She's Just Being Miley? An Op-Ed on Miley's New Image, Slut-Shaming, & Empowerment

 

The VMAs were a month ago, but Miley Cryus’ performance still has the girls at Her Campus buzzing about the controversial show. In the latest issue of Rolling Stone, Miley claims that she is making history and having her moment and she doesn’t seem to care what anyone else thinks. With the release of her MTV documentary on October 2nd and the release of her newest album on October 8th, we can’t deny that Miley is having a moment… but is it a good one? Her performance at the VMAs was just the beginning: she makes out with a hammer and bears it all in her video for “Wrecking Ball” (which she calls “art”), ignorantly claims Chicago’s “hood” culture in her newest video “23,” sings about controversial topics like drugs and sex, and stirs up gossip everywhere she goes and with everything she says. Miley has spoken and the public gets it—Miley likes sex, drugs, smoking, alcohol, and being provocative. We get it—she’s not the Disney star she once was. So now that this message is loud and clear, what does this mean for our society and what message is Miley sending to young women through the perpetually raunchy appearances she constructs? The girls of Her Campus explore the many sides to Miley's Movement.

Too Much Talk for Vogue? Our Culture of Slut Shaming

Glidys Luciano

It’s almost been a month since the outrageous performance in Brooklyn, but apparently Miley still hasn’t received enough strikethrough criticism, it’s not enough to be called a “slut”, “whore”, or a “racist.” It seems that Vogue magazine agrees with what the public has to say about the twenty-year old. It was reported that the “We Can’t Stop” singer was supposed to appear in the December issue of Vogue magazine, but after her performance at the VMA’s, the editor in chief, Anna Wintour, “changed her mind” and no more further comments were made on the matter. 

Cyrus’ performance was categorized not only as slutty, but also racist. Now, was the performance not appropriate because of what she was wearing? Or because of the actions that she performed on Robin Thicke? Would it have been completely different if the roles were reversed and Robin Thicke was the one to be half naked or touching Miley Cyrus in a sexual way? This is just one example of how a woman’s sexuality is not respected but rather scrutinized and criticized. The twenty-year old singer is not an exception to this “slut-shaming” culture—Britney Spears, Kim Kardashian and many other female stars have had to face the ferocious media, and the rude and nasty comments that come along with how they choose to express their sexuality.

It’s a shame that just because of a VMA’s performance that turned out to be “too outrageous and embarrassing” Miley Cyrus lost her opportunity to be featured in Vogue magazine. This is a conservative idea that we should be moving away from. Young women should have the choice of how they want to express their sexuality. As a young woman, she has led an impressive career with starting on the Disney Channel, leading world music tours, and frequently appearing on iTunes and Billboard top 100 lists. She has done so much and that should be recognized in a great magazine—it should not be forgotten because of a single performance. The excuse that young girls look up to celebrities like Miley is not acceptable—she chose to be a singer and performer, but she did not ask to be put on a pedestal.

Why Equating Hypersexualization with Empowerment is Misguided

Avery Thomas

Miley Cyrus’ performance at the VMA’s didn’t exactly go unnoticed. I personally felt extremely uncomfortable and wanted to stop watching, as did several celebrities in the audience, and the media and public have been debating over Miley’s new image ever since. What was it about the performance that was so startling? Most people would say it was the way Miley was dancing, what she was wearing, how she danced with Robin Thicke, and the unconventional use of a foam finger. However, there’s a lot more to this than what meets the eye.

First, it’s important to acknowledge the fact that Miley’s VMA performance, as well as her image, is not entirely her own, as much as she claims her authenticity after firing her manager last summer. She and her “army” know what sells. They aren’t out to create good role models or pass on positive messages, they are there to get attention and make money, even if it gives Miley a bad reputation.

On that note, it’s not hard to see why Miley performs the way she does. Sexual objectification of women is prominent in media. How many female performers do you see who are fully clothed? How many men do you see who are sexualized and objectified during their performances? During the performance of “Blurred Lines,” Miley was dressed like one of the girls being sexualized in the music video, whereas Robin Thicke was wearing a suit. There is a misguided and constructed notion that showing off female sexuality is empowering and, while women being able to express their sexuality is a step in the right direction, having that being on display as the only form of empowerment is not progressive. Equating sexuality with empowerment closes the doors to other opportunities for women to be empowered and successful. This is especially dangerous in the media because of all the young girls who watch performances like Miley’s. While it may seem that showing off your sexuality in the media is empowering, it can be argued that it’s in actuality, it leads to internalization and self-objectification of young girls since all they are seeing is that success is based on how a woman looks. Just take a look at the covers of any magazine, take GQ Magazine for example. Almost all of the men are in suits and are seen as successful people. All of the women on the covers are sexualized; they are not seen for their success as people, they are seen for their bodies.  

So why should Miley care about the backlash and why should we care about Miley’s performance at the VMAs? People have mostly been talking about how she was dancing and what she was wearing (or lack thereof). Not her song, not her voice, but just her body. She has a huge influence among young girls who may look up to her for her fame. Whether Miley likes it or not, the fact that she has so much influence means she has a responsibility as well. She had family in the music industry before becoming famous, so she knew what she was getting herself into. Whether she wants to be a role model or not, as long as people are influenced to act a certain way because of her, she is a role model.

Lastly, it must be stated that just because of the way someone dresses doesn’t make it okay to call them a whore or demean them as a person. Hypersexualization and objectification are the problems: the idea that a person is good only for their body is targeted towards women. Empowerment through sexuality can be a good thing, but when it is deemed as the only form of empowerment and take away from all the other things that someone can be, that is when there is a problem and that is the image that Miley perpetuates.