Miley Cyrus at the VMAs/Jeff Kravitz for Getty Images

Last night there was an awards show in Brooklyn. Depending on who you talk to, there were some shocking aspects to this show. If you ask my uncle, it was probably the very existence of Barclays Center destroying the romance/character/life/parking of Brooklyn. If you ask anyone else, it was Miley Cyrus, being as Miley as she could be, dancing around in a teddy bear swimsuit, sticking her tongue out and humping stuff, on live-ish television, for us.

The reaction to her hypersexualized dance/sing-a-long to her own song was not exactly mixed. People either hated it because it was “racist,” hated it because it was “embarrassingly raunchy” or hated it just because it was “disgusting.”

Dear internet: get over it and accept that Miley Cyrus just won the VMAs. Sure her singing was a little terrible but I mean, so was Robin Thicke’s, the man who is technically old enough to be Miley’s dad and didn’t seem to have a problem with her doing her whole imitation-of-sexy-by-a-little-girl-who-watches-too-much-TV thing all over him. And just as no one was too bothered by Robin Thicke and his group of sexy girl back-up dancers and the fact that he was clearly down with Miley touching his swimsuit area with a large We’re #1 hand, no one is freaking out about 2 Chainz, later in the same number, also having anonymous lady back dancers doing sexy moves. So it appears that the only person at the MTV Music Video Awards who isn’t allowed to objectify women is Miley Cyrus. Does this seem unfair to you? It seems unfair to me.

First: everything she sees in pop culture tells her that to be successful, and by successful I mean REALLY successful, Justin Timberlake/Lil Wayne/Jay Z successful, she needs to make women sex objects in her videos. That’s pretty much what music videos are about (and this was the Music Video Awards, right?). And she wants to be that kind of successful because she grew up on the Disney Channel with a dad who sang “Achy Breaky Heart” (lots o’ nice-looking country ladies in that video by the way) and it’s pretty likely that the only way she measures her self-worth is by retweets, YouTube views and record sales. So if the boys are allowed to take this path to super-fame, why isn’t she?

Answer: because she’s a girl.

But Miley doesn’t care about all that. Instead she cares about getting your attention, which she did last night, in a way that would make Madonna proud, by acting like both the objectifier man and the sexy object girl. Not only that, she got the exact reaction she wanted under her own terms, unlike previous VMA winners “I’m-gonna-let-you-finish” West and “Sad-little-girl” Swift, who got their VMA glory/opposite of glory due to alcohol consumption and Beyoncé.

So as much as I wish women weren’t treated like disposable blow-up dolls in a lot of our culture and as much as I wish Miley would have sounded better, I approve of her glass ceiling breaking because in my heart I have always thought girls should be able to do anything boys can do, even if that thing is objectifying women on live TV. And if people are shocked about this, then maybe it will make them think about why, for at least a second. Why they aren’t shocked by the hypersexualization of young girls whose names they don’t know, who weren’t once Disney princesses and who aren’t in control of their own image, on TV, in ads and as back-up dancers. As I’ve said before, Miley isn’t the problem. If anything, she might be the one pointing the problem out.

Anyway, I’m sure she doesn’t care. As she says: “it’s our party/we can do what we want.” Right now, we are all just guests at Miley’s party.

Miley Cyrus Does Her Best Miley Cyrus Impression: Everyone Freaks Out 17 October,2013Lizzy Acker

  • Traveling Tea Girl

    The hype is ridiculous, let the girl have her fun, its an ecstacy come down song for goodness sake, not an attempt at race relations or a feminist revival folk tune. Great post!

    • chanie

      “It an ecstasy come down song” is not really a good argument, it only proves the point of these negative people. I actually agree with you somewhat, she did not murder anyone on stage except her “Hannah Montana” image.

  • Amos Alexander

    The thing the author doesn’t seem to understand is that everyone has their limits. There’s a fine line between sexual and disgusting and Miley crossed it big time. But I don’t want to single her out because that entire performance was disgusting and talentless. Music has been going downhill for quite a long time and I’m really sad to see where it landed 🙁

  • Kimberly Woo

    The only woman who could ever, ever get away with anything remotely (and I mean remotely) like this was and is Madonna. And Ms. Cyrus’ … show … was just very sloppy, tasteless, poorly executed and poorly conceived. No one will ever be able to match Madonna’s sexual prowess and confidence. There is something – that despite of or because of her brazen sexuality it always remains a … je nais se quoi – just something to behold. Whereas with Ms. Cyrus … I just felt so embarrassed for her.

  • DrOzProps

    Taylor Swift, Pink, Beyonce, Adele, Alicia Keys. That’s 5 female pop stars that are all more successful than Miley Cyrus, and all of them can easily be considered superstars on the level of Lil Wayne, Justin Timberlake, and Jay-Z. In fact I’d argue, and most would likely agree, that Beyonce has been the single biggest music star in the world over the past decade. While some of the ladies listed above can certainly be sexy in their videos, raunchy explicit sexuality has never been a part of their act, and virtually all of them have had huge hits with songs about strong females. What is so disappointing about Miley’s performance last night wasn’t that it was overly sexy, it was that it wasn’t sexy at all. The sexuality she displayed was the kind of sexuality that 12 year old boys exhibit (sticking your tongue out while sticking things between your legs pretending they are phalluses). Madonna/Britney Spears/et all already broke the glass ceiling years ago regarding female performers owning their own sexuality and using it to their benefit, Miley simply crashed through the glass basement into a sophomoric den of juvenile sexuality which appeared all the more disturbing because while she was trying to shed any childish image she may have still had her performance only served to reinforce just how young and juvenile she still is.

    • Sheila Kotze

      EXACTLY! DrOzProps..She doesn’t represent a stand for women being able to get away with tacky like men.. get real.. She makes us look bad and just adds to the already stigma. Madonna at least wasn’t sloppy and just looking like a child trying to be an adult in the worst possible way. She did at least know what she was doing and kept some decorum about herself. Madonna I think had a confidence that Miley seems to be lacking. She needs to think of better ways to work on that.


Lizzy Acker

Lizzy Acker’s work has been published in Nano Fiction, Fanzine, Joyland, Eleven Eleven and elsewhere. She has read with Bang Out, RADAR, Quiet Lightening and others. Her first book, Monster Party, was released in December of 2010 by Small Desk Press.

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor