If you have yet to hear your local parents engage in your fairly standard slut-shaming, hand-wringing “can you believe that Miley Cyrus at the VMAS?” go round, then relax. It’s early yet. Miley’s albeit lacking performance (and I don’t just mean clothes) will make the parenting rounds faster than a case of head lice. And soon, you’ll most likely have to listen to a lot of concerned parents frantically try and piece together what to tell the kids (if he or she even cares). That was certainly the case for one mother who went so far as to search for professional advice. And said professional handed over a big old bag of classic slut-shaming.
Karen Cicero writes on Parents.com that her daughter caught the Hannah Montana bug at the perfect age of seven. This phase is “long gone,” according to Karen. But her now 11-year-old still keeps on eye on Miley via magazine covers:
But a couple of months ago when she saw a picture of “the new Miley” on the cover of a magazine at the supermarket checkout, she asked me, “Why would she do that to herself?”
I don’t remember what I said exactly—something about not wanting to look anything like Hanna Montana ever again.
Probably true and way to keep that response succinct. However, in the wake of Miley’s recent grind-a-thon, Karen tapped Dr. Carolyn Ivers-Landis, an associate professor of pediatric and licensed clinical psychologist at Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio. Karen says that Dr. Ivers-Landis’s 14-year-old daughter was also into Miley Cyrus. So, as a parent, Dr. Ivers-Landis plans to broach the topic by hitting on the very problematic theme of respect:
“I’m going to use this situation as an opportunity to talk about respect with her,” she told me. “Miley’s outrageous performance caused a lot of people to lose respect for her. It’s crucial for teens to know how important respect is, and how easily it can be lost.” For pre-tweens and tweens, Dr. Ivers-Landis said she would focus on the conversation on values. “You should ask your daughter, ‘Do you think dressing like Miley is okay?’ or ‘Do you think she made a smart choice?’” she advised me. “These types of questions can lead into a discussion of making decisions that fit your family’s values.”
I definitely lost respect for Miley Cyrus during her VMA performance, namely for doubling down on using nameless women of color as props to validate her new “edgy” style. But that has absolutely nothing to do with the following:
- how little she wore
- how sexily she danced
- her lusty facial expressions
Equating sexy dances/tiny wardrobe with respect is some very, very dangerous terrain and one of the most prominent pillars of rape culture. Relying on this whole “values” script for our daughters (and of course our sons) just affirms the whole Madonna/whore dichotomy crap that defines and limits our daughter’s goodness to what is between their legs. If we’re going to teach our daughters (because we’re definitely not talking about our sons at this point) to be hypothetical Good People, then let’s hope that definition exceeds sexuality.
Telling our daughters “how easily [respect] can be lost” based on their metaphoric hemlines or how lustfully they dance slights them more than Miley Cyrus and her nude bra and panty set ever could.