RE-EVALUATING YOUR SHOCK FACTOR

So today I opened the paper, like I do most days; bracing myself for a brief insight into the real tragedies happening in the world: More deaths in Egypt as the Islamist groups and security forces clash, a typhoon hits eastern China, 194 African migrants die when their ship sinks just off the coast of Italy, Miley Cyrus wears revealing dress… wait, rewind.

Yep, what Miley Cyrus wore out to dinner last night apparently constitutes as actual news now. Not Perez-Hilton-gossip-website-news or Daily-Mail-celeb-story news but actual real newspaper news. Incase you’re wondering…it was a fishnet number and you could nearly see her nipples, stop the press…can you believe that? NIPPLES? What next?

Unless you have been living under some sort of rock recently (it must be nice under there) you will no doubt have been made aware of the recent scandal and complete outrage that is the death of Disney character Hannah Montana and the emergence, butterfly like, of Miley Cyrus, in all of her gyrating, ass shaking glory. Indeed Cyrus herself stated today, rather dramatically, that Hannah Montana had been ‘murdered’ and so it appears her new adult persona is here to stay.

I hesitate in giving this topic much more thinking time; I didn’t watch Mileys full VMA performance and I watched the video for ‘wrecking ball’ just yesterday, but then today I opened a free morning paper which reaches over 1 million daily readers and yet again I was met with a similar news piece. It appears this is a story that has really ignited a particular societal interest and it’s going nowhere.

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The public dialogue took an interesting turn when musician Sinead O’Connor penned an open letter to Cyrus after hearing the young pop star had drawn comparisons between O’Connor’s iconic Nothing Compares 2 U video and her video for wrecking ball. The letter reads as a messy, emotional outpouring of anger at the music industry and its exploitation of women. O’Connor begins the letter by assuring Miley her words come from a loving, motherly concern, she then goes on to warn the young star;

“None of the men ogling you give a shit about you either, do not be fooled. Many’s the woman mistook lust for love. If they want you sexually that doesn’t mean they give a fuck about you. All the more true when you unwittingly give the impression you don’t give much of a fuck about yourself. And when you employ people who give the impression they don’t give much of a fuck about you either. No one who cares about you could support your being pimped … and that includes you yourself.”

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Prickly words that I suspect come in part from O’Connor’s own harsh dealings at the hands of the media as well as concern for Miley, but that is just my opinion. Miley reacted the way you would expect any petulant, molly coddled 20 year old child star to when being drawn in to an argument where they have essentially been called an idiot. She hit back at O’Connor, mocking her and making low blow references to her recent issues with mental health. And so the cat-fight continues. The last time I checked O’Connor had drafted a third open letter to Miley. In which a few particular sentences stood out for me:

“You can take five minutes today between g- string fuckin’ changes to publicly apologise and remove your abusive tweets. If you do not then you don’t give a shit who you mock and what damage you do by being so ignorant.”

While I refrain from attacking any woman who speaks out in support of other women (however back handed the sentiment is) any important message O’Connor tried to get across has been completely lost in her bitter exchange. I think O’Connor herself may look back and wish she’d chosen a different approach.

Which is a shame as she made a few good points; yes, these young women have a responsibility to review the impact their actions have on their young fans and quite often the source of these ‘shocking’ ideas aren’t the performer but the powers above them . It was Terry Richardson the world famous photographer who shoots for Vogue/Dazed & Confused/ Harpers Bazaar et all who suggested to Miley she should lick the hammer. Personally, I’d have told him where to go, but then I’ve always preferred the sharper taste of an electric drill.

Amanda Palmer, a musician and also a prominent feminist figure then waded into the debate too. In her open letter, penned to O’Connor she congratulated her for her outspoken values, but goes on to suggest that rather than deriding Miley for her choices we should instead celebrate her ability to choose.

“I want to live in a world where Miley (or any female musician) can twerk wildly at 20, wear a full-cover floral hippie mumu at 37, show up at 47 in see-through latex, and pose semi-naked, like Keith & co, on the cover of rolling stone at 57 and be APPLAUDED for being so comfortable with her body.”

Yes, because god forbid a woman should actually embrace her sexuality and not be ashamed of admitting that: Newsflash! Women enjoy sex too. It should no longer be shocking to say that. (apologies to my dad, who’s subscribed to this blog!)

The idea that Miley is ‘slutty’ or a ‘slag’ is a damaging label that the public finds it all too easy to attach to young women.

Look at Taylor Swift who is now probably just as well known for her succession of boyfriends as much as her music. It’s that age-old double standard; someone like Harry Styles is a charming lothario and Taylor Swift is a big old slut bag.

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It is an interesting debate which I have no doubt will continue to fill up our news pages as every journalists puts their worth in. And I do believe that worldwide dialogue about women’s issues is never a bad thing.

However, I’m not quite sure how much more of this apparent ‘moral outrage’ and faux concern for the future of young women I can stomach.

Isn’t it terrible? She’s treating that hammer like the last ice lolly on the hottest day of the year!

Well, quite frankly the biggest travesty I see is a multi-million dollar American music industry and the best creative idea they’ve got is someone dry-riding a demolition ball.

I actually don’t find Miley or even Rihanna’s new videos remotely shocking. I like both songs but I find the videos slightly boring. Apart from the fact I think they both look incredible, there are only so many gyrating dance moves I can take in before my attention wanders. Yawn.

If you want to be truly and genuinely shocked on behalf of women, I suggest you open your eyes a little wider.

Do you know what is truly disgusting and despicable? No, I’m not talking about  Brooke Candy’s latest song lyrics but something truly harrowing such as Female Genital Mutilation. It’s a high probability you’ve never heard of such a thing before. It certainly doesn’t get nearly as much air-time as what Kim Kardashian’s baby wore to fashion week.

This is a procedure inflicted on girls as young as 8, using no anaesthetic, where the clitoris is removed typically using a knife, razor or scissors. Over 125 million women and girls in Africa and the Middle East have undergone FGM. The practice is an ethnic marker, rooted in gender inequality, ideas about purity, modesty and aesthetics and an attempt to control women’s sexuality. In 2012 the United Nations Assembly completely outlawed it worldwide but the cultural beliefs still exist and the laws are hard to enforce. The procedure typically removes the complete outer area of the vagina, leaving only a small hole for urination and child-birth. In one fell swoop a girl is stripped of any personal desire and becomes purely a vessel for carrying children.  Over 20,000 girls under the age of 15 in Britain are believed to be at risk of FGM.

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But of course no one wants to talk about issues like this.

This is not a particular issue for a select group of women but a universal problem that we should all feel personally outraged about. This act symbolizes not only the barbaric views of certain ethic groups but a wider constraint on women as a whole.

The excuse I so often hear from people is that they have their own problems in life. Whether those are financial worries or health issues that leave them little time to worry about what might be happening to young women with a different social background or outlook to them. But often these are the exact same people who suddenly find the voice to be so outraged when Katy Perry references sex in one of her songs or when Madonna dons yet another PVC cat-suit.

As long as we continue to focus our attention on attaching damaging labels to women we perpetuate the idea that it is ok for them to be controlled, limited and constrained.

So the next time you open your mouth to speak out for the oppression of women I suggest you taste your words first and then point them in the right direction.

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One thought on “RE-EVALUATING YOUR SHOCK FACTOR

  1. BREAKING NEWS: Celebrities appear in news for first time ever!

    But seriously – great article. Nice to see some sanity around all of this Miley nonsense.

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