Miley is guiltless. She’s just a cog in the machine. Women have no choice but to play the cultural role in which they are ordained. It’s our myopic patriarchy that’s wrong here. Miley has all the talent to make it without twerking and otherwise acting like an peripatetic inflatable sex doll. Nothing to be done.
Miley Cyrus, like Brittney and Xtina and (way back) Madonna, before her, is becoming insanely rich and attaining mega-visibility by acting out teenage lust fantasies. And, since she’s 20 now, it’s expected from her handlers that she do just this. Her branding requires it. No longer confined to a Disney persona, she must and has reconfigured herself to become a media wet dream. Why? Because that’s what you do. It is self-validating behavior demanded by how women are perceived, what their appropriate role in society is, and above all, is the most direct way to effusive paydays.
Gloria Steinem pretty much holds this view. “I wish we didn’t have to be nude to be noticed, but given the game as it exists, women make decisions. For instance, the Miss America contest is, in all of its states, forms, is the single greatest source of scholarship money for women in the United States.”
I find Ms. Steinem’s response one I would expect from a matriarch of the system, and one that could have just as easily been uttered by Phyllis Shlafley or anyone else from the anti-feminist crowd. It’s the shrug and sigh response. And if that’s the extent of the analysis of barely-legal female sexuality in this country, and how it is mainlined ad nauseum through the tendrils of mass media, it’s not enough.
Sinead O’Connor’s open letter to Miley, while using some tough language, isn’t something that should even be newsworthy. The relationship between popular music, iconic status, and the framing of little girl sexuality has become entrenched, predictable, and without content whatsoever. Content can be potentially dangerous if its strays off-message. Best to have no message at all and play the string out until the little honey hits 30. Everybody walks away richer from the experience. Meanwhile, keep twerking like you mean it, sister. I mean, you’re SO hot!
So what’s the career path here, after the proverbial bloom has faded from the Miley rose? She can sign autographs at boat shows, maybe, or parlay her titanic musical talent into a serious career, or become, like Madonna, an advocate for women empowerment through being oily, sleazy, and obvious. Madonna deserves the wrath of the many here, since she was the one who patented this template. Argue about whether she or the industry made the persona, but it all amounts to the same. At the very least she was a willful subject. At most, she inverted authentic feminism for a toxic, manifestly boring variant of nondescript techno-pop, forgettable, sophomoric lyrics, and “risque” dance routines. If, somehow, like Madonna, you last long enough, you can grand dame pontificate about how women’s status is invariably tied to their sexuality, and that it is natural and beautiful to share it with the world. You know, like, be empowered, and get filthy rich while you’re at it. But don’t count on the lasting part. The grand dame job is already taken.
Meanwhile, more Lolitas are out there for the plucking if Miley messes up like Lindsey Lohan. Lolitas raised on the idea of being visible and admired, of being famous and crazy rich, of having a life comprised of dreams. If they have to be “empowered” in order to achieve it, such is the price of fame. Just don’t think of Amy Winehouse or Frances Farmer while you’re playing the part. Such thoughts are very off-message.