Comment: Miley's twerk tells women to shirk hard work


Miley Cyrus' performance at this year's MTV Video Music Awards sends a message to young women that their bodies are valued but their talent is an afterthought, writes Saman Shad.

If you haven’t seen Miley Cyrus' performance at the VMA’s you clearly have many, many better things to do with your life.

It's fair to say that the performance set social media into a meltdown. If anything can document the sheer horror of Miley’s performance then it would have to be this photograph of Will Smith and his children.

Miley Cyrus took to the stage in a PVC bikini and performed some truly toe-curling moves that, one assumes, was meant to showcase her blossoming sexuality. Somehow, inexplicably, this involved a giant foam hand along with a particularly sleazy-looking Robin Thicke grinding his 36-year-old crotch into the 20-year-old’s behind.

You would have thought that somewhere along the production line that manufactures pop culture - the endless machinery of producers, publicists, agents, handlers, even her own parents - someone would have taken pause to reflect. 

Confronted with the sight of her writhing and undulating with all the grace of a newborn giraffe, someone should have said, 'Miley, you look like a fool and you’re kind of being a downer on womankind'.

But like, y'know, as if anyone would say that.

Miley is a product of that pop machine that churns young women out in various states of undress to highlight that they are now to be taken seriously as an “adult popstar”. It is especially important to hyper-sexualise them if they were once part of the Disney machine that once equated them with all that was wholesome, virginal and “good”.     

Britney Spears was the first to shed her Disney image by sexualising herself in a revealing school uniform in the video of her first hit “Baby One More Time”. It was a crafty move that lead to an enormously successful career. Christina Aguilera followed suit, as did Vanessa Hudgens, who along with Disney stablemate Selena Gomez spent much of the film Spring Breakers clad in only a bikini.

But why does hyper-sexualisation have to equal a move into adulthood? Can maturity and raw talent as displayed by singers such as Adele not be used to signal that a pop star is moving away from their childhood roots? Sadly, it would appear not.

We live in a time where the line between mainstream and adult entertainment (of the porn industry variety) continues to blur, and where if you don’t grab people’s attention instantly they will forget about you straightaway.

Miley Cyrus, much like Britney and Madonna who kissed on stage (or should that be staged a kiss) at the 2003 VMAs, know that doing something outrageous is the only way to remain in the headlines.

In an industry where talent alone rarely rises to the top, cheap yet trusted gimmicks of wearing little clothes and thrusting one’s sexuality in the faces of an unsuspecting audience seem to be the popular way of getting attention and making record sales.

But it’s the legacy of these kind of stunts that really leaves a bad taste in the mouth. The subconscious message it sends to young women across the world is that your sexuality and your body is really all that matters. Talent is secondary.

The cynical machinations of the pop world aren’t going to change any time soon. But for the female pop stars waiting in the wings for their chance at fame, I really hope they can make it to the top while keeping their pants on.

Or, at the very least, not having to feign masturbation with a giant foam hand while performing on stage in front of an audience of millions.

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