Everybody, let’s stop with the slut-shaming. Miley's performance at the VMAs is upsetting, but not for the reasons you think. The furor and shock and vitriol strike me as the height of hypocrisy and sexism.
I like Miley Cyrus. There, I said it.
I like her irreverence, her in-your-faceness, her lack of B.S and her honesty about what she likes and who she is.
Am I happy young girls feel they need to show their power by prancing around in various skimpy outfits, gesticulating various sex acts, and shaking their various assess in all of our faces? No.
But Miss Cyrus didn’t just spring from Billy Ray’s forehead. She is a self-possessed, remarkably confident young woman who has expertly learned all the things one learns coming of age in America:
- Everyone cares and talks about sex
- Everyone cares and talks about anything provocative
- The world is fascinated by good girls gone bad, despite the facts that they weren’t really all that good, and now they aren’t all that bad matter
- Sexiness makes you famous
- Outrageous sexy behavior makes you even famous-er
- One’s shapely behind is a viable ticket to stardom
I can’t punish a young ambitious woman for noticing that sex sells. Madonna knew it when she crawled the VMA stage very much not “Like a Virgin”. Rihanna, Beyonce, Britney and countless others have climbed that ladder to fame.
So I wonder if people are slut-shaming Miley because she’s so young but refuses to play the “appropriately sexy” ingénue. Her brand of sexy casts her as the aggressor, the one in control, the one calling the shots as opposed to just receiving the shots, money and otherwise.
I, for one, would rather see Miley running around in sneakers and a leotard than see one more female coyly put her finger between her lips in a photo. Or do that pouty vacuous blank stare to camera everyone does. (Even Courtney Love –that was the last nail in her coffin for me.)
Young women, since time immemorial, have wanted to be as sexy as humanly possible. Their idea of sexy is typically the low-hanging fruit of butts, boobs and tongues. (If I had Miley’s legs, I’d wear cutoffs 24/7.) But before we slam them for showing us those apples, remember who waters and hugs that big ole tree from which they came.
Last time I looked, we as a nation absolutely adored this so-called slutty behavior. I see people voting with their dollars and their attention to Playboy’s Bunnies, Victoria’s Secrets, strippers, people who dress like strippers, and girls who’ve gone wild.
Miley’s crime seems to be that she “went too far.” But Ms. Cyrus’s bildungsroman is the story of America. It wasn’t just her ass she twerked in our faces; she took all the things we accept and take for granted as ok every day and threw them all together into one jiggling jambalaya. She’s too much, too young, too unabashed, too pleased with herself. But America – face it, you LOVE too much, you love young, you love shameless. You also love “bad” girls, but only when they’re “bad” within comfortable parameters, when they’re playing the “bad” girl as opposed to being the “bad” girl.
Again, do I think it’s great that a young woman feels her power most in a crop top? No. Am I thrilled when a 20-year-old feigns oral sex on national television? No. But had lots of barely-clad models come out gyrating around Robin Thicke, I doubt anyone would have thrown a hissy. I believe they word people would have used is “hot.” And to me, THAT double standard is the blurred line I find most disturbing.
Yes, Miley Cyrus is now, more than ever, America’s Sweetheart. Only this time, it’s no fantasy Disney America, it’s the real America.
Edited to add: This post was not intended to address the important issue of cultural appropriation that Miley's twerking raises, which has been written about here on BUST.com previously. Rather, the focus of this post is to respond to the many many many posts that are critiquing Miley soley for her performance being "too sexy."