Blog | To Twerk or not to Twerk – is that really the question?

Miley Cyrus

Miley Cyrus

In her CNN article ‘Outraged parents: Why Miley Cyrus’ performance sets girls and women back‘, Kelly Wallace sides with concerned parents and shocked viewers, accusing the former star of Disney’s “Hannah Montana” of alienating her fans, setting a terrible example for young girls and setting back the female race by decades in the fight for equality, during her recent live appearance at the VMAs.

For those lucky few of you who have not seen the now infamous performance, allow me to paint you a picture: Miley Cyrus prances around in white-girl flesh-coloured hot-pants and a bra, shaking her 20-year-old derriere amidst dancers dressed in large scale teddy bear costumes (I wonder how many agents were sacked that day). Needless to say, blogs exploded shortly after, some (good ones) dealing with the uncomfortable issues of cultural appropriation rife in the starlet’s most recent work, but most adopting a similar stance to Wallace and the many outraged mums and dads across the world. Here are just a couple of reason’s why Wallace and the parents may have got it wrong.

Seems Like Everybody’s Got A Price

Let’s start with the perhaps most obvious point: The VMA’s is a televised showcase where artists compete for media attention. Miley’s PR team was clearly successful. Whilst we’ve all been wracking our brains as to whether or not the twerking was inappropriate, they’ve achieved their marketing objectives, landed themselves a hefty bonus, and are now drinking Cristal out of an exotic dancer’s belly button. Now, we don’t know how much of a say Miss Cyrus has in her own career, but it’s a fair assumption that whilst she may have decided that being overtly sexual and appropriating ratchet culture might be MEGA LOLZ for her and her white, middle class pseudo-hipster chums, some jackass marketing exec has no doubt told her this was a good way to behave IN PUBLIC.

I’m Sexy And I Know It

In her article, Wallace alludes to a previous CNN post on how too many teen fashions are too skimpy and too sexual. This is as old a shoe as teen culture itself. It is in the very years ’twixt twelve and twenty that we push boundaries, act irresponsibly and make our worst fashion faux-pas. That goes for men and women alike. Making a complete ass of yourself is not gender-specific. If I think back to some of the things I wore at thirteen I wonder how my parents even let me leave the house. Be it the mods and rockers of the 1960s, the punks in the 1970s, the grunge kids of the 90s or the twerking Mileys of today, parents will always find their childrens’ fashion to be too sexual and too provocative. Let’s also bear in mind that the VMAs is broadcast in the evening at a time where young and impressionable girls and boys should perhaps not be watching unsupervised. Whilst parental outrage is understandable, there also seems to be an argument for simply changing the channel.

Blurred Lines

If there is a debate to be had here, it is around this: Miley was not on that stage alone. She was joined by singer / rapper Robin Thicke who performed the questionable hit single ‘Blurred Lines’ while Miley was twerking away, against his similarly questionable pinstriped suit. Most ironic and perplexing is that all the outrage and backlash seems to focus on Miley: what she’s wearing and how she’s dancing and what she’s appropriating, when grinding right up against her ass was a rabid creepy-uncle-of a-man, singing what is essentially a song condoning rape. It’s not really Miley’s choice of attire or behaviour that is of such detriment to the fight for gender equality here, but the very argument people are having over it. The fact that a girl is still to blame for being “too sexy” while a song such as ‘Blurred Lines’ is on high rotation throughout the world without comment, shows that we still have a long way to go.

Let’s be clear – Miley is not blameless in all the discussion surrounding her. Whilst she may well be a pawn in some terrifying Disney-marketing hybrid MEGA OVERLORD’s plan to rule the world, more likely than not she’s a bratty teen star desperate to lose the shackles of the picture perfect, girl-next-door, Americana brand she’s milked since she was a child. She’s precocious, and is repeating a pattern we’ve seen a million times before: Britney anyone?

In my opinion, Miley as a brand is indeed a bad influence for young kids, but not because she was scantily clad and re-appropriating black culture – or because in her most recent video she’s been stripped naked by rapey photograher Terry Richardson, and asked to straddle a massive BALL *christ*. Very simply, any parent who allows their pre-pubescent children to sign deals with the likes of Disney are sending a very fucked up message out into the world. Let’s hope that deal secured Miley sufficient funds to pay for the very expensive psychological help that will inevitably be required to deal with a life under this level of media scrutiny.

Roxanne De Bastion

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