you're reading...
war on women

Criticism of Miley Cyrus at the VMAs reflects the double standard in rock and everywhere else

Miley Cyrus apparently shocked a large percentage of the world with her “raunchy” performance with Robin Thicke.

She was wearing a skin-tight latex nude body suit. She gyrated and twerked and dry humped a foam finger. She also stuck her tongue out. A lot.

imageBut how is this different from thousands of male rockers?

Gene Simmons is overly fond of his tongue. And I’m prettyimages sure he has made overtly sexual references on stage, if I remember the concert that I saw in grade 6 correctly.

What about crotch grabbing? Justin Timberlake, Michael Jackson, MickUnknown Jagger. Many male musicians across multiple music genres love to grab their crotch. It’s ok to grab a penis but not a vulva?

And what about that latex, nude outfit? Numerous male rockers dress in overtly david-lee-rothsexual ways and, well, so what? I couldn’t find a color picture of David Lee Roth displaying his “package” in all of its barely-restrained-glory, but even in a small black and white thumbnail you get the point.

I’ve been to numerous rock concert when the male star dry humps something (microphone, back up dancer, bass player) and no one did anything except yell louder.

Let’s remember that Miley was accompanying Robin Thicke, the guy with the video featuring women who are naked except for skin toned thongs. A video where women gyrate to show off their breasts while men, who are dressed, sing, “I know you want it.” A video that is a hop, skip and a jump from soft core porn. To pay homage or one-up that video you really have to take it to the next level or play it totally straight. This was the VMAs so taking it to the next level was clearly a forgone conclusion.

I remember when it was shocking to the world that Madonna writhed on the floor at the VMAs in a wedding dress. No one cold believe it. According to Madonna, Freddy DeMann (Madonna’s manager) was “white with anger, he was so upset— he said, ‘That’s it, you’ve ruined your career’…” That was 1984.

I am not music critic, but I have always felt the point of rock was the lack of restraint and pushing boundaries of self-expression whether it’s performing, coming up with the craziest guitar riff, or unbridled dancing on the floor.

If you don’t like what Miley Cyrus does turn the channel or don’t buy her music, but don’t tell her she’s too raunchy because that’s just a double standard. And if there’s a double standard in rock, well, that’s just a sad comment on our society.

If women can’t be totally out there at the VMAs then what we are saying is women are expected to conform everywhere.

That’s sad.



24 thoughts on “Criticism of Miley Cyrus at the VMAs reflects the double standard in rock and everywhere else

  1. I get the whole feminist view you’re trying to emit… But GaGa goes for the shock factor and does it tastefully. What Miley did was completely embarrassing.

    Posted by Ellie | August 26, 2013, 9:52 am
  2. I have no idea who Miley Cyrus is. But it looks as if her fans enjoyed the performance. Double standards? Double bollox!

    Posted by Korhomme (@Korhomme) | August 26, 2013, 9:56 am
  3. Two words: Cultural misappropriation.

    That is the horror that I saw reflected around twitter. The fact that she twerked horrifically is the insult heaped onto the larger cultural injury.

    Posted by Joy | August 26, 2013, 10:24 am
  4. JT, Gene Simmons etc have an actual “act” and “persona”. The problem with Mileys “performance” is that it was 100% transparent, blatant and crass. How is this great? How is it art? All of the money and time spent on this- for what exactly? There’s absolutely nothing “shocking” about it. It’s just another female who is screaming for the world to look at her prance on stage wearing nothing while doing virtually nothing than sexual innuendos. How exactly is this innovative, creative or in anyway “pushing” boundaries? Pretty sure all blatant sexual visual boundaries have been explored on TV stages, and there is nothing “pushing” about this one. There is a large difference btwn the likes of Gene Simmons and JT and Mileys “performance”. While I can slightly see your point, and there is one to be made about gender expectations in culture, art, music etc, this is a very weak example for your point. Very. Should Kanye (or to borrow your example) JT, wear 2 pieces of fabric, repeatedly grab their crotch while sticking their tongue out and trot around the stage for the entire performance- it would do less than wow. She made virtually no statement whatsoever beyond a chick discovering she can get attention in acting like a hooker with her femaleness (how cliche is this?). She did nothing to change a womans place on the stage. Unlike Gene Simmons, JT, Van Halen, hell even Madonna and GaGa- she was mindless. GS, JT, Madonna- shock, but with a mindful intent. Let’s not give credit where credit is not due.

    Posted by Sh | August 26, 2013, 10:29 am
  5. ah com’on …you can do better than put a feminism spin on this. It’s a shame ANYONE male or female, feels the need wag tongues and/or asses.
    Let’s all have a laugh, snicker, eye roll, etc and then move on. Miley Cyrus is NOT the center of the universe. Another 20-something year old, doing what 20-something year olds do. How long ago were mini shirts risqué?

    Posted by Chad's Universe | August 26, 2013, 11:40 am
  6. While your comments on rock performance aesthetics are quite valid, Cyrus ultimately assumed the role of the naked women in Thicke’s video, who are voiceless and objectified. The moment she did so was the moment her body became an object sutured to notions of feminine display. Had the Thicke duet never taken place, her performance could have been read as one embracing the tradition of rock excess.

    Posted by Robyn | August 26, 2013, 3:51 pm
  7. MTV confirmed that the Smith’s reactions were to Gaga and not Miley, I don’t get why people keep beating that dead horse of a joke.

    Posted by Stu | August 26, 2013, 4:29 pm
  8. Double standard-shmandard. When Britney whipped off the suit and revealed the nude body suit underneath at the VMAs in years past, going on to sing “Satisfaction”, I thought it was cool and well executed. She looked like she was owning the stage and her projected persona. It wasn’t so much that Miley was wearing something revealing, but that it was crass and poorly executed. Miley looked desperate and as though she was trying to be both shocking and accepted.

    Posted by Erin | August 26, 2013, 4:38 pm
  9. Frankly it was an insult to my intelligence! The sad part is, she thought she was hot while doing it….well the joke’s on her! She was/is the laughing stalk of the whole VMA! She definitely made headlines, but probably not the headlines she was counting on. Se deserves the laughs she got!

    Posted by Cb | August 26, 2013, 7:18 pm
  10. Thank you for pointing out this instance of the double standard and slutshaming which fuels our rape culture. I did not see the performance so did not know of the valid reason to criticize Miley and everyone else in power who created the experience: racism, brilliantly analyzed in this post.

    Posted by motherlaura | August 28, 2013, 6:09 am
  11. I could care less about Miley trying to be sexy. However her racism is a problem. She has been called out for her cultural appropriation, yet she continues to do it. She has even responded as a petulant little brat many times. She needs to check her white privilege. But that is unlikely to happen, because she would have to have some self awareness first.

    Posted by Michelle | August 29, 2013, 5:52 am
  12. actually miley cyrus is not rock music, it’s crap, just like her performance

    Posted by bertel | August 29, 2013, 8:18 am
  13. My comment linking to Jezebel’s incisive analysis agreeing with you on slutshaming but also calling out the racism of Miley’s performance in striking and degrading black women appears to have disappeared. Was this a technical glitch or does it reflect discomfort with this and other crucial critiques of white feminism by black womanists?

    Posted by motherlaura | August 29, 2013, 2:04 pm
  14. Dr. Gunter,
    You’re judging writing the ‘craziest guitar riff’ and what she did on the same level? You’ve missed the dartboard completely. Mileys performance was live and to millions of children who have known her as montana and thus still following her and who watched her. They watched ‘their montana’ grab and play with a mans genitals, poke her arse in doggy style and rub against his genitals, simulate oral sex, rub herself, and ridiculously stick her tongue out in gagging for sex. If you have children I hope they watched it….or any of your family has children and they watched it. It was a visual experience on a program. Not a video. That’s why it was wrong. When you have 4, 5 and 6 yr olds (your own or others) at school, in church, a kids party, christmas or easter, a school production, or maybe a work related fuction for yourself simulating oral sex, grabbing crotches and waving their arses around with their tongues sticking out I’m guessing you’re gonna retract your comments pretty quick.

    Posted by matthew | August 29, 2013, 5:15 pm
  15. Completely agree, Dr. Gunter. Dhole standard indeed, I was thinking the same. What offended me more are the lyrics of Thicke’s song. Dangerous.

    Posted by Pkin | August 31, 2013, 6:52 pm
  16. Congratulations on being recently freshly pressed. This is how I discovered your awesome blog. It is so thoughtful, and well written. I just clicked the link to follow it.

    You have echoed my exact thoughts on this matter. It was a topic of discussion in my household of 4 which includes 2 middle-school aged girls. They came home curious about the latest schoolyard Miley hullabaloo, so we checked it out on Youtube. I didn’t know what the big deal was in the context of a pop music performance; it was all done before by men and women. My daughters were horrified, well, because they think anything remotely sexual is extremely icky and often cover their eyes at passionate kissing during movies.

    You and I crossed paths many years ago in the mid 90’s during our UWO training. I was a PGY-1/intern destined for pathology training and then a few years later I had the opportunity to share my world during your pathology training with Dr. Kirk (who is doing very well in retirement, had lunch with her in early spring).

    best wishes,

    Posted by dvdiva | July 11, 2014, 5:09 am


  1. Pingback: An Open Letter to People Writing Open Letters to Miley Cyrus | Vodka Cranberry Clooney - August 27, 2013

  2. Pingback: Commentary: Blurred Lines, CME-Style | The CME Lounge - September 10, 2013

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Recent Tweets

%d bloggers like this: