In Defense of Miley Cyrus

Everybody, let's stop with the slut-shaming. Her 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.
VMA shocker is hypocrisy

Miley Cyrus is still America's Sweetheart -- the REAL America

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 asses in all of our faces? No. I hate the pornification of our culture -- I hate most of the billboards I pass, the magazine covers I see, and countless music videos, ads, TV shows, and movies. What I AM saying is that this thing Miley exemplified is all around us, it's  everywhere, and that really needs to be addressed.  To be outraged and focus on this girl seems weird and inappropriate in its scale. 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:
  1. Everyone cares and talks about sex
  2. Everyone cares and talks about anything provocative
  3. 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
  4. Sexiness makes you famous
  5. Outrageous sexy behavior makes you even famous-er
  6. 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. Many commenters voiced their opinion that Miley was trying to be sexy but wasn't. One wrote, "If she were at all attractive this would have been tolerable." Again, Miley's crime was not being sexy or attractive in some preconceived, pre-approved way. 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. Reprinted August 26, 2013 by

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10 Responses

  1. Halle says:

    I haven’t seen any slut-shaming of Miley’s performance at all – the only (rightful) criticism I have seen is for her racist misappropriation of black culture and perpetuation of harmful stereotypes. It’s not about slut-shaming, it’s about calling out racist behaviour and ignorant stereotyping of POC.

    • Dixie Laite says:

      All I’ve heard all day at work, and seen on Facebook, is lots of slut-shaming. That’s what I’m reacting to, and only that. I’m saying there is soooo much pornification everywhere that really needs, desperately, to be addressed, so just focusing on this girl seems weird and inappropriate in its scale.

  2. Fantastic. I wish we would spend more time concerned about the cultural factors, influences and pressures that made this “incident” what it was in the first place. Culture does not exist in a vacuum. Miley is a sign of the times, nothing more, nothing less. My response to aghast Americans all week has been, along the lines of: “Can we talk about something important like the crumbling public education system, or GMO’s in our food, or global warming? That will effect my daughter far more than Miley’s performance.C Well done, thanks!

  3. Wilder Dayze says:

    Exactly! Because we’ve taught teens that their primary value is how they stack up against a porn star (no offense to porn stars), and then slut shamed them or applied the boner meter to it. ‘It isn’t that you’re slutty, it’s just that you aren’t any good at it, and the world owes me sex’. This new young misogyny feels entitled to sex. How does that play out in rape culture, do you think?! Sexual freedom and sexual obligation are two totally different things. It is Little Miss Sunshine where little girls are hypersexualized, Robin Thicke is the pervy pageant host, Miley is Olive obliviously and innocently doing her stripper moves to Super Freak, and we are the helmet haired, hysterical woman screaming “Get your daughter off this stage!”. Miley isn’t the problem. She just accidentally pointed out that WE are. BTW the racial aspect is horribly important. Ninjacate at Jezebel said it best, and is an eyeopener.

  4. Aliz says:

    brilliantly written. i found this through the link you left on Jean Kilbourne’s face book. i believe you and i see a lot of this particular subject through the same eyes. i’m excited to read more of your views, whether we differ or not. you write with a concise, passionate voice.

  5. David says:

    I haven’t even seen the performance mentioned but I can imagine. I can imagine because that is what those award shows and youth/celebrities seem to be all about. Try to outdo. Try to shock. Be as vulgar as possible. Do whatever you can/want to get attention. It’s no surprise because, yes, it’s the pornification of the culture. It’s the next step from billboards blaring FCUK. From Janet (gee I love my own breasts) Jackson and her “wardrobe malfunctions” and her publicly displayed posters showing her nude upper torso with two hands concealing her self-adored breasts. It’s a giant billboard in Sheriden Square advertising Stella McCartney with a model with her legs spread wide. It’s the allowance of a lot of rap music whose slamming adjectives and inappropriate content blare and thump from car audio systems with no governmental interference.
    Miley Cyrus? Just another tween supported celeb who, yes, should keep her tongue and grinding buttocks from public viewing. But what can you expect from a child who has already run out of gimmicks and was brought up in a home by a father who sported a mullet? Good taste? Sorry.

  6. twerking says:

    Oh, Miley Cyrus! How much i hate that creature. She is bad ideal for kids and mainstream. But the gov is the one who allow and distribute that cause of mass control with things which are totally trash, reality shows and so on.
    Then you see children copying her, and get punished in schools for that. But the same system and society teach them with that.


  7. Ray says:

    I agree, theres Nothing wrong with being SEXY, I believe most Girls who do it
    complain later about guys staring. and many do it to get media attention.
    when they are already Rich. There’s Nothing wrong with being Slutty
    I Love women who are. just make sure you want to act & dress that way.
    and Yes most girls who insult are Hypocrites because they have sex also
    but play “innocent” in public, or when asked their opinion.

  8. This is absolutely brilliant. Bless you. 🙂

  9. stelz says:

    I was involved in a long Miley discussion a few years ago. And we reached a general consensus that she is actually freaking BRILLIANT.

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