Look, everyone’s been talking about it all week so you don’t really need a long diatribe from me about the Miley Cyrus VMA performance but I did want to talk to you a little bit about it. I stayed out of the fray because I couldn’t really put my finger on exactly what I had to say. I had issues with her performance but they weren’t the issues so many people were screaming about. Then there was the screaming- I had so many moments of head shaking and disappointment in the responses I was seeing and then profound sadness about the fact that none of it was surprising. And then there’s Robin Thicke…
It took reading this for me to be able to articulate what was bothering me and it is, across the boards, the same thing. Whether I’m talking about what was so wrong with the performance or what was appalling about the avalanche of slut-shaming that followed or why I just can’t with the Robin Thicke song.
It all represents a blatant disregard for the bodily autonomy of women. ALL OF IT.
Let’s talk about it.
1. Robin Thicke (and the world that supports him) disregards the bodily autonomy of women in general.
I’m going to start with the Robin Thicke song because I never like to waste too much time on douchebagger-y
The song is representative of a culture that sees women’s bodies as somehow generally up for grabs. Teaching consent is so hard because the starting point isn’t one of respect for individual bodily autonomy but rather entitlement to women’s bodies. I don’t want to waste anymore time on Robby-Rob so I’ll just say that the song is rape-y, his assertion that there’s anything “feminist” about it is preposterous and its use in this performance was disturbing.
Also, read this:
2. The internet disregards Miley’s bodily autonomy
I have many issues with the things that were done on that stage – I thought she was trying way too hard to be provocative, the whole thing felt a little “what ‘shocking’ thing can I do next”? and some of it was just offensive (more on that in a minute) but equally offensive was the barrage of crap I saw on the internet for days afterward. From the countless “When did she become a dumb slut with no self respect?”/”Shut up whore”/”What a skank” comments to the picking apart of her body- I have seen so many close up shots of her ass with snarky notes saying that she “obviously doesn’t do squats”*
So, what I’m hearing here is “How dare she do this?! And how dare she do it with an ass that is not more pleasing to us?!”
What the f**king f**k people?!
and watch this:
3. Miley Cyrus disregards the bodily autonomy of women of color
There’s a lot of ranting about what Ms. Cyrus did with her own body and I couldn’t care less about that. For me this sums up the worst thing about Miley’s performance:
“From her insistence on twerking, to her use of all black women as literal props (they were teddy bears) to her smacking of her dancer’s ass and the simulation of rimming, it is very clear to me, that Miley thinks that black women’s bodies are to be enjoyed, devalued and put on display for entertainment purposes.” - Solidarity is For Miley Cyrus: The Racial Implications of her VMA Performance
Now, you can say that objectifying back-up dancers is a tale as old as time but, 1. that doesn’t make it better and 2. there is no way we can ignore that Miley’s dancers are all women of color whose faces were covered up (by, of all things, bear heads) and who didn’t dance and play and have fun with Miley- no, no- they simply acted as bodies for sexualization. This performance was (I guess) about Miley declaring herself to be a sexual adult and she seemed to want to surround herself with lots of sexual “stuff” including the stereotypically sexualized bodies of black women. To me this was the most horrifying thing about the whole Miley Cyrus debacle. Why? Because this was just so blatant- this was no misunderstanding about whether “twerking” is appropriate, this was exploitative use of women’s bodies and, yes, it was about race. Very much.
Now, sitting here as a white woman I can’t speak to the experience of WoC and I will not try to.
So, those are my thoughts on Miley. What did you all think?
*I’m a former trainer and this- squats give you giant thighs. I haven’t done a squat in five years and I have an ass that partners often stop bedroom proceedings to admire. Just saying© Copyright 2013 The Bedhead, All rights Reserved. Written For: The Redhead Bedhead