Miley Cyrus made headlines across the world thanks to her recent performance on MTV’s Video Music Awards.
In case you somehow missed it, in the performance, the 20-year-old entertainer suggestively straddled a foam finger, gyrated seductively (or “twerked”) against R&B crooner Robin Thicke, and stripped down to a nude bra-and-panty combo.
From outrage to name-calling, her dancing inspired a great deal of vitriol in the media and in homes across America. No wonder. The former “Hannah Montana” star represents many things that frighten parents, such as brazen sexuality, disregard for societal conventions, and a refusal to be a nice little girl. She was literally sticking her tongue out for half of the performance, which seems fitting. Although desperately trying to seem older, she ended up coming off as childish.
It’s not surprising she still is a bit immature. The prefrontal cortext (the area of the brain that manages decision-making and reins in impulsivity) isn’t fully developed until young people are 25, so Cyrus’ decision-making might not be completely at its adult level yet.
As she grows and develops more, the entertainer might someday gravitate towards a different style of performance, but until then, what’s a parent to do?
First and foremost, control the remote! Second, get the conversation started with your kids and talk about why Cyrus’s behavior is troubling to you and why you personally don’t agree with it.
Third, remind them that Cyrus is older than them, while also hammering home the message that “slut-shaming” (calling girls names like “slut” or “whore”) is degrading. It devalues girls and perpetuates the idea that society has the right to judge or dehumanize women based on their sexual decisions or presumed sexual decisions.
Cyrus’s performance might be scary to some adults, but to me there is nothing more frightening than a society that tries to rob women and girls of their bodily autonomy and devalues them based on their sexual decisions.
We all want our kids to practice safer sex and to postpone sexual behavior until they are adults, but the way to do that is through education and empowerment, not through hateful language and misogyny.