Arguably the song of the summer (okay, maybe tied with “Blurred Lines”), I’ve been (secretly) somewhat obsessed with Miley Cyrus’ “We Can’t Stop.” My sister and I play it allll the time during our sporadic dance parties (although we don’t twerk–if I’m ever seen twerking, I’m probably actually dying of a stroke & get me to the ER stat.) What makes this song so catchy? I still don’t know…Maybe it’s the shock value of a former Disney star openly singing about cocaine, perhaps it’s the wildly disturbing music video, or possibly(? maybe?) the song itself, but I’d be lying if I didn’t sing along every time it comes on the radio.
But can we just talk about last night’s VMA performance? If you had the displeasure of seeing Miley’s tribute to “We Can’t Stop” or if you’ve just heard the aftermath hype about it online, one thing’s clear: everyone and their brother thought it was WEIRD as all get out. (I’d link to a clip, but it was honestly so lewd and disgusting that you DON’T want to watch, trust me. Just check out this article on the 15 Weirdest and Craziest Moments from her performance to get a feel for it.)
As “scandalous” as Miley’s performance was, I couldn’t help but see the total irony in the situation. Through both her music video and VMA performance, Miley is sending a very blatant message (through sexual imagery & winking at illegal activities like…I don’t know…hard drugs) to tell the world she’s not a Disney darling anymore. It all seems to desperately scream “Take me seriously–I have worth!” to me.
Why does Miley (and let’s face it, the majority of women portrayed in pop culture/maybe everywhere?) feel like dressing and acting provocatively leads to worth & acceptance? Could Miley Cyrus have achieved her message through other means & without ruining so many giant bears in the process? Maybe.
Unfortunately, the cultural formula of “sex sells” seems to be the working paradigm. Just look at Katy Perry, one of the other big VMA performers of the night: she made it big with “I Kissed a Girl” and was known for having random stuff shooting out of her wonderbras all the time. Yeah, she’s taken a bit more seriously now, but would she be where she is today without her “scandalous” beginning?
Ready for the irony? Though Miley followed the current paradigm of using her sexuality to find worth, she went too far on the spectrum of what is “societally allowed” and her attempt was met with disgust and negativity–NOT her desired goal of acceptance as a “new Miley.” So basically if a one to ten scale, we’re comfortable with like up to a six (eight if you watch Game of Thrones, duh) and Miley totally brought a ten to play.
BUT. Society shouldn’t accept that paradigm at all anyway! No matter how gross her performance was, we are at fault for allowing sexuality to be cultural currency for value in the first place!! Not to go all feminist (God forbid that– right, conservative friends? ), but if women and girls did not have to operate by this paradigm, I’d like to think these travesties of human worth wouldn’t happen.
Let’s be clear: as cultural consumers, there’s no such thing as media victimization. American audiences are only as “bullied” by cultural stigmas and stereotypes presented by the media as we allow. When we complain that the media is to blame for our distorted views on gender, discrimination, sexuality, religion, etc, etc., we’re setting an extremely illogical & hypocritical victim mentality for ourselves because WE enabled the media. WE gave them the voice (and money, which is in many cases THE main voice) & ultimately, permission to tell us what’s what (even if it’s untrue or we disagree).
If you don’t like the message, change the conversation. In this case with the over-sexualization and objectification of women & girls (and thinking that’s OKAY), we need to start a new message altogether, one of inherent value and equality.