Anyone watch the VMA’s? To give it it’s full name, MTV’s Video Music Awards. You may not have watched the whole thing at 3:00am yesterday morning or even the hacked to pieces version on MTV SA last night but I bet you’ve heard of Miley Cyrus’s ‘shocking’ performance with Robin Thicke. Shocking because she proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that she is no longer the sweet young thing from “Hanna Montana”. Erupting from a giant teddy bear wearing a skimpy bear-appliqué leotard (maybe a play on “teddy,” maybe just weird) and for her duet with rapper Robin Thicke, she stripped to a nude bikini in homage to the scantily clad woman of the “Blurred Lines” video. A tiny outfit is hardly shocking — Lady Gaga, Rihanna and Beyonce have frequently worn less, and there were no ‘wardrobe malfunctions’ (thankfully!) — but Miley paired her ensemble with lewd gestures, some of which were directed at stuffed animals (to be fair to the performance, the teddies appear in the video too, so this isn’t exactly new). It was a message that, coming from the former Disney star, read pretty clearly as a literal “screw you” to wholesomeness and childhood.
Robin Thicke channeled Beetlejuice in a black and white stripey suit and belted out his charming number “Blurred Lines” , a song basically saying that if a girl says no to sex that she might mean yes, while Miley gyrated against him, clutching at her crotch throughout and bizarrely sticking out her tongue at every chance she could get.
Miley’s song “We can’t stop” is actually quite forgettable but “Blurred Lines”, with it’s themes of treating women like objects and promoting rape culture with its "I know you want it" hook, physical aggression and subtle messages about alcohol and consent is hardly the stuff of a fun song. My main problem is not the misogyny. I believe in freedom of (offensive) speech and all that – though I do wonder about educated women joyfully dancing to these lyrics. My problem with “Blurred Lines” is that it’s become a hit single on almost every top 40 and these lyrics will be belted out by children who will need to be explained the context but hey, that’s just me. Robin Thicke only made things worse when he was asked about the controversy last month, joking, "What a pleasure it is to degrade a woman." Charming boy.
Then there is the issue that Miley, at 20 is being called a slut while he's 36, has a family but is mostly getting off the hook which makes their interplay feel exploitative.
My sister had a good point when she said that ‘The fact that I have a problem with Miley growing up is my problem, not hers”. Yes, she’s a grown woman now, an adult who made her own choice and willingly made a spectacle of herself. She is not a little girl any more but in an era where women have all these choices, why resort to self degradation? Let’s not kid ourselves. Sex Sells. Almost every female singer has at one point used sex to sell herself. Miley Cyrus is using that appropriation to make it clear what kind of artist she wants to be in order to sell more records.
Why make that choice? Yes, it’s a woman’s prerogative to live how she chooses but isn’t this what we as feminists are fighting against?
If we don’t want men to degrade us then we shouldn’t degrade ourselves.
If we don’t want men to objectify us then we shouldn’t objectify ourselves.
If we want men to RESPECT us, then we should respect OURSELVES.
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