Miley Cyrus, Memory and Taking Responsibility

This isn’t new.

The news has blown this way out of proportion. Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera already went on a sexually-charged spree when they entered their twenties a few years ago. Disney kids grow up. There’s nothing we can do to stop it. It’s safe to say that the next tween icon will start sharing her burgeoning adulthood when she hits her twenties too.

The comments on Facebook (from people I used to party with) seemed divided into two categories.

  1. That’s offensive. My poor daughter. Shame.
  2. Slut, whore, die.

There’s a very clear separation here. It’s as though little girls must be sweet and kind, never grow up, and never experience or be expected to navigate desire. On the other side, women who exhibit sexiness or sensuality were never girls, and must have no history, family, personality or feelings. It was strange to see how readily my friends have forgotten what it was like to be/seek girls in their twenties now that they’ve got daughters. Both reactions listed above are narrow and naïve.

Girls will grow up into women, and as women, bless us all, we’ll probably enjoy sex. If I had a daughter who was a huge Cyrus fan, and she just saw the controversial VMA performance, we’d probably talk about three issues:

  1. Avant garde art, Kid Robot, and rebellion.
  2. The permanence of a public image (remember when you really embarrassed yourself? Now imagine doing that in front of millions of people, recorded. Be careful what you display because there’s no taking it back)
  3. Taking responsibility for the messages and signals you send out. Want to dress/act in a sexually provocative way? Be prepared to be hit on, decide where your boundaries are, and know that you can stick to them. Miley is a grown-up now. She’ll have to cope with the media surrounding this, and if she’s smart she’s prepared for it.

My mother suggested that shielding kids under eighteen from sex and violence is a way to avoid presenting them with choices they’re not ready for. Cyrus is not a child anymore. Expecting her to remain a child is unfair and unrealistic. A dear friend of mine also suggested that going insane isn’t healthy (he compared Lindsey Lohan with Emma Watson); but it takes all types. Some women are more reserved, and some revel in their sexuality. Life and freedom are about choice. The only thing we can do for our daughters (and our sons – they have to deal with sexuality as well!) is to remind them that as they become adults, they’ll have choices, and those choices have consequences – be it a broken heart, a hangover, jail time or (horror!) learning something about themselves and the world around them.

One such consequence is expecting the music industry – which trades heavily on adult themes — to raise your kids.

Pop music revolves around sex. The gist of most songs I’ve heard on pop stations is I love you, let’s have sex, or let’s go dancing and maybe we’ll have sex later, and finally what a horrible breakup, I hate you, I long for the freedom to find someone I would love to have sex with. Teens dream of the day they’re finally twenty-one, and, let’s face it, sex is a pretty important part of your early twenties.

The elephant in the room here is that these performances are co-created. We support musicians with our money. If you still listen to Chris Brown, knowing that he bloodied Rihanna’s nose, that’s the sort of thing I’m referring to. Remember when Justin Timberlake made good on the line I’ll have you naked by the end of this song with Janet Jackson? Why did she get all the flack, when HE ripped her cup off?

Imagine what Cyrus would have looked like if Robin Thicke had been a few feet away from her. She would have been reaching out to her fans. He co-created this situation while singing a pretty rapey song. He’s not getting any flack.

Again, I’m speaking up because the outraged cries have been “whore, slut, die” rather than “amateur, sloppy, bad performance.”

Women shouldn’t be punished for expressing sexuality. Tease her for awkwardness all you like, but the level of hatred flung at her is absurd. I don’t think it’s fair to shield girls from the possibilities their future can hold. Sex is wonderful, love is wonderful – and having the confidence to get those things on your terms is pretty awesome too.

After all that, I have to tell you I don’t listen to Cyrus’ music. I don’t follow her in pop culture. My only exposure to her before the harsh remarks cluttered my newsfeed was this interview, where she struck me as intelligent and self-aware.

Wondering what does this have to do with writing and martial arts? The broad view. Nothing happens in isolation. Consider your words, consider your actions. Consider what has come before and why.

Zanshin (残心) is the state of total awareness. It means being aware of one’s surroundings and enemies, while being prepared to react.

If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.

― Sun Tzu


6 thoughts on “Miley Cyrus, Memory and Taking Responsibility


    This was exceptionally well written. You basically said everything I have been thinking for the past few days but couldn’t verbalize myself. The careful depth you brought to this hoopla over MC was enormously refreshing. THANK YOU.

  2. Erik Andrulis

    Knowing that I have been and am Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and Miley Cyrus, I follow a predictable pattern of growth, maturation, and sexual unfolding like every other woman that I am. However and – being every other woman and man on this planet, I can’t stand to see Myself that way, because I loathe what I presume Myself not to be. But I am everything I mock, detest, and squelch. Peace on Earth, Ik

  3. Michelle Proulx

    Excellent points. I believe this phenomenon is called “slut shaming”? Such an awful thing to do, and one I can neither understand nor get behind. From my perspective, I object to Miley’s performance on the VMAs not because I think she’s an awful, morally corrupt individual, but … well, mostly because I thought the performance was really bad. If she wants to shake her stuff and hump a foam finger and whatnot on national television, then she can go ahead and do that to her heart’s content. But as someone who prefers performances that are a little more … classy? … I reserve the right to turn off the television 🙂

      1. Michelle Proulx

        Hmmm … very interesting. I do think it’s fundamentally flawed, however. The point the article is making is that old music is better than new music. But what they’re TRYING to say is that old music is better than Top 40 music. There’s tons of great music being produced nowadays — it’s just not in the Top 40! I’m a fan of old music as much as anyone, but I don’t like automatically discounting music just because it’s “new”.

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