The totally understated pro-life message in the 2023 Super Bowl

Angelica Vecchiato:  

The 2023 Super Bowl– a close game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Philadelphia Eagles– went down in history for several reasons: the Kelce brothers clashing against one another other on opposite ends of the field, star player Mahomes’ strained ankle, and Justina Miles, the first female “deaf performer,” signing the “Black national anthem” in ASL.

This year’s game wasn’t all football talk and political statements, however, with an off-the-cuff but well-received, human-interest story emerged during the halftime show.

My inner, classically minded feminist usually cringes at any mention of the halftime show because it increasingly has become a time where scantly-dressed women strut on stage and twerk. I guess that sells with a mostly male audience. The 2020 Super Bowl for instance, which featured Jennifer Lopez’s stripper pole routine and Shakira’s suggestive belly dance, is the most-watched halftime show on YouTube, with over 220 million views. Point in case.

This year, however, the halftime show was different. A breath a fresh air if you will.

Barbadian pop-star icon Rihanna, (fully) clothed in red garments, sang some of her most popular hits on the field. Rihanna was performing with a shapely belly bump that revealed, very unexpectedly, that she was pregnant. In what some are now calling the “greatest pregnancy reveal yet,” the halftime show triggered online conversations and commentary. In most media coverage of the story, however, the pro-life angle has been simply glossed over.

Rihanna’s performance was clothed in a “pro-life nonchalance.” It is an unacknowledged acknowledgement of the humanity of preborn children in the face of a rabid culture of death.

Well before the Super Bowl evening, Rihanna hinted that she would be bringing a special guest. CBS Mornings co-host Nate Burleson asked Rihanna in a pre-game interview if there would be “any surprises.” The singer replied that she was “thinking about bringing someone,” a statement which in hindsight referenced her unborn child.

This simple exchange speaks volumes. How many times has it been said that the preborn child is just a “clump of cells” or mere “tissue”? In calling her child a “someone,” Rihanna’s almost blasé reply, conceded that children in the womb are indeed human beings, a modest rehumanizing campaign for preborn children in one of the most-watched television spectacles in U.S. history.

Rihanna’s performance and attitude addresses a commonly peddled narrative that consistently besets the minds of 21st century women. Women are consistently told that they can’t have a successful career and be mothers at the same time. After the decision forecasting the potential overturn of Roe v. Wade was leaked in May 2022, several large American corporations committed to providing “reproductive care” for their employees. Companies like Starbucks, Tesla, Microsoft, Amazon, and Netflix said that they would cover the travel expenses for women travelling out-of-state to obtain an abortion. This is a toxic cultural message that essentially forces women to choose between being a mother and having a career, through there is a strong emphasis on choosing employment over motherhood.

This idea cloaks a whole slew of other micro arguments and premises. Why can’t women be mothers and have a career? I don’t like how this supposed “choice” is painted in such a binary: either you can be super successful, but you can’t have family, or you invest in a family, but you never realize personal ambition, thus becoming sour and full of regrets.

This is a logical fallacy, known as the “either-or” fallacy. Essentially, this reasoning presents two options, when in reality, there are choices to-be-made outside what is advertised. The “either-or” argument holds that children are too untenable, that is, their existence slows down the progress of a successful career. Ergo, you can’t have both goods. However, does this rational actually hold true?

Rihanna and her boyfriend A$AP Rocky welcomed a child into the world in May 2022 and with another on the way now, Rihanna still performed at the Super Bowl. She isn’t the only one to embrace a family with a demanding career—many more notable examples exist.

Humans are complex beings whose diverse needs—social, intellectual, emotional and spiritual—all must be fulfilled. With a career-oriented focus, you deny the human need for sociality, the importance of spending time with others, making for a lonesome existence. Friends, children, and spouses add an undeniable spice to life, an authentic conviviality that you just can’t get in a four-by-three cubicle. With an exclusively family oriented focus, you might pass up on opportunities—career or other passion projects—that might enrich your life. A healthy balance must be struck. This is the understated genius in Rihanna’s performance, a normalization of both family and career and the blending thereof.

Sure, it won’t be easy, but it’ll be worth it. The conventional wisdom rings true after all: the hardest things in life are the things worth fighting for.