Sinead O’Connor vs. Miley Cyrus – a case of slut-shaming mocking mental illness

Product DetailsFans of Sinéad O’Connor know that the singer has never been afraid of speaking her mind, even if it has disadvantageous effects on her career. So it comes as little surprise that the music vet wrote an open letter to Miley Cyrus, in response to the younger pop star’s interview in Rolling Stone, in which O’Connor’s video for “Nothing Compares 2 U” was citing as a major influence on Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball” video.

In her letter, O’Connor, in the mode of a patronizing elder chides Cyrus, in a spirit of “concern,” “sisterhood” and “feminism by saying,

I am extremely concerned for you that those around you have led you to believe, or encouraged you in your own belief, that it is in any way “cool” to be naked and licking sledgehammers in your videos. It is in fact the case that you will obscure your talent by allowing yourself to be pimped, whether it’s the music business or yourself doing the pimping./Nothing but harm will come in the long run, from allowing yourself to be exploited, and it is absolutely NOT in ANY way an empowerment of yourself or any other young women, for you to send across the message that you are to be valued (even by you) more for your sexual appeal than your obvious talent./I am happy to hear I am somewhat of a role model for you and I hope that because of that you will pay close attention to what I am telling you./The music business doesn’t give a sh– about you, or any of us. They will prostitute you for all you are worth, and cleverly make you think its what YOU wanted.. and when you end up in rehab as a result of being prostituted, “they” will be sunning themselves on their yachts in Antigua, which they bought by selling your body and you will find yourself very alone./None of the men oggling you give a sh– about you either, do not be fooled. Many’s the woman mistook lust for love. If they want you sexually that doesn’t mean they give a f— about you. All the more true when you unwittingly give the impression you don’t give much of a f— about yourself. And when you employ people who give the impression they don’t give much of a f— about you either. No one who cares about you could support your being pimped.. and that includes you yourself./Yes, I’m suggesting you don’t care for yourself. That has to change. You ought be protected as a precious young lady by anyone in your employ and anyone around you, including you. This is a dangerous world. We don’t encourage our daughters to walk around naked in it because it makes them prey for animals and less than animals, a distressing majority of whom work in the music industry and its associated media./You are worth more than your body or your sexual appeal. The world of showbiz doesn’t see things that way, they like things to be seen the other way, whether they are magazines who want you on their cover, or whatever.. Don’t be under any illusions.. ALL of them want you because they’re making money off your youth and your beauty.. which they could not do except for the fact your youth makes you blind to the evils of show business. If you have an innocent heart you can’t recognise those who do not./I repeat, you have enough talent that you don’t need to let the music business make a prostitute of you. You shouldn’t let them make a fool of you either. Don’t think for a moment that any of them give a flying f— about you. They’re there for the money.. we’re there for the music. It has always been that way and it will always be that way. The sooner a young lady gets to know that, the sooner she can be REALLY in control./You also said in Rolling Stone that your look is based on mine. The look I chose, I chose on purpose at a time when my record company were encouraging me to do what you have done. I felt I would rather be judged on my talent and not my looks. I am happy that I made that choice, not least because I do not find myself on the proverbial rag heap now that I am almost 47 yrs of age.. which unfortunately many female artists who have based their image around their sexuality, end up on when they reach middle age./Real empowerment of yourself as a woman would be to in future refuse to exploit your body or your sexuality in order for men to make money from you. I needn’t even ask the question.. I’ve been in the business long enough to know that men are making more money than you are from you getting naked. It’s really not at all cool. And it’s sending dangerous signals to other young women. Please in future say no when you are asked to prostitute yourself. Your body is for you and your boyfriend. It isn’t for every spunk-spewing dirtbag on the net, or every greedy record company executive to buy his mistresses diamonds with./As for the shedding of the Hannah Montana image.. whoever is telling you getting naked is the way to do that does absolutely NOT respect your talent, or you as a young lady. Your records are good enough for you not to need any shedding of Hannah Montana. She’s waaaaaaay gone by now.. Not because you got naked but because you make great records./Whether we like it or not, us females in the industry are role models and as such we have to be extremely careful what messages we send to other women. The message you keep sending is that it’s somehow cool to be prostituted.. it’s so not cool Miley.. it’s dangerous. Women are to be valued for so much more than their sexuality. we aren’t merely objects of desire. I would be encouraging you to send healthier messages to your peers.. that they and you are worth more than what is currently going on in your career. Kindly fire any motherf—er who hasn’t expressed alarm, because they don’t care about you.

It’s a lengthy letter, in which O’Connor does all sorts of analyzing of Cyrus’ motives and internal thoughts, as well as, pontificating on the music industry’s abuse of women and its exploitation of female sexuality.

Product DetailsNone of that is incorrect – and I think Cyrus, along with every successful female musician understands what the music industry does to its female members. But let’s be clear – Cyrus’ current persona of stripping, poles, twerking, etc. is her choice, and even if it’s often ridiculous and head-shakingly silly, we’re not in a position to judge a young woman’s decision to define herself sexually in any way she chooses – Madonna went through all this stuff too when she was lambasted by feminists for popularizing and trivializing female exploitation.

All of this removes any agency and automony from Cyrus – an adult with a brain, who is in charge of whatever she wants to do. Do I think it’s particularly tasteful or appealing? Nope, not necessarily. Do I wish that she would be pushing a more cerebral image for young women. Yup, you betcha. But I at least give Cyrus the benefit of the doubt and believe that this is all a larger part of her pop career blueprint to get folks to talk about her – again, not my cup of tea when we’re talking about musical performers, but still…

So, I was on team Cyrus even though I’m a huge Sinéad O’Connor fan (I have all her albums, and I think that her second album, I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got is one of the best pop records in history), because even though I agree with the legendary firebrand’s sentiments, I disagree with the nagging, slut-shaming method of public scolding that she engages in.

Then Cyrus completely lost me by using O’Connors troubled past, along with the mental breakdown of starlet Amanda Bynes in a snarky Tweet, “Before Amanda Bynes….There was…” and then she posted pics of a series of Tweets by O’Connor of a disturbing nature (some were obviously tpyed out when O’Connor was battling some severe emotional demons). Slamming Bynes and mocking O’Connor for their mental illness is ugly, and quickly it became difficult for me to defend Cyrus because of her low blows.

Of course all of this is at its base – ridiculous: two rich women airing out their cat fight over social media. O’Connor, the older and seemingly wiser of the two, should not  have tried to reach out through Twitter if she was really concerned for Cyrus and womankind; instead, she shoudl’ve reached out in private. I suspect a lot of this is O’Connor intent on sharing her opinion, regardless of whether folks want to hear it or not.

I loved that at he peak, O’Connor was taking on sacred cows like the National Anthem and the Pope. She used her platform to raise awareness about child abuse in the Catholic Church as well as mental illness – all very admirable.

Unfortunately, this latest game of insult volleyball undermines all of the good that she has done. It cheapens all of her brave statements and actions because getting into a snippy fight with a much-younger pop star over Twitter practically screams junior high.

So, as with most fights, both are in the wrong, and both could’ve taken the high road, but instead, they indulged in some of their worst impulses. It’s ironic that O’Connor’s whole point was that Cyrus stripper act was damaging to feminism – a fair charge – but her willingness to be drawn into a eye-scratching, hair-pulling match only reinforces the idea that women can’t get along, either. So by confronting and trying to combat one negative stereotype against women, O’Connor unwillingly affirmed another.

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