Why it’s good that Miley isn’t a feminist

Post-Disney Miley hasn’t quite taken sexualisation to another level, but she is going to enormous lengths to flout what is considered ‘ladylike’ and ‘acceptable’ behaviour. The inevitable slut-shaming has been nothing compared to the feminist reaction.

Miley defends her image by claiming that her own frank self-commodification empowers other women to accept and use their sexuality. (I suspect she means her idea of sexuality.)

Two things about this.

First, as the information age opens up new and more honest channels of communication, it’s easier (and more important) to scrutinise social relationships, contest narratives, break boundaries. Celebrity, too, is bigger and more far-reaching than ever before in history.

Miley Cyrus winking and flipping the bird at the camera
Miley by Terry Richardson, August 2013

More than ever, a greater number of people are being made aware of the sexualisation of a young woman and are discussing it in an increasingly frank, informed way. And, like everything else, the more we talk, the more we evolve.

Second, a debate about sexuality and empowerment is centre-stage once again. Some people roll their eyes at this. That’s fine. The surrounding discourses about women and power, galvanised by controversy, continue to ferment and drip-feed back into the public forum. Change is almost always a good thing, and every time this old scandal pops up, the public consciousness changes. If you roll your eyes, you have an opinion, more importantly you express an opinion, and talking is all that’s needed.

Miley Cyrus, the biggest feminist in the world? I don’t buy it. But she is the biggest magnet for feminist vitriol in the world right now, and that’s important too.