Thu. Dec 8th, 2022

Most people who know me understand that I have a limited knowledge of pop culture, just enough to get by when socializing at a party. Some people are disappointed in my lack of knowledge of “household celebrity names” and that I have not seen that movie absolutely everyone has seen. What I do know about pop culture, however, is that women, more often than not, get the short end of the stick, especially if they act or express themselves “inappropriately” or “trashy” for a woman.
That was also how the 17th century Catholic Church thought too. Last week, in my French literature class, I learned that the Catholic Church excommunicated actors and actresses of the theater. The actresses of the time period, because they were no longer part of the church, were seen as “fair game”-sex with them was not considered sinful. I am sure one can only imagine the sort of treatment these women endured.
Nowadays, this “fair game” mentality would be considered disgusting and immoral. Interestingly enough, the mindset has not completely disappeared. Although the Catholic Church is no longer the powerhouse of authority it once was, there is a plethora of television, magazine, Internet, radio, and newspaper input telling us how to treat people. The most recent controversy getting everyone worked up is Miley Cyrus’ VMA performance with Robin Thicke from late August (yes, people are still talking about it). Unfortunately, they are all worked up for the wrong reasons. Miley Cyrus’ performance has been described as inappropriate, trashy, and disgusting. Unsurprisingly, there has been little talk of the cultural appropriation and exploitation of black women in her performance.
Now, quite honestly, I do not care for Miley Cyrus or her music. The pop music stations are not my first radio choice while driving to work in the morning. Despite my dislike for her and her art, it is still just that-art. Women who express their interpretation of art receive the short end of the stick compared to men. While society is far from the days of stockings, petticoats, and bonnets, women are still harassed and tormented for their choice of dress and behavior, while men are praised for the same sort of antics in the same breath. Miley Cyrus chose to dress in a skin-colored bra and panties with heavy makeup and parade around stage shaking her butt, dancing and rubbing against her male performance partner, Robin Thicke. I doubt there would have been as much uproar had it been a shirtless male, or even a dude sporting a Speedo dancing around on stage.
Miley Cyrus has been mocked by everyone from concerned mothers to radio show hosts to high school girls, while barely a word has been said against Robin Thicke. He was proclaimed “man of the summer” after his song “Blurred Lines” became a hit. Robin Thicke had no problem belting out the lyrics to his song promoting sexual assault and abuse. For those of you who believe “Blurred Lines” is a fun, innocent song about two consenting adults who want to have a good time, I encourage you to listen a little harder and put yourself in the position of the female being pursued.
So what about that 17th century excommunication mentality? Television, Internet, magazines, you name it, have all, in a sense, “excommunicated” Miley Cyrus from being treated like a person who deserves respect, understanding, and decency (please hold all comments about “slutty women” not having their own sense of self-respect and decency because it takes an extreme amount of confidence and self-love for women to put themselves out there and have a good time, whether it be on TV or at a party). Have we made celebrities free game for shame, ridicule, and harassment? If so, why do we exempt most men from this same standard we hold to women? Why do we shame artists like Miley Cyrus and Ke$ha and reward artists like Taylor Swift for being the “right kind of girl?”
There would only be one issue if society “excommunicated” celebrity women only, but we hold regular, everyday women to these standards as well. Men and women alike continuously shame the women who show “too much” skin, who like to dance at parties, and like to have a couple drinks. Men, on the other hand, can be shirtless, drink as much as they want, and have sex as much as they want.
Artists like Miley and Ke$ha have chosen to demonstrate that women, as well as men, have a choice in their behavior, dress, and attitude, promoting the idea that not all women have to wear t-shirts and sneakers rather than short skirts and high heels to be worthy of respect. Women can be confident, demanding, and sexual and still deserve respect. However, that does not exempt women from being criticized for their harmful actions, such as claiming an aspect of black culture as your own and exploiting that same culture on stage.
So society, I cannot give you an “A” for effort on the Miley Cyrus controversy, but I think you can do better next time. Be aware of the slut-shaming and stop yourself if you find you are engaging in it. Acknowledge when a women is freely making her own expressive choices, and start calling out the people who are being truly offensive and harmful.
Lauren Devan is a third-year student majoring in French and minoring in Spanish. She can be reached at LD762362@wcupa.edu. 

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