UPDATE: I was inspired to repost this by discussion surrounding the Women’s March on Washington and by what many referred to as vulgar signs and speeches they saw on the media. While I understand that many women find such things empowering, I too question whether it’s necessary to sink to the worst levels of vulgar men in order to assert our claim to equal rights.
I’m not jumping on the let’s-make-fun-of-Miley-Cyrus bandwagon to get page views, y’all. I’ve got three kids around her age. I know her brain isn’t fully formed yet. It’s hard when all your stupid adolescent tricks become tabloid fodder. I wouldn’t be writing this if I didn’t think I had something to contribute to the discussion.
Here’s the thing. What Miley did is NOTHING NEW. She’s selling her body–her sexuality–for money. That’s the world’s oldest profession. What’s more interesting than what she did is the world’s reaction to it.
Everyone, EVERYONE, from religious conservatives to liberal feminists, had something to say about Miley. I didn’t read them all–who could?–but I read a fair sampling. And I won’t post links here, because Google.
Feminists had a hard time. They knew there was something wrong about the display, but it was hard for some to articulate because slut-shaming is the latest verboten activity. The best many could do was try to spread the blame and ask why there was no indignation about the cooperation of the object of her twerkiness, or to attempt to focus on the racial implications of Miley’s routine instead of the sexual ones.
The fact is that Miley’s performance showcased one of the biggest failures of feminism.
No one is outraged by Mr. Thicke’s performance because men have been objectifying women since the dawn of time, and they are going to go right on doing it. Feminism has in fact made this easier for them by making women willing and enthusiastic conspirators in their own objectification.
Miley appears to have fallen hook, line, and sinker for the idea that a great way for women to be equal to men is to compete with them sexually. There has always been a double standard, but instead of trying to raise the consciousness and the moral behavior of men, feminists apparently embraced the “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” philosophy. If men can have consequence-free loveless hook-ups, than women can too, and biology be damned. And if women “are in control of their own bodies,” it follows that feminists have had to embrace the right of women to engage in the sex trade, to appear in pornographic movies and magazines, to sell their eggs, and to rent out their wombs. It is hard for me to see how any of this represents an actual improvement for women.
So Miley has grown up watching entertainers like Madonna very consciously using sex to sell music. Madonna and others like her call this embracing their sexuality but in reality they are partners in their own objectification, willingly reducing themselves to even less than the sum of their parts. Y’all, it’s really no different than the old-fashioned “sleeping your way to the top” routine. The only gain women have made in this area–if you can call it a gain–is that we can do it publicly and proudly now.
Madonna and Lady Gaga are not only older than Miley, but much better at this than she is. Moreover, even though they were all sweet and innocent little girls once too, we did not know them then. We did not have to watch them discard their innocence for money in a public way. That ship had sailed by the time we became fans. We did not have to acknowledge our part in it all.
And that was the difficulty for many pundits yesterday. Miley’s awkward, hypersexual routine stirred feelings of suppressed discomfort at the unexpected rotten fruits of the feminist sexual revolution.