Clouds and sun
36°
Clouds and sun
Hi 55° | Lo 38°

My Turn: The Wrong Conversation About Miley Cyrus

  • Miley Cyrus performs on NBC's "Today" show on Monday, Oct. 7, 2013 in New York. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

    Miley Cyrus performs on NBC's "Today" show on Monday, Oct. 7, 2013 in New York. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

  • FILE - In this Aug. 25, 2013 file photo, Robin Thicke and Miley Cyrus perform at the MTV Video Music Awards at the Barclays Center in the Brooklyn borough of New York. Cyrus has been making noise for months now: It started with her edgy “We Can’t Stop” party-style music video, but she hit new heights with her eye-popping MTV Video Music Awards performance. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP, File)

    FILE - In this Aug. 25, 2013 file photo, Robin Thicke and Miley Cyrus perform at the MTV Video Music Awards at the Barclays Center in the Brooklyn borough of New York. Cyrus has been making noise for months now: It started with her edgy “We Can’t Stop” party-style music video, but she hit new heights with her eye-popping MTV Video Music Awards performance. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP, File)

  • FILE - In this Aug. 25, 2013 file photo, Robin Thicke and Miley Cyrus perform at the MTV Video Music Awards at the Barclays Center in the Brooklyn borough of New York. Cyrus has been making noise for months now: It started with her edgy “We Can’t Stop” party-style music video, but she hit new heights with her eye-popping MTV Video Music Awards performance. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP, File)

    FILE - In this Aug. 25, 2013 file photo, Robin Thicke and Miley Cyrus perform at the MTV Video Music Awards at the Barclays Center in the Brooklyn borough of New York. Cyrus has been making noise for months now: It started with her edgy “We Can’t Stop” party-style music video, but she hit new heights with her eye-popping MTV Video Music Awards performance. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP, File)

  • Tracy Hahn-Burkett mug shot for column. Shot on Thursday afternoon, November 3, 2011.<br/><br/>(John Tully/ Monitor Staff)

    Tracy Hahn-Burkett mug shot for column. Shot on Thursday afternoon, November 3, 2011.

    (John Tully/ Monitor Staff)

  • Miley Cyrus performs on NBC's "Today" show on Monday, Oct. 7, 2013 in New York. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)
  • FILE - In this Aug. 25, 2013 file photo, Robin Thicke and Miley Cyrus perform at the MTV Video Music Awards at the Barclays Center in the Brooklyn borough of New York. Cyrus has been making noise for months now: It started with her edgy “We Can’t Stop” party-style music video, but she hit new heights with her eye-popping MTV Video Music Awards performance. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP, File)
  • FILE - In this Aug. 25, 2013 file photo, Robin Thicke and Miley Cyrus perform at the MTV Video Music Awards at the Barclays Center in the Brooklyn borough of New York. Cyrus has been making noise for months now: It started with her edgy “We Can’t Stop” party-style music video, but she hit new heights with her eye-popping MTV Video Music Awards performance. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP, File)
  • Tracy Hahn-Burkett mug shot for column. Shot on Thursday afternoon, November 3, 2011.<br/><br/>(John Tully/ Monitor Staff)

ore than a month has passed since Miley Cyrus gave her teddy-bear, barely-clad performance at the MTV Video Music Awards, but the controversy is still going strong. In a debate that must thrill Cyrus’s publicist, celebrities are taking to the airwaves and writing open letters, and social media outlets are peppered with opinions on the question of whether Hannah Montana has let down both her young fans and the feminist cause by acting inappropriately sexual on stage and in her videos.

Here’s the problem with this conversation: While many of the participants have a point, aiming the spotlight solely on Cyrus exhibits a double standard that still prevails in pop music and elsewhere in our culture. To the extent Cyrus’s twerking, foam-finger-pointing, tongue-swirling behavior is all we’re talking about following the VMAs, we’ve placed too much responsibility on a single 20-year-old woman and neglected to shoulder the portion that is rightfully ours.

On the one hand: Yes, Cyrus is perpetuating sexism in the music industry and the culture at large by allowing herself to be treated as an in-your-face sexual object. Whether she likes it or not, she’s a public figure, a role model for girls who knew her as Hannah Montana. She’s sending a message to these girls, many of whom are now women, about how they should present themselves to the world. Even if she’s the one controlling the message here, that message seems to be that if you want men to notice you, you have to get naked and raunchy. As the mother of a young daughter – and a tween son – I find that message terrifying and appalling.

But . . .

Miley Cyrus is not Hannah Montana. She is, however, one woman in a sweeping, influential industry within a greater culture that often values women and girls’ appearances over their accomplishments, that still shoots to the top of the charts songs containing lyrics that demean women. To nurture Cyrus in that culture from birth, to make her a child star and then foist all the responsibility of sexism in the music industry and in our culture on her shoulders because we don’t like how Hannah Montana is growing up is grossly unfair.

You can be sexy, Miley, but only in a “good-girl” way. Don’t actually show us anything, don’t explore all the facets of who you are, because then we’ll condemn you for showing us an aspect of femininity that makes us uncomfortable – namely, sexuality.

What kind of message for our daughters is that? What does it say to our sons?

And speaking of our sons . . .

Cyrus didn’t appear onstage at the VMAs alone. She sang and twerked with a man, Robin Thicke, and they performed a medley that included a hit song he co-wrote, “Blurred Lines.” The lyrics of this song refer to the object of the singer’s desire as a bitch, state that the man knows the woman “wants it” (because of course men know a woman’s mind, regardless of what the woman says), but she’s only holding back because she’s a “good girl” (because only “bad girls” want sex). The lyrics treat the woman in the song as an animal to be tamed for a man’s pleasure, yet that song has rocketed to top-hit status. It’s on the radio all the time. I know, because it keeps coming on when my kids are around and despite the fact that I like the music, I keep turning it off as I explain to my kids that the lyrics are disrespectful to women.

Have you heard the outcry about Robin Thicke’s appearance on the VMAs? No? Neither have I.

And that’s the problem. The very fury that has erupted over Cyrus’s recent activities, the idea that she’s showing an over-sexualized version of herself, displays our sexism. Women, it seems, have boundaries over which they cannot step. Cross those lines and people attack. But men do not have the same boundaries. Women must curb their behavior and act “appropriately.” But short of committing actual crimes, men speaking or displaying lust or objectifying women are just being men. It’s what we expect. There’s no need to talk about it.

Which is exactly why that’s the conversation we should be having.

(Tracy Hahn-Burkett of Bow
is a writer and former public-policy advocate. She blogs at UnchartedParent.com.)

Legacy Comments6

I can't believe we are actually having this conversation. Miley is a performer pure and simple. People were shocked at her tongue action but that was a direct copy of Gene Simmons of Kiss. Old hat. As for the feminist ire, that is old hat as well look back to the roaring twenties and the flappers. Sex sells always has, always will. Who can say they don't watch Dancing with the Has Beens for the costumes? Blame the media or society if you must, but in the end it's the consumer who perpetrates this behavior.

I agree with much of what you wrote Tracy and it is both men and women in the pop culture industry who perpetuate this kind of behavior and over sexualized behavior in public. Pop culture sells sex, violence and other socially repugnant behaviors. Our children grow up too quickly and are robbed of a healthy and innocent childhood. But that is also true when we hear about parent placing their 13 year old on birth control and rationalizing it as "well, they are going to experiment and that is normal". To me, liberalism is guilty for killing the innocence of our children. Feminism is also not an ally of our children and it too robs young people of their innocence.

The thing she did that was unforgivable was, she cut her hair to look like an idiot.

The conversation should not be about who took the most heat for the performance. The conversation should be why folks expect Hollywood or the Music Industry to be role models on any level. For the most part, those in the business are ego maniacs that crave attention. They also count on young folks paying for them to rebel because it is cool. We did it with Elvis shaking his hips and the Beatles with long hair. Kids do it now with tattoos and listening to disgusting music that often treats women as sex objects. You will not find role models in Hollywood or pro sports. Fathers and Mothers are the role models for their kids. They are the teachers. Sadly that role has been put on society and teachers.

Our Nation became the greatest in the history of civilization because of our heritage of ethics. The progressives have infiltrated every aspect of our lives. We can´t get away from their destructive ideology in our culture, news media, entertainment, education and govt. These extremists have reduced our country to the brink of total implosion. Facts will show you that when Hollywood produces a wholesome movie it tops the charts. Progressives choose to peddle their filth instead.

Leave it to you Sail . . . to make even THIS a political discussion. Heck, even Itsa had the sense to voice his opinion without couching it in the tired context of right vs left.

Post a Comment

You must be registered to comment on stories. Click here to register.