What is feminism? In simple terms, I think it is a movement that encourages gender equality. It aims to create an environment where people are neither treated differently nor face judgment because of their sex. One’s gender identity is shaped by society’s expectations and stereotypes; people’s life experiences influence the formation of their sexual identity, and this in turn will impact their place in society. Gender identity affects how a person acts in society, leads his or her life, and behaves sexually. It is in reference to this gender identity that the feminist movement works to minimize sex stereotypes.
(Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke VMA Performance, 2013)
After watching Miley Cyrus perform with Robin Thicke in the MTV Video Music Awards, I began to question Miley’s feminist stance. It seemed she was using her sexuality to gain power in the music industry. While appearing defiant in her stance towards female sexuality, she actually was conforming to the negative female stereotypes that involve the perception of women as sexual objects. Her performance fosters the view of women as beings whose ultimate role is to fulfill the sexual needs of men. She is even dancing to Robin Thicke’s song, “Blurred Lines,” which has a very degrading message towards women. Some of his lyrics include “try to domesticate you” and “I know you want it.” Isn’t that dehumanizing! It’s not ethical to domesticate a person! How do you know that I want it? I feel that Thicke’s lyrics express that rape is socially acceptable. When Miley dances to this song in the VMAs, she is essentially promoting his song’s offensive message. That doesn’t sound very feminist to me! Miley’s performance and decision to support the Thicke’s song almost makes it harder to overcome the negative gender stereotypes that are present in today’s society. Her promiscuous dance reinforces society’s demeaning misconception about women. She is feeding into the gender stereotypes that feminists are fighting against.
I don’t think Ms. Cyrus is a true feminist because her actions are not conducive to creating positive change in a society that promotes equality. Miley is a role model for developing girls, and she should have used her power in a more progressive way. For instance, she could focus on the lyrics of her music and write songs with powerful empowering messages for young women rather than sexualize her performances to gain popularity.
(Miley Cyrus’ Interview one the Ellen DeGeneres Show)
Miley said in her interview with Ellen DeGeneres that Robin Thicke did not face nearly as much criticism as she did, and that there is a “double standard” in today’s society. Aware of this double standard, she should have tried to fight it in her performance. An equally outrageous reaction could have been produced if she included scenarios in her choreography where women displace men and take over the stage. Unfortunately, she seemed proud of her performance as a defiant sex object and did not regret her actions. After all, her music career took off because of the negative criticism she received.
Today, many celebrities are hesitant to say that are feminist. According to the Huffington Post article, “10 Celebrities That Say They Aren’t Feminist”, Carrie Underwood states, “I wouldn’t go so far as to say I am a feminist, that can come off as a negative connotation. But I am a strong female.” Why is being a feminist off-putting? Could Miley have contributed to the negative connotation associated with this word?
I feel as though Miley is using her feminist stance as an excuse to behave inappropriately on stage, and this may have altered society’s perception of the definition of feminism. Miley says, “I felt like I could be the bad bitch I really am” in the gif displayed in this post. She may think that being a feminist means that she has the freedom to act and say whatever she wishes, but she needs to realize that she has a responsibility as a celebrity and a feminist to behave morally. Even the language she uses in this gif degrades women. The word “bitch” is a derogatory term used to insult women. The fact that she publicly describes herself in such a foul way makes the usage of this word more socially acceptable. If women fail to respect themselves in their everyday speech, men have no reason to stop themselves from referring to woman with slurs. Women in general should stop using derogatory terms, but especially Miley Cyrus, a acclaimed feminist.
With these arguments in mind, we should ponder the following questions. Why is it acceptable for men to be promiscuous but not women? Was Miley intentionally acting this way to garner attention? If so, did she do so to overcome her good girl Disney reputation? Could she have advanced her career in a way that supports her feminist values? Does Miley have a responsibility as a celebrity and a feminist to behave morally?