A came across a blog post about the recent Miley Cyrus flap over her VMA performance. And while I found the performance tasteless and vulgar, that was just my personal view and not one that I feel should be universally-held. I also found the racial insensitivity in Cyrus’ performance – as well as her public persona troubling, and I will address that in another post.
But I ran across a post that’s titled, “Dear daughter, let Miley Cyrus be a lesson to you” on a blog called Roadkill Goldfish. I have to admit, I started rolling my eyes immediately, before I even started reading the post. In it, the author writes to her daughter warning her not to be like Miley Cyrus. I just thought I’d repost the letter in its entirety:
Yes, this is what happens when you constantly hear everything you do is awesome. This is what happens when people fawn over your every Tweet and Instagram photo. This is what happens when no responsible adult has ever said the word “no,” made you change your clothes before leaving the house, or never spanked your butt for deliberate defiance.”
If you ever even consider doing something like that, I promise you that I will run up and twerk so you will see how ridiculous twerking looks. I will duct tape your mouth shut so your tongue doesn’t hangout like an overheated hound dog. I will smack any male whom you decide to smash against his pelvis – after I first knock you on your butt for forgetting how a lady acts in public.
Why would I do that? Because I love you and I want you to respect yourself. Miley Cyrus is not edgy or cool or sexy. She’s a desperate girl screaming for attention: Notice me. Tell me I’m pretty. See how hot I am. I know all the guys want me. All the girls want to be me.
You probably know girls who will emulate this behavior at the next school dance. Don’t do it with them. You are far too valuable to sell yourself so cheaply. Walk away. Let the boys gawk and know in your heart that they see only a body that can be used for their pleasure and then forgotten.
I’m sorry if you’ve ever felt sad because I haven’t gushed over everything you’ve done. My role is to praise when praise is due, but also to offer constructive criticism and correction when it is needed as well. I’m sorry if you’ve ever felt demoralized because your Instagram following isn’t in the thousands, and I’m sorry those “selfies” can never capture how amazingly beautiful you truly are. I’m sorry if you’ve ever wished you had a friend instead of a mom, and I promise you that I will probably get worse when you hit high school.
After Cyrus’ performance, I get why moms may find their neck hairs raised – but can we stop for a moment and have some perspective, please?
Firstly, it’s not Miley Cyrus’ job to be a role model for young women – in fact, I don’t want young women to emulate Miley Cyrus – there are far better women girls should look up to: Hillary Clinton, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Melissa Harris-Perry. And how do we get girls to look at women like Harris-Perry or Clinton? Talk to them about these women and why they’re important – but make sure that honoring these women doesn’t come at the expense of Cyrus.
What do I mean? Well simply put, you don’t need to slam Paris Hilton, Kim Kardashian, or Cyrus when praising someone like Sally Ride. Why are we still living in a culture that creates binaries for women – it’s a twisted form of the Madonna/Whore complex where we have “good women” (i.e. chaste women who “respect” themselves – meaning they align themselves with our version of sexual morals) and “bad” women (Miley Cyrus – the latest in a long, long, long line of women who are presented as evidence that we’re headed to Hades in that proverbial – and overcrowded – handbasket). We seem to always want to operate on a black and white modality (other Web Therapy fans would’ve chuckled at that one) – morals, propriety, and virtue are all pared down, reduced to their most simple definitions, without room for any gray.
The author does a lot of guess work on Cyrus’ folks (her pop is country singer Billy Ray Cyrus of “Achy Breaky Heart” fame – or country music’s version of the Macarena), that she probably culled from the gossip Websites and tabloids. Tales of the Cyruses woes populate the headlines of these trash mags that have us believe that Billy Ray hitched a wagon on his golden goose daughter once her career started netting millions. Maybe. Or Maybe not. I’m not going to assume I know the dittos of the Cyrus clan – and to be honest, it’s none of my business. And by the way, strict parents who set boundaries, discipline fairly, and offer emotional support also suffer from disappointment – problem kids come out of all sorts of families – if there were a magic formula, we would’ve bottled it by now.
I’d love to think that spanking Miley Cyrus when she was 10 would’ve avoided the sort of celebrity she’s become, because then I would’ve jumped into my time machine and encouraged every parent of every Republican politician to spank their kids. But parenting – and children – are not that simple.
And teaching sexuality to kids is even more complex and difficult because they do grow up with a lot of conflicting messages. On the one hand, we encourage our children to be sexualized at a younger age, as seen through some of the clothes that are marketed at little girls as well as the disgusting concept of baby beauty pageants (the spawn of the disgusting concept of beauty pageants). Girls are growing up in an age where they are bombarded with images of sylph-like bodies on their favorite teen dramas. All this is disturbing and cause for alarm – not because our daughters will grow up to be sluts or whores – two words that should really be eliminated from the English language, but because these ladies will grow up not believing that their sexuality is theirs to define.
What Miley Cyrus, who is an adult, by the way – and that’s another thing, we should be reminding our kids – adults can do what they want – but what Miley Cyrus is doing is defining and owning her sexuality on her terms. Don’t like it. Fine, don’t watch it. But don’t start slut-shaming her because you don’t approve of her behavior because news flash: Miley Cyrus’ sexuality is none of your business – she can do what she pleases, and because we live in a free society, you can change the channel to something else if you’d like.
I’m glad the author is so concerned with her daughter’s self-esteem. Girls need to grow up knowing that they’re capable of doing anything they set their minds to – and that is why I hope that soon they’ll tire of the two-dimensional images of Cyrus and move on to something more substantial like Clinton. But I also would hope that when the author’s daughter grows up to be the strong, intelligent, thoughtful woman her mother obviously is, she’ll also know that there are strengths in numbers and that she won’t gain anything in putting down another woman to affirm her own belief system. Because this daughter will grow up in a culture custom-made for men, I hope she’ll know that other people – mostly men, but women, as well – will judge her as well, and reduce her to easy, facile gendered tropes, and that instead of seeing women like Cyrus as the enemy, she embraces all kinds of women, because if we’re ever going to rid our country of this patriarchal notion that women’s identities are to be defined and determined by everyone in the whole world, we’ll first have to rid ourselves of this notion that there are good ways and bad ways to be a woman.