I know we’ve all had it up to here with Miley Cyrus hype, but this morning as I looked at the shoot she’s just done with Terry Richardson (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-2442749/Miley-Cyrus-simulates-sex-Terry-Richardson-shoot-swipes-Sinead-OConnor.html) all I could think was, where the hell is this child’s mother? Because if there is anyone in the world who loves you enough to take one look you pulling some bizarre underwear garment up so high that you reveal your labia majora to the world and slap you upside the head for your goddamned idiocy it’s the woman who birthed you.
My mother has always been the most amazing champion of my career. When I was just starting out as a writer and the only person who would publish me was the editor of Hustler magazine (I wrote ironic articles about things like feminism under a male pseudonym), she would go and buy a copy and black out the naughty bits and show her friends at work. But, proud as she has always been of me, I can say with absolute certainty that were I to take my clothes off in public and simulate sex with a bear, she would be sad and disappointed beyond – and let me know about it.
Maybe this is my age speaking, but when I see Miley’s emaciated body and huge, blue eyes staring at the camera ‘sex symbol’ is the furthest thing from my mind. What I think is, ‘darling child, what have they done to you?’ As I’m sure Sinead did when she sat down and wrote her letter. I see a troubled, confused young woman who has lost all sense of perspective and must value herself very little. And I remember myself at that age, and how vulnerable young women are, and what an exploitative place this world is. But somehow, because she is Miley Cyrus, and we think celebs are above normal standards of decency, we get confused ourselves and start questioning our own values and think because she’s doing it it must be okay.
And this is where moms come into the picture because no amount of Hollywood/fame/money/stardom would prevent me from dragging my 20-year-old daughter from that photo shoot by the ear. It would be over my dead body that she would demean herself in that way, and the horror that I had raised her so poorly would be devastating and make me question every decision I’d ever made with regard to her upbringing. And I wouldn’t give a crap if she was 20 or 25 or 35 for that matter. ‘Grown up’ means nothing to a mother. And then, as I looked at those pictures of her holding a beer bottle in a suggestive pose and doing all manner of lewd and lascivious things, I realized how lucky I am. Because when I became too arrogant to think my mother had anything more to teach me, I went to an institution of learning where I was surrounded by strong, powerful, brilliant women writers and intellectuals who changed who I was by illuminating the subtle machinations of the patriarchy and showing me how much I had to offer.
And from there I got my first job at a women’s magazine whose all-female staff included some of the brightest, most astute women in this country, and much more than my seniors, they became mentors to me who, with their collective cleverness and life experience, filled in whatever gaps were missing. What these ‘big sisters’ taught me was invaluable, and I guess the point I’m making is that, whichever way you look at it, we live in a man’s world and in order not to get lost in it, young women need this type of guidance; they need mentors to show them that they’re valuable and clever and worthy – otherwise it’s too easy to persuade them that swinging naked on a large, metal ball is a good career move.
I guess because of her fame and her money Miley missed out on this important life stage. She must not have had the advantage of female elders – grandmothers, aunts, big sisters, whatever – to guide and affirm her, and assure her that she is a valued member of her community. No woman who feels safe and loved would do the things that she has done of late. It speaks of a generation of lost daughters; girls who enter adulthood with a deeply warped sense of what it means to be a woman. Exactly at the time we should be achieving power and the balance should finally be tipping in our favour, we have somehow veered off course and lost sight of the things our sisters fought so hard for. This whole thing has been a sad moment for women of the world. It would be nice to dismiss it as every part of ridiculous, but too many young girls (my daughters included) look up to Miley Cyrus not to take it seriously. Her mother should have stepped up to the plate. Mama Cyrus, you’ve let your girl down.