Health knowledge made personal
Join this community!
› Share page:
Go
Search posts:

Stop Calling Miley a Slut; or, How Stepping Back From Shame Culture Improves Your Life

Posted Oct 19 2013 10:19am

I’m really sorry guys – I haven’t fallen off the edge of the world, I swear. I’ve just been ridiculously busy, with a combination of work and non-work stuff. Plus, the dark mornings and nights are making me want to get up as late as possible, and hit the sack the second I get home from the office – which means this post probably runs through a few things you’re all sorta sick of hearing about, but which I’ve been ruminating on in my spare minutes for a good couple o’weeks.

You’ll also have to excuse me if this is a tad rambling, but I am in bed, listening to Britney Spears, with a horrendous cold and a distinct lack of Ryan Gosling lookalikes delivering hot coffee to my door. Still, let’s continue.

So: Miley Cyrus.

Camera

I’ll be honest. I know very, very little about Miley, other than that she was on the Disney Channel not long after I declared myself too old for it. She kinda falls into that group of Disney-stars-that-aren’t-and-never-will-be-as-good-as-Britney-circa-’99, if you know what I mean. However, it was impossible not to miss VMA-gate, what for the echo-chamber-snark-ripples generated by that performance.

Now, let’s be clear: I watched it, and I’ll be honest. It’s not to my taste. I don’t get it, and I didn’t love it. And I do, generally, think that we could do with toning down the whole sex-culture-marketed-at-children thing. But I also think that had the internet been quite as big, open, and scary as it is now, back in 2001, when Britters did her VMA performance, I suspect the response would have been very similar.

Heck, it probably was – but I was 14. I was too busy trying to reconcile Nu Metal stylings with the fact that I still secretly loved Britney. That was tricky.

Anywho, my problem in the case of ol’ MC isn’t with her performance itself. My problem is with the reaction to Miley as a person – as a woman, in fact – which has been utterly off the scale in generating a tidal wave of snark. You know how I hate that. And it’s resulted in the creation of a whole different set of caricatured versions of Miley Cyrus. There’s Miley the child, who doesn’t know what she’s doing; Miley the slut, who’s exactly the opposite; Miley the doll, who’s been manipulated by men everywhere into being a sex toy… And so on.

Very, very few of these offer her up as anything even approaching an actual person.

Because people are contradictory, and weird, and they say and do things that don’t necessarily fit into one, stiff, bland and boring ‘type.’ Hell, I’ve contradicted myself several times today already; I make inappropriate jokes and lie awake at night cringing myself to sleep; I’m a health writer who had chocolate for breakfast in an abortive attempt to treat a cold; I’m a blogger who hasn’t written a word in weeks; from one day to another, I’m a fat girl, or I’m not.

In other words, I’m a normal person, who is a little bit different every single day.

But with Miley Cyrus – and I’m using her as just one example – it’s a different kettle of fish. It seems to me that trying to understand why celebrities do certain things is like trying to spy on your neighbours with your binoculars on back to front. Much as I’ve bemoaned with the whole “ Celebrity Weights Revealed ” malarkey, there are so many layers of PR and marketing between what a celeb says or does, and what we see, it’s inevitable they become exaggerated or simplified in one funhouse mirror way or another.

In short, they stop being real. They’re puppets set up for us to react to – and in the case of Miley Cyrus, it seems to me we’re not doing ourselves any favours by declaring her a ‘slut.’ It’s as closed-minded as the complete and utter f*ckwits who declared last week “ Fat Shaming Week ,” on Twitter (where I picked up my very first proper Twitter troll); the asshats who tried to shame my girl crush Jennifer Lawrence into losing weight ; and all the other instances of body/slut/fat/whatever-shaming that keep on popping up like a never-ending game of media-bullshit whack-a-mole.

Celebrity culture perpetuates this – and it’s horribly easy to forget that it’s just a form of entertainment – a live soap opera and counterpart to reality TV. And it’s even easier to bring ourselves down a level when we’re not thinking about our reactions to it. I’m not saying we should feel sorry for celebrities,  or that Miley Cyrus’s performance was in any way good, or that I think her reactions to the criticism have been exactly well thought out – but in my opinion, the way we engage with this kinda thing has a more or less direct impact on our day-to-day lives, our interactions with each other, and our own personal wellbeing.

Because I know for a fact that when I think of women – not just women, in fact, but people - as more complex than I can possibly realise, especially through a distorted media lens, I’m able to take one more step back from the bullshit circus and generate more empathy for people in general than if I decide to cram them into a gendered, role-playing box.

If, instead of calling Miley Cyrus a slut, or making some kind of snarky side-eye comment, we consider the fact that she’s a person who may or may not be doing these things on advisement, who may or may not be playing with her sense of identity (because let’s face it – when I was 20, I was playing a very different person to the one I am now), and who probably came to this current identity as a result of thousands of composite experiences unique to her – just like our friends, our family, and us – we’re creating empathy, instead of shame. We’re giving each other room to be vulnerable, and to be real, by giving ourselves the ability to be open to it.

In short, step back from shame culture – and be critical of your own reactions to celebrities, the media, and the world around you – and you’ll be happier. Your world will be bigger, and more awesome, and quite frankly, a nicer place, than if you’re engaging with the whole girl-in-a-box mentality that modern-day feminism needs us to move away from.

And by doing that, you’re taking one more step towards changing the world.

Post a comment
Write a comment:

Related Searches