The Lesson of the 2013 MTV VMAs: Being Sexual While Female Is Worse Than Being Rapey or Racist

So. Miley Cyrus. It seems she sang a song at the 2013 MTV VMAs.

Mostly I’ve just been watching the multiple conversations going on about Miley’s performance. But since the discussion hasn’t shown any signs of letting up yet, I thought I’d dip my toe in. But since so much has been said already, I want to do so by highlighting some of the work of others, and also by opening the floor for commenters to post additional articles they thought were particularly thought-provoking—or particularly bad.

I’m going to start with a piece by Elizabeth Esther titled “Well, Miley Cyrus. How Predictable of You.” Because seriously, that’s exactly what I thought in the immediate aftermath.

Aaaand cue outrage. Shock. Horror. Pearl-clutching. If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that Miley Cyrus’ performance at the VMAs last night was shocking. Oops. I mean. Predictable.

. . .

Here’s the truth: Miley Cyrus doesn’t care what you think. She doesn’t care that you’re outraged, disgusted, offended and horrified. In fact, she likes having “haters.” It motivates her.

Miley Cyrus set out to shock everyone and she succeeded. The only surprise, here, is that the adults are asking stupid questions like: “How did this happen?”

Everyone knows how this happened. It’s not like her song “We Can’t Stop” is subtle or nuanced. It’s not like it’s some hidden mystery of the universe that  Miley is singing about doing drugs. Of COURSE she is.

It’s been obvious for awhile that Miley is going off the rails . . . er, I mean: GROWING UP. Shaking one’s ass on national TV is, after-all, the time-honored way for former Disney stars to shed their squeaky-clean image and take ARTISTIC CONTROL of their careers. And by artistic control I mean: rocking the stripper pole. Or, in Miley’s case, the foam finger.

America has a problem with its little girls growing up—especially its little white girls. This is why Shirley Temple never broke into adult acting. It seems that for female actor/musicians like Miley Cyrus, openly and boldly embracing their sexuality looks like the quickest ticket toward being seen as an adult and no longer as a pure and innocent sweet little child star (which is a whole discussion of its own, but let’s not get sidetracked at the moment!).

But what seems most interesting to me about this whole thing is that the American people were way more interested in slut-shaming Miley than they were in addressing her dance partner Robin Thicke’s rapey lyrics or Miley’s own appropriation of black culture and objectification of black bodies.

First let’s talk about the rapey part. Let me quote a short post by a sexologist:

Dear Society,

If you think a woman in a tan vinyl bra and underwear, grabbing her crotch and grinding up on a dance partner is raunchy, trashy, and offensive but you don’t think her dance partner is raunchy, trashy, or offensive as he sings a song about “blurred” lines of consent and propagating rape culture, then you may want to reevaluate your acceptance of double standards and your belief in stereotypes about how men vs. women “should” and are “allowed” to behave.

Sincerely,

Dr. Jill

Yep. That. Where has all the outrage been over Thicke’s lyrics? Oh sure, there’s outrage in the feminist blogosphere—but in mainstream media or among the American people writ large? There’s been lots of talk about everything Miley did and comparatively little about Thicke’s rapey “blurred lines” rhetoric. This is what feminists are referring to when they say the phrase “rape culture.”

Now the appropriation of black culture and objectification of black bodies issue.

The universe (well, the media) is slut-shaming Miley Cyrus pretty damn hard today for her performance at last night’s MTV Video Music Awards. She wore little. She gyrated. She was sexual.  This is the least of our problems—or it should  be the least of our problems anyway.

Cyrus used her sexuality–which is hers  to use–throughout the performance. This is not something we as viewers should be shocked by or disgusted withWhat should be shocking is Cyrus’ appropriation of a culture she knows nothing about, and her use of black women as props in her most recent music video and in last night’s performance. Most, if not all, of the dancing bears were women of color. At one point, Cyrus motorboats one woman’s ass, which adds to the weird, circus-y feel of it all. Cyrus is the “ring leader,” and women of color are hers to play with however she likes.

More on this here and here, and also here. I didn’t watch Miley’s performance before seeing these articles, and I might not have caught it on my own otherwise. Once again, I am thankful to others for speaking up.

To be honest, while I’m not unfamiliar with Miley Cyrcus I’d never heard of this award ceremony before. This usually isn’t my sort of thing. But what I do find interesting is watching when these sorts of events turn into broader conversations about our culture. And that is why I would say, quite simply, that there is more to be learned in the aftermath of the 2013 MTV VMAs about ourselves as a culture than about Miley Cyrus.

What would you add? What good—or bad—articles have you run across on the subject? Do share!

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • MyOwnPerson

    I thought the performance was dumb. The fact that everyone was so outraged just tells me it was a slow news week. But you’re right, if they were going to be outraged there were much better things to be outraged about than a young woman attempting to be sexy and failing.

    • http://slatewoman.blogspot.com/ Slatewoman

      the sad thing is that it’s not a slow news week at all… syria anyone? this fodder obscures the world around us.

      • MyOwnPerson

        Sorry, I should’ve said, “News that the American populous cares about.” :/

      • CarysBirch

        nitpick: “populace” is a noun — a group of people or a population, “populous” is an adjective describing a densely populated area.

        More substantive: I also wish there was more news in our news.

      • MyOwnPerson

        Damned homonyms. My fingers doth not type what my brain thinketh. I’m going to bed.

      • http://slatewoman.blogspot.com/ Slatewoman

        oh, i’m sure many americans care about it. they’re probably pleased.

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        This was exactly my thought…

      • B.E. Miller

        But it’s more fun/ easier to camp out in front of Benedict Cumberbatch’s trailer and snap pictures of him than pay attention to Egypt or Syria.
        PS Does anyone think there is some inherent racism in ignoring Egypt or Syria (like with us Westerners ignoring Rwanda in the mid-90s)? Folks decried the ‘ethnic cleansing’ that was going on in what had been Yogoslavia, but there didn’t seem to be as much condemnation of Rwanda. Is it that we think of non-Westerners as being ‘savages’ and this is therefore ‘natural’ behavior for them?
        Or am I just reading too much into things?

  • Christine Vezina

    I saw the video before reading anything about the performance. The racial issues were definitely noticeable. I didn’t realize exactly what it was until I started reading – such is my own privilege, and I’m grateful for the well-written articles that have been posted on the topic – but I felt intensely uncomfortable when she slapped her tiger-pant clad dancer around, and I did notice all her dancers were black and the way she moved around them. Re-watching it, there’s almost a hierarchy of -> Sharply dressed men -> Almost naked white women -> Black dancers.

    On top of what this post covers, I have noticed an emerging tend of people taking their discomfort with Miley’s performance out on the fact that her butt appears saggy in some stills (see here: http://lolzbook.com/2013/08/just-miley-things/).

    As if the fact that her body is imperfect is why so many people found this awkward. Because only women with the “right” sort of body are allowed to flaunt it, amirite?

    • Olive Markus

      “As if the fact that her body is imperfect is why so many people found this awkward. Because only women with the “right” sort of body are allowed to flaunt it, amirite?

      This is why I stopped following all hollywood/celebrity shows and coverage. It is all about whether or not somebody was too old/young/cellute-y/underweight/overweight/in-season/feminine/etc., to be doing X THING.

      I never heard anything by Robin Thicke until his recent appearance on The Colbert Report, but I found his music unimpressive and the show annoying, as I do all performances that rely on 18-year-old half-naked models to gyrate their way through it*. I didn’t even notice the lyrics.

      But yes, I’m sick of the body-shaming of women and the free pass given to men (any man) who perpetuate rape culture with their ridiculous lyrics.

      *I want to be clear that I find half-nakedness fine and LOVE nude beaches and figure painting/drawing. Owning your own sexuality is also a good thing. It is the obsession with and the objectification of perfect, sexualized, young bodies that PISSES ME OFF.

    • CarysBirch

      Ah yes this! While I didn’t especially care for her dance (it’s really not my style, and I think I’m *cry* too old to understand the appeal of it) but the amount of people I’ve seen policing her body is apalling. She looked fit and healthy and happy to me, and didn’t think she cared if she jiggled just right for the camera. And obviously, if you’re jiggling on purpose, you WANT there to be some uh… movement.

  • http://slatewoman.blogspot.com/ Slatewoman

    i really tried to avoid the whole thing and not watch it, but i caved. i was most bothered by the low quality of the music being presented, and more importantly, that the performance made a mockery of sexuality. it’s such a chaotic spectacle that any possible sarcasm that might exist behind it (none, i’m sure) is lost to the average viewer.

    i remember when marilyn manson performed in 1997. i was 14 at the time and i didn’t understand and his music was only mildly interesting to me. looking back, it was grotesque and lewd, but there was a greater point behind it, it was a parody of a culture that degrades people as individuals. there was nothing subtle about it, but it was an amped up, grossed out version of pop culture and harmful authoritarian influence. look it up on youtube if you haven’t seen it. what i saw in the miley cyrus performance was pop culture catching up to that grotesque level, but without any self-awareness or message. and it’s not the only place i see that happening.

  • Saraquill

    I’m not inclined to condemn Ms. Cyrus, but wonder what her marketers were thinking.

    • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

      The same thing Britney Spears marketers were thinking when they staged the Madonna make out on the VMAs.

  • Bobo

    I’m not really up on pop culture and know little about Miley Cyrus or Thicke. I did see Thicke on the Colbert Report the other night and was a bit disturbed, mainly that Colbert, who is normally a razor sharp critic of such things, would (non-satirically) give a forum for someone so blatantly misogynistic. It wasn’t the lyrics of his song, but rather that the women in the performance were mere sexy props.
    Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a problem with sexy performances, but it was only the women who were scantily clad, gyrating behind the microphones, I couldn’t tell you if they had any talent, that was so obviously not the point.

    • Olive Markus

      That is exactly how I feel!!

    • Gillianren

      I, too, only know about the guy from Colbert. (Though I used to watch his dad’s TV show back in the ’80s.) I observed to my boyfriend at the time that it looked as though he was trying to do multi-ethnic Robert Palmer girls. Like there was a set he was collecting.

      • The_L1985

        “I need a couple Korean chicks and a redhead, and I’ll have a full set!”

        Just….no.

    • Leigha7

      I’d heard his name mentioned before, but Colbert was the first (and only, I didn’t watch the VMAs and have only seen gifs of Miley’s performance) time I’d actually seen him perform, as well. I honestly couldn’t tell you anything about the lyrics because, frankly, I found them very hard to understand.

      Given the blatant product placement in that episode though (considering it cut from mentioning Hyundai to a commercial for Hyundai, I assume they were a legitimate sponsor), it may well not have been Colbert’s decision to have him on the show. It was probably an order (or “suggestion”) from the higher-ups. Just a guess.

  • lauraleemoss

    When I got up the day after the VMAs, my FB was full of people calling Miley Cyrus a “skank hole” (I don’t know what that is) and others calling for her death. I said this:

    I just watched the Miley video from last night and thought it was awful. I am shocked by everyone’s reaction though. Why is she a skank? Isn’t that how everyone dances at the VMAs – in a manner to get attention? Why the hostile reaction? Because she grew up and isn’t a Disney baby anymore? I’m cutting this rant short, but I *wish* people would think of their reactions and how they fit so comfortably into society, and then question if that is actually ok.

    I got maybe 20 likes on FB, but most people argued that she was a sad product and poor example. Until I said something, no one called out the male performer. Then people remarked, yeah, but continued to defend their reactions to her performance.

    I thought the entire dance stunk, but it’s really not my style. I thought the bears were odder than her foam finger play, but again that could be me. What I hate is that the woman dances sexually, the man dances sexually (and sings offensive lyrics), and the woman is called a whore.

    • LizBert

      I agree about the sexual aspect of her performance. Maybe I’m jaded by growing up on MTV, but I just don’t find it shocking. Tasteless, yes, but not unusual in any way compared to many other pop star routines. The racial aspects of her performance are deeply concerning, but her sexuality I just don’t care about.

    • Baby_Raptor

      “Skank” is another word for whore. So presumably “skank hole” is either A) a “worse” form of whore or B) a reference to a whore’s genitalia.

      • lauraleemoss

        I thought the same thing – that it was a possible reference to her genitalia. Ugh.

      • Nancy Shrew

        They might have been trying for “skank ho” which is pretty much like saying “slut whore”: redundant.

  • Susie M

    I actually read an amazing article that asked why on earth we were condemning a 20 year old girl, and ignoring the 36 year old (married!!!) male half of the performance. It was pretty harsh and awesome.
    Personally, I think that type of behavior is unattractive. I wouldn’t even call it sexy. She just looked like wild child begging for attention–especially while dancing around a grown man, who was literally twice her size. But I think most “stars” are stupid.
    Miley looked like someone who hadn’t grown up yet, and Robin Thicke looked like a pedophile. And yet we hate on her. (As for those who say that she was a role model because she was on Disney Channel…why the heck do you consider a tv protagonist a role model for your children?! Parent much?)

    • Baby_Raptor

      Personally, I don’t think her age gets her a free pass. She’s a legal adult. She can smoke, vote, sign contracts and enlist in the military. It’s time she started taking the piss for her own issues.

      • Leigha7

        That’s true, but think about how her life has been since she was 13. I think the style of the show (Hannah Montana) itself is part of the problem. She was playing a normal girl who was also, separately, a celebrity. The role itself involved a sharp division between stage persona and real life. Not only that, but Hannah Montana is the Disney Universe version of a pop star–wholesome, loved by kids, and not expected to be provocative or sexy. Real life (for celebrities) is nothing like that. At 13, Miley probably didn’t fully grasp that there’s almost no similarity between Hannah Montana and real pop stars. But now she’s deeply entrenched in that reality.

        But also, do you remember the Vanity Fair modeling “scandal”? People, especially parents of girls who watched Hannah Montana, were OUTRAGED that she had her picture taken topless (ostensibly, though they said she wasn’t), even though she was fully covered and all you could see was part of her back. There really wasn’t anything scandalous about the photo. Problematic? Possibly. But it was FAR from scandalous. When the world reacts with shock and outrage when you’re 15 and have a professional, artistic photo taken of you where you’re fully covered, people shouldn’t be surprised when you do…well, what Miley did at the VMAs.

        Add in her relationship with whichever Jonas brother it was (Nick?), and all the discussions about “purity” (because the Jonas brothers were very open about “saving themselves”) and whether or not they were going to have/had had sex. It’s hard enough being a teenager, in a relationship, and having your classmates speculate openly about your sex life. It’s atrocious that we as a society do that on a national scale to teen celebrities. We shouldn’t be surprised she’s flaunting her sexuality (real or otherwise), given the very public spectacle we made of it when she first started dating.

        I won’t even get into what her parents have said and done, because I’m basing all this on what I’ve seen on nearly unavoidable media and that hasn’t been touched upon as much, but they certainly play a role as well (though perhaps not as much as, say, Lindsay Lohan’s parents did).

        I guess what I’m saying is, she has to start being responsible for her actions just like anyone else does, but there are a lot of very good reasons why she is the way she is, and they aren’t entirely her fault. There’s a reason so many child stars have similar issues.

    • Nancy Shrew

      When it comes to being a Disney Channel star you’re pretty much a de facto role model based on the fact that you are working for a “family-oriented” company and on the fact that most of these TV shows and TV movies, while insipid, attempt to teach moral lessons to tweens and under.

      • Susie M

        And that, I think, is not a burden any young person should bear.

      • Nancy Shrew

        Oh, it’s total bullshit, but it explains why parents and the media expect these kids (especially the girls) to stay squeaky clean indefinitely.

  • mary

    My biggest problem with Ms. Cyrus is that she really, truly cannot sing. I didn’t watch RT’s song- I only watched MC’s after everyone was talking about it. I did hear some outrage over his lyrics, though. Eeeeww.

    In a nutshell- owning your sexuality? Good. Making yourself or others an object? (like those black female dancers…. Wtf was that?!?) Not good. I thought it was just sad. I wish pop singers would focus more on actually singing and less on shock value- Lady Gaga is very talented, but I miss it in her music many times. RT was by far the creepiest, and MC the saddest. The poor girl can neither dance nor sing, and someone should perhaps have told her before now. (Madonna she isn’t!)

    The role model stuff is sheer bs. People, if you allow your kids to look up to a disney star when the likes of Steve Jobs, Marie Curie, Gloria Steinem, Nicola Tesla, and hosts of other people who actually made their world better exist… I have no words.

    • lauraleemoss

      Exactly on the role model ideas. Making a role model should be acknowledging that people do well and better the world, but are not “perfect.”

    • ArachneS

      I beg to differ. She can sing, but pop music rarely showcases a singers talents. It is more about being catchy and a good show.

      • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

        I don’t think she can sing, but then again, that’s why I don’t buy her albums. Judging talent like that is pretty subjective. I think she’s toneless.

      • ArachneS
      • Seeker

        I agree; despite the auto-tuned video below her voice is actually very nasal and flat, and her choice of music is usually pretty trashy– when she’s not being a drinking, drugging party girl, it’ that “rill ‘murkkkun” tribalist white-trash crap.

      • Leigha7

        I think the problem is that she has an extremely limited range (which contributes to her sounding nasal and flat, which she definitely does most of the time), and she rarely sings songs that are actually suited to her voice. She has a few, and she does sound okay then.

        The video posted below sounds fine, though I have no idea how much her voice altered. But if she sang songs that were more suited to her voice and her capabilities, she wouldn’t seem as bad as she does. Also, I’m guessing she was raised on country music, which tends to have a different vocal quality to it (by which I mean the typical country twang). Her voice has that, which sounds very odd in most of her songs.

    • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

      This is the issue I have with the shaming of children for looking to these people as “role models” vs the people you list.

      What did the people in your list have(for the most part*)? Opportunity. What do the kids today have? No opportunity for success, unless you can be famous. They are not stupid. They see that their parents aren’t getting raises, that their older brothers and sisters are indebting themselves to go to college, they know there will be nothing for them when they become adults.

      Now, I don’t think people should shame celebrities for not “acting” as role models, because you are correct, they shouldn’t be role models. But opportunities are thin on the ground, many children see being the next Justin Bieber or reality tv star as their only way to be successful.

      *Sure, people stood against Marie Curie being a woman who can do science, but IMO, children don’t look to people who overcome adversity as role models, but cautionary tales. Telling a child “Look, you too can grow up to be ostracized by your peers and have your life’s work discounted until someone else validates it!” is NOT inspiring.

      • Nancy Shrew

        That, and I still managed to love Melissa Joan Hart and Alicia Silverstone as a child while also looking up to the likes of Anne Frank and Boudicca. It doesn’t have to a zero-sum game.

      • mary

        I would hope that my kids would love their work for its own sake and put actually making the world a better place over recognition. I have to respectfully disagree with you- my list was just a random sampling, but neither there, in that list, nor in the set of awesome people in general would I attribute their greatness to opportunity, as if they were handed some advantage that made the whole thing possible. So what if Tesla got punked by Edison during his lifetime? The man was brilliant, and we know that now. His inventions are still making our lives and collective knowledge base better. I think that the thing that sets role models apart is not their opportunities, but what they do with their opportunities. Not everyone with Bach’s musical education wrote the Mass in B minor. :) and I take a more optimistic view of the future- I aunt think that my kids, or even I, have no chance to do great things and make the world better. So what if we’re not rich? Yeah, college is expensive. I know; I worked my butt off to put myself through it. So what? You don’t need money to be great. My six year old wants to be a bio-chemist, not because he’ll be famous, but because he loves it. I’m a classical musician, not because I’ll ever be rich or famous, but because I love it and I like to think that the little bit of beauty when I play or when my compositions are performed makes my corner of the world a little nicer.

        I think that children can see people who overcome adversity as role models. I think kids will look up to who they are taught to look up to. Case in point- my kids have never heard of Justin Beiber, but they think that Tesla is freaking COOL. :) this naivete may change when they go to school, but I’d like to think that what they value won’t.

  • Bugmaster

    Why is Miley Cyrus front-page news at all ?

    The Onion has an answer, as usual: http://www.theonion.com/articles/let-me-explain-why-miley-cyrus-vma-performance-was,33632/

    And there’s also this: http://mileycyrustwerkingonreality.tumblr.com/

    This could just be my straight white male privilege talking, but IMO the fact that one performer’s dancing moves during some concert are front page news at all, is even worse than the popular reaction to said dancing moves.

    • Lucreza Borgia

      The Onion piece describes practically every sleazy bloggers strategy.

      • Bugmaster

        Yeah, and by now, CNN is just another sleazy blogger…

      • Lucreza Borgia

        I’m starting to label other news sites the same, especially HuffPo

      • Lucreza Borgia

        Oh dear FSM…while at work I saw a segment on CNN that appeared to be a discussion as to why she was still news days later with a “who cares anymore” vibe.

      • phantomreader42

        An alleged news network reported on this, asking why it was news, and was unable to see the effect of their own reporting? How does a human being become so devoid of self-awareness?

      • Lucreza Borgia

        I can’t seem to find a link to the video and it’s entirely possible that I misunderstood what I saw. Stupid brain.

      • phantomreader42

        I was just commenting based on your description. It’s ridiculous that CNN would promote this story, then keep flogging it by asking why it’s news when they decided it was news in the first place. But that level of ridiculousness is what passes for news these days.

      • Lucreza Borgia

        http://www.forwardprogressives.com/the-onion-obliterates-cnns-obsessive-miley-cyrus-coverage-exposes-bigger-issues/

        “Of course Ms. Artley never wrote the article, as she clarified on Twitter (apparently there are still people on the Internet who don’t know The Onion is satire). But she failed to make any mention of or respond to the very real point the article made, a point I’ve been talking about for years — quality journalism is dying and we’re the ones killing it.”

  • Petticoat Philosopher

    I have serious issues with calling Miley Cyrus’ performance “boldly embracing her sexuality.” For one thing, people are just naive if they think that Cyrus has total control over her own image. This is the pop music industry–there is an entire team of people crafting the image and the product that is “Miley Cyrus” (TM) and they are not doing so based on sex-positive feminist values. To paint her performance as some kind of brave sexual empowerment is to completely ignore the issues with an industry that is well-known for exploiting and objectifying the women within it.

    That being said, I am completely on board with Dr. Jill and other commentators who have pointed out the enraging double standards involved in slut-shaming Miley and giving 4-alarm creeper Robin Thicke a pass for his crappy, rape-tastic song. (Also, one thing I have heard few people say…he SUCKED! Seriously, if he sang one note on key I’m a monkey’s uncle and the fact that his pre-recorded back-up vocals were on key only made the whole thing more unfortunate. Neither here nor there, I know, but as a musician, these things tend to bother me…) I just don’t want the justified outrage over this to blind us to some of the other issues here. We can firmly denounce slut-shaming and still say that it’s messed up that young women don’t seem to be able to make it in the industry unless they take their clothes off and play the role of “barely-legal sex kitten” to the likes of Robin Thicke. Yuck.

    • Hilary

      /hits up arrow again and again 100x/
      That was my thought too. I don’t know who MC is, pop culture is boring, Disney is mostly boring (ok not Disney Pixar) but . . . being a Disney child star, how much has this girls boundaries to her own self and privacy been violated for the business of entertainment? How much has she been able to develop a healthy self-understanding without handlers manipulating a brand? I don’t know, but my guess is not much.

      • Alix

        Word to both of you.

        And, well, it’s not like she still can’t be held accountable for her racism, but where her sexualized performances are concerned, I keep looking at the outrage going “…but this is the kind of performance y’all keep demanding.” If that kind of stuff didn’t sell, didn’t attract viewers and attention, does anybody seriously think it’d be as ubiquitous as it is?

        A lot of the outrage sounds very much like the faux-outrage people have when they’re titillated by something and are getting a kick out of tearing someone down in the process. It’s really fucking disturbing.

      • Hilary

        TOV check: are you saying ‘word’ as supportive or in disagreement? I can’t quite tell (No body language, eye contact, or tov) I’m not tone-trolling just checking to accurately understand you.

      • Alix

        Ah, sorry! “Word” = emphatic agreement. XD Pretty common slang ’round my area; I keep forgetting it’s not, y’know, universal slang.

        I never mind people asking for clarification. Communication is hard, yo. (And that’s not meant sarcastically, either!)

      • Hilary

        I’ve heard it used that way with me from a friend, but that was face to face. Thanks.

      • Alix

        No problem!

      • Joykins

        Was there actually someone who enjoyed watching that performance and wanted to see more of it? Pearl-clutching aside, it was only kind of riveting in its bad taste and lack of coherence.

      • Alix

        I have no idea. Given some of the inexplicable things some people like, though, I tend to assume that someone, somewhere probably did. XD

    • aim2misbehave

      I mostly agree. I don’t feel at all like Miley was really doing any of that in relation to ~her own~ sexuality. That’s part of why I was so put off by the performance, like I’d say that Selena Gomez is an example of a more or less normal young artist embracing her sexuality, and Lady Gaga is an example of an artist who has fully embraced her sexuality. Miley’s performance, on the other hand felt like exactly that – a performance, like she came up with a list of the raciest things that she could do onstage, and crammed them into one routine for shock value, or massive amounts of media exposure, or because it was an attempt to prove that she was an “adult”, or whatever.

      And, from an artistic perspective, she managed to take the sex appeal out of sexuality with that. Which is kind of remarkable. It just came across as untalented on the same level as Robin Thicke’s attempts at singing.

      Although my roommate and I were a bit creeped out about how the routine also seemed to have quasi-bestiality vibes to it because of all the teddy bears, and how Robin Thicke (I didn’t know anything about him before that night) gave off the impression of the skeezy frat boy who preys on drunk college freshman girls…

      One thing that really DOES bother me about this is the fact that one of the trending topics on Twitter the day after was something along the lines of “#staystrongbillyraycyrus” implying that the really important thing about a young woman’s sudden, extreme display of sexuality (no matter her motives) was how her dad felt about it.

    • luckyducky

      I agree. When I watched it, the sexual aspect of her performance felt like exploitation. I think her hyper-sexualized persona now is just as much a commodity created and sold (by others) on as her virginal persona was in her Hannah Montana days.

      Yes, she may have greater nominal artistic control and I don’t want to rob her of agency too much but it is naive to take this 20yo’s actions out of context. She has spent nearly her entire life as a product, being handled, shaped, etc. It isn’t unusual for a “good girl” to go overboard once the reigns are off… and then self-correct later and realize she doesn’t have to prove to others she’s sexual/sexy… and a lot of times that going overboard is seeking approval of others (boys/men), not trying something out to see if *she* likes it.

      I watched the Blurred Lines and the We Can’t Stop in addition to the actual performance videos to get an idea of what the hubbub was all about. And the comparison couldn’t be more stark. As has been repeatedly noted, Thicke is fully dressed and if far from objectified (we, as viewers aren’t led to thinking about having sex with him but about him having sex with the women prancing around). Cyrus, on the other hand, is very obviously objectified — in her own video – repeatedly shown doing stripper-like moves and the viewer is very clearly led to thinking about having sex with her.

      The comparison was really illustrative — Thicke is playing up his sexual prowess, Cyrus is playing up her sexual availability. This does not look like embracing her own sexuality as part of self actualization, this is her sexuality being used to sell… and, while she may be an adult and fully in control of it, I find it hard to believe someone who spent her formative years as a child star has a good sense of the difference between self actualization and tweets, youtube hits, and record sales.

      This goes hand-in-hand with the appropriation of a culture she knows nothing about and her objectification of black women in both the performance and the video. I am not saying that she couldn’t commit transgressions if she were self actualizing… but it is far more consistent with the exploitation rather than exploration of her as a sexual being.

  • Alix

    The racism in Cyrus’ performance and the rapey lyrics are horrible. I just, gah. No words, because the people you linked say it so much better.

    …On the raunchy performance aspect: I have to admit, I find raunchy, oversexualized performances rather alienating. They’re objectifying, they play up sexuality to what from my asexual perspective is a ridiculous extreme, and they’re weirdly gender-essentialist to my eyes. They serve, in short, as a very solid reminder of what I am not.

    So what do I do? I don’t watch them. I recognize that these aren’t performances meant for me – I am not the audience for them. They’re meant for people who appreciate over-the-top, in-your-face expressions of sexuality. And so I am profoundly meh about them, except for how they reinforce problematic narratives about gender and female sexuality. (Or, well, in this case, racism.)

    This is what I profoundly do. not. get. about the moral scolds going after Cyrus for being more sexual than they like – if you don’t like it (and this is pretty typical stuff for the VMAs and for, as people’ve repeatedly noted, young women trying to break past the sugary infantile “good girl” image and Cyrus herself) don’t watch it.

    It’s like someone who profoundly hates football insisting on tuning in to critique the quarterback for his blatant playing of the sport.

    • Baby_Raptor

      This is America. Only men are allowed to have sexual agency . Women must be monitored and shamed.

  • hardlyever

    While not covering the act’s racism, this little piece of art nevertheless makes a relevant contribution:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O2zbxM4EehE&feature=player_embedded

  • hardlyever

    ok, so I read this article, and I followed all the links, and even followed the links embedded in the links. And I have to admit that I don’t understand the charges of racism. I’m not disagreeing with them, mind you. I just don’t understand. The fact that Miley used her brown dancers as props has been mentioned as obvious evidence of this racism, if not the racism itself. Would there have been a charge of anything if the teddybear dancers had been lighter in colour. If so, what would it have been? Don’t performers use other people as props all the time? And the charge of appropriaion-without-understanding: performers blatantly and shamelessly copy other performers’ works and cultures’ imagery, music and, hell! the entire culture! And experience success as a direct result of that copying. Why does it become appropriation, and racist appropriation at that, when the performer doing the copying is white and the objects of her ‘flattery’ are black and some ill-defined (to me) “black culture” ?
    Please understand I ask these questions in good – if ignorant – faith, and that I seek only to understand. Thank you for your time.

    • Baby_Raptor

      I have not clicked through all the links, so I don’t know if this is something you came across or not. But it explained the situation well in my opinion. You might give it a look.

      http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2013/08/27/roundup-miley-cyrus-needs-to-stop/

    • sunnyside

      I found this helpful: http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2013/08/miley_cyrus_vma_performance_white_appropriation_of_black_bodies.html

      The objection, as I understand it, is that her performance mirrors and confirms a really shitty attitude toward black and brown women. All the decisions came from a racist place – her “sexy” performance is built around and mimics parts of African American culture, but she’s the only white woman on stage, the star, never heard a Jay-Z song a few years ago, so it’s actually a contrast. Miley was in her own orbit, slapping and pretending to lick the ass of a woman whose face wasn’t shown.

      As someone who has been described as “curvaceous” and “bodacious,” I’ve had the experience of being interacted with as just a body. When I’m medium/large, SO MANY COMMENTS b/c that’s where my waist is smallish and boobs/butt are prominent. Young, old, everyone has an opinion on my body… but there is a line in that I’m a white woman. I have a body people feel a right to view and talk about ‘admiringly’, but no one has stepped over a boundary in expressing an expectation to interact with it. It’s really offensive and has a huge impact (I swing into XL every few years, not exactly on purpose but b/c that’s where I’m invisible unless I wish to be noticed) but it stops short of what the women writing these articles have experienced.

      I can’t imagine people feeling as if they had a right to behave sexually with me. Miley’s performance struck something in women who have lived with that expectation and I’ve appreciated the opportunity to sit back and learn.

  • Katherine Hompes

    I’m not sure what happened America-wise, but in Australia, the rapey-ness of Thicke’s Blurred Lines DID make mainstream media – Mamamia, is a news/opinion/gossip site, so while it may not be hard-hitting journalism, it IS mainstream. Just thought I’d interject that.

  • http://abasketcase.blogspot.com/ Basketcase

    I posted the link to Dr Jill in a facebook group I am in that had been discussing it, and half the people who commented it obviously did not actually read what she had to say. I had to unfollow it, because I was getting so frustrated at the things they had tangented on to. Including slut-shaming. About 2/3 of them missed the whole thing about the lyrics, and one even went on to bemoan how hard it will be to teach her son what is and isn’t appropriate because of women “like this”.

    • Baby_Raptor

      Judging by her attitude, I doubt she has a grasp of what truly is and isn’t appropriate.

    • raveries

      Actually it should make a great example – point to her and say “dressing like this and dancing like this does not mean she’s consenting to do anything with you or anyone else. Consent still requires actual words.”

  • onamission5

    http://feministing.com/2013/08/27/a-not-so-tiny-criticism-of-mileys-huge-cultural-appropriation-problem/
    This is the first take I read. The article is empathetic to Miley the former child star who is clumsily trying to define herself on her own terms while also unflinchingly taking her to task for her appropriation and putting the consequences of the commodification of black women’s bodies into a very personal context. .

  • AAAtheist

    Okay, I know I’m wading into a potential minefield, but I’m going to post anyway.

    There’s a thing in African American culture known as “honoring the source.” It suggests that if you take something from our culture, you acknowledge that you took it, borrowed it, reformed it, or shaped it, all with the idea of respect for the originators. Some white artists that I believe “honored the source” are Teena Marie, Bix Beiderbecke, and Led Zeppelin. Some that didn’t, also in my opinion, are Pat Boone and Vanilla Ice.

    This also links into the idea of miscegenation, not just the sexual element but also the idea of behavior that’s considered appropriate, inherent, or possible within and between white and black populations. I’m not going to go so far as to say no white person should ever borrow elements from our culture they find fascinating, attractive, or delightful. Heck, so much of American culture is rooted in African American culture that trying to determine who can and who can’t “appropriate” would be damn near impossible.

    To address Miley Cyrus’ dancing, specifically her twerking (and this is the only portion of her performance that I saw), meh, I don’t know. Did she honor the source? Probably not. From the little twerking that she did, my problem with it is that I don’t think she did it very well or very creatively and she didn’t add anything original. Is twerking sexually suggestive? You betcha. But at one time, the Charleston was considered so. The issue that seems to be freaking people out is that a young white woman did it on national television, yet again playing into all of the destructive implications of protecting white womanhood, the cult of domesticity, and all of their racist and sexist baggage. Many black women have been twerking for a good long while and nary a peep can be heard. Can twerking be implemented in a sexist manner? Of course. But it isn’t sexist by definition. It’s just highly sensual and erotic, and that’s what I think is bothering people so much. If Miley used black women as “props” in her performance (I didn’t see that portion of it), that sucks.

    I don’t know enough about Robin Thicke’s “blurred lines” consent implications in his song, so I won’t comment on that except to say that it also sucks.

    • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

      The issue with Miley, and the appropriation of ratchet culture, is that it’s not limited to this specific performance.

      When the video for the song came out, it was more of this, Miley twerkin’ surrounded by black women. She wears grills. She gets into twitter fights with women of color who call her out.

      In addition, twerkin was a dance created and designed to accentuate voluptuous black women’s bodies, bodies that constantly appropriated and sexualized and policed. It’s a dance to celebrate those bodies, and it’s not for skinny white women.

      It’s interesting you bring up the Charleston, as it is another example of white women appropriating black culture, it’s based off a West African traditional dance that slaves continued to perform in secret across the Caribbean and the South.

      • AAAtheist

        All good points. I can’t disagree with anything you’ve said. I’m way past the age where I pay attention to pop culture to comment on Miley’s video (which I haven’t seen).

        My only point was to point out that appropriation, in and of itself, doesn’t have to be ham-handed, clueless, and disrespectful (see the three examples I posted above).

      • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

        It doesn’t have to be, but it does touch on the thorny issue, that while those artists may have respected the source, they still became famous for doing something people of color had been doing FOR YEARS.

        Not that those artists can control that, but the sense that I get from the POCs I read who talk about this, is that it’s great if you love something so much you are inspired by it, but if you really wanted to help that thing get exposure, don’t do it yourself and say “I totally got that from this person”, instead just say “Look at that awesome thing this person’s doing” and draw attention to the source.

      • Leigha7

        You mention that twerking was “created and designed to accentuate voluptuous black women’s bodies…and it’s not for skinny white women,” but I’m not sure if you were stating that it was created to accentuate black women’s bodies, which are of course voluptuous, or if you meant that it was created to accentuate the bodies of those black women who are voluptuous. I think it’s an important distinction, because not all black women have that body type. One of my friends from college was extremely sensitive about the fact that, while she was black, she was very much not curvy. Her cousins teased her about not having a butt all the time, and it bothered her a great deal. In fact, the majority of the black women I know (who, admittedly, are mostly mixed) are skinny and not very curvy. That doesn’t make it less acceptable for women who DO have that body type to show it off or do whatever they want with it, but it does make me question whether it’s a good idea to characterize “black women’s bodies” as necessarily being that type, while ignoring that many aren’t (which can’t be good for the body image of those who don’t meet that standard, as I saw repeatedly with my friend).

        Anyway, all of this got me thinking about appropriation, and I had some thoughts I wouldn’t mind getting feedback on. By claiming appropriation when white people adopt aspects of black culture, the divide between white and black culture is kept firmly in place (not to say it would go away otherwise). This could be either good or bad, depending on your view, and it isn’t white people who get to make that decision. I’m guessing the people saying it’s appropriation feel it’s more important for African-Americans to maintain their culture than for it to be accepted by white Americans (which was the prevailing viewpoint in most of the works we studied by African-Americans in my college literature courses, to a much larger degree when they were discussing the issue directly). I would also guess that most white people (who again, are not the ones who get to make the decision) would argue that keeping black and white culture separate also keeps black and white PEOPLE separate, because people tend to “other” people from cultures that they don’t understand (not that it’s right to do so, but it is common).

        Regardless of which view one takes, I think both are integral to understanding the idea of appropriation, because I think it’s a large part of why so many white people can’t understand the concept. That keeping the culture separate might be preferable is a difficult concept to grasp. It’s not just a matter of white privilege, but also a cultural difference. When my family immigrated to the US from Germany, every single aspect of German culture was promptly abandoned, because we (well, they, since it was my great-great-grandfather) were American now. Nobody was even allowed to speak German.

        I think a lot of white Americans have a similar family experience (especially given the attitudes towards Spanish speakers), but the difference between voluntarily moving to another country and adopting the culture versus being forcibly taken to another country and expected to adopt the culture is unfathomably large, so it makes sense that the view would be different. When that experience is part of the history of your culture, it makes sense that maintaining cultural identity would be very important. I think members of every group are affected by major elements of their group’s history. I know that, as an American woman, I’m deeply affected by the knowledge that women here have been able to vote for less than 100 years, and to have professional careers (in large numbers) for about 50. The idea that some white Americans have that since slavery is in the past, it is therefore irrelevant, is downright absurd.

      • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

        In this particular instance, I don’t think appropriation is REALLY whats going on here, I view twerking as more like RECLAMATION, it’s about reclaiming black women’s bodies FOR black women. So when white people engage in it, we aren’t participating in reclaiming it, just like “ironic hispter dude who calls all women bitches” isn’t helping women reclaim that word.

        And yes of course, I didn’t mean that all black women’s bodies are voluptuous, just like I don’t mean that a white women could never have a body style that could twerk. But again, it’s not just the celebration, it’s the reclaiming.

  • Brian K

    Did anyone else have to look up “twerk” on Monday?

  • Fisking Feminist

    Here’s how Robin Thicke meant his song to come across, in his own words. He MEANT it to sound degrading to women, he MEANT it to sound like catcalling and disrespect. http://fiskingfeminist.wordpress.com/2013/07/03/blurred-lines-fisking-pop-songs/

    • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

      Intent IS NOT magic.

      • Fisking Feminist

        No, I agree, but what I was saying was that the artist was confirming what the critics are saying, that he meant his song to sound degrading. I wasn’t defending him.

      • The_L1985

        No, but BAD intent should still be a huge red flag.

  • John Evans

    My one and only complaint – couldn’t the stylist have found a costume that fit Cyrus better? Beyond that – how people choose to dance is none of my damn business.

  • Mel

    My two cents: I find sexualized dancing crass on the part of the man and the woman. I found the objectification of the African-American women much more disturbing.

    • alwr

      This. Very much this.

  • Ryan Jean

    I didn’t watch Miley’s performance before seeing these articles, and I might not have caught it on my own otherwise.

    Same for me, except CNN on mute in the office. Which played the same 30 seconds again and again for the better part of an hour, several times through the day (and used “twerk” for the first time I can recall CNN ever doing).

    Where has all the outrage been over Thicke’s lyrics? … There’s been lots of talk about everything Miley did and comparatively little about Thicke’s rapey “blurred lines” rhetoric.

    Honestly, I have no clue what the lyrics are. I didn’t then, and I still don’t. I haven’t been able to stand that kind of music since, well, birth. So I’m taking everyone’s word about anything remotely dealing with the content of the lyrics.

    But you’re absolutely right; *any* lyrics in popular songs being rapey is what we really should be talking about, and what we should not be accepting of. As idiotic as her display was, it was her sexuality to do with as she pleased, whereas lyrics like that are actively harmful.

  • John Kruger

    White guy privilege warning.

    I feel like I would need to read quite a bit into Thick’s lyrics to consider them ‘rapey’. You can read them here:

    http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/robinthicke/blurredlines.html

    The way I read them is that he is expressing his frustration with vague signals and is asking for something more overt. I can almost see “I know you want it” as disregarding the other person’s wishes, but all he calls for is “come on get at me” which is hard to consider as disregard for the other person’s autonomy. It seems a lot more like “come on and express what you really want to express”.

    Of course, it is not for me to say what people are allowed to feel threatened by. I am fairly sure I am coming from a perspective that is making me miss something important. If anyone feels comfortable and patient enough to fill me in, I would appreciate it. I genuinely don’t want to be JAQing here.

    As a quick aside, I am in no way defending how Cyrus was treated here. I did not find that performance at all beyond the pale by modern standards. Not that slut shaming is ever really acceptable, but I also find it particularly unwarranted in this case. It was kind of weird to make all the back up dancers the same ethnicity, which did come off as a little racist in the context of that performance IMHO.

    • John Kruger

      I should have read more comments. Many thanks to Fisking Feminist for the link and blog post.

      • onamission5

        I was going to write an impassioned comment about rape culture apologetics, but instead I will say thanks for doing more reading and add that “I know you want it” and its variants is a disgustingly common phrase for rapists to use on their victims. As in, “stop crying, you know you want this,” and “you know you want it, look at the way you’re dressed,” et al, ad nauseum.

      • shuttergirl46q

        But the woman in the song isn’t crying. If she wants to “get nasty” and consents to do more than dance then it’s not rape. It’s sex. I just re-read the lyrics and while he’s a crass SOB, it sounds to me like he’s asking her to be clear about what she wants. If that’s true, isn’t that the opposite of rapist?

  • sylvia_rachel

    I’m not much of a music awards show person, but I did see part of the performance the next day. My reaction was … well, complicated, I guess.

    My first thought was that MC didn’t look as though she was expressing her sexuality (which I would not have a problem with: sexy dancing in public isn’t my thing, but if you are a consenting adult with sexuality you want to express, cool!) — she reminded me (especially the tongue thing, which looked SUPER AWKWARD to me) of those horrible “Mini-Pops” TV commercials in which pre-teens do sexy choreography whose implications they don’t grasp while singing lyrics they almost certainly don’t understand. Partly this was because Miley is very young-looking, but mostly it was because she didn’t seem into it and it didn’t seem natural to her. It looked like someone else’s choreography that she was trying really hard to get right. (This could just be me.)

    Also, that that teddy-bear thing was a really dumb idea on someone’s part. And finally, that I wished she’d decided to lip-sync because she was having a LOT of trouble staying on pitch.

    Then RT came out and I thought, you know … I don’t like that when a woman wants to be titillating or shocking, the way to do that is to dance sexy in revealing clothing, but when a dude wants to be titillating or shocking, he … gets a bunch of women to dance sexy in revealing clothing, while he wears a suit. What’s up with that?

    I have no comment to make on the lyrics because honestly, I couldn’t understand what anyone was singing.

  • Hilary

    White girl privaledge and/or nerd obliviousness warning.

    Did anybody not know about the phrase ‘ratchet culture’ and have to consciously think that it probably wasn’t a reference to rachet screwdrivers?

    http://www.thefind.com/hardware/info-ratcheting-screwdriver

    • The_L1985

      I’d never heard of it before.

  • Gillianren

    A few thoughts of my own, here.

    First, I am old enough to remember a) when the VMA was worth watching, and b) not caring about Billy Ray Cyrus, before (I’m pretty sure) Miley was born.

    Second, would anyone else really like Jodie Foster and Kurt Russell to sit down with these kids and teach them how to break away from their Disney image in a responsible, intelligent way? I mean, yes, Jodie Foster was never completely a Disney star, inasmuch as she made Taxi Driver and Freaky Friday in the same year (the year I was born!), but there have been child stars who actually grew up well. Some now work exclusively behind the camera; some don’t have anything to do with the entertainment industry at all. But you don’t have to humiliate yourself with some guy in a Beetlejuice suit to prove that you’re a grown-up now.

  • shuttergirl46q

    When I first read Thicke’s lyrics, I had a very different response. While I can see the “rapey” side of them, the words reminded me of a wild time in my life shortly after my divorce. What I got from Thicke’s words is a playboy who’s familiar with one-night stands who sees a woman in a bar who’s ready to shed the good girl image and live a little wild. He’s offering his expertise and…ahem…services. He’s posturing, he’s showing off hoping she’ll agree to go home with him. That doesn’t automatically make him a rapist. A cad? Sure. Maybe even a jerk, but not necessarily a rapist.

    • Guest

      I disagree. You’re missing the parts where he’s trying to CONVINCE the girl that “it’s in your nature”. It sounds like he’s trying to get consent, yes, but in a very, very creepy fashion. It’s very insistent too–it’s all that that makes the ‘blurred lines’ bits ew and rapey.

      • shuttergirl46q

        You’re right, he is creepy, but creepy doesn’t mean rapist. We have to be very careful when using such a serious label like “rapist.” To rape someone means to have intercourse without one’s consent or with someone incapable of giving consent. He can try all he wants but if she gives her consent (and is capable of doing so), that’s her choice, no matter how smarmy his tactics.

      • Lucreza Borgia

        The perpetuation of rape culture isn’t bad enough? Also, I don’t need to be raped to be annoyed with this song. Instead, I’m harassed all night long by douchebags who just know I want it. *rolls eyes*

      • shuttergirl46q

        So tell douchebag to f*** off or get a bouncer and say you’re being harassed, but don’t lump harassment with rape. How would you feel if your brother (male cousin, friend, etc.) were accused of rape when in reality he had no physical contact with the person? I’d hope you’d be pissed.

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        You are missing that no one called him a rapist. They called him a perpetuator of rape culture, which is entirely accurate. They said his lyrics were creepy and rapey: also accurate.

        You may wish to take your misplaced anger and set it aside long enough to re-read all the comments here.

      • shuttergirl46q

        Point taken. I read this thread again. When I read “rapey,” it sounds like the commenter meant the guy in the song is trying to rape her, which he’s not. So basically, we agree he’s creepy and should go away?

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        Pretty much, yes.

      • http://noadi.etsy.com/ Sheryl Westleigh

        Some of the lyrics imply he’s trying to get her drunk so he can sleep with her. That actually crosses the line from creepy to date rape.

  • shuttergirl46q

    As far as Miley…if she wants to embrace her sexuality, she should do it, but that performance was just strange and weird. Those two songs combined could have made a really awesome dance-based performance: Start with Miley and her friends at house party (wearing party clothes) and segue into a club scene with Thicke. There could even be a costume change into something less “frat party” and more “sophisticated 20-thing woman.” And certainly without the vinyl and the teddy bears. I still don’t know what the hell that’s supposed to mean lol.

  • Lisa Bennet

    I came across a video of the performance via a celebrety gossip channel i frequent on youtube, and I too have several issues with it. Personally, I do not like Miley’s music but I don’t care much about who she is. That being said, I do not see her performance as an instance of a woman “embracing her sexuality” or “expressing” any sort of bolidy autonomy. In fact, I think miley’s performance is about as far away from sexual freedom as the moon from earth. Miley is, to me at least, a victim of a culture which first molded her after an image of what this culture sees as the “all american white girl”, and when she personally realized that this was not a representation of her true self, she instead took the only way out that women in her situation have: She acts in a way that oversexualizes herself, shocks people, causes an outcry and, ultimately, will free her from her previous image. But whether or not miley herself feels comfortable with it, she has no choice but molding herself yet again after the mainstream culture’s ideas of the counter-all american girl. I think it’s a sad witness of the fact that women and images of women exist merely in extremes. There’s literally no grey in between these two images, and even if there were, miley would still be interpreted in the light of these images. Either way, I didn’t mind the performance, and I’m not upset over it. Miley isn’t the first to dance in a bikini. I simply think this performance visualized yet again that women must fit into molds if they want to express parts of themselves.
    As for the cultural relevance of the performance, I will admit that I too was slightly shocked at miley’s using black women as mere requisits, sort of to undermine a new image. The question I was asking myself was whether the intention behind it was associating herself with a black female culture which, whether you like it or not, is typically stereotyped as “wild, sexual, promiscous, loose”. In a way, I feel that her association with certain stereotypically “black” elements is a conscious decision to make these values part of her own image, while neglecting that this is nothing but a mold – yet again.

  • Composer 99

    Miley who?

    (That’s all I’ve got, sorry. The OP and other comments have nailed it.)

  • Fisking Feminist

    In the end, the objectification in this performance is a symptom of a looongstanding problem with the perception of black women’s bodies. I believe that hottentot sensationalism will come to be known as our generation’s blackface.
    http://fiskingfeminist.wordpress.com/2013/08/30/hottentot-venus-and-the-vmas/

  • alwr

    Yes, it is all sexist and that is why female child stars never do well and the male ones have long distinguished careers. Ask Macauley Culkin, Johnny Whitaker, Corey Haim, Danny Bonaduce, Brad Renfro, Bobby Driscoll, Todd Bridges, and all three boys from the Brady Bunch about it. And when you’re done hearing about their Oscars and accolades check in with former boy singers like Billy Gilman to hear how great it is going for them, too.

    Bottom line, fame and adulation seems to be bad for all kids, not just female ones.

  • Marta L.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rHdiutY4XqA

    I’ve seen this video shared several times on my FB wall, by white conservative women mostly. It’s struck me as so off I wasn’t even sure how to engage with it. Aside from the whole idea that a woman could not have fun dancing like this in public if she wanted to, or even among friends – that it was something she could only do with her husband at home – I’ve been a bit taken aback that white women take so much pleasure in watching a woman of color chastise other women of color for doing a dance move associated with ethnic minorities. There’s all kinds of wrong in this video.

    On a more positive note, I agree with the first paragraph of Petticoat Philosopher’s comment in a big way: I’m not convinced Miley is in charge of the way her sexuality is being used. It seems more like the hoop you jump through to differentiate yourself as an adult, and she seems to be doing it almost mechanically. I liked Susan Thomas’s (of Time.com’s Ideas blog) description: “Busting out of a racy leotard to flash a flesh-toned get-up is old
    enough to be your mother. Madonna, Britney, Gaga—not to mention decades
    of 1980s New York performance artists and 70s Studio 54 acts—have all
    done it. [...] the only twist Cyrus brought to Sunday night’s big reveal was a standard
    fare, learned-it-at-the-gym pole-dance routine, not a provocative,
    well-choreographed statement
    .” Miley seems to be pushing for racy, edgy, but in the most banal way available to her. It’s almost sad, really.

  • AnonaMiss

    Speaking of rape culture double standards, this popped up on my Facebook feed just now: http://givenbreath.com/2013/09/03/fyi-if-youre-a-teenage-girl/


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