My first hint that something had happened was a tweet from my 15-year-old daughter Emily, “What is this?” That was about all she had to say on the subject of Miley Cyrus. Her next tweet: “Mackelmore couldn’t have said that any better.
#gayrightsarehumanrights.” Then she was off to Twitter conversations about the show Awkward returning, a reminder to her friends that school was starting late Monday morning, and Justin Timberlake had indeed brought sexy back.
Later that night I turned on the Internet and entered the “Miley Cyrus Apocalypse!” Outraged parents were typing in! Miley’s striptease was all over Huffington Post, because let’s be honest, Huffington isn’t going to miss the chance to use the word striptease in a headline. My first thought was, what wonderful advertising for Ms. Cyrus. Her plan was to shock the world and to jarringly reinvent herself as a fully realized sexual pop star, the next version of Ke$ha or Nickie Minaj, then, let social media do the rest. Parents across the country were furious. Kids for the most part were underwhelmed.
Kids know what they like, and what they don’t. Parents know what scares the hell out of them.
Really, Miley Cyrus’s level of sexuality, or hypersexuality as I’ve heard it dubbed, is not much different from what most kids see on a daily basis more subtly passed off to them in television commercials and in music videos from already established stars like the two I mentioned above. There have also been articles passed around about what parents are to do about that Robin Thicke, the guy who was up there grinding with Miley, and his influence on boys. He is peddling a pretty atrocious song called Blurred Lines which vaguely alludes to date rape. But his lyrics are lighter than the more misogynistic lyrics of some hardcore rap songs that can be heard routinely. (Full disclosure: I love hip hop music, I think Robin Thicke sucks).
Forgotten in this controversy is that Miley Cyrus, while being a bit too skinny, is not a little girl any more. She is 20 years old. She is a full-grown woman, the same age as most playboy centerfolds, a year younger than Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel. But there has been a particular venom in the response to Cyrus’s twerking that is a little unsettling because it seems familiar. I know fear when I see it.
In Miley we see our little girls. After all we watched her grow up on the Disney Channel. That could be our own daughter up their grinding her ass against a guy who sings about date rape. If she’s doing it, why won’t our daughters? We’ve got to put a stop to it. What is her achey breaking, red-neck father thinking, letting her do that?
But she’s growing up and expressing her sexuality. And some day soon, our little girls will be growing up, too. What if our daughter’s see that and do the same? It’s so…out of our control.
This same fear of the unknown arose after the Columbine shooting. What could have been so wrong in those kids’ lives that they shot up a school. It had to be that damn Marilyn Manson music they were listening to.
This is the world we live in. Our children see sex on TV. They encounter pornography. They play violent video games and listen to music that tells them about dark fantasies and about getting it on and about having sympathy for the devil. And if we are honest, we will acknowledge we did the same.
It is a fact that daughters learn how they will be treated by men from their fathers, by how their fathers treat them. And if boys grow up with women they respect and who love them unconditionally, they are more likely to treat women with decency and gentleness.
Rather than reacting to our fears, we should recognize them. Be courageous and quietly give our children the credit they deserve. Miley Cyrus is not my child. I’m grateful for that. My daughter is the starting setter on her high school volleyball team. She is glad that the show Awkward is coming back. She thinks Justin Timberlake is sexy. And I’m damn proud she agrees with Macklemore.