Miley Cyrus is one of my favourite female icons in modern popular culture. She is often negatively criticized for her infamous and controversial hijinks, but they are the very reason that I respect her so much. Miley is best known for openly admitting to being a stoner, demonstrating many times how to “twerk,” posing nude in photographs, having sexually suggestive content in concerts, and making music video after music video that pushes the limits of society’s sexual tolerance. She went from America’s sweetheart in <em>Hannah Montana </em>to the woman that parents fear their daughter might become.</p>
But I would argue that there is another side to everything that she does. I think that Cyrus has an ulterior motive, and that she has been fearlessly trying to persuade society to rethink their perception of female sexuality.
People criticize Cyrus for posing nude and her sexual dance moves because she isn’t hiding her sexuality as expected. Ironically, many other female artists are declared as positive role models despite the fact that they are doing similar things in their career — they’re just more low-key about it. Think about Ariana Grande or Taylor Swift who are celebrated for having positive messages, but their music videos are almost entirely sexually suggestive. At least with Cyrus, it’s her choice.
There is an inverse relationship between the amount of clothes a female artist wears and the size of her audience. So enter Cyrus with her video “We Can’t Stop,” and her subsequent Bangerz tour in 2013. She found new and creative ways to shock the audience with every performance. What was the result? Parents were angry that Cyrus was so inappropriate and they didn’t want their daughters exposed to that kind of behaviour. There is definitely something admirable about how she was able to get people thinking about what kind of content they expected in their music, and what kind of limitations should exist in performances. Her lyric, “It’s my body I can do what I want to,” is completely true and is the reason why the tour continued.
Flash forward to August 2015 when Cyrus appeared on Jimmy Kimmel’s talk show wearing sparkly pasties that covered only her nipples. Seeing Cyrus’ breasts was nothing new, but the interview was very entertaining because of how visibly awkward Jimmy Kimmel was. In response, Cyrus explained, “I feel better this way.” The video showed that she was apparently genuinely happy wearing fewer clothes.
It’s disappointing that so many people can’t look beyond her sexuality as a media stunt because she is an important activist for feminism and for vulnerable youth’s rights. Cyrus formed the Happy Hippy Foundation, which is a non-profit organization that aims to help vulnerable populations like homeless youth and LGBTQ youth. Beyond that, Cyrus has a really empowering outlook on sexuality and inspires discussions on important feminist topics. Cyrus identifies as pansexual, meaning that she is attracted to consenting individuals, which is a breath of fresh air from the binary sexual identities in popular culture.
Moreover, her video “BB Talk” got me thinking about a woman’s right to be unhappy in a satisfactory relationship. Miley sings (and raps) about how she can’t stand it when her partner talks to her in a baby voice. She says, “You know, it’s sweet and you couldn’t be more opposite of my last dickhead, but I don’t know if I can get over the fucking goo,” which hilariously points out that women deserve to be happy in relationships and only they can decide what that means for them as individuals.
Just like Batman, Miley Cyrus might not be the hero that we wanted, but she is the hero that we deserve right now. We need her to continue to make racy media stunts in order to keep the spotlight on the persisting problems of over-sexualization in the music industry. We need her to continue demonstrating what feminism means for the modern woman, no matter how uncomfortable people might feel. We need her to continue surprising us with hilarious music because the content is thought-provoking and important.
I think that people should stop disliking Cyrus because of her unusual media stunts and instead start listening. Make some more space for people like Miley Cyrus and we’ll start to see real changes in society. Miley Cyrus is our Batman because we need her extreme opinions in order to make some actual progress towards desexualizing women.