Slut Shaming Miley Cyrus

Miley Cyrus VMA 2013

Okay, enough. It’s time to quit all the slut shaming being thrown at Miley Cyrus for her FMA awards performance.

People are up in arms, claiming it’s her mother’s fault that she dresses like a ‘whore’, and demanding that all mothers watch their girl children and insist they tow the cultural line so as not to end up like Miley. I’ve seen her personally torn down in many discussions today, and children warned not to even enjoy her work (work, not life) as Hannah Montana lest it somehow ‘turn’ them into mini-Mileys. The moral outrage grew so intense I was glad we don’t burn women at the stake anymore. Instead, we slut shame them.

First of all, Miley Cyrus is a grown woman, not a kid under parental control. Her mother is not to ‘blame’ for her behavior, and neither is her father. Disney Corporation might have some culpability in repressing her as a child, but even they cannot be blamed for the choices she is making as an adult.

Second of all, no matter how much parents (why do we always single out mothers?) get involved in the raising of their children, those children grow up and make their own decisions. Twenty-year-olds are notorious for not always making the wisest decisions, perhaps especially those who’ve lived under the strict direction of others during their childhoods.

When the whole world loves you as a kid, and then you grow up, you want them to love you for something other than being a kid. If they refuse to see you as anything other than your innocent child self, then it’s not unusual to push back, resorting to shock treatment to shake up the way people view you. Many a child star has slipped into obscurity because the public refuses to accept them as anything other than children. Miley Cyrus, at the age of twenty, is deciding whether her performance career ended when puberty did, or if she’s going to continue performing as an adult, separate from her character Hannah Montana.

Third, our male dominated society has obviously convinced this young woman that her entire worth is tied up in her body, beauty, and sexuality rather than her already established singing talent. Miley Cyrus is most certainly NOT the only young woman who is already aware of the clock ticking toward the loss of her physical attributes. Our culture tells women they have a tight window of sexual desirability (read power) and that after the first bloom wears off they’ll have to compete with younger, more beautiful women for the same attention from men, and of course other women. It’s not unusual for young women to feel they need to exploit their beauty while they still have it, according to the unwritten standards of our society.

Fourth, the automatic classification of any woman displaying her sexuality as a ‘whore’ is demeaning to all women and a throw back to the ‘women are either saints or whores’ mentality. Truly, the tantrums being thrown about Miley Cyrus’ transformation from innocent (saintly) child to a woman exploiting her sexuality (whore) fits that dichotomy to a T. I’ve got news for you, world, women are complex beings who are neither saints nor whores. I totally reject that labeling. Miley Cyrus was not a saint as a child performer, and she’s not a whore as an adult performer. Right now she’s busy redefining herself, finding out who she is and what she wants in life. Unfortunately for her, she’s doing it on the world’s stage.

And finally, our rape culture has us judging her, rather than any of the other performers on the stage, many of whom were just as scantily clad and also twerking. Why? Because people feel betrayed that the sweet little girl who often quipped, “Stupid says what?” has ditched the long tresses for a butch cut and childish outfits for seductive adult ones. How dumb is that? We teach girls that they have to be sexually desirable to all men, and then condemn them when they succeed.

We always blame strong women. Just ask Beyonce about her Super Bowl performance. Ask Martha Stewart about trying to protect her money. Ask Paula Deen about the words she uttered as a young woman raised in the segregated South. Ask any successful woman about the inequalities she faces, and the hoops she must jump just to be considered almost equal to men.

Enough is enough. Stop the shaming of women whether it be about their sexuality, their financial success, their past mistakes, or their politics. As mothers have said many times, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” Or as Jesus said, “Judge not, lest ye be judged.” Or as Will Smith said in Men In Black, “Don’t start nothin’, there won’t be nothin’.

When did we become so damned judgmental? I have my theories on that as well, but I’ll save it for another post.