What Happened to Miley?

July 23rd, 2010

Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.  ~Victor Hugo

Like millions of other young girls in this country, my daughters were raised with the Disney girls. My eldest was a long-time fan of both Lindsay Lohan and Hillary Duff and witnessed with disbelief as their girl-next-door appearances slipped into sex symbol and their lives slipped out of control in a world designed to devour them whole. Where were their parents, I wondered, as they made bad choice after bad choice? Disney fame seemed to be a curse for the girls who grew up as role models for so many young girls.

My youngest daughter has been a fan of Hannah Montana for years. The values and lessons in the show, with her real Dad at her side, were comforting to us; we somehow believed that she would escape the fate of her predecessors. My daughter would say, ”She’s from the South, her dad won’t let her do sexy music videos…”  Perhaps they left her for a long vacation, because it is hard to believe that her parents or the Disney executives who promote Hannah Montana would be ok with the soft porn music video, “Can’t be Tamed” that she just released.

The line between pornography and music videos has been blurry for a long time. A quick look at Christina Aguilera in her latest video Not Myself  Tonight demonstrates that pornography has really crossed every line of society, including our children’s hip-hop culture. In this society, female equals sexualized if you hope to get any attention.  Apparently, 17 is not too young to turn a Disney girl into the next piece of meat for society to devour.

The message is clear to all the pre-adolescent girls out there bearing witness to the seemingly inevitable transition from child star to sex symbol. Overt and intimidating sexual maturity is what makes female stars valuable. I am not sure whether the visuals or the lyrics were more disturbing. Several women in the audience were wearing birdcages as hats. Miley herself was cast as a new caged life form, complete with wings. Yet, as her sexual energy increases, she breaks out of the cage, all the while singing how she “can’t be tamed” and she “goes through men like money.”  Oh good. The girl is 17. The cutaways to her lying on her back, waiting for her deflowering are borrowed from the classic view of the submissive, beautiful female waiting for…well you know. So much for the the romantic allure of young love…

I suppose I am reflecting my age and the concern of a mother who is raising girls in a world that is full of mixed messages about what it means to be female. On the one hand, we are living in a society that is seeing the dominance of women in the workforce and as family wage earners for the first time. On the other hand, we are promoting the end of courtship and intimate relationships by reinforcing the extreme sexualization of everything female.

The most tragic part of this unfolding new world where pornographic images and lyrics re-invent the manner and capacity of relating is the loss of our ability to link the experience of heartfelt love with the drive to be intimate. As we exchange the bittersweet love affairs for provocative and unfeeling sex, we actually lose the opportunity and capacity for the healthy, vital passionate lives we all want for ourselves and our children. Although pornography, as of late, has an increasingly strong voice that is now crossing into the entertainment industry, we can draw the line on its intrusion into our personal intimate relationships. ”Can’t Be Tamed” is not the sexuality that I want my children to learn from or embody as they embark on their own discovery of what it means to be intimate. Porn, in all its forms is a poor stand- in for the deep transformations that passionate love, fierce loyalty and authentic connection bring to our lives.  Have we entirely relinquished our belief in the connection between love and sex, or are we just afraid to show the heartbreaking truth of deep lasting intimacy?

5 Responses to “What Happened to Miley?”

  1. gina Says:

    Thank you for taking a stand. I’m not a prude, but what I want for my son and others is to be able to experience the fullness of love and the most complete, unfettered expression of sexuality is possible inside the “confines” of a long term, committed relationship, more than any other place. Not only is sex safer, it’s better. Inside a safe (and I am referring more to safe emotionally here than physically), loving relationship, the ability to express oneself sexually and to grow is without limit. When I was younger, I listened to the media and tried to do what I thought other people were doing or what I thought was expected of me by men I dated. I tried everything, but my experience and level of pleasure was shallow. Now, at age 53, I have incredible sex and an incredible relationship. We have been together 2 years and it just keeps getting better and hotter. Sex is built upon conditioned responses as well as communication. That can blossom into a beautiful flower in a loving relationship. Sex was ok when I was younger, but, it’s mind-blowing now.

  2. Marian Says:

    Thanks for writing this, Wendy. I don’t have a TV–and my daughter isn’t a teenager anymore– and so don’t keep up with music vids. I see one or two every several months and each time I’m a bit shocked at how much more pornographic they become. Especially I am disturbed when I see how many times someone has posted a “cute video” on youtube of a toddler girl –daughter or niece– “performing” her version of the latest provocative hip hop video. (i.e.”Put A Ring On It”). These are Toddlers!

    I’ve got to say I’m pretty disturbed after watching the two videos you linked to. I’m recalling all the flap about an earlier one from Miley, just about a year ago -”Party in the USA” where she sort of “innocently” swung herself around a pole as part of the choreography… and still, I kept thinking, ‘her folks have got to weigh in soon on this.’ Well her Dad did…saying it was fine for her to ignore the ‘flap’ and just pursue her art. Protecting her from the fate of Lindsay and Hillary? I guess not.

    I choose limited exposure to video/TV, so when I do see things, the degree to which the envelope is pushed is that much more noticeable to me. I regularly find these videos pretty disturbing–and regularly field comments about my prudishness. I’m seeing what amounts to a kind of brainwashing, really. The video from Christina IS pornographic, yes. And it’s not about love. It shows potent and sinister images of hyper-stylized violent sexuality, all with a (contradictory) up-beat snappy soundtrack! It’s a classic brainwashing technique.

    I’m a feminist, one of us who marched and sang and protested and picketed for women to ‘take back the night’ and to claim ‘our bodies, ourselves’… I feel so frustrated to see how patriarchy has co-opted this idea of women’s freedom and power, turning it into mass sexualization of younger and younger girls. And how people don’t seem to even see the irony or contradiction in the words of this latest song Miley is singing; ‘Can’t be Tamed’.

    Bird cages for hats…indeed. Has anyone read “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood recently? The backlash to all of our feminist struggles brings me to tears at times.

    (and here’s an irony for you…the words in the box for the anti-spam control below: …”of weepings”)… !!!

    There was a film released in 1981, made in Canada, called “Not A Love Story”. It was a film about the effects of pornography. It got lots of people talking, and it was a big part of the Women Against Pornography debate which was pretty intense during that decade. For you and your readers who may be interested in a dense but thought provoking treatise on the film, here’s a link to an article by Lisa DiCaprio http://tinyurl.com/notalovestory

    Some of what is written is so prophetic…from nearly 3 decades ago.

    Blessings on the work you do, Wendy, and on your daughters. They at least have you as a clear active voice, an honest caring resource for information about sexuality, and a source for intelligent discourse on the messages of the media. Keep on!

    ~Marian

  3. Barnabas Says:

    Wendy,

    You have hit the nail on the head. Female sexuality has been used to sell everything from toasters to automobiles and all areas in between. I think that the push for equality has caused the link between being feminine and intimately in love too far to the opposite extreme toward the basal male mentality.

    Men being primarily visually stimulated creatures and think about sex every 30 seconds. It seems that the push for equality has deceived women into the belief that if men can do this then so can we.

    I see not any problem with equal pay for equal work, never have and have always stood up for women in this issue. The facts are that men and women are wired differently. When women cross the boundry into the sex arena then many men withdraw. There will always be the men who want wham bam thank you mam, but I truly believe that there are many men including myself that are completely turned off by this type of behavior. Men still want a feminine woman to come home to, one with whom you can share intimacy with and not just a quick roll in ther hay.

  4. Mary Anton Says:

    This article touches on everything I have been thinking and feeling when I first saw Miley perform “as an adult” outside of her Hannah Montana persona. This is the exact same thing that happened to Brittany Spears and countless other young women in show biz. I so agree with this article and plan on passing it on to as many people as I can.Peace, Love & Blessings to all!

  5. Jennifer Edelman Says:

    Dear Wendy,

    Thank you for your article and to the others for their comments on your opinion. I, too, am part of the feminist movement who are horrified at the easy selling off of all the work we did to try to make society better for women. It is as though the only people liberated by it all are, yet again, the men in our communities. More sex, more easily, with less sanctions.

    I am disgusted at how many young mothers dress their little girls like prostitutes. Why is it only the basest part of femininity that makes it to the entertainment industry? Who really is it all aimed at? Paedophiles? Are there no men who want fully matured women as desirable sex partners?

    I shudder at what my 7 month old grandson is growing up amongst.

    I do hope there is a big enough groundswell of people, especially MEN, to take responsibilty for putting this issue on the table for serious discussion and action, and bring back some balance into the whole awful mess. Many men so often laugh off anything to do with sex, as though it is trivial. They are very quick to condemn women who end up as prostitutes, usually as a result of men mis-using them in the first place. Men rarely take much responsibility for the sex trade, yet it is entirely THEIR trade. And they seem to relish the idea of their daughters participating in it, at least implicitly.

    I am ashamed to be an adult in this current society.

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