Well, Miley’s at it again. In a move sure to stir up more controversy, the latest video from the former Disney teen princess features nudity and some rather suggestive scenes. And, by suggestive, I mean licking various things, riding a huge wrecking ball nekkid (the name of the song is “Wrecking Ball, you know) and treating a 8 lb. sledgehammer like a…, oh crap, how am I going to get out this? Ah, a phallic symbol. Like it or not, you have to admit whoever’s behind her career certainly knows how to get our attention.
Let me say up front, this isn’t a critique of the video, the song or even Miley Cyrus herself. It’s about our reaction to those things. Why does every public act Ms. Cyrus engages in these days draw our disapproval? Thanks to the internet and the 24 hour news cycle, our world is increasingly crowded and noisy and pushing the envelope is an effective way to get noticed these days, so it’s not like she’s doing anything new. When you think about it, this video (and her VMA performance) aren’t any different from Madonna frenching Britney Spears or Lady Gaga’s meat dress. I mean, beyond the pale is beyond the pale. So, why is it such a big deal?
It’s a big deal because society has been conditioned to see a woman who openly embraces her sexuality as a whore, a slut, a fallen woman. Yes, we’re dealing with the cult of virginity again and it’s just as ugly as it ever was. The truth is, virginity worship has never been about protecting women, serving the Lord or any of the other reasons that have been given over the years. It is, and always has been, about control.
You might be wondering “What the hell does controlling women have to do with Miley acting slutty?” The answer is contained in the use of the word “slutty”. It’s a word that often comes up when a woman has the temerity to step outside the role assigned her by acting in an openly sexual manner. Our Christian-based society defines women as demure, shy, retiring creatures who must be shielded from the cold reality of the world. A woman who doesn’t behave that way is a threat to the established order and must be dealt with harshly and quickly. In the ancient world, they were much more straightforward and simply stoned offenders. Since that’s not an option anymore, the punishment is a virtual stoning in the form of shame. The fact that, in many people’s eyes, Miley Cyrus is still Hannah Montana, a squeaky clean Disney tween star, makes her offense that much worse.
I struggle with how demonizing people who don’t behave the way we want is a Christian act. It’s not, of course, but you’d never know that by way we behave. Jesus didn’t give a lot of commandments while he was here, but the ones he did give revolve around love. Like this one: “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: You must love your neighbor as you love yourself.” Or this one, “Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other.” Calling someone a slut because their actions threaten a status quo meant to oppress them doesn’t sound all that loving to me.