So today the blogosphere/your facebook friends have been buzzing about the open letter Sinead O'Connor wrote to Miley Cyrus in which she warns her of the dangers of exploiting herself and her sexuality. Suddenly Miley Cyrus is a thing people care about for some reason, so websites post crap loads of articles about her because they get cheap hits. Yay!
Why is Miley's sexual exploration painted so negatively? Hasn't this been done before? Why is it that when Madonna exploits her sexuality it is seen as empowering and legendary but when Miley does it, she "[doesn't] care for herself?" Women are stuck in this double bind where they are both criticized and praised for using their sexuality for power, or even criticized for not exploiting their womanhood (ie: Grimes). I don't know that much about Miley Cyrus--I watched her VMA performance and the "Wrecking Ball" music video once while screwing around in other browser tabs, and I haven't seen her documentary or listened to her music, but from what I can gather from my online research it seems that she is largely in control of her own actions and image. And if she wants to use her sexuality to further her career, I say go for it, twerk on whatever you want. Women should be able to use their bodies for self-expression and to find their identities as sexual beings as long as it is their decision. And it seems like Miley has made that choice.
The entire letter is condescending and insulting but my least favorite paragraph states, "
Yes, I’m suggesting you don’t care for yourself. That has to change.
The amount of clothing someone wears or how they use their body does not dictate whether or not they "care about themselves." This argument is so illogical. Thinking that clothing says anything other than "I decided to wear this right now," is dangerous and an integral part of preserving rape culture. What women wear doesn't reveal their insecurities or broadcast a level of self-esteem to others. With this thinking, I like myself so much more in the winter.
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.
As a girl only two years older than Miley (who, by the way, has been a legal adult for two years now) this is pretty much the most condescending thing you could say. I'm not precious, nothing about me makes me a "lady," and I don't need to be protected. Just because I'm young and female doesn't mean I'm not a smart and capable person in control of my actions. Everything about this reeks of stereotypical views of young girls. Don't stereotype me by my age or gender.
Great job Sinead, you've successfully boiled Miley down to a piece of meat. An animal. Just because someone isn't wearing clothes, that doesn't mean they have no value. The fact that we even wear clothes or have to cover certain body parts while exposing others is taboo is entirely socially constructed. This is just ridiculous.
More than anything though, I find it so extremely problematic that we are focusing on Miley's dance moves and wardrobe choices rather than her cultural appropriation of black/hip hop culture. The fact that Miley Cyrus, a Southern woman, is using the stereotypical view of black women's rampant sexuality to explore her own sexuality is revolting. Let us not ignore that she paid a black woman to let her slap her ass onstage on live television and this is not seen as terribly racist and a billion times more offensive than sticking out her tongue or grinding/twerking. Why do we care so much about controlling young girls' sexuality yet so little about racism and cultural appropriation?
She's using black culture to appear "edgy," "shocking," and "cool" meanwhile profiting from it as an affluent white person whose ancestors most likely drove slaves. Miley perpetuates the social and racial inequality that has everything to do with her success. That success, built on a throne of privilege in which white people benefit while minorities are marginalized, continues this cycle.
Kathleen Hanna talks about Nirvana and being a stripper and I bet she still had positive self-esteem.
Amanda Palmer's letter to Sinead O'Connor's letter to Miley Cyrus.
Some interesting thoughts about cultural appropriation.