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.
Linking up with Reconciled to You and Theology Is a Verb for their weekly re-run feature. Click below to read more!
I agree with you here this is nothing new. And I thought you made an excellent point about how nobody is talking about Thicke! Exactly. I also enjoyed reading this coming from the perspective of someone who is now raising teenagers. You make lots of great points here but your tone isn’t judgmental.
The performance rubbed me the wrong way (on many fronts) but probably mostly because it seemed like she was trying so hard to shock and just rub people the wrong way. I just feel like–so many things happening globally and she’s wasting her time being self absorbed and making a bunch of money doing it. Wish she would use her celebrity power and spend some time in service to others…
You’re a very good writer, Leslie.
Thank you, Caroline. Honestly, I don’t judge Miley. I feel sorry for her. And think people are hypocritical to pick on her for what is so widespread. Maybe because we don’t want to admit that when it’s well done and the women are older, we enjoy it! I don’t know what is going through that child’s (and she IS a child) head right now, but it can’t be good. I wish for her what I wish for my own “big kids”–that she makes it through these difficult years alive and without suffering permanent consequences for the bad choices that most kids do make!
I don’t think the outrage here had anything to do with the feminist movement. For me, it was about a young adult performer’s lack of class and poor taste. I was embarrased for a young woman who feels she has to flaunt it in that way to get attention. And it’s sad that she believes that the kind of attention she’s getting as a result – is positive. I’d feel the exact same discomfort if a guy danced that way, especially if the young man was someone I had watched grow up – like Donny Osmond, or whomever. This smacked of desperation. There’s a place for sex symbols who use performance art to display sexuality in a classier, more subtle way. Marilyn comes to mind. And in all honesty, I think Madonna (even in her younger days) is sexual in a classier, more intelligent way than the performance I watched the other night. The fact that MTV and/or the networks beep/delete curse words, but allow that stuff to be aired, knowing that young kids are watching, is the real outrage here.
Thanks for stopping by and for commenting. I don’t disagree at all with most of what you say. I definitely agree one can be both sexy and ladylike–Miley might ask her godmother, Dolly Parton, about that! But remember that it wouldn’t be on t.v. if people weren’t watching.
I personally feel Miley is a victim to the ‘any news is good news’ PR concept. She is trying to see her brand any which way it works. I don’t know why people are so shocked about seeing that it there everywhere. It is perhaps her age that is rubbing people the wrong way. Miley is desperate to enter the adult world and that is evident through her actions. While the world is quick to come down hard on her, the man in the equation seems to have quitely exited the scene. Just as always, the woman remain the victim. At moments like these I really question the ‘strides’ toward that women have taken in the world.
Yes, I think that you are right about Miley–she craves attention, any attention, and by that standard her performance was successful. I hope for her sake that she finds her place and that this stage does not last long. Her dad said some really sweet things yesterday, so at least she does have a caring family behind her.
You’ve made some really good points and I’ve thought the same thing myself about how women having equal access to degrade ourselves isn’t a leap forward.
Great way to put it, Maggie. I think a step forward for everyone would be to raise men who would not want to degrade themselves. Freedom to do all the BAD things that men do seems like a misuse of feminism to me.
I have been hearing a great deal about Mr. Thicke too. It’s not just Miley that has garnered some gander. Many people wonder how he got spots on Ellen? and gets any air time at all with those lyrics. I didn’t see the show… no TV but it’s hard to ignore her. Thankfully my kids have no use for her since she left the HM show and they really didn’t have much to do with her then either (16 and 12 year old girls)… that is the way it will remain.
My 8-year-old loves her, but she won’t be seeing this. I don’t watch t.v. but with all the buzz couldn’t resist checking it out on the computer the next day. Yes, the lyrics are a good point–many parents seem to ignore just how graphic and disgusting today’s songs can be. I remember being SO embarrassed by the lyrics of “Like a Virgin” as a teenager and that’s so tame!