Roundup: Miley Cyrus needs to stop.

Sunday night’s MTV VMAs: Miley Cyrus gets to wear and/or remove revealing clothes. She gets to put her hands and/or pelvis in assorted places. She gets to wear latex granny panties and grind up on a fully-dressed Robin Thicke. She gets to stick her tongue out — constantly — constantly — like a cartoon dog seeing a sexy cartoon lady dog. Miley Cyrus is a grown woman and gets to use her body as she wants.

Using other people’s bodies is a different story. Lachrista Greco points out at Ms. Blog that “Miley Cyrus’ ‘Sluttiness’ Is the Least of Our Problems.”

She used her sexuality — which is hers to use — throughout the performance. This is not something we as viewers should be shocked by or disgusted with. What should be shocking is Cyrus’ appropriation of a culture she knows nothing about, and her use of black women as props in her most recent music video and in last night’s performance. Most, of not all, of the dancing bears were women of color. At one point, Cyrus motorboats one woman’s ass, which adds to the weird, circus-y feel of it all. Cyrus is the “ring leader,” and women of color are hers to play with however she likes.

Cate Young at Batty Mamzelle writes that “Solidarity Is For Miley Cyrus.”

Here’s the thing: historically, black women have had very little agency over their bodies. From being raped by white slave masters to the ever-enduring stereotype that black women can’t be raped, black women have been told over and over and over again, that their bodies are not their own. By bringing these “homegirls with the big butts” out onto the stage with her and engaging in a one-sided interaction with her ass (not even her actual person!) Miley has contributed to that rhetoric. She made that woman’s body a literal spectacle to be enjoyed by her legions of loyal fans. Not only was that the only way that Miley interacted with any of the other people onstage with her, but all of her backup dancers were “black women with big butts” as Violet_Baudelaire so astutely pointed out. So not only are black women’s bodies being used as props, but they are also props that are only worthy of interaction if that interaction involves sexualization.

And at Colorlines, Akiba Solomon rounds up a number of other responses and offers her own commentary with “On Saying No to Miley Cyrus, the Habitual Twerk-Crosser.” — at the VMAs.

Please feel free to add/suggest other pertinent commentary in comments.


UPDATE 2013/08/27 at 7:01 pm by Moderator Team:

This thread has now been placed into full moderation. Comments may take some time to be approved due to our moderator team’s other commitments.

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168 Responses

  1. Gretchen
    Gretchen August 27, 2013 at 1:53 pm |

    I couldn’t even watch the whole performance, it was so cringeworthy. The first thing my mind recalled when she motorboated the dancer’s bottom was the ‘Hottentot Venus’.

    1. gwyllion
      gwyllion August 27, 2013 at 6:15 pm |

      ‘Hottentot Venus’ …Let’s give her back her name , ok? Her name was Saartjie “Sarah” Baartman

      1. Gretchen
        Gretchen August 28, 2013 at 11:26 am |

        Yes, I know, I was referring to Miley’s treatment of the dancer as a Hottentot Venus, she wasn’t treating the dancer as a human being but as a prop. I’m sorry that sounded like erasure on my part.

  2. Chataya
    Chataya August 27, 2013 at 2:01 pm |

    Well, that explains the photo of a woman in her underwear grinding on Beetlejuice I’ve been seeing all day.

  3. JBL55
    JBL55 August 27, 2013 at 2:10 pm |

    Miley can do with her own body whatever she chooses. However, based on the evidence I’ve seen, since she exercises (IMHO) very poor judgment about her own choices, she can hardly be expected to show good judgment about what she wants dancers to do with theirs.

  4. matlun
    matlun August 27, 2013 at 2:20 pm |

    I may just be old, but to me that performance was unbelievably bad on so many levels.

    However, focusing specifically on the argument of cultural appropriation, I am not sure it is a very useful concept if we are talking about contemporary music styles. Surely we are not saying that all white artists should just be doing “white music” and all black artists “black music”.

    That sounds incredibly restrictive and with that definition countless artists have been doing cultural appropriation. Without that there is a lot of good music that would not have been made and whole genres such as rock and roll that would not have existed.

    1. imadime
      imadime August 27, 2013 at 4:31 pm |

      ugh! it really bugs me when people boil such a nuanced discussion down to statements like, “Surely we are not saying that all white artists should just be doing “white music” and all black artists “black music”.” just because it’s easier to understand when you paint things black and white. first, no one in any of the articles linked to above has argued that; and second, it’s so much deeper. i beg you to go and at least start by reading the articles that have been referenced in this post.

      1. (BFing) Sarah
        (BFing) Sarah August 28, 2013 at 6:34 pm |

        Yes, exactly! One of the articles linked discusses this very argument. Why comment to argue without even attempting to read the posts linked?

    2. macavitykitsune
      macavitykitsune August 27, 2013 at 4:41 pm |

      That argument is about as nuanced as saying that because I’m going to have white friends over for dinner on Diwali, they’re entitled to fuck off with my spice rack after. There’s a difference between collaboration and inspiration, and stereotyping, exoticising bullshit.

    3. matlun
      matlun August 27, 2013 at 4:58 pm |

      [Moderator note: matlun, please just read and absorb the opinions of POC on this for a few hours. If you still want to make the argument I'm redacting in this comment then, go for it, but I hope you'll learn enough to rethink it. ~ tt]

      1. matlun
        matlun August 27, 2013 at 5:26 pm |

        Would it be better if [redacted]?

        I will let this be my last comment (whether it passes moderation or not) on this thread, since a discussion is not what is wanted.

        [Moderator note: you have a habit of posting contrarian arguments within the first few comments on a post, thus derailing nearly from the start. It is the major reason that you are in permamod. In future please wait until there are at least 10 comments on a post you want to disagree with before you add your bit. ETA: and when you add your bit start a new subthread to do so.]

        1. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune August 27, 2013 at 5:36 pm |

          Oh my fucking-

          No one told you you can’t make music inspired by X, you asshat. All anyone’s said is don’t make music inspired by (racist stereotype of) X. Ever wonder why no one here is talking shit about the Beatles or Sting or A R Rehman? Maybe it’s because they were not being racist in international collaborations or in creating music inspired by another genre of music.

    4. Anon21
      Anon21 August 27, 2013 at 5:22 pm |

      There was an argument about this yesterday on Twitter between Jamelle Bouie and a couple of other people. A distinction was drawn between “appropriation” (which can be a reasonable, non-racist source of artistic inspiration) and “misappropriation” (which I have less of a handle on, but which I think would include exoticising, employment of gross stereotypes of speech, movement, or performance and perhaps attempting to obscure that one drew inspiration from a particular culture). I found it interesting. But yeah, I haven’t heard anyone saying that cultural expression of oppressed groups should be out of bounds as a source of inspiration for performers from privileged groups.

    5. Azalea
      Azalea August 28, 2013 at 10:01 am |

      Black women’s bodies aren’t props. That’s the jist of this. She used black women exclusively and focused exclusively on their bodies particularly their butts in a very sexualized way. Pissed me the fuck off.

  5. Comrade Kevin
    Comrade Kevin August 27, 2013 at 2:25 pm |

    The whole performance to me came across as embarrassingly awkward. It was like seeing a little girl try to walk in her mother’s high heels. By this, I don’t mean that Miley Cyrus should be seen as a child, but rather that her performance made me cringe.

    I’m curious to know who choreographed the routine, and I bet it wasn’t her.

    1. imadime
      imadime August 27, 2013 at 4:32 pm |

      choreographed? you think there was choreography involved? :)

  6. Gale
    Gale August 27, 2013 at 2:33 pm |

    I hear and agree with the comments regarding racial appropriation and the problems with Cyrus’s VMA performance (and videos). I have read several blogs about her performance, and have cringed at various pictures. I am trying to work through what Cyrus can/should/might do differently. Imagine she has truly come to appreciate ratchet culture. If she has not, nothing else applies, and she should just stop now, or better yet, a long time ago. But assuming she has, it feels odd to say that she should not express her appreciation at all, or that she should not employ WOC as back up dancers, etc.

    So what is the solution? Solomon at colorlines.com suggested that black women refuse to book the gig. On the one hand, this would be great. On the other, it might be difficult for at least some to turn down work, given economic constraints. Also, this solution seems like it would be a wake up call, but a wake up call for what?

    Here are some thoughts I had: I would like to see Cyrus put some of the dancers front and center, to minimize the issue of treating people like props. Maybe use her VMA platform to showcase another performer (e.g., Big Freedia or Twerk team*)? To acknowledge her privilege to “try on” this culture in interviews? To say that she wanted her new album to have a particular sound (bounce?) rather than wanting it to sound “black”? I’m curious what other people think, which is why I am venturing to write my first comment on anything anywhere.

    Disclaimer: I do not know anything about Big Freedia or Twerk team, or really, about ratchet culture. There may be better suggestions. I was just looking for some examples on google.

    1. imadime
      imadime August 27, 2013 at 4:41 pm |

      my humble opinion is that it’s not so much about a list of things that miley should do in order to less blatantly exploit black women as it is about a fundamental shift in her mindset that would, for example, bring her to actually understand not only the culture she is ‘appropriating’ but also some of the actual human beings linked to it.
      if we really think that there are black women dancing for her, who are well aware of the implications, but it might be difficult for at least some to turn down that work, given economic constraints (entirely plausible)…let’s let that sink in. how many actual conversations do we think miley has had with those women that didn’t involve twerking?
      it’s about understanding. by and large, we don’t end up doing such disrespectful things to people we actually respect.
      i believe that if her mindset and approach were different, the natural product of her appreciation of ratchet culture would be way less offensive, because it would most likely at least be thoughtful.

      1. Gale
        Gale August 27, 2013 at 5:47 pm |

        Those are good points. I did not mean to suggest that a to-do list should replace an actual change in attitude. I find it helpful to think concretely about how a change in mindset could affect Cyrus’s performance (for example), in order to highlight the difference between appropriation and appreciation. I wonder if people fail to recognize the difference because they (and I, sometimes) do not see what could have been done differently.

        1. imadime
          imadime August 27, 2013 at 8:04 pm |

          understood … i actually do think it’s very difficult for people to recognize the difference.
          and even more to the original point you made, aside from what we’re talking about here, wanting it to “sound black” is even artistically lazy! as an artist, if you were to really take the time to break down for your own benefit what it is about the sound you’re looking to for inspiration that you want to emulate, i think it takes you to a different place creatively and creates a shift in mindset.
          this seems an odd thing to say, based on how the conversation typically goes, but if there were some diversity among the dancers/stage props, i think we might even be having an ever-so-slightly different conversation.
          definitely calling out and highlighting those dancers/artists so that there’s some recognition of where the inspo came from–we’ve seen that done time and again on these shows. i think the dancers could’ve been treated like any other guest performers–”give it up for…!”
          and then…maybe if she’d just kept her tongue in her mouth i’d feel very different! (kidding :)

      2. (BFing) Sarah
        (BFing) Sarah August 28, 2013 at 6:37 pm |

        by and large, we don’t end up doing such disrespectful things to people we actually respect.

        I agree with this wholeheartedly.

  7. Palaverer
    Palaverer August 27, 2013 at 2:40 pm |

    Sarah Florini also has a good take down of the situation at This Week in Blackness. Note that this article has a gif of the motorboat incident.

    1. Bagelsan
      Bagelsan August 27, 2013 at 4:08 pm |

      That gif was suitably horrifying! Geezus. It’s not bad enough to make that black dancer literally faceless, but then making her butt a sexualized joke?

  8. Echo Zen
    Echo Zen August 27, 2013 at 2:47 pm |

    I’ve read so many social media posts about Miley’s “horrible” dance that I’m actually terrified to look it up on YouTube now. Can someone at least say if it’s more or less horrible than Dr. Reza Aslan’s interview on Fox News…?

    1. Marksman2010
      Marksman2010 August 27, 2013 at 3:04 pm |

      Oh, there’s no need to watch it. Just find the photo online of Will Smith in the audience with his wife and two children, mouths agape and eyes agog. It’s cliche, of course, but they say a pic is worth a thousand words…

      1. Matt
        Matt August 27, 2013 at 3:14 pm |

        That was actually a reaction to Lady GaGa and not Miley. There are plenty of perfectly good actual reactions to Miley to look at.

        1. Computer Soldier Porygon
          Computer Soldier Porygon August 27, 2013 at 7:57 pm |

          Rihanna and Drake both killed me with their reactions.

        2. Natalia Antonova
          Natalia Antonova August 28, 2013 at 5:23 am | *
    2. Karak
      Karak August 27, 2013 at 3:37 pm |

      There’s no nice way to say this, so I won’t: Miley tried to dance like a hardcore thug man rapper mixed with the calculated sexiness of a pop princess and a weird bit of rock-pop thrown in. She was all over the place and the black dancers made it super-weird in an embarrassing way.

      Be Eminem, Britney, or Gwen–not all of them at once.

      That said, she looked like she was having a blast, which Britney and Gwen never really do–she just wanted to sing and flail around onstage and have a good time being a pretty young adult. In a club she might have been fun, as a “public product” her actions, especially with the black dancers, is displeasing.

      But I blame her manager and choreographer–she’s 20 fucking years old and is still grappling with her small actions being analyzed, the professionals around her should fucking know better.

      1. imadime
        imadime August 27, 2013 at 4:44 pm |

        let’s stop letting people’s bad behavior off the hook because they’re “20 fucking years old” … at 20, i had a fucking clue.

      2. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune August 27, 2013 at 5:41 pm |

        she’s 20 fucking years old

        At what age do you consider it to be a reasonable expectation that someone not engage in racism? Because I mean when I was 20 I was expected not to be a racist, and I was less than half that age when it became clear to me that slapping someone’s ass in public who had limited ability to consent to it was, you know. Creepy.

        1. imadime
          imadime August 27, 2013 at 8:05 pm |

          THIS ^

      3. trees
        trees August 27, 2013 at 6:21 pm |

        Miley tried to dance like a hardcore thug man rapper

        What the hell this shit?

        In a club she might have been fun, as a “public product” her actions, especially with the black dancers, is displeasing.

        It’s a problem that you see racism as simply “displeasing”.

        But I blame her manager and choreographer–she’s 20 fucking years old and is still grappling with her small actions being analyzed, the professionals around her should fucking know better.

        At what age are we to hold white women responsible for their own actions?

        1. karak
          karak August 27, 2013 at 10:14 pm |

          What the hell this shit?

          Google “thug life” and you’ll see dozens of rappers posing with the words and the image, including big names like Tupac, Snoop, Dre, Jay-Z, and others I don’t know because I’m not a rap connoisseur.

          Watch Eminem’s entrance for his opening VMA ceremony. Miley danced like famous rapper who has a “bad” or “thug” or “hard” reputation, who is male. The female rappers dance somewhat differently from their male counterparts, and no small part of the pearl-clutching about her dancing is because she danced like a black guy instead of a white pop princess.

          Miley isn’t considered old enough to buy alcohol. She’s only 3 years older than Trayvon Martin. She’s a very young person literally *surrounded* by people two or three times her age who’s entire life is about dealing with publicity, especially in the music industry where race is pretty up-front thing.

          Chances that she chose her costuming, dancing, backups, or any of that? Pretty fucking low. About the only thing she chose to do was smack that dancer’s butt, which either was discussed beforehand with the dancer (and is still problematic but, to me, less of a violation of personal space) or was an impulse move informed by how people dance at nightclubs, were this is not an uncommon sight (whether it’s okay or not is another story).

          We can either roast a “white woman” who was part of a thoughtless and stupid show or we can talk about the people who calculated for her to act that way.

        2. imadime
          imadime August 28, 2013 at 11:51 am |

          dude … miley is billy ray cyrus’s daughter. she was hannah montana. she’s a multi-platinum selling pop star and a multi-millionaire, not some newbie who’s just happy to get a shot. chances that she WASN’T involved in choosing costuming, dancing, backups or any of that? Pretty fucking slim.
          also – you actually googled “thug life”? seriously??? what were you looking for exactly? please, instead use your google for good and learn some things about how the music/entertainment industry works.

        3. trees
          trees August 28, 2013 at 6:06 pm |

          …no small part of the pearl-clutching about her dancing is because she danced like a black guy instead of a white pop princess…

          Tupac?! Thug life?! I have never in my life seen a black man dance like that. This is insulting.

          She’s only 3 years older than Trayvon Martin.

          This evocation is inappropriate and you need to stop. Seventeen is not twenty, besides the worlds and worlds of differences between these two individuals.

          We can either roast a “white woman” who was part of a thoughtless and stupid show or we can talk about the people who calculated for her to act that way.

          This looks like a feeble attempt at accusing me of reverse racism. There’s a double standard; I’m talking about holding people accountable for their actions, including rich and famous young white women. Of all people involved, it is with MC that you empathize, and it is her whom you deny agency. Remarkable.

          You continue to ignore the explicit racism.

        4. (BFing) Sarah
          (BFing) Sarah August 28, 2013 at 6:39 pm |

          Miley isn’t considered old enough to buy alcohol. She’s only 3 years older than Trayvon Martin.

          Karak…why? Why did you write this? I’m honestly curious.

        5. (BFing)Sarah
          (BFing)Sarah August 30, 2013 at 2:18 pm |

          Tupac?! Thug life?! I have never in my life seen a black man dance like that. This is insulting.

          Trees, I somehow just saw this. Is it wrong that I am just so tired of these “thug life” type stereotypes that I had to laugh out loud at thought of my husband dancing like Miley??? I just can’t even picture it, its too ridiculous. What does “dancing like a black guy” even mean?? I am just shaking my head. Laughing to keep from screaming, I think.

        6. trees
          trees August 31, 2013 at 12:00 am |

          Is it wrong that I am just so tired of these “thug life” type stereotypes that I had to laugh out loud at thought of my husband dancing like Miley??? I just can’t even picture it, its too ridiculous. What does “dancing like a black guy” even mean??

          After reading what Karak wrote I watched the video again in an effort to understand what they were saying, but it still made absolutely no sense.

    3. Echo Zen
      Echo Zen August 27, 2013 at 4:01 pm |

      Yeah, I seriously doubt anyone could have worked on her choreography without thinking at some point that a white dancer surrounded by black playthings might not send the best message…

      1. Bagelsan
        Bagelsan August 27, 2013 at 4:09 pm |

        It’s not racist and sexist, it’s eeedgy!

      2. karak
        karak August 27, 2013 at 10:16 pm |

        Apparently no one figured out “Take Back the Night” was the slogan of an anti-rape campaign till the organization fucking emailed Justin Timberlake.

        I don’t know which is more worrisome–that someone thought this was racist and didn’t care, or no one had the brainwave to think this might be an eensy bit fucking gross.

  9. pheenobarbidoll
    pheenobarbidoll August 27, 2013 at 4:37 pm |

    So racist it’s almost unbelievable. Black music means hyper sexualized woc being faceless sex objects. Jesus.

  10. Alara Rogers
    Alara Rogers August 27, 2013 at 5:28 pm |

    I don’t even think the issue here is appropriation. When it comes to music and dance, in the United States, the entire concept of appropriation between white culture and black culture sailed away a long long time ago. Jazz, rock’n’roll, R&B and hip hop were all essentially invented within black culture and appropriated by whites — in the case of rock’n’roll, so thoroughly that it’s not even perceived as a “black music genre” anymore. same goes for most modern dance. It would be literally next to impossible to be a white performing star in US culture without appropriating something African-Americans invented.

    But that’s not the issue here. The issue isn’t that Miley Cyrus is appropriating black *culture* for her dance. The issue is that she’s literally appropriating black *people*. She’s turning black women into stage props. And while the concept of the backup singer has turned women in general and black women in particular into stage props since the 1950′s, having a group of women sing in unison behind you, or even gyrate and dance behind you, is completely different from physically being up against them, in their space, performing a dance that makes both of you look hypersexualized, except you’ll get a free pass for it because you’re a rich white girl.

    I just… backup singers, backup dancers, that’s all one thing, but I draw the line at simulated sexuality with your backups when they have significantly less power than you, which they usually do. Men, both white and black, use black women’s bodies as sexual props (white women too but it seems to me it happens even more often to black women) in their performances, and that has always been wrong and skeevy and gross. It is not better when a white woman does it. (It wouldn’t, honestly, be better if a black woman who was a powerful and famous singer, say Beyoncé, did it to white women… but then at least the skeeviness would all be about reducing women to sex objects in the performance of a *woman*, which has this strong whiff of collaboration and letting down the side to me. This particular stunt is even worse because in addition to “lookit me I can objectify other women just as bad as a man can!”, it’s a white person doing it to black people, which adds a whole extra dimension of wrong.)

    I wouldn’t call this appropriation. White people get laughed at when they perform bad parodies of black culture; it’s not like the 1960′s when Pat Boone had more success covering Little Richard than Little Richard did. I would call this sexual objectification with a hearty helping of racial privilege. Or to use less weaselly words, it’s not about stealing black culture, it’s about creating a sexist, racist performance. That would be wrong if it were hair metal, country western, neo-classical or frickin’ ballet, or any other whitey mcwhitepants genre of music or dance.

    1. trees
      trees August 27, 2013 at 6:28 pm |

      The issue isn’t that Miley Cyrus is appropriating black *culture* for her dance.

      Her appropriation of black culture goes far beyond dance. Have you read any of the articles about this issue? Have you seen the “Ratchet Miley” complete with grill?

      I wouldn’t call this appropriation. White people get laughed at when they perform bad parodies of black culture; it’s not like the 1960′s when Pat Boone had more success covering Little Richard than Little Richard did.

      Bullshit. The joke is still on black people.

    2. IrishUp
      IrishUp August 27, 2013 at 7:34 pm |

      “I wouldn’t call this appropriation.”

      I think WOC here disagree with that assessment, and others have been writing about this particular flavor of appropriation for
      some time (Sesali Bowen, originally on Feministing).

      It would be awful nice to have just ONE THREAD, where members of our community weren’t “corrected” about their OWN experiences by their NWL “allies”.

    3. macavitykitsune
      macavitykitsune August 27, 2013 at 7:52 pm |

      I don’t even think the issue here is appropriation. When it comes to music and dance, in the United States, the entire concept of appropriation between white culture and black culture sailed away a long long time ago. Jazz, rock’n’roll, R&B and hip hop were all essentially invented within black culture and appropriated by whites

      So it’s not appropriation because…it was appropriated earlier than yesterday?

      Wow. Tell us more wisdom.

    4. Angie unduplicated
      Angie unduplicated August 30, 2013 at 9:00 pm |

      The skeeviness really looks bad when considering Western sexist attitudes toward big-butt-thunder thigh women and especially natural WOC, and then observe the staging of tiny-boned Miss Disney Princess surrounded by a group of women with disparaged physical attributes. It looks spiteful; it looks bitchy in the worst middle-school sense, and a woman who gets center stage on network prime time does not get there by ignorance. Old cynic thinks that it’s quite possible to be bigoted and to consciously exploit the objects of said bigotry for big bucks.

  11. Sonia
    Sonia August 27, 2013 at 5:36 pm |

    Have any of the woc on the stage expressed their displeasure at this? Or is it just other people getting publicity at their expense.

    1. amblingalong
      amblingalong August 27, 2013 at 6:09 pm |

      When racist shit happens in an incredibly public setting, it affects more than just the people on stage.

      1. pheenobarbidoll
        pheenobarbidoll August 27, 2013 at 6:14 pm |

        Plus, speaking up could mean your job. Many poc keep their mouths shut about workplace racism so they can continue to earn a living and survive.

        1. Azalea
          Azalea August 28, 2013 at 10:09 am |

          Until that point is driven home, people will continue to say “well *they* (employees) didn’t say anything (about a public display of racism from their employer) so it must be ok”(although the entire thing looked random and unplanned and thus a true reaction couldn’t exist). Victim blaming 101.

    2. trees
      trees August 27, 2013 at 6:30 pm |

      Have any of the woc on the stage expressed their displeasure at this?

      Irrelevant, for the reasons amblingalong and pheenobarbidoll stated.

      1. karak
        karak August 27, 2013 at 10:18 pm |

        I would, however, like to hear from them and how they were chosen to fill their role as backup dancers and if the touching was planned/choreographed/informed, because it’s one thing to plan a gross display and another to surprise violate someone’s bodily integrity in public.

        1. miga
          miga August 29, 2013 at 9:09 am |

          As much as you would like to, you probably won’t.
          The arts industry is small and relies a lot on who you know. Those dancers can’t afford to burn bridges at all, so they’re not gonna be in a position to say anything other than “oh yeah it was totally fun and planned!”

          What happened to them was coercive at best.

        2. amblingalong
          amblingalong August 29, 2013 at 9:24 am |

          I don’t care how they feel. I mean, there are black Republicans who genuinely believe the Civil Rights Act should be repealed. The fact that you can find POC on any side of anything (because hey, POC aren’t a monolith) doesn’t mean that nothing is racist.

        3. (BFing)Sarah
          (BFing)Sarah August 30, 2013 at 2:13 pm |

          I know it is late and probably you won’t see this, amblingalong, but yes a thousand times to your comment. Part of the insidiousness of racism is that POC are judged based upon the actions and perceptions of other, random POC with the assumption that “they are all the same.” So, even if these women are cool with wearing bear heads and getting smacked on the butt by MC, that doesn’t mean that it IS cool or that it doesn’t affect WOC negatively. I just don’t see why people still make that argument; it is really tired. It really is 101. Lots of women are not feminists and do not really recognize sexism or feel hurt by slut shaming (Hi, mom!), that doesn’t mean that its cool when a guy calls one of those girls “his bitch” or “slut”…even if she laughs and thinks it is just hilarious. And this interaction was not just a private interaction–it was a media sensation. The fact that this continually has to be explained makes me avoid threads like this. They are just tiring and frustrating and make me want to bang my head against the wall until all the thoughts are gone.

  12. TomSims
    TomSims August 27, 2013 at 5:39 pm |

    I didn’t watch and my suggestion to those who did and didn’t like what they saw, is to switch channels. I’m only familiar with Miley Cyrus because my youngest granddaughter, now 10, was a huge Hannah Montana fan and I bought her a ton of Hannah Montana stuff. These days it’s One Direction, Same Direction or whatever their name is.

    I can well recall the reaction of religious zealots when the squeaky clean Ricky Nelson started his own band and engaged in the devil’s music, rock and roll. I can only wonder what that group would have thought of today’s rap lyrics.

    1. amblingalong
      amblingalong August 27, 2013 at 6:07 pm |

      I didn’t watch and my suggestion to those who did and didn’t like what they saw, is to switch channels.

      In other words, if you see something racist, just close your eyes and poof- problem solved!

      What are you doing here? On this website, I mean.

      1. pheenobarbidoll
        pheenobarbidoll August 27, 2013 at 6:17 pm |

        Exactly. You might be able to just change the channel Tom, but this shit affects poc and we can’t afford to ignore it. Changing the channel is a privileged luxury. The racism doesn’t go away for the rest of us that easily.

    2. macavitykitsune
      macavitykitsune August 27, 2013 at 6:29 pm |

      How nice for you that isms go away when you switch channels.

      It’s almost like racism doesn’t affect you!

      1. trees
        trees August 27, 2013 at 6:32 pm |

        How nice for you that isms go away when you switch channels.

        If he doesn’t see it then it doesn’t exist.

        1. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune August 27, 2013 at 6:34 pm |

          Well, my house currently contains only FAAB people. Does this mean I can get off the internet and then cismen don’t exist?

          OH IF ONLY IT WERE THAT EASY.

        2. trees
          trees August 27, 2013 at 7:00 pm |

          Well, my house currently contains only FAAB people. Does this mean I can get off the internet and then cismen don’t exist?

          OH IF ONLY IT WERE THAT EASY.

          In my fantasy universe there are many rainbows and sparkly unicorns and avocados that never go bad before I get a chance to eat them.

        3. trees
          trees August 27, 2013 at 9:07 pm |

          Color me not surprised but it looks like Amanda Marcotte also lives on TomSims fantasy island. She says: “Try not caring” and also “Being outraged at some nonsense at the VMAs is becoming one of our nation’s more embarrassing traditions.”

          A Proposal: Let’s Not Be Scandalized by Something That Happened at the VMAs

        4. moviemaedchen
          moviemaedchen August 27, 2013 at 10:25 pm |

          Color me not surprised but it looks like Amanda Marcotte also lives on TomSims fantasy island.

          Christ, talk about missing the point. Did she somehow manage to miss the bit where black women were literally dressed up as dancing bears? Or all of the other racist shit that went down? Or did she just not care?

          Oh, wait. This is Amanda Marcotte. Because yeah, being “scandalized” at racism is completely not worthwhile, or something.

          I’m sorry this shit keeps on happening, trees. Not even a fucking week after #solidarityisforwhite women, too.

        5. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve August 27, 2013 at 11:12 pm |

          Christ, talk about missing the point. Did she somehow manage to miss the bit where black women were literally dressed up as dancing bears? Or all of the other racist shit that went down? Or did she just not care?

          I missed it. I’ll be perfectly honest. As soon as Robin Thicke broke into Blurred Lines and Miley started twerking, I just thought ‘Oh My God, music really sucks right now, I can’t bear this,’ and I left the room, asking my wife to shout when Katy Perry was on (she was performing in our backyard, so to speak.)

          So, I was defending Miley earlier on the basis of: ‘so what she used to be a child star? She’s a woman now and entitled to be a sexual being.’ But I was unaware of the motor boating incident.

          However, maedchen, you mention something even more insidious…I had no idea the producers insisted that all the dancing bears were black women. Jesus! How can people possibly interpret this as anything other than racism?

        6. pheenobarbidoll
          pheenobarbidoll August 27, 2013 at 11:17 pm |

          What a racist dumbass she is. You gotta work to be that dumbassy.

        7. Donna L
          Donna L August 27, 2013 at 11:45 pm |

          Well, I’m sure that if the racism were pointed out to Amanda, she would agree that racists can be irritating, but after all, the battle’s over and the good guys won, right?

          See http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2013/08/14/solidarityisforwhitewomen-reckonings-and-thoughts/#comment-667806

        8. theLaplaceDemon
          theLaplaceDemon August 28, 2013 at 12:27 am |

          Omg, Donna. I wish we had like buttons.

        9. Willemina
          Willemina August 28, 2013 at 1:48 am |

          However, maedchen, you mention something even more insidious…I had no idea the producers insisted that all the dancing bears were black women. Jesus! How can people possibly interpret this as anything other than racism?

          See, this comes up a couple places in the thread and I wish it would be put to rest one way or the other. My familiarity with her celebrity, twerking, et al is really limited, but as far as I figure from past juicy gossip stories about young artists is that once they’re emancipated and burying the effigy of their child self in a shallow grave, they’re the boss. Those people around them might be enablers sure, but they’re not some shadowy all-powerful malicious force ruining the good name of ex-Disney-so-and-so.

          So I get it, the music industry is problematic for young women in and of itself with the demands for sexy, but not too sexy, but her racism and appropriation goes deeper than the dancing bears (see her “I want something that sounds black” quote). The music video for the song she did had similar twerk-crossing, and again, mentioned in this thread you can find pictures of her with her grill in looking hard. So the deflecting to third parties stuff is bs in my mind. She’s gotta dress herself at least once in a while and unless every aspect of her life just happens to be completely managed by a racist she’s culpable.

        10. Aydan
          Aydan August 28, 2013 at 9:55 am |

          Color me not surprised but it looks like Amanda Marcotte also lives on TomSims fantasy island. She says: “Try not caring” and also “Being outraged at some nonsense at the VMAs is becoming one of our nation’s more embarrassing traditions.”

          A Proposal: Let’s Not Be Scandalized by Something That Happened at the VMAs

          This sort of reminds me of when adults say, “Just ignore bullies and they’ll go away.” We know how well that works.

          Bullies don’t operate in a vacuum; they are usually enabled, for lack of a better word, by tacit or explicit approval from authority figures who pretend they didn’t see anything. Similarly, Cyrus’s racism is enabled by the racism of white Americans. Now, as with bullying, pretending we didn’t see anything is actively harmful.

          And in addition to the racism it takes to write this off as “some nonsense,” it also kind of feels like Marcotte is saying, “But I don’t want to talk about this, why are we talking about it??”

        11. EG
          EG August 28, 2013 at 10:52 am |

          I fundamentally don’t understand Marcotte, even from a self-interested viewpoint. She is in a huge-ass hole. Why is she continuing to dig?

        12. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve August 28, 2013 at 12:01 pm |

          @WIllemina
          I’m not sure what you meant by ‘this’:

          See, this comes up a couple places in the thread and I wish it would be put to rest one way or the other.

          Because the bit of my comment that you quoted was the bit where I said it was racist for them to have only WoC dressed as dancing bears. I think that is rather obvious and doesn’t need to be put to rest. Please tell me you quoted the wrong bit…

        13. Lolagirl
          Lolagirl August 28, 2013 at 12:34 pm |

          But, EG, she’s a rully serious that racism is a bad thing! Why, she just blogged about how bad it is at her own site the other day! How dare everyone pile on and be so mean!

          Just kidding. I can’t even with this person, she makes me want to throw things, and scream colorful obscenities that would make my mother cry. Oh, to live in my own little echo chamber where I am always the rightest and most enlightened person in the room/borough/world/ the entirety of the internets.

        14. Willemina
          Willemina August 28, 2013 at 12:57 pm |

          Steve, I talked about the deflection from Cyrus on to backstage third parties, in your case the producers. So the “them” as opposed to “her.” No where did moviemaedchen say anything about “producers insisting,” and I haven’t found that anywhere in the internet.

          It plays in to the excuse making going around that she’s only 20, people are trying to make her look bad and racist and she’s not to blame it’s everyone else taking it wrong or exploiting her. I agree the dancing bears are hella racist, but the face of this thing is Miley and she’s got the track record to back these creative choices as being her own.

        15. EG
          EG August 28, 2013 at 3:25 pm |

          I think the “this” refers to the deflecting of blame from Cyrus to the producers.

        16. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve August 28, 2013 at 5:05 pm |

          Steve, I talked about the deflection from Cyrus on to backstage third parties, in your case the producers. So the “them” as opposed to “her.” No where did moviemaedchen say anything about “producers insisting,” and I haven’t found that anywhere in the internet.

          I wasn’t deferring to a third party about Miley’s racism. moviemaedchen said “black women were literally dressed up as dancing bears” She wasn’t saying Miley dressed them as bears. Was she?

          Clearly the ‘motor-boating’ was wrong, and Miley should stop, but if Miley had not been there, there are still a lot of problematic racial elements. And there’s no reason to give the producers a pass on these things.

        17. Donna L
          Donna L August 28, 2013 at 7:18 pm |

          She is in a huge-ass hole.

          I initially read this as “She is a huge asshole.” Which is also true, it seems.

        18. theLaplaceDemon
          theLaplaceDemon August 29, 2013 at 6:13 pm |

          DEAR GOD. Marcotte posted another article on Slate today where she said that some of the articles criticizing Miley’s racism were “genuinely interesting.”

          I’m glad she didn’t argue with the racism, but saying that criticisms of racism for a performance *she is currently defending on a different axis* are “interesting” is a whole lot like saying transphobic radfems are “irritating.” It’s contextually dismissive, and 100% fails to capture the weight of the oppression being discussed. It also refuses to take a position (she could have used the word “legitimate” – it’s just as concise).

      2. Lolagirl
        Lolagirl August 28, 2013 at 9:58 am |

        Well, I for one am so relieved everyone! She Who Shall Not Be Named has declared Cyrus’ performance to officially be no big deal! And here I was getting myself all offended and disgusted with Cyrus, and agreeing with others here in the comments who share in my disgust and outrage.

        Nope, no racism to be seen here, people move it along. Let this young woman have her freedom to have fun on national television and stop killing her buzz. It’s unfeminist, or something…

        And now that She has declared it to be no big deal, thus it is so. Don’t expect any clarification or backtracking by Her, ever. Just, poop on Her.

        Oh, and yeah that to Donna’s comment above me.

    3. Computer Soldier Porygon
      Computer Soldier Porygon August 27, 2013 at 8:03 pm |

      You should be ashamed of yourself for this comment. Read all the linked pieces and commentary and come back.

    4. Fat Steve
      Fat Steve August 27, 2013 at 8:11 pm |

      Switching the channels only changes anything if it is done as a collective. In which case it’s called a boycott.

      1. BabyRaptor
        BabyRaptor August 28, 2013 at 1:04 am |

        And not done with the intent to shrug it off. Shrugging it off just enables it.

  13. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve August 27, 2013 at 5:55 pm |

    I really didn’t like this line in the Akiba Solomon article:

    That’s why in my daydream—and of course it’s a dream—there’s an expansive group of black women dancers who have enough options, wherewithal and dignity to simply say no to playing new millennium Saartje Baartmans.

    Or should I say, I didn’t like the word ‘dignity.’ Yes, these women lack options, and maybe they lack ‘wherewithal,’ but they don’t lack ‘dignity.’

    1. amblingalong
      amblingalong August 27, 2013 at 6:06 pm |

      I think this depends on your reading of the word. I totally get where you’re coming from, but in the context I read it more as referring to the meaning of dignity as externally imposed, not an internal value (as in “the dignity of the human person is not only a fundamental right in itself but constitutes the real basis of fundamental rights”).

  14. amblingalong
    amblingalong August 27, 2013 at 6:04 pm |

    Maybe this is just semantics, but for me, appropriation has a context of taking something away from the people who created it. I don’t think it’s right to say jazz was appropriated from black musicians by white musicians; there are a ton of really well recognized black jazz performers, including most of the ‘greats.’ By contrast, rock ‘n roll is now considered ‘white’ music, in a way that means black rock ‘n roll performers have less ability to be considered authentic/legitimate/ popularly accessible/etc. Appropriation isn’t just about influence, or people of getting into cultural movements that originated in other races, it’s about the denial of something to the people who created it.

    1. theLaplaceDemon
      theLaplaceDemon August 27, 2013 at 6:15 pm |

      That is an excellent and very helpful distinction. Thank you.

    2. imadime
      imadime August 28, 2013 at 11:36 am |

      indeed, i think it is semantics. if we focus on the ideas here instead of dictionary definitions, i think we’ll get to a better place. my opinion.

  15. amblingalong
    amblingalong August 27, 2013 at 6:10 pm |

    The amount of 101 here. Christ.

    1. pheenobarbidoll
      pheenobarbidoll August 27, 2013 at 6:27 pm |

      And coming on the heels of the solidarityisforwhitewomen conversation, it’s inexcusable.

    2. tigtog
      tigtog August 27, 2013 at 6:30 pm | *

      Agreed. Is it time to switch the thread to full moderation so that the most spectacularly clueless can be redacted/deleted (eta: before eyeballs other than the moderators’ are afflicted by them)?

      1. pheenobarbidoll
        pheenobarbidoll August 27, 2013 at 6:54 pm |

        Yes please

    3. Computer Soldier Porygon
      Computer Soldier Porygon August 27, 2013 at 8:02 pm |

      It’s fucking embarrassing.

  16. Ashley
    Ashley August 27, 2013 at 6:18 pm |

    While I don’t agree with using people as props, there’s another argument about this that I have heard elsewhere that I haven’t heard any feedback for, and that’s the idea that all of her backup dancers applied for that position. They wanted to be there. Miley didn’t use them as props against their will. Those dancers can allow Miley to use them as they please, can’t they?

    1. pheenobarbidoll
      pheenobarbidoll August 27, 2013 at 6:28 pm |

      ….. I don’t even have the spoons. Can an ally step up to this please?

      1. Angie unduplicated
        Angie unduplicated August 30, 2013 at 9:13 pm |

        Yeah, as an analogy, when I was out of work, the rent was overdue, and the fridge was empty, I applied for a waitress job at half minimum wage. Which, according to this idiot pseudologic, means that I approved said shit wages and approved being treated like used toilet paper by the occasional subhumanoid customer or stupidvisor.
        I hear that TV and film pays union scale, even for extras. Don’t blame WOC for trying to score some living wages, just because they had to shovel some toxic concept to get there.

    2. Angel H.
      Angel H. August 27, 2013 at 6:32 pm |

      “Oh hai! Would like to be on national TV surrounded by the rich and the famous and make beacoup bucks doing it? All you have to do us dance onstage in a bear costume and let Miley Cyrus slap your ass!”

      You act as if it was a geniune choice.

    3. macavitykitsune
      macavitykitsune August 27, 2013 at 6:33 pm |

      Well, it’s very nice that you feel that everyone has the absolute free choice to participate in only what they want, and are in no way constrained by finances, logistics, or industry pressure to take what jobs they get.

      Fuck, what’s next? Domestic violence isn’t a problem because abused spouses didn’t have to sign a marriage contract? Government spying isn’t an issue because people don’t just leave? How about if I call you every slur under the sun, and justify it by saying that you commented on a site where I have the ability to reply to you, and no one asked you to comment here? How would you feel about that?

    4. Andie
      Andie August 27, 2013 at 6:39 pm |

      Ashley, did you miss the part where it was pointed out that some of these women are probably depending on the paycheck? Some of them are probably trying to forge a career and maybe, just maybe, if you’re trying to start a career as a dancer you don’t say no to Miley-fucking-Cyrus?

      Others have said in this thread that pointing out racism can be very very risky.

    5. theLaplaceDemon
      theLaplaceDemon August 27, 2013 at 6:41 pm |

      Two things:

      (1) You’re assuming a balance of power that IS NOT there.

      I don’t know what the typical backup dancer makes, but it’s certainly not as much money as Miley Cyrus does. My guess is that it’s very competitive, and getting to perform at the VMAs is hugely beneficial to one’s career. It’s not fair to put someone in a position where they have to choose between letting Cyrus violate their boundaries vs pass up on what might be a once-in-a-lifetime career boosting job.

      While I have no specific experience with how this industry works, in many other industries word of mouth is a big deal in getting a job. If Cyrus or whoever her producers/choreographers start telling people that a particular backup dancer was difficult to work with, because that dancer had the *audacity* to not want to be horrifically objectified or touched in certain ways, that could be career-ruining.

      So no, they didn’t necessarily choose to be there any more than the customer service representative who gets yelled at all day, or the person who has to stock shelves all night despite having a bad back, or the bajillions of other people who put up with abusive bosses because the cost of not cooperating is just too high.

      (2) Even if all of those dancers were totally on board with it and thought it was awesome, that doesn’t make it immune from criticism. Even if the dancers were thrilled by everything they were asked to do, that doesn’t mean that the dance doesn’t ultimately have a net negative contribution to the world.

    6. shfree
      shfree August 27, 2013 at 6:52 pm |

      Oh for fuck’s sake. I remember this whole argument when Gwen Stefani was walking around with those quiet Asian women 24-7, and they were essentially her props, too.

      First off, a dancer doesn’t get to vet the whole choreography of a routine before they decide whether or not they are willing to sign the contract. And being fired from a job, particularly a high profile one like the VMAs looks really, really bad in one’s work history, and the industry checks up on this sort of shit. This even assumes that the whole thing was tightly choreographed, and Cyrus didn’t improvise a damn thing.

      The fact is, whether or not the dancers approved of Cyrus commodifying their bodies, the message it sends is still something that has a negative effect for WoC at large, which is that their bodies are still just sexual props for men, and now white women to do whatever the hell they want with.

      1. karak
        karak August 27, 2013 at 10:20 pm |

        She’s still doing it! And she renamed them, remember that?

        1. shfree
          shfree August 28, 2013 at 12:41 am |

          She is??? What the bloody hell, I thought she stopped doing that and moved onto some other “edgy” attention getting thing.

        2. Andie
          Andie August 28, 2013 at 8:21 am |

          Well, she also moved onto native appropriation as well.

        3. Annaleigh
          Annaleigh August 29, 2013 at 5:17 am |

          Well, she also moved onto native appropriation as well.

          Yes, and Mexican/Mexican-American appropriation as well, there was one video where she dressed in the type of clothes some cholas wear, and paired that with the Indigenous Frida Kahlo-style braids in her hair. It was weird to combine the two, especially with the context of the tension between traditional Mexican/Chican@ culture and subcultures born out of rebelling against both the traditional culture and USAian culture as well…

    7. PrettyAmiable
      PrettyAmiable August 27, 2013 at 7:16 pm |

      This is like saying, “All the people that work at McDonald’s applied to be there. They wanted to be there.”

    8. Denise Winters
      Denise Winters August 27, 2013 at 7:54 pm |

      Miley didn’t use them as props against their will. Those dancers can allow Miley to use them as they please, can’t they?

      But they were certaintly used as props in the video, and it wasn’t some randy happenstance of only black women applying as dancers. You can bet that when a director chooses to have a white woman twerking surrounded by a bunch of black women, it is done for a very specific reason, and that reason is to create a completely racist image.

      1. Bagelsan
        Bagelsan August 27, 2013 at 8:08 pm |

        randy happenstance

        Awesome typo? :)

    9. imadime
      imadime August 27, 2013 at 8:25 pm |

      aside from the socio-economic implications already addressed, i don’t think that you can assume an across-the-board degree of awareness/enlightenment. just because many PoC here and other places are appalled by this, i’m willing to bet that at least some of the dancers, even today, after the ‘firestorm’, don’t think there’s anything wrong with their choices to participate and don’t get, or maybe even care about, the bigger-picture implications of the performance and miley’s…whatever. their personal choices and degree of appreciation for the issue don’t make it a non-issue.

    10. moviemaedchen
      moviemaedchen August 27, 2013 at 9:42 pm |

      Wow, this thread.

      matlun, Tom, Sonia, Ashley, and anyone with the urge to play Devil’s Advocate here: shut up, sit down, and listen to the POC here before you say anything. This shit isn’t neutral, especially when every single time we attempt to have a conversation about racism here it gets derailed into 101 territory and the POC commenting here have to yet again explain over and over again what the fuck racism is and why it’s bad.

      Could we maybe just for once trust the people who actually experience racism to have a clue about what’s racist and why, and therefore focus on the actual problem of racism instead of going through 10,000 rounds of ‘how can I possibly prove this white person is totes not racist!’ ?

      As to Miley Cyrus’ performance: Jesus was that disgusting (her use of others’ bodies, not her own sexuality). Every time someone gets the idea that it would be totally ‘edgy’ to do X Y or Z, they need to take a good long look at exactly WHY it would be so ‘edgy’ – and ask themselves if maybe it’s because it’s not edgy, it’s fucking racist.

      1. moviemaedchen
        moviemaedchen August 27, 2013 at 9:44 pm |

        Also, for those inclined towards Devil’s Advocating and the like:

        Derailing for Dummies

        Read it.

      2. Sonia
        Sonia August 28, 2013 at 10:32 am |

        I am a PoC. Thanks for telling me to shut up.

      3. imadime
        imadime August 28, 2013 at 11:40 am |

        you’re my hero.

      4. moviemaedchen
        moviemaedchen August 28, 2013 at 1:12 pm |

        I’m sorry, Sonia. I did not realize you are a POC, and I apologize for singling you out with the non-POC who were derailing and saying shut up to you.

        Your comment struck me (perhaps wrongly on my part) as suggesting that if none of the dancers explicitly expressed unhappiness at what went down then it was ok, and that the outrage here was just about people getting attention for themselves by making over the top accusations of racism. If that is not what you meant then I’m also sorry for misinterpreting it. (If that is what you meant, I still strongly disagree with it, but my apology for the shut up comment still stands.)

        1. Sonia
          Sonia August 29, 2013 at 10:18 am |

          Apology accepted. The thing that stuck out for me in this situation was that people are assuming that the women on stage could not have been doing that of their own free will. It is similar to the arguments extended for assuming no woman would want to be a stripper (or engineer, as it happens in some societies) or that no woman would want to be a sub in a BDSM scene. I understand that there may be implications because this is a public act, but assuming that these women weren’t okay with it is, to me, imposing your sensibilities on another. Something that happens all the time to PoC.

    11. Elisa
      Elisa August 28, 2013 at 1:39 am |

      This argument is the same argument I hear about women — of ALL races — taking the shitty roles for women that pop culture provides: “Well, they took part in it.” Does that make it OK? Does that make the whole sexist scenario OK?

      How far can we take this argument? What about women getting paid 70% less than men for the same jobs. Can we say, “Well, they chose to take that job.” Does that make the situation OK?

      How far can we go with blaming women — black, white, or otherwise — in order to overlook the real issue?

      The issue the blog post addresses is that Miley Cyrus’ appropriation of black women’s bodies is racist.

      The issue I see in all of these comments is that feminists can be ignorant of racist issues, too.

      Luckily, ignorance can be changed, but only if you choose to face it.

    12. Natalia Antonova
      Natalia Antonova August 28, 2013 at 5:39 am | *

      First of all, there is the economic aspect of this, which has already been mentioned.

      Second of all, you do realize what the level of competition there is like, right? I had a Korean-American friend who was a backup dancer and told stories of having to put with some really vile shit – not just for the money, but also because if she didn’t say yes, she would be labeled “uppity,” or a “flaky” girl whose “heart isn’t in it” or someone who isn’t “dependable.”

      Like, “You signed up for this and now you don’t want to get your ass smacked on stage?! God, you are totally not dependable! Get out of here!”

      I’m sure that mileages will vary, etc. – but honestly, let’s be realistic about the situation these dancers are in. Most of them are really passionate, really committed to making it – and they are constantly told that if they object to literally anything, there are 10 people in line to take their place at the drop of a hat.

    13. gratuitous_violet
      gratuitous_violet August 28, 2013 at 1:31 pm |

      oh hai Ashley. You sound familiar.

      If you don’t want to click through, link goes to the Feministe thread about the racist dove ad circa 2011, in which Ashley showed her ass all over the place. I thought something sounded eerily familiar.

      1. Ashley
        Ashley August 28, 2013 at 6:13 pm |

        I knew someone would go hunting for the post. ;)

        Thanks to everyone for their comments. I understand why it’s wrong of her to use other people’s bodies as props. None of us knows for sure whether or not those black women are ok with what Miley is doing, but it doesn’t mean that it’s ok even if they do. Just to be clear, I never said it was my view. I just wanted some thought from those of you here on the argument I have seen elsewhere.

        1. Andie
          Andie August 28, 2013 at 7:26 pm |

          Allow me to redirect you to moviemaechden’s (sorry for my horrible spelling attempt) link on derailing for dummies.

      2. Donna L
        Donna L August 29, 2013 at 11:32 am |

        I continue to be amazed at the memories some of you have. I tend to forget commenters’ names after they haven’t been here for a month, never mind two years. I even just blanked on Tomek’s name for a minute!

  17. theLaplaceDemon
    theLaplaceDemon August 27, 2013 at 6:30 pm |

    Gee, I bet some of Miley’s best friends are black! And they totally thought her performance was cool!

    (/heavy, heavy sarcasm)

    This is very 101, but Ernest Owens had a good piece in HuffPo from a few months back when Miley made her “I just want something that feels black” comment:
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ernest-owens/miley-cyrus-feels-black_b_3488397.html

    1. Willemina
      Willemina August 28, 2013 at 2:01 am |

      But, but, she says she’s just like Snoop Lion, and she and French Montana are besties! Stop being mean to Miley!

      /snarkapotomus

      That is a good article.

  18. Matthew
    Matthew August 27, 2013 at 6:42 pm |

    It’s nearly 1am where I am, but wow this thread is fail. In other words I agree with Pheeno, Mac, Ambling and others who are saying WTF. Sorry I can’t be more articulate at the moment…

  19. Tony
    Tony August 27, 2013 at 6:59 pm |

    Yeah, reading this thread started getting me confused about what appropriation is! I really like amblings comment- appropriation is taking something away, by using your position of privilege. The mere transmission of cultural memes from one culture to another is not “appropriation”.
    I think this can get really tricky because in non appropratuve contexts, the transmission of culture from oppressed to non oppressed peoples is actually the exception, and is actually counter hegemonic. Most of history of the past 500 years has been culture created by privileged cis white men being absorbed by others (e.g., pretty much all of mainstream Hollywood). By being cultural originators, oppressed people have an opportunity to tell their own stories and humanize themselves. Hence, it’s critical that we understand what exactly appropriation means; getting it right is the difference between something racist and something that can be powerfully anti racist.

    1. amblingalong
      amblingalong August 27, 2013 at 7:48 pm |

      I think this can get really tricky because in non approprative contexts, the transmission of culture from oppressed to non oppressed peoples is actually the exception, and is actually counter hegemonic. Most of history of the past 500 years has been culture created by privileged cis white men being absorbed by others (e.g., pretty much all of mainstream Hollywood). By being cultural originators, oppressed people have an opportunity to tell their own stories and humanize themselves.

      I really like that point; it hadn’t occurred that way to me before

    2. Funty
      Funty August 29, 2013 at 5:52 pm |

      Indeed.

      My problem with cultural appropriation in music is that poorer white people have a rich musical history of absolutely fuck all.
      They were too low down the social strata for anyone to even bother writing their music down, so we’ve got nothing on them until 19th century mechanisation eventually gave rich white blokes the time to try and record it all.

      And by this point we’ve got European fishermen and freed American slaves, all on the same entirely non-metaphorical boat and singing Shanties together as they hauled rope. Cos a lot of people have had songs to pass along, mouth to mouth. Work songs from fields, mines and factories, lullabies and all, but all from people who weren’t deemed important enough to go down in history.

      So just ignore the spoiled celebrity white kids and sell-out chart rappers and go support artists who are still struggling to be heard.

  20. tigtog
    tigtog August 27, 2013 at 7:01 pm | *

    This thread has now been placed into full moderation. Comments may take some time to be approved due to our moderator team’s other commitments.

  21. macavitykitsune
    macavitykitsune August 27, 2013 at 7:38 pm |

    OK here’s a (highly Indian-specific because I don’t want to speak for people not me) rundown of examples of Appropriation and Not Appropriation in music. Incomplete and broad to cover the maximum of possibilities.

    Not Appropriation/Not Racist:
    Collaborating with an Indian musician
    Sampling an Indian musician’s work with their consent
    Using Indian musical instruments (tabla, veena, what have you) in your songs
    Singing in Indian languages (in the abstract)
    Wearing a sari, salwar, daavani (any secular non-religiously significant article of clothing) in your music video
    Using popular tourist sites (e.g. the exterior of the Taj or the Ellora Caves) in your music video
    Dancing down Chowpatty Beach in your music video
    Dressing (someone?) up as a specific secular Indian person WITHOUT the use of black/brownface (e.g. no1curr if you want to dress some random desi up as Nehru)

    Appropriation/Racist:
    Grabbing Indian music without consent or acknowledgment
    Using Indian music without context (i.e. random chanting in the middle of your song – why? what does it mean?)
    Singing in Indian languages in a stereotyped racist accent/not giving a shit about sounding as accurate as possible
    Using religious/culturally weighted imagery or articles in your music video
    Using religious locations in your music video (e.g. the interiors of the Taj or the Kailashanatha temple at Ellora)
    Dressing up in brownface/blackface
    Dressing up as religious figures (e.g. Kali)
    Engaging in racial stereotypes of Indians in your music video
    Lyrics that only reflect racial stereotypes of Indians

    For a gloriously cringeworthy example, here: Iggy Azalea attempts Desi Racist Blackout Bingo, succeeds!

    On the other hand, a successful collaboration between Akon and Vishal-Shekhar sounds more like this:

    if that helps.

    1. karak
      karak August 27, 2013 at 10:25 pm |

      Wait, dressing up as someone’s god is insensitive?!?! So many surprises!! Indians are so sensitive.

      That’s why white Christians think it’s funny when Indians dress up as Jesus and walk around acting like assholes. Oh wait that never happened in the history of ever.

      No but seriously what is white people’s obsession with Kali? We have our own white gods that we can dress up as.

      1. Bagelsan
        Bagelsan August 28, 2013 at 12:02 am |

        There are people who uniformly disrespect religion, of course; I for one would think it was hilarious if an Indian person dressed up as Jesus and started acting like an asshole, because I don’t hold religious figures sacred. I think the issue is less “don’t disrespect religion” so much as “don’t disrespect a person or culture’s most important and beloved things.”

        1. pheenobarbidoll
          pheenobarbidoll August 28, 2013 at 12:33 am |

          It’s not about disrespecting religion. It’s about continuing to hold yours ( the dominant group) as default and justifying mocking another’s( non dominant group) now that outright murdering them over it is lip service frowned upon.

        2. amblingalong
          amblingalong August 28, 2013 at 12:34 am |

          There are people who uniformly disrespect religion, of course; I for one would think it was hilarious if an Indian person dressed up as Jesus and started acting like an asshole, because I don’t hold religious figures sacred. I think the issue is less “don’t disrespect religion” so much as “don’t disrespect a person or culture’s most important and beloved things.”

          I really, really struggle with this one. I mean, I think religion is really, really bad. Right up there with patriarchy and white supremacy, to be honest. I can’t imagine ever agreeing with anyone saying that their religion shouldn’t be disrespected, no matter how important or beloved it is to them or their culture.

          And yet the idea of non-Hindu people appropriating or straight-up mocking Hindu religious symbols/beliefs/ practices makes my stomach turn.

          No idea how to process that.

        3. snorkellingfish
          snorkellingfish August 28, 2013 at 4:30 am |

          I really, really struggle with this one. I mean, I think religion is really, really bad. Right up there with patriarchy and white supremacy, to be honest. I can’t imagine ever agreeing with anyone saying that their religion shouldn’t be disrespected, no matter how important or beloved it is to them or their culture.

          And yet the idea of non-Hindu people appropriating or straight-up mocking Hindu religious symbols/beliefs/ practices makes my stomach turn.

          No idea how to process that.

          I don’t know if this helps, but for me the key difference is the power relationship going on. Like, if I mock Christianity, I’m mocking a powerful institution in our society that actively uses its power to enforce bigoted ideals. In that situation, Christianity has power over me and I’m attempting to challenge that a little.

          If I were to mock Hinduism, I’d be the one with the power (at least living where I live now). I’d be the person with relative white privilege mocking a religion that’s largely practiced by people of colour. That goes doubly because my life is not adversely affected in any way by people upholding Hindu beliefs. My only motive for mocking Hinduism would be racism.

          I know that I personally also make a distinction between disrespecting religion and disrespecting religious people. I feel that becomes especially important where other power dynamics come into play–race being a big one, when particular religions often get associated with particular ethnic groups.

        4. Donna L
          Donna L August 29, 2013 at 12:09 am |

          It’s not about disrespecting religion. It’s about continuing to hold yours ( the dominant group) as default and justifying mocking another’s( non dominant group) now that outright murdering them over it is lip service frowned upon.

          Sounds familiar.

      2. Athenia
        Athenia August 28, 2013 at 10:16 am |

        Cuz white people culture has the Virgin Mary, as opposed to Kali who will rip out your entrails.

        Athena or Hera are brutal goddesses in Western Culture, but again, no ripping out of the entrails.

        1. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune August 28, 2013 at 12:13 pm |

          *eyebrow* Well, there’s two things wrong with that. First, that it’s not like there’s a lack of entrail-ripping gods in Hinduism. Second, if a person’s genuinely worshipping Kali (which, uh… is not something lightly embarked upon), that’s different from wanting cool bling of a goddess who looks scary.

          I admit I’m pretty relaxed about my pantheism/atheism (heh don’t ask), so the idea of people having polytheistic traditions that cross cultures doesn’t bother me – it might others – but that isn’t what Karak’s talking about, I wager. It’s not worship, it’s just fetishising.

          And there’s no lack of bloodthirsty goddesses in the Norse traditions, or the Roman, etc.

        2. EG
          EG August 28, 2013 at 3:27 pm |

          I’m not in love with the Norse, what with the whole Aryan thing, but Jews have the Matronit, who’s pretty fucking awesome.

        3. Donna L
          Donna L August 28, 2013 at 7:21 pm |

          Plus Lilith and other assorted child-stealing demons.

    2. Willemina
      Willemina August 28, 2013 at 2:22 am |

      That’s a good list, better than what I came up with stewing over this at work. I had something about context and expression intrinsic to a people’s lived experience as opposed to transferable non-specific elements, but the list covers that, defines it, and then some.

    3. Sid
      Sid August 28, 2013 at 9:35 pm |

      Some of these I feel are borderline and not as stark as some others. When the Black Eyed Peas sampled two indian beats in “Dont Phunk With My Heart” with no clear attribution in the music, it might have been legal appropriation, but not necessarily cultural appropriation. Similarly, with Truth Hurts sampling of an Indian classic in “Addictive.” However, that music video you link to surely crosses the line.

      1. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune August 28, 2013 at 11:47 pm |

        Yes, some are definitely borderline issues, and not as egregious or hurtful as others.

        Also, sampling classical music can be problematic, if it’s religious. However, if the artist in question consented, it’s fine by me.

        1. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune August 29, 2013 at 3:11 pm |

          Though on further contemplation… if an actual piece of music is being sampled without acknowledgment (as opposed to ‘indian sounding’ music), and there is a trend of people with racial/class/national privilege doing this to people from developing countries, etc, I think the power dynamics are worth examining. There’s a trend of assuming that race is a flat, unchanging equation of privilege/oppression, but there’s more nuance than that (unless anyone wants to suggest that, say, Kanye West – just taking an example, not insinuating anything about the dude – has less power to appropriate without consequences than some little-known Indian classical singer?).

  22. Elisa
    Elisa August 28, 2013 at 1:44 am |

    Also….. I don’t want to take it too far off topic…. and I think that criticism directed towards Cyrus is totally merited.

    At the same time, I just want to point out that Robin Thicke is normalizing rape mentality: “I hate these blurred lines / I know you want it”….

    Without taking away from the critique of Miley’s racism… I just want to say I think Robin Thicke deserves just as much criticism for being a disgusting, rape-y douchebag. Let’s tack this onto all the existing hate for the song/performance.

    1. miga
      miga August 28, 2013 at 12:03 pm |

      This is, TBH taking it off topic. What happened between Cyrus and Thicke was a different segment of that evening. We are talking about what happened between Cyrus and her backup dancers.

      You want to talk about Thicke being a douche? Unless it has something specifically to do with Miley’s treatment of her dancers, please direct it to another thread (or write your own post so we can talk about it there).

  23. Athenia
    Athenia August 28, 2013 at 10:10 am |

    It pisses me off to no end that Miley Cyrus is using ratchet culture and blackness to be “edgy” or in other words, to make herself “dirty,” and “sexy”–to help cast off her virginal image. I was appalled when she motoboated and slapped the black dancer’s butt.

    After her performance (or was it during Blurred Lines?) a black rapper took the stage with a team of black female dancers. He didn’t slap their asses, but it struck me that here again, black women are being used as props. And I probably wouldn’t have noticed that if it weren’t for Miley’s performance, I would have thought it was just the norm.

  24. Codi Johnson
    Codi Johnson August 28, 2013 at 10:38 am |

    I once again see the same tired commentors presenting the completely predictable responses and bull rushing anyone who disagrees with them–which the moderators are apparently happy to assist in.

    1. Angel H.
      Angel H. August 28, 2013 at 1:16 pm |

      What the fuck are you talking about?

    2. Gale
      Gale August 28, 2013 at 6:10 pm |

      Thank you, Codi, for this excellent example of derailing. I can’t decide if this is a better example of “derail using retaliation” (you have an agenda) or “derail using anger” (you are being hostile)? Probably both.

      On a related note, thanks for the derailing for dummies link, moviemaedchen. I enjoyed reading it!

      1. moviemaedchen
        moviemaedchen August 28, 2013 at 8:49 pm |

        I’d say both, yeah.

        It’s marvelously useful thing, no?

    3. Annaleigh
      Annaleigh August 28, 2013 at 8:20 pm |

      Yes, it must be oh so tiring having to listen to WOC discuss something that affects them, pobrecita!

  25. pheenobarbidoll
    pheenobarbidoll August 28, 2013 at 4:26 pm |

    Those poor racists!Getting bull rushed like that. I weep for them.

    1. Annaleigh
      Annaleigh August 28, 2013 at 8:21 pm |

      I know! *sniffle*

  26. de Pizan
    de Pizan August 28, 2013 at 4:35 pm |

    Miley Cyrus’ new song with Justin Bieber was just leaked….the song is called Twerk. I mean, obviously it’s been in the works for who knows how long; but that no one involved thought to say, you know maybe this week (or ideally ever) is probably not the best time to release this song.

    1. Bagelsan
      Bagelsan August 28, 2013 at 5:43 pm |

      If you were to spell “twerk” as a mashup of twerp and jerk, that Miley + Bieber collaboration actually makes a lot of sense…

  27. tigtog
    tigtog August 28, 2013 at 7:15 pm | *

    Moderator note: some comments in the moderation queue have been deleted simply because they do not add value to this discussion.

    If your comment is only repeating something another commentor has already said that disagrees with the premise of this post (that Cyrus’ performance was full of racist tropes & cultural appropriation) then there is no value in publishing your comment, is there? Try engaging directly and substantively with some of the responses to those previous comments, if you can. Comments on this thread are expected to display some clue and to not just rehash 101-fail. Do better.

  28. Angel H.
    Angel H. August 29, 2013 at 12:55 pm |

    This article is awesome:

    Brown Body, White Wonderland

    Fat, non-normative black female bodies are kith and kin with historical caricatures of black women as work sites, production units, subjects of victimless sexual crimes, and embodied deviance. As I wrote in an analysis of hip-hop and country music crossovers, playing the desirability of black female bodies as a wink-wink joke is a way of lifting up our deviant sexuality without lifting up black women as equally desirable to white women. Cyrus did not just have black women gyrating behind her. She had particularly rotund black women. She gleefully slaps the ass of one dancer like she intends to eat it on a cracker. She is playing a type of black female body as a joke to challenge her audience’s perceptions of herself, while leaving their perceptions of black women’s bodies firmly intact. It’s a dance between performing sexual freedom and maintaining a hierarchy of female bodies from which white women benefit materially.

    The comments…*headdesk*headdesk*headdesk**headdesk*

    1. moviemaedchen
      moviemaedchen August 29, 2013 at 2:16 pm |

      Thanks for the link, Angel. Excellent essay, yes.

      Also I love how she draws in the relation of capitalism too, like here:

      The legendary “one drop” rule of determining blackness was legally codified not just out of ideological purity of white supremacy but to control the inheritance of property. The sexual predilections of our nation’s great men threatened to transfer the wealth of white male rapists to the children born of their crimes through black female bodies. The ideology of black female bodies as non-normative worked in tandem with capitalistic concerns about protecting white male wealth. White female beauty ideals were exalted in service to this goal. That some white women can now play with that ideology to assert their individual sexuality may or may not represent a feminist achievement, but it does exemplify how little has changed for black female sexuality.

      Powerful stuff.

    2. theLaplaceDemon
      theLaplaceDemon August 29, 2013 at 2:43 pm |

      I haven’t braved the comments yet, but the article is FANTASTIC.

    3. trees
      trees August 29, 2013 at 5:43 pm |

      Awesome indeed! Thank you for posting it.

      I’ll move this to spillover but let me say this here as well:
      This thread pisses me off. On the heels of #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen, and all the excellent articles and blog posts on offer, there is no excuse for the level of willful ignorance and complete lack of insight on display in this thread. In the past few weeks, WOC, and black women in particular, have offered numerous opportunities for learning. Pathetic.

      1. whistlewren
        whistlewren August 29, 2013 at 7:14 pm |

        Seconded (and I am sorry I didn’t delurk earlier to say so). As a non-WOC, I found reading the POC-only thread put up recently to be crucial to ensuring my feminism remains intersectional. The WOC commenters are not here for my benefit, but nevertheless I absolutely do benefit from being able to read such articulate and passionate critiques of modern society and feminism. We all do, cos we are all in this fucking world together and if we want to advance and actually achieve real, substantive equality we have to create a culture of empathy and get used to the idea that we can think beyond our own concerns. I was so incredibly disappointed to see so much fail from supposed allies. Do better, FFS.

        1. trees
          trees August 29, 2013 at 7:34 pm |

          I posted a response to you in the spillover thread here.

    4. Li
      Li August 29, 2013 at 11:18 pm |

      Thanks for the link Angel, that was phenomenal.

  29. Miley Cyrus and Oooh Laa Laa | Indianfeminist101

    [...] last but not the least, the type of sexual objectification in the video has drawn widespread criticism from feminists. Her constantly stuck out tongue, giggling face, slightly out of control body language, choreography [...]

  30. Sandra Bennett
    Sandra Bennett August 31, 2013 at 4:49 am |

    “What should be shocking is Cyrus’ appropriation of a culture she knows nothing about, and her use of Black women as props….”
    Other than people who move in feminist circles, generally speaking, does any woman know her own culture or the culture of women? Isn’t Cyrus’ performance representational of the reason no one takes any woman seriously? She not only displays Black women as props, she displays herself as a grotesque, stereotypical, ramped-up sex item. The fact that a woman, Cyrus, did the show, makes the stereotyping and dehumanizing of all women more tolerable and permissible. This seems to be the new dilemma facing “liberated” women.
    Even powerful, multi-millionaire women want everyday Josephines to know that the primary reason for womens’ existence is sexual. The CEO of HSN, Mindy Grossman, has her show hosts use the word “sexy” umpteen times a day when selling and referring to women. The View’s Sherri Shepherd told a mass audience of 94 million viewers she wears wigs so her husband can delight in sleeping with a different woman every night.
    The problem is this: Women are falling prey to this indoctrination.
    Performers like Miley Cyrus have license to degrade all women for two reasons. First, the collective voices of women remain still. Second, the resignation of women to fall almost exclusively into sexual roles advocates injustice everywhere.

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