On Monday, Twitter blasted Rivera’s dance and her sheer, fringed bodysuit. “She’s almost naked,” read one tweet, translated from Spanish. “The dress was horrible and she looks really bad. She is talented, beautiful, but why does she have to dress like a prostitute?” read another tweet, according to People.
I watched the Despacito video again. By the way the dancer Zuleyka Rivera is gorgeous but really can’t dance.
— Pouchon (@pouchon23) January 29, 2018
— Lexie Lopez-Mayo (@lexlomay) January 29, 2018
You do realize our country is the worst with objectifying women and yes it’s LATIN American culture it’s not ours so we’re gonna see it as negative. She has a right to her opinion just as much as you have the right for yours
— Amanda Sinatra (@Amanda_Sinatra) January 29, 2018
Y’all FAKE AF! One day your talking about Empowering women and the next one you want to compare or do a competition on who of @Zuleyka_Rivera or @MimiPabon Dance better?????? They both won… I’m not going to put down anyone!
— Felix Rafael (@BriefingFelix) January 26, 2018
So lemme get this straight, y'all won't be content until women are dancing to sexy Latin music with no hip gyration while wearing burlap sacks? #pickyourbattles #itwasfun #Despacito @Zuleyka_Rivera #slay
— Molly Densmore (@DollyMensmore) January 31, 2018
The former Miss Universe defended herself on Instagram Monday night, insisting that her dance was more political than performance-oriented. “Joy and satisfaction, that’s how I describe my feelings in this instant,” she captioned a photo of herself and “Despacito” singers Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee.
She continued, “Last night was another memorable moment in my life where the eyes of the world were focused on Puerto Rico. An island that has suffered like never before this past year but keeps bringing talent and joy to the rest of the https://www.instagram.com/p/BeiKJVFhb7h/?taken-by=zuleykariveraworld through art. Last night was a historic night when Latin music paved the way. My seconds on the stage were a dream come true, a dream for which I appreciate the Recording Academy for their invitation and for giving the awards this touch of sensuality. Wardrobe? Performance? Award Shows? Trophies? For me, nothing is more important than the genuine satisfaction that we as boricuas [Puerto Ricans] made history again. It’s time to unite and keep succeeding together as Latinos.”
The mother of one couldn’t resist adding, “The day that all of those who gave negative criticism step on a Grammy stage is the day when their opinions will count. Until then, stay looking pretty sitting on the other side of the television screen.”
The backlash directed toward Rivera contrasted with much of the rest of the evening, which at times was a celebration of female empowerment, with celebrities wearing white roses in support of the #MeToo movement and Kesha turning in an emotional performance of “Praying” alongside Cyndi Lauper and Camila Cabello, following Janelle Monáe’s powerful introduction to the song.
“The reaction to this dancer is an example of how much burden we place on women to behave differently and better than men,” Margaret L. Signorella, a professor of psychology and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies at Pennsylvania State University, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “We’re still implicitly assuming that women are responsible for ensuring men don’t get out of control with their sexual emotions.”
And the fact that Rivera is Latina can’t be ignored; research shows that women of color are hypersexualized in the media, while also being subjected to a social construct that “whitewashes” their ethnic heritage. As a result of this objectification, says Signorella, “there’s more responsibility placed on them to downplay their bodies.”
In light of claims that the #MeToo movement has largely excluded women of color, backlash toward Rivera — on a night that in other ways celebrated feminism and equality for women — isn’t surprising. Actress Blanca Blanco was also shamed when she bucked the all-black dress code in honor of #MeToo and wore a revealing red gown at the Golden Globes.
“I love red,” Blanco told Fox News. “Wearing red does not mean I am against the movement. I applaud and stand by the courageous actresses that continue to break the cycle of abuse through their actions and fashion style choices. It is one of many factors leading women to a safer place because of their status. I am excited about the Time’s Up movement; true change is long overdue.”
Ultimately, says Signorella, women can look sexy and fight sexism.
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