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Outrage over Twerkgate

I started my working week Googling the word “twerking”. I’d heard it so many times by the time I sat down at my desk on Tuesday morning that I just had to know what on earth everyone was talking about. It turns out twerking involves squatting and hip thrusting to such a degree that your bottom wobbles, and it’s what Miley Cyrus did on stage with a young chap called Robin Thicke at the MTV Video Music Awards in front of a massive live audience and an even more massive TV audience, (and now the shock, horror and outrage has gone into full swing, no doubt now a totally viral YouTube audience to boot!)

If, like me, you are thinking that a bit of bottom wobble is a normal daily experience for most women, let me explain that twerking is actually a hip-hop dance move which some nubile young people spend a lot of time perfecting with their largely fat-free bodies. Oh, and apparently it’s the kind of behaviour that deserves international “slut-shaming” in this particular case.

What is coming across my online news feeds is a barrage of hateful abuse directed at Ms Cyrus, labelling her with a variety of derogatory, gender-based sexual stereotypes… all because of said twerking.

Grown women all over the world – social commentators, journalists and my personal friends alike – feel compelled to shame Miley for her performance. Images and comments that arrived via Facebook and Twitter include closeups of her PVC clad bottom likened to a xmas turkey, close ups of her face mid-twerk looking kinda surprised/happy/shocked, and criticisms – no, anihilations – of her looks, her personality, her intelligence and her morals, and arrive at the summary that she is an idiot, a slut and a slapper, indeed a “dirty little bitch” whose only reason for fame is nepotism. All because of a little twerking. I can only image what it must feel like to be on the receiving end of such abuse.

I’m not suggesting that the twerking wasn’t embarrassing and inappropriate, but personally, I find the way girls and young women are represented in almost every form of mainstream media quite embarrassing and inappropriate at times. I find little girls thrusting and gyrating around on stage in Mickey Mouse ears embarrassing and inappropriate. I find mother and daughter pampering sessions where little girls have their hair curled, or their nails painted embarrassing and inappropriate. Ten year olds in high heel shoes: embarrassing and inappropriate. Padded push up bras for pre-pubescent tweens: embarrasing and inappropriate. Sublimely sexual 15 year olds smouldering away in advertisements for designer handbags with their velvet complexions, girl-from-Ipanema limbs and glossy pouting lips: embarrassing and inappropriate. Young women appearing half naked on Page 3 of the UK’s biggest selling newspaper: embarrassing and inappropriate. Female megapopstars performing in Burlesque costumes for a teen/ tween audience and claiming this is empowerment: EMBARRASSING AND INAPPROPRIATE!!!

What's happening to our girls?

What’s happening to our girls?

Miley isn’t some boundary-pushing Maverick, she is a product of the pressures put upon young women by our super-sexualised culture.

It seems absolutely ludicrous that here we are, all nodding along in some oblivious stupor while our girls are fed hideously narrow views of who women are, what they want, how they look, and what they’re good for; surrounded by photoshopped images of “normal”people; presented with unrealistic expectations of fame and celebrity; and given unlimited access to pornography to endlessly fuel their own crazed and confused expectations as well as those of their young male peers… yes, we’re happily nodding thinking all that’s ok when along comes twerking Miley Cyrus and everyone turns around in stunned silence and points their fingers at HER: “What was she thinking???”

But what about her entourage? Her manager? The geniuses who choreographed this piece? The costume designer who saw fit to dress her in nude PVC hotpants? All the producers, stylists and so-called experts who have shaped and moulded young Miley into the woman she is today? Hecko, where is Billy-Ray??? What were they thinking? And where are they now in this almighty storm of misogyny and venom? Standing back and joining in the tut-tutting?

And while I’m on the subject of misogyny and venom, why haven’t my news feeds been similarly inundated with outrage about Robin Thicke? Robin Thicke of the date rape theme song: Blurred Lines. (Note to Robin: “No” isn’t blurred. “No” means no.) Yeah, so Robin is the young man who is “looking for the hottest bitch in the place” to “back that ass up” cos he wants to “give you something big enough to tear your ass in two”. Apparently that’s ok. Apparently anal date rape is a fine theme for a song. I feel ill at the thought that my daughters have probably heard Robin Thicke’s chart topping lyrics via mainstream radio and are so desensitized that they never thought to mention it. As for me, I hadn’t even heard about Mr Thicke’s idea of a good night in until Ms Cyrus’ twerking caused such a furore.

As far as I’m concerned Miley Cyrus’ twerking is a symptom. The disease is our sick culture.

Instead of using Twerkgate to fuel hatred and divisiveness towards young, super-sexualized women, let’s use it to spark a conversation on what’s happening to our girls and what we can do to restore health, humanity, balance, and resilience to the next generation.

And someone, please, give Miley a hug from me.

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About Kate

Kate
Kate Seamark is the Editor of Diamonds and Daisychains. She is the force behind our ethical clothing campaign and would love you to sign her petition for clothing labels which indicate working conditions all along the supply chain. Read what she's up to in Editor's letters, where she keeps everyone up to date on her latest outrages while trying not to embarrass her six children too much. To find out more about our contributors, visit our Community page.

6 comments

  1. I trust you to always come up with something compasionate and thoughtful to say on things that are going on. I often read your blogging but don’t know what to say, but this time I just want to say hi and congratulate you for putting this opinion out there.
    I think you would be a really kind mom and do a super job raising your girls. I hope they read your blogs and know how lucky they are to have you. Thank you for the post and Id love you to write more about girls and womens issues in the future if you don’t mind me asking.
    Warmest Regards, Mari

    • Kate

      Oh Mari, what a beautiful comment. Thank you. I certainly want to encourage mothers to take a caring and compassionate view on themselves, other mothers, other women and of course their daughters. I hope my girls are proud of me too. I am certainly very proud of them, especially when I see how capable they are at navigating complex issues like gender stereotypes, peer pressure and ethical living. If you believe they will be amazing… they will be amazing! And yes, I will keep writing about women’s issues. Love to you xx Kate

  2. but she still shouldna don what she did, bad example for kiddies everywhere

    • Kate

      Thanks Jinxtable. Looking on the bright side, though, it’s only a bad example if it goes undiscussed. If you use it as an example of how misled a young woman might get by the constant barrage of sexualised media content, it could turn out to have a positive impact… why not watch her performance again with your kiddies under that context and I’ll bet you have an amazing and enlightening conversation with them… though I agree that probably wasn’t the inspiration for the whole performance.

  3. Hi Kate,

    Just read your article with interest. I just watched the Miley ‘Twerkgate’ performance. It made for uncomfortable viewing. I agree with most of your points but I’m afraid I do think the backlash against Miley is understandable although ugly in itself.

    The point is that, yes, there are examples of inappropriateness wherever you look and I agree girls are being sexualised far too early – but Miley Cyrus has a huge young fan base who have no doubt looked up to her as a role model and she has a responsibility to those impressionable fans. Hopefully the smarter ones will be savvy and not drawn in by her cringeworthy ‘I’m such a bad girl now’ performance.

    But there will be others out there who will think that it’s okay to behave and dress this way. That it’s in someway cool and sexy. I am embarrassed to admit that in my very late teens I (and my friend) once dressed in hotpants and black fishnet tights to go clubbing one night all because I’d seen Kylie Minogue strutting her stuff in the exact same combo in a music video. I thought I looked cool when looking back I looked more like a street walker and was treated and talked to like one that night which made me vow never to dress like that again.

    I hate to say it but if you have built your fame on being a squeaky clean child star then you have to be realistic about how far you should go to ‘reinvent’ yourself and what effect your reinvention will have on your fans. If you start out like a ‘bad ass’ then there are no surprises but if you don’t then you need to be a little smarter.

    The truth is though, Miley is young and probably naive as we no doubt were at that age. She is going to make mistakes but she is also her own artist and entourage encouragement or not, surely there are other ways of breaking free from your clean image than demeaning yourself in front of millions – and to what ends? Imagine if 1D did the same?!!

    So although I don’t think she deserves all the ‘hate’ to quite such a level, I’m not sure she deserves the hug either….

    Sharron x

    • Kate

      Hi Sharron, thanks for reading and commenting too.

      I see Miley as both victim and perpetrator in this situation. You’re right that as an artist and an adult she is responsible for her performance. My motivation to hug her is because unlike you and me whose misguided attempts at asserting ourselves as women were largely private, Miley’s attempt was beamed all over the world. And yes, she is responsible for that because unlike you and me she is an international superstar, but like you and me she was young, vulnerable and possibly emulating some pretty dodgy role models.

      I would encourage woman – and mothers in particular – to consider where Miley got her ideas on womanhood, and what we might do to ensure young women are viewing the onslaught of sexualized messages and images through critical eyes. One of my absolute favourite writers on this topic is Maggie Hamilton who has done a huge amount of research into what it’s like being a teen and a tween these days and her book makes for compelling reading… What’s happening to our girls? by Maggie Hamilton: http://www.maggiehamilton.org/booksandaudio/ourgirls.htm

      I also enjoy supporting Operation Transformation http://jennifershewmaker.com/home-page/

      In our house, Miley’s VMA performance has provoked conversation between myself, my teens and my tween about the sexualisation of females in the mainstream media and the pressure that is placed on young people to look and act a certain way. It’s been enlightening!

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