It is 6 am on a Sunday morning, and Miley Cyrus’s twiggy body is still on the news; this time, because a few women I greatly respect have chosen to weigh in on the graphic nature of her foam-fingering exploits. Reluctantly, and far from lucid, I am captive to the burgeoning urge inside of me, and with much dismay, I take to this letter to ask:
Dear Sinead O’Connor & Amanda Palmer,
I ask this question with the utmost respect and love for both of you… but really, who are any of us to suppose what and where the motives of Miley Cyrus are? I, for one, don’t know anything personal about Miley Cyrus beyond the massive media frenzy, and based on your letters, I’m going to assume you don’t either. As you mentioned, our life experience has been radically different than hers. You two have had greater successes than I in this industry, but I would guess that none of us have had the sort of child-rearing life-team around us that Ms. Cyrus does. Your loving concerns, however noble, are based upon presumptions about the decision-hierarchy in Ms. Cyrus’s world. Though it is probably safe to assume that she doesn’t go swinging her bare crevasses atop giant pendular wrecking balls on her own free-time, I think to assume wherein her decision making lies is fool hearty. Nevertheless, I would hope that a mature woman capable of making her own decisions would head both of your cautionary warnings as sage advice from two wise artists with a bit more dirt under their nails. Then again, maturity comes with experiences the Disney Channel is censored from providing.
Personally, I have never understood why a woman taking her clothes off is in any way empowering. I understand that some decades ago, women’s bodies were hidden under overbearing and uncomfortable clothing, and our sexuality was taboo, but we do not live in that era. In my lifetime, women’s bodies have been claimed and reclaimed with overt sexuality until the very notion of a girl who doesn’t like to parade her cleavage around town (like myself) is treated oddly by both women and men alike, as though the lack of desire to objectify myself makes me in some way, less of a woman entirely . In this world, it seems contrary to female empowerment to persist in this notion that female adulthood is strictly tethered to graphic sexual displays. This is not to say that I think we should send our breasts spiraling back to the dark ages, but rather to indicate just how complicated and nuanced the issue of sexuality is in our society, and to perhaps remind you that your perspective, however valid, is not the only one.
Ultimately, I’m game for any discussion, but I’m surprised by the amount of attention being given to a silly underwear romp. While you, and I, and the media at large discuss whether or not Miley Cyrus should have her clothing on or off, little attention seems to be given to the fact that this girl is publicly accessorizing with black women, or more specifically, the back side of black women (because, ya know, if these black women keep letting Miley lick their ‘urban’ asses, then we, the unknowing audience, will be mind-twerked into forgetting about her Disney-bread upbringing. If you buy the bit, you buy the merchandise). The trumping offense to both women and African-Americans here is in the objectification of these women; and yet, the crux of the problem is being masqued by this petty argument about Miley’s low costuming bill. The longer we perpetuate this banal distraction, the further into racial and sexual ignorance we descend.
I greatly appreciate both of you for your fearlessness and rationality; it takes a woman of strong caliber to make public strides towards civility and truth, and usually to much detriment and thanklessness. And for the most part, I agree wholeheartedly with your messages. But rather than perpetuate the autopsy of a stranger’s personal choices, I would rather we spend our efforts illuminating the objectification of these anonymous women, whose blackness has been bought and paid for in exchange for an ‘urban’ moniker, and more importantly to serve as a distraction from what’s really important.
Next time you here the words Miley Cyrus on the news, ask yourself ‘what’s going on in Iran today?’
Sincerely With Great Respect,
P.S. Both Sinead O’Connor and Amanda Palmer are sage, intellectual artists with beautiful voices and powerful music. Please know, that I read each of their letters with great admiration.
Amanda Palmer’s Letter