Miley Cyrus, Twerking, and Slut Shaming

Miley Cyrus twerks and it is the end of civilisation. No, wait. The end of civilisation was yesterday when Lady Gaga posed naked. No, wait. It was the day before when Britney Spears shaved her head and was photographed, ah, bottomless. Hmmm, or was it the day before that when Madonna did any one of the number of things? Elvis? The Beatles? The Stones? Civilisation: "The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated."

After reading over and over again about this supposedly earth-shattering event, I watched a video of Ms. Cyrus and Robin Thicke strutting their stuff. Two words immediately came to mind: publicity stunt. On Sep 3/2013, Rolling Stone quoted the 20-year-old as saying, "Me and Robin the whole time said, 'You know we're about to make history right now.'" It's money in the bank.

There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.
-The Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde, Irish dramatist, novelist, & poet (1854 – 1900)

I run down the list of criticisms of Miley Cyrus and wonder if people have far too much time on their hands.

Morning Joe’s Mika Brzezinski qualified the performance of Miley Cyrus "pathetic, desperate, [and] sick." … "That young woman who is 20 is obviously deeply troubled, deeply disturbed, clearly has confidence issues, probably an eating disorder. I don’t think anybody should have put her up on stage — that was disgusting and embarrassing."

Jody Rosen of Vulture.Com (part of New York Magazine) called the performance a "minstrel show" [which] "tipped over into what we may as well just call racism."

In a press release from the Parents Television Council, the organisation wrote: "MTV has once again succeeded in marketing sexually charged messages to young children using former child stars and condom commercials — while falsely rating this program as appropriate for kids as young as 14. … MTV continues to sexually exploit young women by promoting acts that incorporate ‘twerking’ in a nude-colored bikini. How is this image of former child star Miley Cyrus appropriate for 14-year-olds?"

Me? What do I think? First of all, I'm getting on with the rest of my life. Considering that we collectively have to deal with pestilence, war, famine, and death, I am thinking that twerking, albeit a new-found entry in the Oxford Dictionary, is not on my top ten list of things I need to be worried about. Secondly, and I think this is the more important point, a bunch of self-professed experts are doing their damndest to tie all this back to all sorts of ills of society. Although, I don't remember hearing about the connection to rising CO2 emissions and global warming.

The Twist was a dance inspired by rock and roll music. It became the first worldwide dance craze in the early 1960s, enjoying immense popularity among young people and drawing fire from critics who felt it was too provocative. -Wikipedia: Twist (dance)

Joanne Bamberger
According to Huffington Post, Ms. Bamberger is a Washington, D.C.-based writer and political/media analyst. In the Aug 28/2013 USA Today article "The verdict on Hannah and the Montana judge: Column", the author ties together Miley Cyrus, the rape of Cherice Moralez, and her own 14 year-old daughter.

Let me give you some preliminary information.

In 2007, 14-year-old Cherice Moralez was raped by her 48-year-old Montana teacher Stacey Rambold. Charges were filed in 2008. After years of being shunned and bullied by classmates over the incident, Moralez took her own life in 2010. (The Daily Mail) The current kerfuffle, as presented by Joanne Bamberger, is the outrage over recent remarks made by a presiding judge in the case and his subsequent lenient sentencing of the rapist. Basically the judge rationalised the rape by saying Moralez, at the age of 14, was complicit in the affair and Rambold had suffered enough.

This entire story is horrific on so many levels. A 48-year-old man has sex with a 14-year-old girl. The man is her teacher, a position of trust. He apparently had been previously warned about "inappropriate behaviour" but was left in charge of minors. The 14-year-old is the victim in the story and yet she was shunned and bullied by her own peers. Slut shaming? The judge in sentencing Rambold qualifies what happened as not a "violent, forcible, horrible rape."

In 2011, I wrote about a judge who only gave rapist probation saying the circumstances were "inviting" and that "Sex was in the air." He concluded by saying, "This is a case of misunderstanding signals and inconsiderate behaviour." (my blog: Justice Robert Dewar: rape is inconsiderate) The woman said, "No." The judge was holding the woman responsible for her clothes, her make-up, and her behaviour. The guy wasn't responsible for not heeding the woman's "No." The judge was slut shaming the woman.

In January 2013, I wrote about the Steubenville rape case where a number of teenage boys raped a drunken girl. (my blog: Steubenville Rape Case: It could be your daughter. – Jan 13/2013)

The media is filled with the back and forth debating of whether the boys are guilty or not. … The bigger issue is what's going on in our society. This type of situation has cropped up so many times that anybody who stands back and looks at the big picture has to ask themselves whether or not we fully grasp what's going on in society. You go to a party and see a girl who has made the mistake of drinking too much. What do you do? Try to help her out by sobering her up. See if she has a purse and try to find the telephone number of her parents and call them. Pull off her panties and insert your fingers in her vagina.

In my blog: Amanda Todd: The cruelty in all of us (Oct 14/2012), I discuss the suicide of a young girl who was talked into exposing her breasts on the Internet then humiliated for years when the pictures were published.

On October 7, 2012, 15 year old Amanda Michelle Todd posted a YouTube video (at end of article) in which she showed a series of flashcards describing her experiences of being the target of bullying both on-line and in real life that had been going on for years. Watching the video and reading her story is both startling and perplexing. Why would classmates and total strangers go so far in displaying such cruelty towards Amanda? On October 10, 2012, Amanda committed suicide in her home in Port Coquitlam, B.C., Canada.

Back to Joanne Bamberger
Ms. Bamberger is worried about her own 14-year-old daughter. Who wouldn't be? But this supposed political/media analyst goes on to tie this all together.

According to Yellowstone County District Judge G. Todd Baugh on Monday, he didn't impose a harsher sentence on Moralez's rapist because she "seemed older than her chronological age" and he believed she was "as much in control of the situation" as her attacker. Moralez committed suicide in 2010 just before her 17th birthday.

Wednesday, the judge said he is sorry. "I don't know what I was thinking or trying to say," he said. "It was just stupid and wrong." He may not know where he got the idea, but I might.

My daughter is a few months shy of her 14th birthday. Knowing her as I do, there is no question that, regardless of how a middle school girl appears, no adult "consent" could be given by a young teen to her 40-something male teacher. Which brought me back to the Miley Cyrus/twerking debacle. I wondered: have today's sexually-charged images of young girls and women warped how judges, and others, view real life victims of rape and sexual assault?

I appreciate Ms. Bamberger's concern but I would say that Ms. Bamberger's analysis is curious. The phenomenon of misogyny and denial of rape and sexual assault pre-dates Miley Cyrus and I would go so far as to say it is as old as our patriarchal society. I would also add that Ms. Bamberger, like many other critics of the twerking incident, are concerned that such images are sexualising young people (no, they use the word children) and making them targets of assault. I have to ask the question. Do they really think this is something new? Do they see all men as mindless sex animals who are ready to assault at the first whiff of anything sexual? Do they think the only way to combat men not understanding "No" is to lock up the women and hide the children?

But this doesn't even begin to deal with the issue of slut shaming. In the rape case, the newspapers reported that Moralez was shunned and bullied by classmates for years. For years! Why? Why was she a target of this negativity, this vilification? In the Amanda Todd story it was the same thing. Certain people felt justified or compelled to besmirch this girl's reputation to the nth degree. But why?

In my blog "#Slanegirl: sex, (double) standards, and sluts", I discussed the story of an Irish 17-year-old girl photographed at a rock concert while engaging in some sexual activity. The pictures were posted to social media and countless people went to great lengths to portray her in a negative light, a slut. But why? The main male character in the story was either left out of the story or was treated as a hero. The girl was treated as something horrible. Why? Yes, it's the double standard we all know so well but I keep asking the question, why? Why is a woman in any way associated with something sexual a bad thing? Why is a woman associated with anything sexual interpreted by men as an invitation? No means no. And why do other men (judges) seem to give male perpetrators a get out jail free card for questionable behaviour? As I said about Steubenville: What if it was your daughter?

Commentary
I watched Miley Cyrus. I shrugged. (What's with the tongue?) It was inevitable. Sex it up to get the ratings up. Did it work? Time will tell. Did those images strike me as sexual? I thought the whole thing came across as what I would see at a drunken college pub night. Cool? Not really. Sexy? Not really. Did those images incite me to do what I otherwise not do? Not in the least.

Not in the least. Note what I just said: not in the least. In other words, if I watch a Fast And Furious movie, I can make the distinction between fantasy and reality and I am not going to leave the movie theatre and drive home like a maniac. If I watch any one of a number of murder, horror, or violent "Grindhouse" films, I can understand the difference between entertainment and life and not be overcome by an insane urge to get a gun and shoot up a public place. If I watch Miley Cyrus shake her booty, I can appreciate the show without thinking the show is how things work in everyday life. If somebody can't do what I do, I have to ask what's to blame? Does a movie cause a change in people's behaviour? Does a show? Does an image? I would have to ask what happened to the parents, the education system, and all the rules of any place of employment? Does anybody have a moral compass anymore?

Yes, I understand monkey see monkey do. But this is the issue I worry about. I feel many, especially at the Conservative end of the political and moral spectrum, have a gut reaction and want to immediately do something without clearly thinking through the ramifications of their decision. Yes, we all want a better, safer life. Yes, we want to reduce crime. Yes, we want to protect the children and make sure women feel safe in their own communities. But is Miley Cyrus twerking the true cause of the problem? Judges give rapists a free ride? Both men and women slut shame any women who displays any bit of her sexuality in an overt manner? Steubenville? The Slane Castle incident? The problem here is far more profound than MTV showing twerking on TV.

Pole Dancing
Is there anything more associated with strippers? Is there anything more associated with the supposed steamy end of the entertainment spectrum? In my blog Sheila Kelley: Let's Get Naked: TED Talk, I show a video clip of this actress and her talk on women and empowerment. After she starred as a stripper in a film, she became a fan of pole dancing and incorporated it into a fitness program. She and others have developed exercise programs based on what strippers everywhere have been doing for years. What used to be naughty has become mainstream.

Twerkout
The Daily Mail reports on a new fitness craze based on – you guessed it – the dance move used by Miley Cyrus. (Sep 2/2013: Introducing the Twerkout: How Miley Cyrus' lewd VMA dance routine has inspired a new fitness craze)

This dynamic combination of toning positions and cardio combined with Miley's enviable physique led to women becoming eager to try the ‘twerk’ for themselves. Les Mills, creator of fitness programmes including Bodypump, says it received a number of requests for a class featuring twerking moves following Miss Cyrus's controversial VMA performance. They adapted their existing Bodyjam class to incorporate a number of energetic twerking moves – to great effect. They have seen a surge of interest in the dance class and are considering changing the class's name to the Twerkout.

What? Twerking isn't the end of civilisation?

In addition to burning 530 calories per 55 minute session, research by Les Mills also reveals twerkers could see on average an eight per cent increase in pelvic bone density with regular participation.

Final Word
In my blog "Sex, the Whole Sex, and Nothing But the Sex", I show a picture of a man and a woman kissing. I give several different descriptions to show that without changing the picture, I can dramatically change the tone of the image. I then added that if I give no description of the image, it is up to you, the reader, to put a meaning or backstory to the picture and how you interpret the image says more about you and your attitude to sex than the image itself.

What did you see when you watched Miley Cyrus twerk? A 20-year-old former Disney star trying to make a career change? The zombie apocalypse? The sexualisation of children and the reason why a 48-year-old teacher already warned about inappropriate behaviour raped a 14-year-old girl?

A TV network censored a sequence of John Steinbeck's The Red Pony, which showed a mare giving birth, but broadcast the rather hideous sequence from The Godfather showing a beheaded horse.Youth, Sex and the Media, CyberCollege

Do goldfish know they are living in a fishbowl? We live in a society which still has very strong puritanical characteristics. We celebrate violence (or at least accept it) and vilify sex. We do not fully understand what's going on around us and why things happen. We far too often see correlation and think we have found causation. For every mother who wants to protect their daughter from a rapist, I would point out that every rapist has a mother. What did she (and Dad) do wrong?

References

Published on Aug 26, 2013 by hollywooddailynews
MTV Video Music Awards 2013 – Miley Cyrus Twerk & Robin Thicke (6:26)
Certainly not the best sound (recorded from a TV?) but it's the best I could find.

Wikiquote: Mark Twain
Original and correct quote: "The report of my death was an exaggeration."
Misquote: "The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated."
Note: This paraphrase or misquote may be more popular than the original.

The Improper – Aug 29/2013
Miley Cyrus VMA Critics: 10 Reasons Why They're Off-Base By Keith Girard
Miley Cyrus’s performance at the MTV Music Video Awards continues to generate fearsome reaction from nearly every quarter, ranging from the mainstream media to egg-head publications and, of course, the blogosphere. Most of it has been negative and most of it equally way off-base. Here are ten principal arguments critics are using to lambaste the 20-year old singer and why they are all mostly ridiculous.

Published on Aug 26, 2013 by JaeTracie
How To TWERK! (Not What You Think! lol) Re: Miley Cyrus VMA 2013 (2:30)
I ran across this video critising twerking. I'm not sure that this woman, Jae Tracie, understands what she is saying about our society. She is supporting the idea that any woman who displays her sexuality does not have self-respect. She is a skank. (her word) Ms. Tracie is slut shaming women. If a woman is disrepected by men or her man, it is her fault. Twerking is intrinsically wrong and any woman who does it is asking for trouble.

Alexandra Petri is a good writer.
The following pieces are well worth reading.

The Washington Post – Aug 28/2013
Deep thoughts about Miley Cyrus’s VMA performance By Alexandra Petri
In a few billion years, the sun will burn out, balloon into a red giant, swallow the whole earth, and leave nothing but the dim memory of dust, plus two or three people who are still writing thinkpieces on Miley Cyrus’s 2013 VMAs performance.

The Washington Post – Sep 4/2013
What Steubenville, Miley Cyrus and the Stacey Dean Rambold case actually have in common By Alexandra Petri
I was hoping we wouldn’t have to do this. I was hoping that the Miley Cyrus conversation would not continue to spiral out of control, devouring suns and shattering worlds and trampling all common sense in its wake.

Published on Sep 3, 2013 by Caitlin Heller
Worst Twerk Fail EVER – Girl Catches Fire!
I tried making a sexy twerk video for my boyfriend and things got a little too hot 🙂

Published on Aug 29, 2013 by AriesHeadFilms
Captain Kirk watches Miley Cyrus performance
Original "USS Enterprise reacts to MTV's Video Music Awards.

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