May 15, 2014 by Roe
What is considered popular opinion isn’t always right. Mob mentalities often turn into runaway trains and many are often misled without even realizing it.
Welcome to the Internet.
But first, let’s get inside our time machine and go back to 2009/2010 when the world was falling in love with Taylor Swift, I among the masses. When rocking out/crying to her critically-acclaimed albums Fearless and Speak Now, I often wondered how it was that Taylor Swift knew my life story; She was practically going into every single boy problem I found myself having at the time, capturing it perfectly in a type of sonic-Poloroid picture; Each listen allowed that picture to be shaken out more and more, displaying contours of clarity.
Fast forward two years later and John Mayer makes a public statement how offended and humiliated he was by Swift’s song “Dear John“. Obviously anyone who stayed in tune with “the times” knew she had a brief relationship with Mayer and because of that, one could probably piece together that the song was about him. But if you didn’t know about Swift’s dating life at all but were familiar with JM’s work, the opening riff is very reminiscent of something off Mayer’s Continuum. And of course the double meaning in the title besides it being a song about JM, there’s also a play on words; The definition of a “Dear John Letter” is a letter written by one’s significant other terminating their current relationship.
A majority of the world seemed to be on Swift’s side when this statement came out, but somewhere down the line the tables turned and everyone seemed to be shaming Swift’s dating habits. (By the way, the lyrics to “Dear John” aren’t even that bad, nevermind “humiliating”. Read them) Many became restless, saying things like “Oh my God, each song is about a different boy”, “Oh my God, can’t she write about something else?”, “Does every song have to be about someone she goes out with?”, “Should we be expecting a song to come out of every relationship she has?”, which then progressed to,”What a talentless bitch/slut/whore/etc”. Not to mention the many seething, loathing One Directioners still continue to have towards her, teeny bopper Ed Sheeran fans included. That’s right guys, everything has changed.
Though I don’t listen to Swift as much as I did then and Red didn’t hit me the same as Fearless and Speak Now, I still consider myself a Taylor Swift fan despite the discordant majority. Strange how the world can turn upside its head and suddenly seem to run away with itself. Especially when parasitic followers tend to latch on to any sort of “popular opinion” that comes their way, trying to fit in, and wouldn’t know what the hell an independent thought was if it slapped them in the face.
This brings us to the Miley predicament. I was present during the Disney years; I watched Hannah Montana from time to time and knew both the Hannah/Miley hits. On that note, let me give you a timeline of what happened before the words” Miley” and “feminist” were ever used in the same sentence:
The 2013 VMAs. The infamous Robin Thicke twerking incident and the horrendous performance that appalled just about everyone. It was a hot topic online, offline, literally on line if you were shopping or at the store. Your friends were talking about it, your parents were talking about it, the news was talking about it, the interwebz was talking about it; You couldn’t get out of earshot without hearing what someone had to say about it.
Mind you, prior to this Miley already had some weird/unexpected antics going on. Check out her saliva video, racy photos in V Magazine (she did another shoot in W Magazine btw), her almost-marriage, oh and how about that time she shaved her head? Then there was the “Wrecking Ball” video, the open letters from Sinead O’Connor and Amanda Palmer, etc. This has been a massive snowball effect in the making.
A few months after the VMAs, all of a sudden Miley is declaring herself a feminist. And not just a feminist but “one of the biggest feminists in the world”. Had she publicly stated this before the VMA performance, I might have been able to dig it and understand where she was coming from. But because it happened after the VMAs, after the rampant outrage that ensued after the world saw that performance this is where I call bullshit.
Let’s say you’re Miley’s publicist. And you’re a good one too. You have to be. Actually her whole entire publicity/label team is probably stacked. She’s signed to RCA (which is owned by Sony, one of the Big Three). So a lot of time and energy is going into keeping her image intact. Money must be made with ticket sales, album sales, merch sales, etc. How else do these people get paid, right? So let’s say your her publicist and now everyone is talking smack about Miley, how terrible the performance was, “Oh my God, what has happened to America?”, “What has happened to youth?”, “Poor Robin Thicke”, “Did you see Drake’s face during her performance?”, “My eyes, my eyes!”, etc. Slightly reminiscent of the Swift uproar but in a different topic and different context, wouldn’t you say?
So you’re her publicist grasping for a rope now. You need to save this girl’s career and in fact your own. Bangerz hasn’t been released yet and this was Miley’s first major televised performance in awhile – It’s a complete disaster. So you’re fishing for a Godsend, a save and suddenly it comes to you – feminism. Say it was feminism and make the world shut up about it. Spin the story on art and/or freedom of expression and you’re saved, album sales are saved, Miley’s tour is saved. So Miley publicly states it was feminism, it catches on like wildfire, and nearly overnight the world is singing her high praises.
The reason I believe it was a publicity stunt and Miley is now the “girl who cried feminism” is because if she was truly aligning herself with female independence and unashamed sexual prowess and Miley was sincere, honest, and authentic about making a statement of that kind, she had plenty of opportunities to say so. Had the VMA performance received positive reviews, would we be having the same conversation? I know there is some controversy and differences of opnion when it comes to Swift and feminism but for the sake of argument, had Taylor Swift responded to her own negativity with “feminism” or “freedom of speech” in regards to her songwriting topics, would she be looked at in a better light than she is today? She writes songs about boys and tells us who they were about. Why is that considered bad? She is a songwriter and can write and talk about whatever she damn well pleases. And I think it even goes without mentioning that the subject of love and relationships are not only what 99% of songs are about, but are what people have been writing about since human beings began writing songs.
This post is not meant to say Miley is not talented or beautiful, because she absolutely is. But as a woman, I have to draw the line at a point. Authenticity is everything and when you are not viewed as such, it shatters and diminishes everything you have. Miley Cyrus is not credible, authentic, or genuine. She is an entertainer. Crying “feminism” keeps her name in the headlines and she IN FACT has now superseded the role Lady Gaga once played in our entertainment society. Remember her? Weren’t we also calling her a “feminist” not so long ago? But what’s Gaga to you now? Old news? Washed up? Forgotten? If you were a Disney star gone bad, what would do to save your career?
It’s slightly appalling to think anyone could seriously see Ms. Cyrus as this groundbreaking feminist nearly everyone is cracking her up to be. But don’t worry. I’m sure in 6 months to a year another we’ll be hailing another female popstar of the Top40 sphere with this beholden title. And in another 6-12 months, someone else will be taking her place. So don’t get yourself too wound up, mindlessly spurting fallacies.
Depending on your preferred definition, feminism carries with it a sense of truth, self-respect, sexual independence, honesty, authenticity, longing for equality. Miley Cyrus aligned herself with feminism for all the wrong reasons – to save herself as an entertainer, to save her image, to promote her record, to make money, allowing herself to thrive in the patriarchal culture she claims she is going against by claiming that title. She is in fact contributing to it by doing what almost every single mainstream female popstar as done before her, promoting herself as a sexual stimulant to be potentially objectified and ridiculed by the corporate capitalistic society we have been chained and imprisoned by. She’s milking it for all it’s worth and when you listen to her songs, go to her concert, buy her record or T-shirt, she’s counting her millions and not giving feminism a second thought.
I credit Kathleen Hanna with fanning the flames in the widespread acceptance of Miley as a feminist in an interview she did awhile ago regarding her documentary, The Punk Singer. It was after this interview was published I noticed a lot of public opinion really start to pick up. But despite my rather disgruntled attitude about Cyrus in general, I think Hanna raises some valid points I can’t help but agree with:
If Miley Cyrus wants to be at the party, then Miley Cyrus can be at the party, whether I agree with everything that she does in her life or in what art she makes, or not. The thing that makes me happy about it is just how many 9- and 10-year olds Googled the word “feminist,” after she said that. Maybe they went down the feminist rabbit hole on the internet and were like, “Wait a minute, I’ve been harassed. How come the boys in my class keep getting called on and I don’t? How come I’m being bullied and called a slut, even though I’m only 10 years old?” I think the conversation about feminism that’s raised by people like Miley Cyrus, or anybody who has a big media presence, is great.
In the age of social media, celebrities have the power to share thoughts, ideas, and opinions at an amplified rate; Now more than ever. But with big media presence comes big responsibility. The matter and importance of authenticity will never die and if you don’t show it, you can never be truly legitimized. Life is often times a matter of trust. Don’t blow it by claiming something you’re not. It may not be 2003 anymore, but no one likes a poser. Get real. Grab me by the neck of my shirt and pull me in to your trip. Why should I care? If you’re not being real, you’re just a waste of my time.