What Kind of Girl Does America Want, Anyway? (On Miley Cyrus and the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show)

Y'all, I'm confused.  And I'm hoping someone out there might be able to clear something up for me.

A few months ago, we - the American public - were confronted by this:

miley cyrus
Source: Huffington Post

And we all let out a collective groan of disgust that someone who was once a Disney channel icon for crying out loud could suddenly act so…so…disgusting.  Honestly I think most of us were confused.  (Can anyone explain what that foam finger was about?  Was that some sort of code that I'm missing out on now that I'm old and a parent?)

Foam-finger, tongue-wagging, and twerking aside, this was certainly not the first moment in Miley Cyrus history that made us all stop and scratch our heads.  The only difference was this time it sparked a nationwide debate about women, sexuality and the media.  (speaking of media…y'all do know there were, like, wars and stuff happening while we were busy talking about Miley Cryus, right??)

But I digress.

Months after Miley-gate had waxed and waned, I hopped onto Facebook late one evening to see what was going on in the world and was struck by the sheer number of posts discussing the highly-anticipated Victoria's Secret Fashion Show.  You know, the one where grown women parade around on stage looking like this:

victorias secret fashion show
Source: Business Insider

Okay, so yes, I do agree that these women are beautiful.  I mean they are drop-dead, brick-house, I-will-go-eat-my-weight-in-cookie-dough-thank-you-very-much gorgeous.

But let's look past that for just one second and compare the situations above.

Exhibit A: Miley Cyrus, age 21, August 2013

miley cyrus
Source: Mirror UK

Exhibit B: VS Model Clara DeLevigne, age 21, December 2013Source: UK MirrorSource: 

Hmmm…eerily similar...yet different?

When you get down to the bare bones of it, Miley and the VS models are not all that different.  Which is why I just can't understand why we, as a culture, could be so utterly disgusted by the former and so openly approving of the latter.  Which is it America?  Do you want girls to be sluts or not?  I can't figure out what you are looking for…

To be perfectly honest, I do not have a major problem with the idea of lingerie models or nudity, for that matter.  The human body - both male and female - is a beautiful thing, and I am certainly in the camp that we can enjoy the beauty of this creation without crossing the line into something that is profane or degrading to either gender.

What I have major beef with is the message that our double standard is sending to girls (and boys) everywhere: feel free to be as sexual as you want, as long as you at least pretend to be innocent.

In defense of Miley Cyrus (yes, defense!), I honestly think she knew what she was doing - at least to some degree - and saw the irony in it.  Her interview with Josh Eells at Rolling Stone Magazine is worth a read. She said she wasn't serious, and, well, I sort of believe her.  I can appreciate wanting to overstep boundaries for the sake of a reaction (though I can't say I appreciate her methods).

But I simply cannot defend the reactions of the media and our society, who hold contempt for one woman while applauding another for doing essentially the exact same thing.  This is NOT the message I want my daughter to build her identity around.

I do not consider either of these women to be good role models for my daughter.  And while I sympathize with those who cried "foul" at Miley's risqué jaunt with Robin Thicke (who somehow came out of the VMA's unscathed, by the way), I am dismayed that the folks who so loudly voiced their concern at her behavior seem to be the same ones applauding Victoria's Secret for their questionable display of "fashion."

Am I going too far to assume that the hyper-sexualization of women by Victoria's Secret and other companies, and our approval as a culture, is at least somewhat to blame for Miley's behavior?  What other lesson can she and other young women her age possibly take away from their culture besides the one that says they are sexual objects, here for the pleasure of others?  And if that is the case, what behavior might we expect other than what we have seen from Miley and others like her?

What I would like to see instead - and what I hope my daughter will see - is a society that values women for their achievements, their intelligence, and their contributions rather than their ability to wear a bra and fake angel wings on live television...


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