Miley Cyrus was the one of many poster girls for the innocence of childhood. She spent her young life nurturing an image that was identifiable to little girls and parent approved. Then like many of her predecessors there came a time when she needed to transition from girl to woman. For any of the rest of us that are not in the public eye this could be done slowly, getting to know ourselves, adjusting to the changes in our body and dealing with our feelings over time. For girls like Miley, who are surrounded by “Yes” and “Do it” people, coming-of-age and navigating the complexities of a women’s identity may look very different.
Her recent performance at the 2013 Video Music Awards left little doubt that Miley is on a crusade to shed her good girl image and has chosen (or been coached) to do so by selling her sexuality. Described as a girls gone wild act she twerked and tongue lashed her way through two songs. Instead of receiving positive reviews of her show, she received criticism and pity. One of the songs was a duet with Robin Thicke and after looking up the lyrics I can understand why some might question the choices she has made. Even Cyndy Lauper who was known for her ‘masturbation’ song and creative performances, did not have anything good to say about Miley’s show. (See below for a link to Cyndy’s comments aired on an Australian radio show) I have seen Cyndy Lauper in concert and I have enjoyed her music for many years but she never appeared to be anything else than what she was, an artistic and thoughtful songwriter, singer and performer.
This is where the struggle begins for girls who find themselves cast in a role that no longer fits either with their peers or within the backdrop of society. There is more pressure today for girls to use their sexuality to get ahead than in any other time in history. It is no longer about sexual freedom or freedom of expression as it has more to do with a new kind of conformity. Conform to porn. Buried in all of this hype about a slutty look and performance is the belief that in order to transform from girl to woman one must do so with a persona that sells a fantasy. Stripping down to barely legal and adopting behaviour that stems from porn imagery, girls and women try their best to be noticed. It has become a strange competition with a message, “Comply or be cast out!”
Like boys who have no right of passage within our culture that helps them move with pride towards manhood, girls have very little assistance in navigating the road to womanhood. What happens is outside influences that have more to do with profit or people with little interest in a girls well-being, step up to provide direction. If you are a vulnerable girl who wants to shed one look for another, ditch the virgin image and try on something more provocative there are plenty of ways to get it done. The problem is you can’t win. Shedding the good girl image often means girls give up more than they bargained for and learn little about what it means to be a woman. Often what rises to the surface is embarrassment, low self-esteem, powerlessness and I might add sadness.
In my opinion, Miley Cyrus is a good example of how a young woman is still not accepting of her entire being. She traded one extreme image for another and when she does that neither she nor anyone else can see who Miley the woman really is…but then maybe she doesn’t know.