When my best friend introduced me to Robin Thicke’s song, Blurred Lines, I was immediately into it. It had a good beat. It had the fountain of youth, Pharrel Williams. It had T.I rapping about the kind of sex I like. And then Thicke sang to me about being the hottest bitch in this place. My feminist ovaries shriveled up and were just like “wait wait, nope, back it up. Can’t accept this shit.” I didn’t really think the lyrics were “rapey.” I still don’t, it just doesn’t give me that vibe. What is rapey is Thicke’s comments defending the song, “If I whispered that to a girl in the club [I know you want it] she’d know I was joking.” No, he’d be that creepy guy that just stands behind a girl trying to grind on her without asking. I was conflicted over this song. Eventually I got over it because I just want to dance to it. Being a feminist isn’t about not enjoying anything that’s “wrong” it’s being aware of why it’s wrong.
I won’t lie. I listen to extremely misogynistic hip hop in my car. The other day I was listening to Ying Yang Twins and Bubba Sparxx. I’m not proud of it but I had just left a fitness class called “Bootylicious Bottoms” and I just wanted to hear some ass shaking music. The Velvet Underground and Joy Division don’t give me that same feeling, obviously. At the class, our instructor, Swan, apologized for her music choices. She hoped that we wouldn’t run out of the class when the “B-word, the C-word, the F-word, the P-word and the T-word” came out. She told us she just listens to the beats and the music and she isn’t a fan of the lyrics. There isn’t much rap/hip-hop that’s feminist approved except maybe A Tribe Called Quest, Mos Def or Common but they don’t really make ass shaking music. They make the type of hip hop that make me daydream about going on a date with Mos Def where we talk about politics and disagree but still keep an engaging conversation without getting mad or annoyed. Yeah, I know I have high expectations even in my daydreams. So anyway, at this fitness studio where the class is offered, they also offer pole dancing, belly dancing, burlesque and just sexy classes. I took a pole and burlesque class last year. The pole dancing class was too much for me. I’m a fan of subtle sexuality so naturally I ended up loving the burlesque class. What was more important to me and what I appreciated the most was the confidence and the self esteem boosters I got from my instructors. Not once did I feel like I was being judged, looked down on or snickered at. The rest of the women were a myriad of femininity, old, young, skinny, fit, chunky, white, black, Asian and brown. Even at this recent class that I took, I felt silly doing some of the moves we practice. It takes a lot of sober balls to try and dance sexy next to 8-10 women in front of a mirror. But it is a damn good workout and different than the usual treadmill routine.
So, at Bootylicious Bottoms Swan had us “pop” our booty’s, “drop” our booty’s, get on all fours and pretty much simulate “doggy style” sex while jiggling our asses, all in the name of motherfucking sexual liberation (oh and fitness!.) And I was into it. We were all into it. We all had a different reason for being there but the root of our reasons lie in exploring and playing with our own individual and different sexualities.
When I sat down on the couch on Sunday night I didn’t have any interest on watching the MTV Awards because, like, who cares? I feel bad for artists who take that stuff seriously. I only intended on watching Breaking Bad and proceeded to flip the fuck out over “the confession.” But there was so much talk on the internet on Miley Cyrus and I was getting texts about it that my curiosity just took over. I managed to catch a repeat of the show and I felt expired. Apart from Lady Gaga and Rihanna, I didn’t really know or care for anyone else. I don’t care for N’SYNC because I was a Backstreet Boys girl and they did their reunion way better than N’SYNC. I just want that to be known.
Anyway, as I watched Miley Cyrus, Robin Thicke and 2 Chainz perform, I cringed. It was awkward. It was disturbing. It was slightly pedophiliac. It was just weird. My shriveled up feminist ovaries eased. I think every feminist fiber in me was just confused. We weren’t angry nor offended, just a plain out “what the fuck was that?”
As a professional thinker, I dub myself thee, naturally I had to analyze what I was watching. What I was witnessing wasn’t a girl transitioning into womanhood and exploring her sexuality. What I saw was a little kid discovering her genitals in the corner and going crazy over it. That happens to everyone, it’s ok. Most of us don’t have the inclination to announce it so publicly. Most of us weren’t sheltered Disney stars from the South. I sympathize with Miley. When I first discovered myself as a sexual being, I felt like a 13 year old boy in a 23 year old woman’s body. All I wanted to do was get the attention of just one person. To convince him that I could do all the things those other girls were doing, that I could dance and look sexy too. All I did was just make a drunken fool of myself and look like Miley. The truth is that just because you’re a woman, because you have breasts and a vagina doesn’t mean that is where your sexuality comes from. One’s sexuality or sensuality isn’t dictated by “twerking” or grinding up on 30 year olds. For Miley and for millions of girls and women who look to pop culture for a definition of womanhood and sexuality, tits and ass is where it’s at.
Sexuality is something that happens gradually. Miley’s performance was a hyper sexual display of what she thought was a grown woman defining and owning her sexuality. When we’re shown the myriad of sexuality in popular culture, women are always defined by their bodies. Even a self aware artist like Lady Gaga still uses sex to sell her music and performances. I guess the difference is the thought that goes into Lady Gaga productions because let’s face it, she’s pretty artsy for the mainstream. What Miley wanted us to know on Sunday is here is her body, here is her sex, she’s going to all these extremes just to let us know that she has grown up, we should want her because we want other sexual beings like Rihanna or Beyonce.
Unfortunately, Miley and millions of other girls have that same idea. Even as “nerd” culture becomes the mainstream, women are still expected to retain the sexuality of their physical bodies. Rarely are there messages that one’s intellect, independence or personality is alluring. Those things take effort. Being half naked is instant gratification and twerking is fun.
We don’t always get it right the first time around. People like Rihanna or Lady Gaga eased and played into their sexual roles with minimal effort. For whatever reason, we bought it from them because it came natural to them. Miley was forcing this hyper sexuality that she still hasn’t figured out herself. Nobody looks alluring with their tongue sticking out that many times. Latex isn’t always flattering. Wasted prancing teddy bears and teddy bear onesies borderline on pedophilia. Adopting certain aspects of a culture and exploiting it may be slightly ignorant. We failed Miley like we have failed at society. Miley simply projected back the definitions and expectations that as a society we have come to accept. And she’s the one getting shit for it.
As a feminist, I wasn’t offended. As a person of color, I wasn’t offended. As a woman, I was disappointed. I get accused of not enjoying things because I think too much, I read too much, I feminist too much but if we aren’t aware or discussing little things like things like this, mentalities will never change. It’s not the same as discussing the shit storm that’s going on with Syria. We could and we should always talk about those issues but most people aren’t willing; it’s boring, sensitive or just complicated. Talking about Miley, rape culture, misogyny at least touches nerves immediately. Not that it’s easier to talk about but collectively we might have more common than talking about Syrian politics.
But let’s calm the fuck down because Miley was just getting liberated, y’all. This was her Like a Virgin moment. Once her booty came into contact with Robin Thicke’s 36 year old crotch, he liberated her from a future of domesticity and unleashed her inner sexual animal, her nature. She asked for this. She wanted this. She’s just being Miley.