Celebrities / Kids

Talking to my son about Miley Cyrus

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.

[pullquote]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!”[/pullquote]

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.”


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  1. Your son is quite astute… and has a kind heart. I’m not so sure if riding a wrecking ball and licking a sledgehammer are quite the best ways to be proud and show off your body… or maybe it’s just too weird to see sexy things being done with demolition equipment – I dunno.
    I do know your son is pretty much awesome.

    • I have to be honest. I had two thoughts when watching that video.

      1. Is that sledgehammer clean?
      2. Girl, straddling that chain is going to lead to some mad chafing.

  2. Vikki– thanks for bringing up the double standard. Definitely thought this when I was at my 2 most recent concerts w/ my girl: Taylor Swift, and Justin B.

  3. i think the video is a bit awkward…(dirty, like, girl, you’re going to be really dirty after this is all over)

    also, i think in the Rolling Stone article, Miley says she didn’t realize it was an old dirty sledgehammer until after she licked it and the director told her to stop.

  4. That’s more eloquent than a lot of what I might say. I hope.

  5. Your son sounds incredibly aware. I appreciate this take on it. I worry about Miley because I think she’s doing these things for attention. I don’t think it’s slutty, I think somewhere she thinks she needs to do this stuff. But what do I know? We all read into it with what we instinctively think we know.

    And I think you’re so right. Her nakedness is so not how it’d be if it were a man. Or a boy. Or whatever. Agreed.

  6. So smart that kid. Thanks for sharing this.

  7. Your kid reminds me of my kid. They both seem to have a highly honed sense of justice. Or maybe it’s that their sense of justice ISN’T highly honed…maybe it’s that it’s unvarnished and real and natural. So nice to see the non-jaded perspective they carry around with them. Miley’s free to do what she wants. In the brilliant words of RuPaul Charles, “What other people think if you is none of your damn business.”

  8. Miley is just a pawn. Her video director told her to sit on a wrecking ball. They built the set, told her what to wear, gave her a sledgehammer and told her what to do. That is what a director does. Miley in fact doesn’t even write her own songs. There are highly paid professional song writers and composers do this. Her handlers make ALL these choices for the little singer/actress. Why? To make MONEY. How? They know how to push the right buttons and get kids talking and usually that’s just by doing something provocative. Its amazing how kids then relate and think they know what is happening when all that is happening is exactly what that industry intended to happen. Music sales, ticket sales cha ching $$$$$$$$$$$

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