What was really “impressionable” about Miley’s performance is the reaction that it both desired and enormously received. When social media platforms exploded with commentary during the awards show, we all became little moths desperately clinging to Miley’s PVC bikini flame.
The fact is, Miley’s marketing team achieved the holy grail of advertising: They sold ice to polar bears. The spinoff from the performance was and still is gargantuan. Yesterday morning, they kicked back and gave each other high fives because entire nations bought into exactly what they wanted us to, and they didn't even have to try.
We were simultaneously delighted and outraged that she presented herself and her music the way that she did in collaboration with Robin Thicke. True to our collective societal character, we were solely outraged by Miley, and not her co-musicians.
Miss Cyrus was reprimanded and condemned for her every movement, her clothing, overall appearance, performance set, artistic concept, backup dancers and costuming, her foam finger, and her evocative gyrations. But Miley’s performance is only a small piece of a very unfortunate puzzle. A large argument against her performance being approved for the VMA stage is that her fan base consists of a younger, female audience who are vulnerable to absorbing her suggestive behaviors.
Let’s talk about Robin Thicke for a moment. A thirty six year old married man (with a child) sang about how much he KNOWS you (women) want it while allowing a twenty year old (engaged) woman to push her barely covered behind into his crotch and use his body as a stripper pole. I’m not only pointing out Thicke’s relationship status here, Miley is engaged and is just as much the culprit. However, just like dominos, society tumbled one by one into a fury of revulsion for Miley’s actions, but provided Thicke with tolerance and absolutely no judgement in light of his. Pretend for a second, that Miss Cyrus was a mother. It would be an infallible guarantee that her performance would have been explosively criticized because she was a parent. She would have been held to a hierarchical standard.
Now, let’s explore Thicke’s fan base- also largely comprised of young females and males. Why aren’t we making a spectacle of what HIS fans absorbed? His current hit single, “Blurred Lines”, talks about the male struggle to interpret the distorted ‘lines’ of perceived female sexual innuendo. The song’s music video features Thicke and his collaborators in the company of a troop of scantily clad models. What many people don’t know is that there’s an additional unrated version of the music video where the same models are topless and wearing nude colored panties. At a first glance, they appear to be totally naked.
Also important: Robin Thicke’s music video is the reason Miley was toting a foam finger as a prop. One of the models featured in “Blurred Lines” uses the same finger to playfully hide her breasts from view during the video. Also, guess why she was wearing nude, PVC hot pants? You guessed it, also featured in THICKE’s video. It’s a small world, ladies and gentlemen.
The fact of the matter is, what your daughter (or son, or any young female/male that you’re close to) absorbs and perceives from a provocative award show performance is NOT MTV’s responsibility. It’s yours. That’s right, you as a mother, or a sister, a mentor, or simply a more mature presence in a young female or male's life. Advocating for responsible media presentation and advertisement is a noble cause, but it’s also a failing one. If anything, media is becoming increasingly suffused with explicit, sexualized content.
The literal only way to combat girl's skewed perceptions of themselves and the realities of the world around them, is to fight the battle from home. Parents, educators, and mentors need to make a collective and constant effort to change the way we think, talk, and the messages (whether direct or subliminal) that we deliver to young girls and women. The same principle applies to young men.
Objectification is decreased when we break the continuous cycle of condoning and propagating it. Give the gift of critical thinking. Make sure your daughter or the young girls in your life are able to process and deconstruct what is presented to them by the media so that they KNOW they have a right to either consent or decline to any suggestive or sexual behaviors while still enjoying the music of their favorite artist. Ensure they don’t grow up believing that behaviors such as those exhibited by Miley are a requirement in their lives. Make it your divine mission to instill values of self confidence, positive body image, self respect, and self worth in these girls. In turn, ensure that young men don't grow up believing that they need to embody what Robin Thicke represents. EDUCATE young men and women on what matters so that they know what doesn't.
A great start would be NOT calling Miley trashy, or a slut, or a whore, or use any other derogative language pertaining to her. Why, you ask? Because if YOU sanction those terms to oppress another woman, then in turn you've made it okay for everyone else to utilize those same terms to oppress others.
You’re entitled to hold your own reservations regarding her performance, but keep it out of the reach of younger ears. Perhaps you and your partner had some passing comments at bedtime regarding the spectacle, but that doesn't mean you need to incorporate it into more public forums of conversation. Spreading intolerance and hate isn't a supermarket of picking and choosing which statements influence others; everything is thrown into the same melting pot. By the same token, I'd be the first one on the dance floor after hearing the first three notes of "Blurred Lines". It's catchy and fun! The difference is that I'm an adult who appreciates the song at face value, and deciphers the subject matter to draw my own, informed conclusions, not a developing teenager.
Gauge what is damaging and what isn't. Use of the word “twerk” was rampant in post VMA responses, but there’s a significant difference between remarking a dance move and attacking a human being (that’s right, Miley’s one of us!) in a slanderous tone.
Also, be responsibly conscious. There’s something to be said for presenting tasteful humor in light of this VMA conduct. We wouldn’t be human if we didn’t want to poke a little fun at the wildly creative set, the costuming, the dancers, and yes, the twerking. There is, however, a fine line between poking fun and participating in the defamation of a young woman who still has a considerable amount of growing up to do. I’m not even criticizing her maturity level with that remark, just pointing out that she is experiencing the same personal exploration and evolution as every other young woman her age. The difference is that Miley hasn’t been afforded the level of privacy that most young women are. She is experiencing this evolution in a very public way while catering to the expectations of a demanding and crippling entertainment industry. Will she look back on the performance with embarrassment when she’s thirty? Who knows? But also, WHO CARES?! As the songstress says herself “It’s my life, I can do what I want to”. And she’s RIGHT.
Miley isn’t the entity to be ashamed of as we emerge from this VMA controversy. Rather, it’s our failure as a population to think critically and apply our attention to a detrimentally influential situation that continues to be neglected.