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Janet Jackson / Super Bowl / Justin Timberlake

Justin Timberlake is Headlining the Super Bowl While Janet Jackson is Still Banned

What is more American than football? Shaming Janet Jackson & hiring Justin Timberlake for round two.

Another week, another shitty, entitled white dude in the music industry enjoying success after violating a Black woman. Page Six confirmed last week that Justin “Ramen-Haired Culture Vulture” Timberlake will be headlining Super Bowl LII in February 2018 — it’s his first appearance at the show since his performance in 2004. What happened the last time he performed? Let’s recap.

Queen of R&B Janet Jackson headlined Super Bowl XXXVIII on February 1, 2004, performing alongside Nelly, P. Diddy, and Kid Rock. Timberlake joined Jackson to perform a duet of his song “Rock Your Body” — in an incident infamously now known as “Nipplegate”, Timberlake ripped off a piece of Jackson’s costume, exposing her breast to the world for a half second.

Cue America collectively losing its puritanical, racist, misogynist shit.

Michael Powell, FCC Chairman at the time, called it a “classless, crass, and deplorable stunt” that was a “new low” from prime time television. Timberlake also issued a brief apology, and subsequently distanced himself from Jackson. Years later, these dumbasses went on to publicly regret how they handled the controversy: Powell called the public’s reaction “unfair,” pointing out how it was Timberlake who ripped off her costume, and Timberlake noted that he got “maybe 10 percent of the blame” and that America was especially harsh on non-white women.

There aren’t enough eye rolls in the world for this shit, folks.

Of course, Jackson alone shouldered the entirety of the blame and consequences for the “wardrobe malfunction.” Confirmed as recently as 2014, she was also barred by the NFL from any future performances at the Super Bowl. Her songs and music videos were blacklisted from all Viacom properties including MTV, and her invitation to perform in honor of Luther Vandross at the Grammys the following week was rescinded.


CBS forced Jackson to issue a public apology the following day, where she claimed her breast being exposed was “her decision.” She also notes that the corporate entities involved were unaware of the “planned” stunt prior to the performance. Jackson’s representatives explained that Timberlake was supposed to tear her bustier off to reveal her red lace bra underneath but accidentally removed the bra too. Regardless of what exactly had been planned, Timberlake should have been accountable and owned his mistake instead of leaving Jackson to bear the consequences of a “wardrobe malfunction.”

If there’s anything that Amerikkka loves more than a bunch of men fighting over a ball made from animal skin, it’s caping for mediocre white men and shaming women and femmes for their sexuality. Timberlake went on to win and accept two Grammys at the very ceremony that Jackson was disinvited from, noting in an interview that going to the show was his way of showing the controversy was something he wouldn’t let “affect him.”

Sounds about Cis White Male Privilege!

It’s hard to imagine that a white woman celebrity would have faced such intense slut-shaming like Jackson did, especially considering Black girls are perceived to be “more mature” than white girls. Despite this having happened in 2004, not much has progressed in breaking down the harmful, over-sexualized stereotypes perpetuated against Black women and femmes and their sexuality. Jackson should not have faced such intense backlash and vitriol for something that Timberlake did to her — especially over her breast being exposed, because, really? It’s a titty, get over it — where was Becky with her #FreeTheNipple campaign when you needed her?


The FCC received over 540,000 complaints from Americans catching a half-second glimpse of Jackson’s nipple. Although it ended up being voided by the Supreme Court in 2011 and again in 2012, the complaints resulted in the FCC issuing a $550,000 fine against Jackson and CBS. Just imagine the kind of change these people could have affected if they were this passionate about issues like income inequality, police violence, or climate change.

13 years later, and America has barely changed. In a world where the White House is run by white supremacists and admitted sexual predators, Justin Timberlake headlining the Super Bowl—while, as of 2014, Janet Jackson is still entirely banned—doesn’t come as a surprise. It’s clear that white privilege and stale patriarchal traditions are still very much alive, and is further proof that America has never been a place where Black and Brown women and femmes can thrive in safety or comfort.





Roslyn Talusan is a Toronto-based culture writer and anti-rape activist. Represented by The Bent Agency, she’s working on a memoir documenting her experience with workplace sexual violence. Her writing critiques media to dismantle societal beliefs that uphold rape culture. Dig into more of her work at her website or follow her on Twitter.

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