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.
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