She can’t stop. Miley Cyrus refuses to stop displaying her sexuality, whether she twerks on stage or swings nude on a wrecking ball in her latest music video. Though her single sits at the top of the iTunes chart, she ends up simply being a topic of discussion and voyeurism. In the end, she does not deserve criticism for her sexual expression.
Cyrus is one of many female pop stars that has shed her teen-pop and tween appeal for a more mature and extremely sexualized image. And like big teen acts such as Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, it is no secret that Cyrus has received negative reactions from the general public to the music community. This negativity represents a double standard regarding sexuality in our culture.
Demeaning comments about her physique and dancing ability are inappropriate and grotesque at the very least. What about male artists such as Robin Thicke, who have executed similar stunts? Let’s think back to Cyrus’ performance during the Video Music Awards. The image that has garnered a significant amount of media attention is Cyrus dancing on Robin Thicke’s groin. While dancing with Thicke, Cyrus twirled around a foam finger, licking it and rubbing it on and between her own legs, as well as Thicke’s. Despite the fact that both were performing a raunchy dance number on the stage, Thicke left the awards show without criticism from the media — even though he is married with a child and nearly two decades older than Cyrus.
Furthermore, his record-breaking chart topper, “Blurred Lines,” features an interesting sexual video of its own. All three of the women in the original video were topless. And though there was a great deal of backlash from the feminist community in regard to the video, mainstream entertainment media wholly ignored it, besides suggesting that it was the reason for the single’s success. A “clean version” (in which the models, instead of being topless, were covered in see-through tops) was issued, but no other reprimand or media frenzy occurred. So why then did Cyrus receive such widespread criticism for both her performance at the VMAs and her new video?
The differences are power and gender.
Unlike the women in Thicke’s video, the public knows Cyrus. What’s more is people can’t stop themselves from comparing her to her clean image as Hannah Montana — the innocent tween pop star.
On the other hand, the women in the “Blurred Lines” video are unknown models and thus viewed as mere sexual objects. Not only do we relegate them to the status of sexualized beings, but as they prance around Thicke, Pharrell Williams and T.I. in the music video, they fall a rung lower to passive sexual figures. During her performance at the VMAs, there was nothing passive about Cyrus. She might have been dancing on Thicke, but she was in complete control, and that is why people have taken offense.
It has taken decades for people to become comfortable with female sexuality, but for many, such an idea is still a foreign concept. Cyrus is in control of her sexuality, but as a familiar figure, she represents the idea of the women in our lives — our daughters, mothers and sisters — being strong sexual beings. To some, the female sexual identity is supposed to be tucked away — hidden behind closed doors — but Cyrus pushes the limits of our concept of women.
Kyron Richard is a sophomore majoring in public relations.
Follow him on Twitter @kyronric