• author
    • Debra DeAngelo

    • August 30, 2013 in Columnists

    Miley Cyrus shows an ankle and blurs the lines of sexual inequity

    In my quest to stay one step ahead of irrelevancy, lest I topple into the “get off my lawn” stage before my time, I frequently dip into the well of pop culture so I can remain conversant with people under 30. Word — I can hashtag like cray-cray.

    Shut up. At least I’m trying.

    So, naturally, when the morning news teams, internet and social media blew up on Monday over the strange tongue-wagging teddy bear twerking Miley Cyrus performance on the Video Music Awards last weekend, I had to check it out. Yeah, it’s awkward. At first glance, it’s a swing-and-a-miss at in-your-face white girl female sexuality

    Miley. Honey. Go back and read the Madonna and Lady Gaga chapters, with the footnote by Gwen Stefani.

    Miley’s VMA performance is actually a medley of her “We Can’t Stop” song/video, and Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” and his collaboration with 2 Chainz and Kendrick Lamar on “Give It 2 U.” OK, what was the point of all this. What’s Miley trying to say. Like a good investigative reporter, I turned to YouTube for answers. Turns out, the VMA performance is a compilation of the videos, and Miley is the thread stitching them together.

    First, “We Can’t Stop.” Aha, that’s where the dancing teddy bears harken from, and where Miley did her first Gene Simmons impersonation and attempted twerking. The video is mostly a “Yo, Mom, I’m in college now and you can’t make me come home at midnight” ode to cutting the invisible umbilical cord, and shows a bunch of PBR-powered frisky young people partying. A recurring theme in the lyrics is “We can do what we want to, we can say what we want to,” and so on and so forth. Near the end of the song, Miley adds in, “It’s my mouth, I can say what I want to.”

    Hmmm. She’s saying “You aren’t the boss of me. Or my mouth.”

    Or my fingers on the keyboard?

    If I were to fault that sentiment, I’d be the hugest hypocrite on the planet. Let’s all just be glad that I don’t require a skin-colored latex bikini to get my point across. #iwanttobarf

    I get it. Miley is desperately trying to break out of the Hannah Montana mold that Disney stuffed her into, and although it’s a bit clumsy, it’s far less painful than fellow Disney kid Brittney Spears’ attempts to reclaim her own psyche and identity. (You remember Brittney — we relentlessly harried her into emotional collapse, right to the precipice of suicide, and then brushed our hands together and cluck-clucked about her pitiful lack of self-control, and felt altogether really good about ourselves.)

    Miley’s not Hannah Montana anymore. She’s an adult. She wants to do what she wants now, and what she wants to do is have sex.

    Oh, be still our fibrillating Puritanical hearts, because none of us, not now or ever, have ever wanted to have sex!

    Let’s get honest people. We all want sex. Anyone who denies that — check your pants. They’re on fire.

    Which segue’s right into Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” video, featuring ridiculously cute, sexy young women prancing around in nothing but flesh-colored panties. First off, holy crap, that’s a great song! Secondly, the girls in this video aren’t being degraded or abused. They look playful and confident, and embody the song’s message: “Come on, Good Girl — you know you want to have sex!”

    And, right about now, uptight sex-phobic minds are blowing up like the Fourth of July sky, because females are not supposed to like sex. Sex belongs to men!

    The rest of you, read on.

    I particularly like this line from the song: “tried to domesticate you, but you’re an animal, baby, it’s in your nature.” Sexuality IS a part of normal female nature. Funny. American women are horrified that women in some cultures are forced to wear burqas, and don’t recognize that American women wear burqas too — it’s draped over our sexuality. Ultimately, it’s the same thing: Open, honest, genuine female sexuality is so threatening to the stability of society itself, it must be shrouded, kept out of sight and exposed only to the male with the property rights.

    So. Back to Miley, twerking away with Thicke as he sings about how he knows she wants it, and the connection is obvious — her little rubber bikini was clearly inspired by his video. But the message is still all hers. She’s shrieking, “Yes, this Good Girl is all grown up, and I want access to my own sexuality!” Regardless of how awkward her declaration may be, Miley is lifting the edge of her sexual burqa and showing an ankle. She’s saying, “Yes! Girls like sex too, and not for the benefit of you guys, but for our own, because it feels good and it’s fun!”

    Anyone who has ever had an orgasm: I challenge you to refute that pure truth.

    Which brings us to the third part of the medley, “Give It 2 U,” with Miley gettin’ nasty with a big foam fan finger. The actual video features sexy, scantily clad cheerleaders on the football field doing red-hot grinding dance routines, and that’s where the foam fingers and twerking play in. The song is about men wanting to have sex with those cheerleaders.

    Men wanting to have sex with cheerleaders! That’s just shocking!!!

    Said no one in America ever.

    And there’s the rub. As long as women get sexy for male entertainment, everything’s fine. But when women start getting sexy for themselves, because that’s what they want, and that’s what feels good, and they stare right back atcha, guys, and say, “Bring it, baby, I’m ready,” we start flopping and gasping like fresh-caught mackerels dumped out onto the pier. Cover it up, cover it up!

    It’s called hypocrisy.

    You want to talk equality? Feminism? Liberation? Then, ladies, reclaim your sexuality. Explore it. Enjoy it. Own it. Just as men have for centuries. Your sexuality isn’t his. It’s YOURS.

    You lift that burqa, Miley. You go, girl.



    • Loved your column, but sadly, I had to look up twerk. And then I had to watch a video–said the former teacher of courses in popular culture.

    • I have no interest in Miley Cyrus and didn’t even watch VMA’s. Not into music so she can do what she wants as far as I am concerned. Elvis, The Beatles and who knows else were thought to be the devil when they first came on stage. More important things in the world to worry about than twerking.

      • Elvis was a twerker before twerking was invented if you go with the definition of Twerking.

      • Madge, actually…. the column’s not about Miley. It’s about sexuality.

        • I understand that but the point is what is sexuality to one person might not be to another. I think her act is to make a point that she is not a little girl anymore and what she does want is for her message to be spread, just as it was because everyone is talking about her. I just choose not to indulge her.
          I am glad you are trying to elevate the conversation at least and identify the issues.

    • I usually agree with you Debra but not this time. My problem with this, and every other ‘girl’ empowerment production in the last few decades, is they’re impossible to separate from the usual male generated ‘sexual’ exhibitions. I can’t recall ANY male counterparts that employ the same sexual circus antics of this latest batch of ex-Disney Factory babes. As the usual, Thicke managed to maintain most of his dignity (and clothes) while Cyrus socially tattooed herself as the latest in a long line of train wreck tramps. How is strutting around, half-naked, humping foam fingers, any different then your average pole dancer? Because it was ‘her’ idea to perform exactly as the most based brained male could ever imagine and hope for?

      • Pat, I totally agree with you! Her on-stage antics were just sad and pathetic. Her MESSAGE was valid. The delivery… like I said, a swing and a miss. If you click on the links I added for Madonna, Lady Gaga and Gwen Stefani, not THERE is the way a truly fearless woman who embraces the power of her sexuality expresses it. Miley has a LOT to learn from them.
        Also, I LOVE your term, “ex-Disney Factory babes.” Can you imagine what sort of trauma the Disney machine does to a little girl’s head that makes them end up so desperately needed to find themselves, and redefine themselves? It’s like watching an animal thrash in quicksand.

    • Miley is all grown up & wants sex. BUT why on my TV? Poor thing she looked so arkward. The rapper & his dancers looked great. The dancers bumping & grinding in unison. Maybe Miley needed to take lessons from them?

      I love your sense of humor, Debra! I’m from the generation that still looks at a # & sees a number sign & a pound sign. Renaming our symbols ‘hashtag’ is ,I guess.the same as thinking that performance of Mylie was sexual. Poor thing. I didn’t think of independence or coming into her own, when I viewed her performance . I thought,’ The Achey,Breaky Heart Dad just had his achey breaky heart broken.

      • Liz, I agree… the performance was beyond awkward. She WANTS to be a sexy grown up woman, but she doesn’t have the maturity or finesse to pull it off. Take Madonna – she has done some shocking things that got people in an uproar. But always, it was calculated, slick, well-rehearsed and seamless. Miley – oh my. I still value her message though. She still has a long way to go in her delivery.

    • It takes a lot to coax a smile from me but you did and always do. You are a genius. Your writing never disappoints. Well done!

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