Thank you Miley: a reminder

2013-10-07 10:27

Sinead O Connor, who seemingly had good intentions, forgot about the fact that maybe Miley Cyrus wanted to dance like she did at the VMAs and swing naked on a wrecking ball. In her open letter she criticised Miley for her recent behaviour, likening her to a prostitute. I disagree.

A friend on Facebook said exactly what I was thinking, “Feminism is about choice.”

With porn readily available, female stars do not have to take off their clothes. There is, of course, the well-worn “But the men don’t have to do it”, but some of them do. And there are a variety of female stars who do not take off their clothes, who still have decent voices. So maybe Miley and Rihanna actually want to express themselves in this way. It may not always be tasteful according to the standards of many, however, labeling them as “whores” is unfair, and contrary to the fight for gender equality.

What we are forgetting here are the other aspects in this conversation, namely the parents and the schools. A big part of the criticism at these celebrities who are apparently negatively influencing the youth forget the part where the parents and teachers are supposed to step in and remind the kids that they can enjoy entertainment and artistic expression without emulation. Puberty will happen regardless of who is dancing on stage with Robin Thicke.

Art is subjective, just like the labelling of individuals. I was quite dismayed by many people, mostly women, who described Miley as “slutty”. What exactly is slutty?  Who decides, and who gives them this right? Many of these same women have probably taken part in the phenomenon now known as slut shaming, but according to what standard is a woman supposed to be a slut? Are we then not reverting to a state where we tell people who to be? On my personal blog, when I wrote about Miley after her performance at the VMAs, a reader left some comments that were so disappointing. I cannot wrap my head around females calling the behaviour of other females “slutty” and even “promoting promiscuity”.

The issues of power and expression resonate here as we have had our own issues with women. In fact, does anyone recall the time when our very own Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities Lulu Xingwana said of a portrait of nude women by Zanele Muholi was “immoral, offensive and going against nation-building”. Yes, never forget. On top of that we have the cases of women being humiliated at taxi ranks for wearing skirts. This debate is essential as it reminds us that no person should ever be dictated to, especially in a country where rape is a scary reality.

In Saudi Arabia, a dictatorship decrees that women are to be treated as infants. Here in SA, women are allowed to practise the faith that they choose, and dress as they want. This is, of course, not to say that we are a utopia.

Islamic states are often slated for their treatment of women, and often rightly so. No person should be dictated to based on their opinion of a few. In South Africa we are fortunate enough to have the freedom of expression, as well as the freedom of free speech. It’s such a pity that the two cannot exist as one.

Porn is about power, and many of the “actors” in these films are exploited and in it just for the money. They have no choice, and often believe that they do not have a choice. The link to these celebrities is too far removed to be credible.

Miley, like other stars before her, was young and a role model. She still is, for her fans who are growing up with her. If we have 20 year old women who believe that they have to emulate a celebrity to improve their self-worth, then we have bigger issues than someone riding a wrecking ball and licking a hammer.

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