Since Sinead O’Connor’s open letter to Miley Cyrus was published yesterday, there has been an onslaught of action and reaction.
First, Miley responded to Sinead by tweeting a picture of O'Connor's tweets from 2011 when she was in the midst of getting help for mental illness with the caption “Before there was Amanda Bynes, there was….”
Then, Sinead responded by penning another letter to Miley, chiding her for treating mental illness like a joke, and urging her to apologize to both Bynes and O’Connor herself.
In the midst of all that, Amanda Palmer wrote an open letter to Sinead, chastising her for slut-shaming Miley, and asking that she give female artists freer reign to express themselves, and a little more credit for the choices they make in how they are perceived.
So many open letters, so little time.
The problem with open letters is that they do not clear the way for an open dialogue; instead they serve as a soapbox for the writers to stand on while they preach about a particular subject. With no real way to comment back, the subject ends up targeted, used as a vehicle for an opinion, and unable to contribute to the conversation without writing an open letter in response, spiraling the situation of open letter-writing out of control.
While Sinead O’Connor’s first letter was in response to the fact that Miley cited her “Nothing Compares 2 U” video as inspiration for “Wrecking Ball,” Palmer’s came from a place of observation rather than personal involvement. Thus, it’s completely feasible that the chain of open letters could continue in this fashion forever.
This brilliant piece from Autostraddle perfectly sums up the endless cycle that comes from communicating via open letters, as opposed to real, engaging discussions that involve all parties. Read it and have a giggle.
Here’s hoping this is the end of this week’s Miley buzz, and that I don’t have to type the phrase “open letter” for a very long time.