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!!!
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.