-long celebration of Jackson’s music, career, and life. Across Twitter and other social media platforms, people shared song lyrics, music videos, photos, and performances of the legend alongside anecdotes and positive affirmations. There were thousands of tweets and threads celebrating Jackson and the hashtag ultimately became the #1 trending topic during the Super Bowl and Halftime Show.
I joined in with my own declarations, questions, and responses. I spent almost an hour reading through the appreciative tweets and listening to my favorite Janet Jackson tracks. After a while, I felt the urge to cry. So much joy was in my heart as I witnessed this celebration and affirmation of a Black woman and historical icon. It was in this moment that I realized that I needed this day more than I ever considered, as I’m sure many Black women did. I needed this day because nothing is better for my mental and emotional health as a Black woman than seeing us win.
The memory of watching that Half Time show back in 2004 has stayed with me. My recollection of that moment, along with all of the scrutiny Jackson has endured since, was absolutely with me on Sunday. It initially left me feeling jaded, especially after having watched a white man’s career be catapulted from this moment. It made me angry. I felt a pain that I’m sure Jackson has also felt. This feeling is was all too familiar to Black women.
#JanetJacksonAppreciationDay showed me that are scores of people who love this Black woman and want her to win just as much as I do. Reading their testimonials about how great Janet Jackson was/is to them and how much of a difference she has made in their lives with her music and artistry gave me therapy like no other.
Rarely do Black women receive praise in this way, especially after a decade of harsh scrutiny, criticism, and demonization. Rarely are Black women thanked at all for what we do and give to the world. Even so, we are expected to keep doing and giving without complaint, without rest, and without credit. It makes a world of difference to be shown that we are seen, heard, and loved. Regardless of how strong the world thinks we are, Black women need and deserve to be affirmed as much as anyone else.
I’m so glad that we were able to give her #JanetJacksonAppreciationDay, but I know that she deserves so much more.
Tynesha is a strong-willed higher education professional in the DMV with a passion for social justice. Born and raised in North Carolina, Tynesha is true to southern roots. Tynesha has a B.S. in Human Development and a Master of Education. Tynesha’s interests include watching documentaries, listening to podcasts, singing, painting, traveling, and writing.