I was taking my son to soccer practice about a week ago when he brought up Miley Cyrus and her video for “Wrecking Ball.” He was sitting in the front seat of the car, a new development since he is small for his age, so I could look directly at him as he spoke. He told me that kids at school were making fun of her and calling her a “slut” because she appears in the video wearing little to no clothes.
I asked him what he thought about it and he said, ”I think it’s a weird video but it makes me sad that people are saying bad things about her.”
I love that he talks to me about these things, that he thinks about them. These are the moments when I fall more deeply in love with him and his sharp mind and tender heart.
I asked him why he felt sad and he said, “Well, I don’t feel like we should judge. Maybe she is just making her music and doing what she wants.”
And he’s right. We don’t know Miley, don’t know who or what has contributed to her decision to portray herself the way she does in the video. We can’t assume she was forced or coerced. That is one thing that Sinead O’Connor got wrong in her open letter to Miley.
What if Miley woke up one day and said, “I have a rockin’ body and I feel so good about myself that it makes me want to sit naked on a wrecking ball and then lick a sledgehammer!”
The idea of prostitution is a tempting narrative when we know that our culture constantly objectifies women. But what about agency? What if Miley woke up one day and said, “I have a rockin’ body and I feel so good about myself that it makes me want to sit naked on a wrecking ball and then lick a sledgehammer!”
We are in no position to judge her. We can and should talk about the objectification of women. We can consider the messages a video like “Wrecking Ball” sends to our children and make decisions about their access to those images. We may even hope that our daughters don’t post videos of themselves in their underwear. Some of us may have a completely different response and sign up for a personal trainer.
But we also need to talk about double standards.
That day in the car, I turned to my son and asked, “What do you think people would say if Justin Bieber was in his underwear in that video rather than Miley?” He said, “People would probably say he was hot and talk about how great his abs were.”
We spent the next 15 minutes talking about the differences in the ways girls/women and boys/men are treated when it comes to sexuality and their bodies. This is the conversation that I wish more of us were having. People should not be condemning Miley, nor should they be trying to save her. We should be talking about much more and we should be doing it every day … not just when a young woman sheds her clothes in a video.
For what it’s worth, I don’t like the video for the same reason my son doesn’t. It’s weird.
But the song itself? I like it – not even going to apologize. As my son would say, “This is my jam.”