Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Pastime of Slut Shaming: Targeting Miley Cyrus

Some of my female friends, whom I admire and respect and like a whole lot, continue to express dismay over Miley Cyrus' sexually provocative performance at the VMAs. Across the Internet, some are labeling the performance as slutty, disgusting, and degrading to women. Funny thing is that I don't feel at all degraded as a woman due to Cyrus' romp on stage with Teddy Bears and Robin Thicke. 

I'm too old to appreciate Miley Cyrus' music but her performance style doesn't offend me any more than Madonna did in her hey day. Recall that video where she crawled across the floor and lapped milk out of a bowl? 

While I greatly appreciate and continue to like my female friends, I have to pose the following questions. Why is it that women are the first ones to turn on other women who are overtly sexual in their actions or appearance? We label these women as sluts, nasty, trashy, just doesn't sound very sisterly to me. What's with this judgment that a woman who expresses her sexuality while performing on stage is behaving in a shameful way and any decent female should be ashamed of her and for her? 

Michael Jackson grabbed his crotch and hoisted his junk in every performance. Even in the staid 1950s, Elvis gyrated his hips in a distinctly sexual manner, accompanied by pelvic thrusts. I can't recall a single male performer whose overtly sexual performance has ever elicited the same type of need to express revulsion and disgust as Miley Cyrus has garnered for shaking her butt, thrusting her pelvis forward, and sometimes pointing at her crotch.

Why are we still defining women in terms of meeting some 1950s standard of ladylike behavior? 

The Syrian government appears to have used chemical weapons against its own people but the big topic in the U.S. is that Miley Cyrus was twerking on television! Oh the horror! She pointed at her crouch and did a slow grind a few times with Robin Thicke. Notice how there haven't been any headlines labeling Robin Thicke as a slut, nasty, disgusting, or an embarrassment to his gender? Miley wasn't on that stage alone.

Perhaps we need to step back and really think as to what the message is that we wish to convey. Do we really want to adhere to some arbitrary and outdated standard that divides women into good girls and sluts? All the 20-year old Miley Cyrus did was express herself as a sexual being. She didn't advocate for violence. She wasn't an object; she was in control and she chose how to express herself. That's a far cry from exploitation in my book. Just something to think about.

5 comments:

Dervish Sanders said...

I didn't see the performance, I only read about it. That said, I didn't care for the foam finger or all the sticking out of her tongue. And I think her old hairdo looked better. She seems to be overcompensating given her Disney background. Not a fan of her music either.

That said, I don't care what the hell she does. If people like it they'll buy her music. I'd guess that she's rich enough to not care what people are saying about her. In fact she's probably pleased with the publicity she's getting (I would guess).

If true (that she is happy with the attention her performance generated), I'm not sure "slut shaming" applies (as she isn't ashamed but rather encouraged by the controversy). I suppose you could say "slut shaming" was attempted... but it didn't work... by and large. Although I'm sure some were offended. Maybe even more so after hearing a "slut shaming" diatribe.

Lisa :-] said...

I thought the same as you: Men have been exhibiting overtly sexual behavior on stage for decades, and no one bats an eyelash. But when a woman does it: "Ew....disgusting!" I'm not a fan of anyone exploiting sex onstage; but I don't think Cyrus did anything that hasn't been accepted MALE behavior for a long time. Double standard, anyone?

(O)CT(O)PUS said...

Yup, I have to agree. There is a double standard when women are treated differently than men - especially in the entertainment business where you have to flash a little to get noticed.

The way I see it, Smiley Miley had a marketing problem. How do you break the niche as child-star and rebrand yourself once you've become a fully grown adult? Answer: Assert your sexuality, that's how!

Too bad the feminist community is split on public displays of female nudity. On one hand, I understand the concerns of women who have struggled against being turned into sex objects and view these public displays in this light.

On the other hand, how do you make a political statement against rape when the most common strategy of defense attorneys is to paint victims of rape as sluts - "provocative dress" being one example. There have been political demonstrations in New York and other major cities where women marched in skimpy dress to underscore a point about sexual violence: "It's not about how you dress, stupid! It's about non-consensual sex as a form of violence!"

I think the Pussy Riot girls in Russia were trying to make the same point until Putin arrested them.

Ken Riches said...

Interesting article in Time in how performers today have lost the ability to have art in their performance, and I have to admit that song was horribly done.

Miss Ginger Grant said...

I didn't find her performance any more risqué, vulgar, or sexual than many who have come before her- you mentioned Madonna, but who can forget when Cher rode a horse onto the set of her show wearing about 1/2 a wren's worth of feathers when she sang "Half Breed?" Unfortunately for Miley and contemporaries, the shock value of nudity, sacrilege,and fetish has all been done- Miley didn't look sexy or provocative as she diddled herself with a big foam finger... she just looked STUPID! I'm kind of with Ken on this one: the "shock schlock" is a used up gimmick- show us some real talent!

And as for he double standard, a man doesn't really have much to work with... the FCC ensures we don't have to look at his kibbles and bits, and the rest of a man's body is pretty benign, really.

I predict that it won't be long before we see little Miley doing desperate things to keep her name in the papers.. Let's just hope she goes the "Dancing with the (washed up) Stars" route and not the Lohan/Barrymore/Bynes route that so many child stars seem to travel!