Miley Cyrus and the Virgin/Whore Thing
So good to see that slut-shaming is still the national sport. If women were free to exhibit sexuality without inciting public scorn, I’d be worried that maybe I’d just awoken from a Rip Van Winkle-like coma. Mom? Dad? What do you mean, they’ve been dead for 474 years and women are no longer judged by their bodies?!
Listen. Miley Cyrus won. She did some twerking and some awkward grinding and now the whole Western world is talking about her. The same week that her new album drops. Clearly this whole VMA pseudo-nakey performance was a carefully orchestrated PR move. NAKEY NAKEY NAKEY!
Miley doesn’t bother me. The fact that we have created a world in which a woman feels like the best way to get people’s attention is to put on a weird granny panty/bikini/butt swaddle thing and then bend over for Jason Seaver’s son is what bothers me. And that we relish calling her a slut for it. THAT’S the problem – that we take sincere and extreme pleasure in expecting women to have perfect bodies, encouraging them to put their breasts and stomachs and butts on display, and then calling them whores. It’s like we bait them into their own ‘punishment’ for daring to not have penises.
Let me tell you something. When I was 20 years old and in college just discovering my own sexual power, I wore a lot of tight tank tops and tall boots and glitter on my face and I fucking GOT DOWN on the dance floor. So did every single girl that I knew. Were we ‘sluts’? Nope. We were women who felt good enough about ourselves to look and behave how we wanted to. The only difference is that we were performing for each other, not a TV audience. And we weren’t being told by our agents or handlers or washed up fathers or whatever that we needed to take our tits out in order to be successful human beings. (PS every one of us ended up with masters degrees, law degrees, and/or PhDs. And we also had some sex with some people who weren’t our husbands. Sometimes, they weren’t even our boyfriends. BIG FUCKING DEAL.)
Around that same time in my life I saw Usher perform at some random top 40 radio station’s random “Jingle Something Fest of People Who Have Hits Right Now” concert. When I say that he was gyrating, I mean he was humping the air as though it were filled with thousands of invisible vaginas. We were not scandalized. We giggled. And then we took more swigs of the peach schnapps we’d mixed with Snapple Peach Iced Tea so that we could smuggle it inside. I don’t want to get all “there’s a double standard and it’s unfair to women!” on you, but there’s a double standard and it’s unfair to women.
The only thing that Miley Cyrus has to be ashamed of is how unoriginal her whole schtick was. Strip down to nude-colored outfit and wiggle your ass? Boring! Britney Spears did that years ago and we were properly scandalized and then we got over it and now she’s a mom making music videos with her kids for a Smurfs movie. Like Miley, she has lived the virgin/whore paradigm, and seen it come full circle. Started as an innocent Mickey Mouse Club kid, took her clothes off, gyrated with a snake, got married, had some kids, is now kind of desexualized again because she’s a mother. (Which ALSO enrages me, but that’s another blog post.)
At this point, the edgiest thing that a young pop artist can do at the VMAs or the Grammys or whatever is to put on a turtleneck and some khakis and play their own instruments. When THAT happens, then we can all freak out.
photos via instagram.com/mileycyrus