I don’t usually engage in widespread pop culture.
I have never seen a Super Bowl Halftime Show, I’m the last to learn the lyrics to any popular song and I probably did not see that movie (even if it’s a classic). I’m not trying to boost my hipster cred, but I do feel it is important to explain that often I find myself unable to contribute to conversations discussing popular media trends.
Which is why last week I was surprised to log onto Facebook and see it exploding with posts such as “I am appalled by Miley’s behavior!” “How disgraceful! Kids were watching that!” and “Way to make it the trashiest VMAs ever! Like anyone could be surprised that Miley was so trashy, though.”
Once I got past the initial Google searching to find out what the VMAs were, I found the videos and photos of Miley’s “appalling” behavior. And I was at a loss for words.
Not because I found her twerking to be the most upsetting thing to ever air on television, but because everyone else did.
Now, I may be a little desensitized to twerking as I saw my fair share of it back in my highschool days. But to me the most “disgraceful” part of Cyrus’ performance was not what she did, but how people responded.
To begin with, someone doing something outrageous at the VMAs is not news — even if there were kids watching. The fact that people were letting their children watch an MTV program and expecting it to be “family friendly” is more shocking than anything that actually occurred.
That does not mean the actual performance is not worth analyzing of course. So here’s what I saw when I watched video footage:
Miley Cyrus wearing an outfit no more revealing than anything other female (and some male) pop stars have worn since the 1980’s, performing a song with a guy in a Beetlejuice-esque suit.
I wasn’t shocked by Miley. I was shocked that everyone else completely ignored Robin Thicke’s role in the performance.
There is something wrong if you find it disgraceful that a barely-legal 20 year old woman expressed her sexuality, but have no problem with the fact that a 36-year-old married man invited her to perform his song about sexual assault while gyrating genitals (yes, they were both gyrating in case you were so focused on Miley’s behavior that you missed it).
You are why there are those double standards perpetuating in our society that feminists love to talk about so much.
Miley is being slammed with words like “slut,” “whore,” “hoe” and “trash,” and Thicke has very nearly gotten out of the conversation free of even a sliver of responsibility.
By slut-shaming Cyrus so aggressively, you are slut-shaming every young girl who has ever danced in a sexual manner or worn clothing that is somewhat revealing. Shaming removes self-worth from an individual.
These responses are examples of further institutionalizing attitudes that contribute to rape culture. For those who have not taken a women’s studies course, rape culture is the (often prevalent) cultural attitudes and behaviors that directly or indirectly condones, normalizes or encourages sexual violence, usually though not exclusively against women.
By despising Miley’s behavior and not even talking about Thicke, you are normalizing the idea that women are disgraceful sluts who need to cover up, but men — even men singing “I know you want it” — are just being men.
It breaks my heart that people still use such hateful, spiteful words like “trashy” and “slutty” to describe someone who is doing little more than anyone else would have done when they were young and stupid and trying to figure out who they are as a person. The only thing that separates Cyrus from any other young adult who is attempting to “break out of their shell” is that Miley is followed by cameras.
There are many other problematic issues to this performance. The Onion had a wonderful article about CNN’s excessive coverage of the incident. An article exploring the race relations implied by Miley’s “rachet” behavior can be found on Jezebel.com. I suggest checking out as many facets of this as possible.
Because the fact is, there is more to what happened on that stage than Miley simply being “trashy.” Perhaps those are the “Blurred Lines” you need to start thinking about.
Anna Mitchell is a senior liberal arts major likes to think she could take the gold in team golf cart racing. Love notes and hate mail can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org