On Miley Cyrus and Racism

26 Aug

So this happened last night:

… and the internet (predictably) exploded.

And just to be clear, I agree that what Miley did was frankly disgusting, but not for the reasons that you might think.

Most of the criticism of Miley’s VMA performance has focussed on her attire and dancing style, with people claiming that her dress (or rather, state of undress) and sexual movements were vulgar, degrading and slutty. Quite a few people mentioned that her parents must be ashamed; there was a lot of discussion about how sad it was that sweet, innocent Hannah Montana had come to this. I saw a lot of derisive remarks about how Miley wants attention at any cost; some even went so far to say that Miley is sick and that this behaviour was a cry for help.

Then, this morning, I watched a fuckton of white feminists totally ignore the racist aspects of what Miley did in their rush to defend her from slut-shaming.

Now, let’s be clear: there was definitely a lot of slut-shaming going on, and it was really fucking disgusting. But what was equally disgusting was white feminists’ silence over Miley’s minstrel show.

What Miley is doing is cultural appropriation. She, a wealthy white woman, is taking elements from black culture in order to achieve a specific image. Her status as a member of a traditionally oppressive race and class means that she is able to pick and choose what parts of black culture she wants to embrace without having to deal with the racism and racialization that black women live with every day. In short, she can imagine that she is being “ghetto” without having any concept of what living in a ghetto would really mean.

Miley is doing her best to promote herself as a part of rachet culture, which Jody Rosen describes as “the potent sexual symbolism of black female bodies,” while simultaneously treating the black women in her videos and performances as props. She is taking elements of black culture and using them to give her the patina of street cred that she wants so badly. She is playing at being black without even trying to understand what the lived experience of being black really is. She is appropriating cultural elements without taking any time to reflect on her position of privilege and how her use of the term “ratchet” or her twerking are contributing to the oppression of black people.

Even worse, in her performance last night Miley used black women as props – like, literal props – and barely anyone said anything. I saw very few people displaying any outrage over the fact that Miley was, at one point, slapping a faceless black woman on the ass as if she was nothing more than a thing for Miley to dominate and humiliate. I saw barely anyone discussing the fact that Miley’s sexual empowerment, or whatever you want to call it, should not come at the cost of degrading black women. I saw a whole lot of people giving Miley a pass for her behaviour because she’s young and naive and sheltered.

I saw many prominent white feminists use their sizeable platforms to defend Miley’s right to rub her ass on Robin Thicke while wearing flesh-coloured bra and panties.  I watched as those same people remained embarrassingly silent about Miley’s behaviour towards black women and black culture.

And I think that I get it? Sort of, maybe? I think that white feminists are worried that if they’re seen criticizing certain aspects of Miley’s performance, then that will somehow invalidate their defence of her right to express her sexuality however. It’s as if they’re worried that someone will jump in and say, aha so if you admit that there was something wrong with her performance, then you aren’t allowed to decry our criticism of her. That’s not how it works, though. Not by a long shot.

The thing is, it’s not an either-or type situation. We can and should be able to say both that Miley’s sexuality is her own and hers to use in whatever manner she chooses while at the same time acknowledge that Miley’s cultural appropriation and specifically her treatment of her backup dancers is frankly disgusting. We should be able to say that no woman should ever be shamed for how she dresses or expresses her sexuality while at the same time say that white people need to be really fucking careful about how and when they express their enthusiasm for black culture.

Above all, white feminists need to realize that calling out Miley for her racist performance is not somehow detrimental to the feminist cause. They need to wake up and realize that perhaps the black women that she objectified – you know, the women she literally treated as objects – deserve some of their attention, too. Above all, they need to start walking their own fucking talk and begin showing some of that intersectionality that everyone is so fond of discussing.

So yeah. What Miley did last night was gross, but not because it was raunchy or vulgar. It was gross because it was racist, and what’s grosser still is our tacit approval of her racism.

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200 Responses to “On Miley Cyrus and Racism”

  1. Sonja Chacon August 26, 2013 at 9:33 pm #

    Clap.Clap.Clap – thank you. This – soo much of this.

    • LLR81 August 27, 2013 at 1:11 pm #

      This is meant for the author of this article… I get that we (Black People) go unappreciated in the world, particularly the entertainment world.
      But if we are going to criticize wealthy White Miley for exploiting our Black people, What about the wealthy Black entertainers that exploit, or sit by and don’t say anything? Or the Black community in general? Everyone is at fault in this society. To stop Black exploitation, Blacks of all ages need to see there is a big problem in this, and protest against these depictions of us. And this message must be unified. Thus ceasing the empowerment of “wealthy whites” to create shows like Miley’s the other night.

      • Jesse McDonald August 27, 2013 at 8:32 pm #

        Wouldn’t it be presumptuous and maybe condescending of THIS blog to take on that role of admonition, though? I think a lot of critical analysis of Black public figures takes place in Black-authored social media… I would be suspicious of a white writer addressing African-American entertainers and telling them how they should represent themselves so as to reflect better on their own communities.

  2. raonaid August 26, 2013 at 9:35 pm #

    A very interesting look at the VMA performance and all very true. I was shocked by her performance and they way she portrayed herself and women. Also I can’t believe she was allowed to perform like that.

    • audrawilliams August 26, 2013 at 10:00 pm #

      Do you mean the other women on stage with her, or do you feel she was somehow portraying women in general?

      • raonaid August 26, 2013 at 10:07 pm #

        I felt it was a bad portrayal in general, especially when she was dancing with/to the song Blurred Lines, which is a very unpleasant song.

    • Jen August 26, 2013 at 10:56 pm #

      I’m not surprised. If anything, MTV probably encouraged this sort of performance because it got people talking. In their world, bad publicity is often good.

      • Ruth McVeigh August 26, 2013 at 11:13 pm #

        True – any publicity is good publicity. Many people read a lot more into it than I did, especially from a racist point of view. I just thought it was gross and ugly and that Miley was shaming herself.

    • kelli August 27, 2013 at 6:27 am #

      sorry but she nor her performance portrayed women, at all. just herself.
      you don’t see an artist give a great performance and say “wow that was a great portrayal of women everywhere!” so idk why one would say similar in reference to a bad performance.

  3. Mark Aidan Bergin August 26, 2013 at 9:38 pm #

    Brilliant. Thank you for saying this!

  4. mrbusse August 26, 2013 at 9:41 pm #

    This is a spot-on observation. I think the slut-shaming reaction reveals a certain amount of racism on the audience’s part as well. With a similarly sexualized performance from a non-white female artist, like Jennifer Lopez or Rihanna, would people be upset? No way. This goes to show that the audience still expects “good behavior” from people with lighter skin, while expecting the opposite from female artists of non-white ethnicities. Thank you for your piece!

    • K August 27, 2013 at 12:32 pm #

      Such a such a valid and highly overlooked point!

    • fuck August 27, 2013 at 11:13 pm #

      since lil kim never does anything like this or dresses in barely anything.

  5. Su Leslie August 26, 2013 at 9:45 pm #

    Thanks; that is the most thoughtful, intelligent piece I’ve read about feminism and race in a while.

    • Jesse McDonald August 27, 2013 at 7:36 pm #

      you should seek out the blogs of feminists who aren’t white and you’ll get this kind of stuff every day!

      warning: it’s not all written to make white people feel good though. wear a hat.

      look for crunkfeministcollective, amaditalks, black girl dangerous, and branch out from there if you like?

      • Su Leslie August 27, 2013 at 9:45 pm #

        Thanks.

  6. Su Leslie August 26, 2013 at 9:49 pm #

    Reblogged this on Zimmerbitch: age is just a (biggish) number and commented:
    Since the words “Miley Cyrus performing” are sufficient to make me leave the room, I didn’t see the spectacle discussed here. It doesn’t matter; the argument is much bigger and more important than that.

  7. afluidjourney August 26, 2013 at 9:51 pm #

    YES! THIS! SO MUCH THIS!

  8. Dudette August 26, 2013 at 10:24 pm #

    Thank you! It took ages to find an intelligent comment on the matter, and you nailed it. Kudos,

  9. hrhdana August 26, 2013 at 10:33 pm #

    Bravo!!!!!

  10. Neledi Tafari August 26, 2013 at 10:41 pm #

    Very well written. Anne Theriault gets it! *rightfist*

  11. Britni August 26, 2013 at 11:06 pm #

    Reblogged this on Fiending for Hope and commented:
    Because this is perfect. And super important.

  12. Ashtart August 26, 2013 at 11:09 pm #

    It probably is super-racist, so I’m sure that what you say is right. However, I sort of felt as if Miley was celebrating and participating in those aspects of ratchet culture, choosing to embrace them and using her privilege to validate. I don’t see her saying “I’m doing this but… not really.” She’s going full into it. I don’t follow her life or everything about her but she honestly seems to be friends with the people she interacts with.

    Appropriation is fucking awful. But there’s a difference between appropriation and integration/participation. And I think it warrants some thought about what that difference is, so that we’re not eternally saying “white people over here, black people over there. Feel free to engage in the aspects of the cultures that are your heritage separately.”

    I also am really against the slut-shaming of Miley. I do see a major double standard – sexualization is only a “problem” when it’s a young white woman. When it’s a young black woman that’s “just her culture.”

    • Jesse McDonald August 27, 2013 at 6:29 am #

      there is no “ratchet culture.” that’s not how that adjective works. this is uncomfortably anthropological. the semi-reclaimed (and subsequently co-opted) pejorative “ratchet” is part of African-American culture. that’s the culture. “ratchet” is just a word from it.

      the idea that “choosing to embrace them and using [one’s] privilege to validate” is a thing is kind of horrifying. African-American culture is inherently valid and does not gain validity from white participation, let alone being made the stuff of white buffoonery.

      Do you mean it seems like she’s friends with her dancers?? That is choreography. Miley Cyrus is a professional actor for her job and has been all her life. Those interactions are not indicative of any integration with African-American culture. She has never made any claims to that effect, for that matter. Also “I totally have some Black friends” is just as bad of an exculpation for racist behaviour if it’s observed by an external party as it is if it’s protested on one’s own behalf.

      I also find your last paragraph confusing – are you against sexuality-based shaming, or do you just think it needs to be applied with fewer exceptions?

  13. Nuria August 26, 2013 at 11:09 pm #

    So, had Miley been black or had the dancers been white the whole show would have been better by many degrees?

    • SmileyMiley August 27, 2013 at 1:29 am #

      My thoughts, exactly.

    • bloggeretterized August 27, 2013 at 4:30 am #

      I don’t think it could ever be better. Had it been Black Miley-white dancers, it would still have been racist.

    • Jesse McDonald August 27, 2013 at 6:30 am #

      Yes, absolutely.

  14. Uhave2laff August 26, 2013 at 11:15 pm #

    I’m not calling her a slut. I don’t know if she’s a slut or not. But I don’t think she did women any favors by 1): singing that particular song and 2) behaving that way with the SAME MAN who put out a VIDEO of that song that many feel PROMOTES the rape of women. At the end of the day, we can all quibble about what she wore, what color the dancers were, or whether or not she twerked has ass over Thicke’s genitals, but what I’m gonna remember is that she allowed herself to be used as a prop in a misogynist song on national tv. Over her.

    • Jesse McDonald August 27, 2013 at 6:39 am #

      I think it’s pretty distressing to dismiss concerns about racism – the expression of which is originating and continuing from members of racialized communities, who know what the heck they’re talking about – as mere “quibbles.”

      But I also am distressed at the idea that a young woman’s personal sexual agency should be policed such that a member of the public feels ownership over toward whom that agency may be appropriately extended. remember, girls, your body is your own… unless you use it to interact with someone not approved of by… others.

  15. peterolson17 August 26, 2013 at 11:27 pm #

    I agree – and I’m very glad someone else recognized that entertainment industry slumming is NOT okay.

  16. armsakimbobook August 26, 2013 at 11:32 pm #

    So true, and so articulately stated. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  17. Uma August 26, 2013 at 11:43 pm #

    Brava!!! I like your post and Sadly I just thought about young girls’ hypersexualization and women’s dehumanization… For a moment missed the intersectional analysis, thanks for recover for me that vision

  18. dittojames August 26, 2013 at 11:49 pm #

    Your approach gave me LIFE!!! Thank you 🙂

  19. Pierre Calderon August 27, 2013 at 12:04 am #

    You set up your position/opinion on the performance but supported it with a two second clip? Her performance was racist because of a two second clip that most people didnt even notice was a black person? Everyone else on stage was a teddy bear with the exception of the 3 other girls that were also part of 2 chainz performance. Your article doesnt highlight what was racist, you just talk about how you basically find feminist annoying for supporting her. People always looking for something to be offended by even when theres nothing there #smh.

    • bellejarblog August 27, 2013 at 12:40 am #

      It’s actually a six minute clip?

      • Pierre Calderon August 27, 2013 at 1:03 am #

        The performance maybe 6+ minutes but the only thing this author actually references as possibly being racist in the performance is a 2 second shot of Miley sticking her face in a girl’s butt (shes actually a famous burlesque dancer) – pictured above.

    • SmileyMiley August 27, 2013 at 1:44 am #

      Pierre, I agree with your comment about how people *always* look for something to be offended by.

      I find absolutely nothing racist about this. So many artists have black women in their music videos/on stage. So many have many coloured women and MEN in their music videos/on stage. Are you even 100% sure that the woman’s ass she was slapping is black? Or does “dark skin” automatically mean black? I have dark skin, and I am not black. All that you’re saying here is, “don’t pick on her for grinding and showing herself off like that, but pick on her because she has black back up dancers and she degraded them by slapping one’s ass even though maybe that coloured woman was okay with it” when, HELLO, have you even heard Rob’s song? This blog post is stupid.

      • adhesiveslipper (@adhesiveslipper) August 27, 2013 at 2:50 pm #

        Hint: If you use the word “coloured” you probably aren’t the type of person who notices racism ANYWHERE.

  20. AJ August 27, 2013 at 12:08 am #

    I’ve refrained from reading anything about this until I saw your post. I’m glad I read it. You’re spot on.

  21. Rosie August 27, 2013 at 12:14 am #

    Reblogged this on FEMBORG.

  22. Gio August 27, 2013 at 12:35 am #

    The music at the VMA’s suck. We all know this. Miley sucks and everything there blows. We all know that not the real Miley Cyrus. Shes just posering herself out. This is what happens when young rich famous shitty artists become when they have the power.

  23. subject2interpretation August 27, 2013 at 12:59 am #

    I’m not sure I understand the concept of slut-shaming. Oh I get what the problem with it is, but it seems that the word “slut” is being used inappropriately — heh heh. Like the comment above, I know nothing of her sex life. I don’t follow her personal life at all. For all I know she could, in fact, be a virgin. Or, she could be a sexual person. She’s twenty. If she’s having sex with a lot a men — or women — that is her business. Is it too many? Indiscriminate? But it’s hard to define “slut” since a woman can have sex just for sex. My point is, whether or not she’s promiscuous has nothing to do with her performance.

    I didn’t watch it, and I’m going to try to refrain from clicking on the many, many, many links to it. But from what I do know from the still shots and what people are writing, it gives me the ick. But make no mistake, Robin Thicke (an artist I formerly liked) gives me the big ick also. I don’t see the performance as a celebration of sexuality. It seems more like a little girl acting out. As a person who is black, female, a mother and musician I can create a list of why I’m sorry that this performance happened. Sorry, but not surprised.

    Whatever happened to expressing sexuality by — having sex — and perhaps by writing or talking about it?

    The racial aspects, well, that’s shameful. I’m one who has had often been annoyed by the white artists who consistently bring out a black choir for back up, conspicuously made up of heavy women. You might say a Gospel choir has a certain sound, yeah, it does, but the visual is what the artist’s want. Here the visual (which again I haven’t seen) uses black women as props, sexual props. And it does look like a kid saying, “Look I’m a bad girl now, I hang with black people. That ain’t Disney, folks.” But that highlights another level to the bad girl image and speaks to the Disney machine. Also, she may be rebelling against her country music roots as well.

    It all might be an act anyway. Like I said, that performance simulates sex and copies a perception of somebody’s culture (I guess). But it has little to do with her actual sexuality. But it got her on the news. Before she cut her hair it was not cool to like Miley Cyrus because she’s Disney and not truly country and some thought she really can’t sing. She had to do something. She can’t sing like Kelly Clarkson or Carrie Underwood, she can’t dance like vintage Janet Jackson and she lacks both the vocal and physical strength of Pink, she doesn’t have Rihanna’s looks or a distinguishing characteristic (a-hem) like Nicki Minaj. So what’s a girl to do? Exactly what she did. And it was shame-worthy, for women and for many other people for the reasons you stated in this post. And I completely agree, you don’t have to choose one over the other. She’s offended many in many different ways. I hope no one copies her because of her success (being measuring solely by publicity).

    Be sexual, Miley. Whatever. But don’t slap my face or my people’s faces with it.

    It makes me want to scream — “Girls, you don’t have to do this to be a musician, a performer!” But in the pop world, it seems that you do. It’s not a good visual for women, girls, men or boys. Okay Miley, we get it, you are not Hannah Montana, but don’t insult my intelligence, either. I knew that was a fictional character on TV. I knew you were an employee of Disney. I get it.

    And none of this has anything to do with music.

    Ick. And Robin Thicke? Sit down somewhere. You are a grown man, somebody’s husband and somebody’s father. Ew.

    The awards shows performances always have to be over the top. It’s an act.

    Public Service Announcement: Give your daughters an instrument to play. Miley put her’s down. Had she been playing her guitar . . .

    Great post. It is very difficult to raise these issues and I applaud you for doing so. Sometimes I wonder if the racial issues aren’t raised more often because people don’t know how to articulate them without sounding racist or separatist. I’ve got to think people see it. The whole she’s “acting black” thing is so controversial. I would bet people are silent for fear that it will come out sounding like that and get negative responses. Even without delving into cultural appropriation it seems clear to me that she is using black performers/dancers to be a “bad girl.” She’s not the first, it’s just that hers was so hyper-sexual. In real life there are probably plenty of girls gone wild pictures and videos of young women doing things for the camera, to other women though they are straight, and engaging in sexual acts or simulated sexual acts because it gets them lots of attention from the people watching — and maybe they are away from home for the first time, etc. But those girls don’t have an international audience and they don’t have the ability to say, hey, let’s get some black people in here, that’ll be really shocking and so not like Daddy’s little girl. Ugh.

    I’m rambling. Your post was quite thought-provoking.

  24. eatshoploveblog August 27, 2013 at 1:00 am #

    What elements of black culture is she taking, in order to achieve a specific image? This is a question…I am truly curious. But also, by defining what’s black culture and what’s white culture…are we not creating a line of distinction that we can use to pin point and use to create an argument of ‘it’s racists’. Could Miley truly have been oblivious to the hidden aspects of this performance? I don’t know…I am truly baffled by it all honestly.

    • Jesse McDonald August 27, 2013 at 6:49 am #

      a little bit of googling should point you toward some Black writers – lots of African-American women, in particular – who have spilt thousands of words’ worth of electronic ink on thoughtful and passionate articles that answer every question you pose.

      I’m not recommending this snidely – I think it’s the best way to get the most useful perspectives.

  25. Cc August 27, 2013 at 1:29 am #

    I don’t think there’s a problem with wealthy white women enjoying rachet hood culture as long as they can actually go into the hood comfortably and do it there too. Can Miley do that? I have no clue. I don’t know her so I won’t make that judgment now. I do think that she has not yet grasped what we would call black culture because no black woman I know would get on stage and do that. I didn’t see any dancing besides that shaking her butt back and forth move that is not hard to do and should not happen on stage at the VMAs! If she wants to do it at a party in Brownsville, Brooklyn I would not object. Barclay’s Center? You gotta give us some actual talent, please.

  26. Mike B August 27, 2013 at 1:43 am #

    My only regret was that I didn’t see it until you pointed it out. Well done and wonderfully written. Thank you.

  27. J2C3C7S August 27, 2013 at 2:00 am #

    Here are some items from today’s news cycle:
    “United Nations troops accused of killing two civilians in Congo”
    “Italian politician compares black minister to prostitute”
    “Syria crisis: US signals intent to take action against Assad regime”

    Do you really think writing about the actions of a adolescent pop star was the best use of your time, energy, & blog space within the grand scheme of things? Likewise I am a tad angry & disgusted with myself for spending the time to read said blog post AND comment on it.
    Never mind carry on … garbage in, garbage out.

    • Claire August 27, 2013 at 2:54 am #

      First of all, all these “feminists” applauding her for this behaviour need to stop and focus on more important things (like the gang-beatings and head shavings of women in Venezuela, for example). Second of all, she isn’t a racist, she is just a VERY confused young woman who is obviously now experimenting with drugs and is acting like a ho because she can. Whoever is is in charge of her image, or whatever team of people is in charge of her image, created the set, props, hired the dancers, etc.

      You need to stop focusing so much on this empty-headed popular culture bullshit, and start writing articles on things with substance. I read this article by accident and was so pissed at how much this entire argument really doesn’t matter and how much my time was wasted in reading it to the end. I thought I would remind you to use this potentially powerful internet platform to write about government corruption, the NSA, underhanded pre-war tactics that are currently going on all over the world right now,

      Get passionate about things that matter, and if you are a feminist, stop rooting for the objectification of women.

      • Jesse McDonald August 27, 2013 at 7:43 pm #

        you are the steward of your own time. you didn’t accidentally read a whole article, what a weird and transparent lie. if you don’t waste your time reading about things you don’t think are important because you have the keys to the “is this racist?” car, then you won’t have to also waste your time telling other people what to write about – positively THE most useless use of anyone’s time.

        be the blog you want to see in the world!

        and I won’t read it, because you think it’s acceptable to use language like “acting like a ho” that degrades women generally and sex workers in particular.

        NEXT

    • Jesse McDonald August 27, 2013 at 6:54 am #

      I think you could spare more than a tad of anger and discuss for the inward focus there, my dear frustrated superhero. I would dearly love to know what you did to better any of the situations you list as worthier of one’s efforts than writing the blog you voluntarily sought out, read, and commented upon. What an incredibly dull and frustrating life you must be leading if the best way you can convince yourself that you’re making a difference is by spending your time trying to convince others that they aren’t doing the right things with their time.

      Go and do the things you think Anne should have done instead of this blog. You don’t have time for this shit.

  28. Quay August 27, 2013 at 2:37 am #

    What’s the alternative? Should we say “Sorry Miley, but you can only perform in a way appropriate to your race”?

    • Jesse McDonald August 27, 2013 at 7:19 am #

      “Sorry, white people, you can only perform in a way that does not lampoon racialized communities, whether directly or by appeal to stereotype.”

      I’m a rapper and I’m white, so I’m hoping it is possible to participate respectfully in forms principally fostered by racialized communities. But there are a lot of ways I could do the same job that would be very, very disrespectful.

  29. hermanos August 27, 2013 at 2:49 am #

    Miley cyrus twerking = racist? Um… okay. So by that definition then Kendrick lamar wearing a hockey jersey is also racist.. after all it’s an appropriation of something that is white culture. Further then isnt the whole music industry racist, after all rock and roll came from black people, and was only popularized by white people. Blondie too must have been racist for her use of hip-hop. Madonna has used strong r&b elements in her music for 30 years now. I guess it’s only racist because she’s white…. isn’t that in and of it self also racist. hatred against the white man (or white woman in this case) is also racist. Others are allowed to appropriate white culture, but not the other way around. Isn’t that a dangerous double standard?

    • Nicole August 27, 2013 at 3:34 am #

      Well said.

    • Jesse McDonald August 27, 2013 at 7:20 am #

      nope you are wrong about literally everything. do some reading.

    • adhesiveslipper August 27, 2013 at 3:05 pm #

      OH NOES REVERSE-RACISM!

  30. D. S. Knight August 27, 2013 at 2:55 am #

    J2C3C7S, not that those you pointed out are not important, but really, there is life here where that stuff is not happening, and if we don’t nourish that which promotes the ideals we want, what’s the use promoting them elsewhere?

    And seriously, the actions of our adolescent pop stars (and even our adult ones, unfortunately) reflect our entire society. It’s the exact bad values in the Miley Cyrus incident that are at the heart of the lines you posted as more worthy to be spoken of.

  31. Amanda August 27, 2013 at 3:04 am #

    So she’s exploiting black woman? The same way men exploit woman strippers? I keep reading all the opinions of this entertainer & her performance & I’m not understanding what she did so differently that pissed everyone off so much.

  32. Nicole August 27, 2013 at 3:33 am #

    Oh give me a frickin break. Racist?! Any excuse will do to throw the racist card. Black people are more racist than anyone. Disgusting.

    • adhesiveslipper August 27, 2013 at 3:09 pm #

      Whoa.

    • Jesse McDonald August 27, 2013 at 7:45 pm #

      Consider the possibility that things seem that way to you principally because you are a giant racist.

  33. markski August 27, 2013 at 3:52 am #

    I don’t see how Miley objectifying any black people is so “new”….. Madonna was doing the same thing early in her career in the 80’s and especially the 90’s. Nobody stopped her then.. that train is running at 300 MPH now. It’s a little late to stand in front of the train in an attempt to halt it. Nobody did anything when Madonna was objectifying black people in her show and stealing black culture. Why give a shit now that theres a new face doing it?

    And also… for those who think Miley should be exempted from critisizm and slut shaming, you MUST be smoking crack. Shes a star… it goes with the territory. It’s part of the price of fame. Get over it.

    • adhesiveslipper August 27, 2013 at 3:08 pm #

      So you are saying that because racism has been around a long time, nobody should worry about it. Okay, got it.

  34. Brint (@bumpernackle) August 27, 2013 at 4:49 am #

    You admit that you do yoga in your Huffington Post bio. Clearly your cultural appropriation of cultural capital from the oppressed Hindu people (remember colonization) makes you a racist too. Check your privilege.

    • EK August 27, 2013 at 7:41 pm #

      You don’t seem to know the difference between enjoying or participating respectfully in another culture’s activities, and using them as part of a crude and exploitative spectacle. Your comment and its false equivalence comes across as clueless.

    • Jesse McDonald August 27, 2013 at 7:57 pm #

      CHECK OUT THIS BAD ASS

      HE HAS ILLUSTRATED THE ULTIMATE ABSURDITY AND FUTILITY OF EXPRESSING ANY SORT OF CARE FOR HOW CULTURES ARE REPRESENTED THROUGH HEGEMONIC LENSES AND HOW IT IS HYPOCRITICAL TO TRY TO DO SOMETHING RIGHT WHILE OBSERVING THAT THERE ARE RISKS TO DOING IT WRONG

      AND HE PACKS A TOTAL ZINGER WHERE HE FLIPS “CHECK YOUR PRIVILEGE” AROUND AND USES IT TO REALLY STICK IT TO PEOPLE WHO CARE ABOUT PRIVILEGE

      AND AND AND

      HE IS A CREEPY STALKER

      AND DONATES HIS VALUABLE TIME AND ENERGIES TO POSTING ON FEMINIST BLOGS TO TRY AND EKE SOME SMALL MEASURE OF A SENSE OF SUPERIORITY FROM HIS SHITTY LIFE

      AND I THINK I HAVE A NEW HERO

      IT’S BRINT BUMPERNACKLE

      SOMEBODY KILL ME

  35. Benita August 27, 2013 at 5:18 am #

    I’m a Black mom and thoroughly disgusted. It’s not just the racism– true, it was clearly evident. But it does NOT help that you think there was “cultural appropriation.” Your acceptance that twerking and rachetness are “Black Culture” (as if they really are “cultural” rather than can’t-pass-fast-enough fads to my Beloved Community), is a problem. White folks have been co-opting and taking the best aspects of Black culture since forever– (anyone old enough to remember Bo Dereck’s corn rolls?), or consider all the White folks who get spray tanned and roast themselves in tanning beds and then measure their darkened arms against a Black friend’s. All utterly ridiculous. This is to say, that if Miley Cyrus wants to shake her flat, no rhythm butt for the whole world to see, I say have at it.

    The REAL issue is the complete lack of creative artistry where talent (ahem–cough–) is supposed to exist. The REAL issue was the costume and choreography choices. Why not talk about the sick decision makers who choose to “blur the lines” and mix a child’s theme of giant teddy bears riding on the backs of Black women? WTF? How about Miley’s toddler-turned devil-esque hairdo, kiddie sneakers, and the double assault of her two stripper-pole outfits, all bunched up into obscene, hyper-sexualized gyrations by a young girl/wanna be woman, against the front end of a fully dressed, older man?

    This intersection of child/sex with that particular song crosses the line. And yet, that doesn’t seem to be what the public is upset about. We keep relaxing the line of decency and OUR responsibility AS women to protect children from being sexualized in this rape culture. What VMA presented to us was nothing short of kiddy-porn for grown-ups. Shameful.

  36. raakfokkenwys August 27, 2013 at 8:41 am #

    I cannot believe the lack of fury over the bit where she smacks the butt of the large black woman.
    I read an article that said, “Could it just be she respects the talents of the black entertainers and so she chooses to surround herself with them?”
    I would say yes, maybe, except for the before mentioned example. That woman was ONLY brought on stage to be smacked on her large behind. She walked off afterward. It wasn’t her dancing talent that got her on stage, or singing, or anything related to entertainment. It was the fact that she was black, with a large black behind. (As she says in the song “To my homegirls here with the big butts”)
    Pure fetishization. Pure UGH

  37. John August 27, 2013 at 10:00 am #

    I think that this is a great response which truly highlights the importance of differing perspectives. We still see today that something that may seem painstakingly obvious to one person may not even be realized by another.

  38. Eric Orlando August 27, 2013 at 12:12 pm #

    We live an age of cultural relativism so how can you make any statement impugning that performance? How can you justify the premise of your article the she had done something morally wrong when right and wrong are subjective (what is right for me may not be right for you but don’t judge me). You are saying Miley somehow has some universal moral obligation which implies some moral absolute which then makes you intolerant. So what is it? Are you and intolerant, closed-minded person passing judgement on others, because if you are not, you better re-frame your article and embrace and celebrate the performance without any criticism.

    • adhesiveslipper August 27, 2013 at 3:15 pm #

      Philosophy 101 must have let out early today.

    • Jesse McDonald August 27, 2013 at 8:02 pm #

      I love this zealous proselytizing for an absolute and uncompromising insistence that subectivity is an objectively ubiquitous condition and there’s no ifs, ands, or buts about it.

      it could literally not be a more useless jumble of non-thought.

  39. Minty August 27, 2013 at 12:13 pm #

    Reblogged this on Mints And Wisdom and commented:
    Good peice……….

  40. Sean August 27, 2013 at 12:32 pm #

    Let’s face it – a woman seen as sexually attractive by a large number of men can make a fortune (with the right svengali taking a big % )If people didn’t pay to watch, she wouldn’t be doing this. We talk about cycles of abuse, but too many men are passing on a cycle of re-enforcing this as acceptable (unless it was THEIR daughter, goes without saying). How many men are PROUD to take their son to a strip-club? I hear this so often and you would be AMAZED how many guys will punch you just for suggesting that they take their daughter as well (I’ve learnt to duck).
    That we are at 2013 and this stuff still fills stadia, I think we need to be looking back generations….. I think parents and educators need to be examining this… I have NO male friends because I don’t want to talk sport, beer or which women in Band X they would like to fuck… But try saying something and your the bad guy… Still, I have a LOT of friends and I love them as friends and I think I have a healthier head-space than most males.

    • Jesse McDonald August 27, 2013 at 8:04 pm #

      Let’s face it – a boy wandered into the feminist blog confused and decided that shaming young women for their sexuality IS what we’re going to be talking about no matter WHAT the actual article is about BECAUSE WHY IS NOBODY DOING THAT.

      DUDE YOU GOOGLED MILEY CYRUS AND DIDN’T READ ONE WORD OF THE ARTICLE ADMIT IT

  41. Andrea Stoeckel August 27, 2013 at 12:36 pm #

    Hey, no one is talking about the song itself, which btw, I have on my iPod. Love the music, but the song lyrics are pretty raunchy, as are the ones in the song Miley sang with will.i.am, which BRAVOTV has used as its “summer theme”(which is also on my iPod). This one of the reasons the VMAs are on cable. Miley and Robin are both ” grown a** adults” to quote somebody in t v land.

    Problem we have is that a LOT of people have waaaaaaaay too much time on our hands. And to misquote a certain carpenter we all might be familiar with:” let the one without anything that reflects badly on themselves cast the first stone”

    Yeah, it was raunchy, yea it might even have been racist, but we don’t have to choose it on TV nor pay attention to it. It is what it is folks….accept it or change it, but don’t keep harpin’ on it plueeeeese.

    • Jesse McDonald August 27, 2013 at 8:08 pm #

      stop reading blogs if you aren’t interested in people talking about things that matter to them? why on EARTH would you waste your time “harpin’ on” this? what are you doing here?

    • Nadine August 27, 2013 at 8:15 pm #

      I believe the ensuing criticism and discussion, or “harping” as you say is an attempt at trying to change it. One way to correct unwanted behaviour is to identify it when it happens and examine why it’s harmful.

  42. EPICforealz August 27, 2013 at 1:17 pm #

    I cant agree with this post… saying she wants to fit in and relate to the Black culture as being Ghetto, Ratchet & Twerking?? why would black women wanna claim something so ratchet as Twerking??… its because they do it the most… im not defending Miley and im a black man myself… But she’s not a racist or displaying racist actions by referring to an ass at that point in her song. Black women need to claim themselves as more than a “Piece of ass” shaking and “twerking”…. saying she wants street cred by doing these so called black things without knowing how black women actually live or going through anything because she has white privileges.. you’re right…. but then why do almost EVERY black woman i see have a hair full of weave that resembles women of other races???… White european hair… Brazilian hair…. NEVER their OWN!!… is that considered racist cause they wanna parade around looking like you have hair of another race? …. i dont support anything that Miley did… but this is takin it too far as to call her racist or having racist actions…. Our black women need to step it up and force the ones around them to step it up so that when someone sees someone just shakin their ass or being ghetto, its not automatically related to our Black women…. the good black women dont need to be taking the Fall for the stanks ones out here… and the STANK ones are currently the MAJORITY!!!

    • Jesse McDonald August 27, 2013 at 8:12 pm #

      You are asking these questions in the wrong place. A white person can’t answer the things you don’t understand about Black women, and you don’t have a feminist attitude toward women in general.

      Instead of telling Black women to step it up, maybe you should spend some time reading THEIR blogs. Find out where they’re coming from. Maybe they can explain what’s up with weaves to you.

      try
      crunkfeministcollective
      amaditalks
      black girl dangerous

  43. EPICforealz August 27, 2013 at 1:18 pm #

    I cant agree with this post… saying she wants to fit in and relate to the Black culture as being Ghetto, Ratchet & Twerking?? why would black women wanna claim something so ratchet as Twerking??… its because they do it the most… im not defending Miley and im a black man myself… But she’s not a racist or displaying racist actions by referring to an ass at that point in her song. Black women need to claim themselves as more than a “Piece of ass” shaking and “twerking”…. saying she wants street cred by doing these so called black things without knowing how black women actual live or going through anything because she has white privileges.. you’re right…. but then why do almost EVERY black woman i see have a hair full of weave that resembles women of other races???… White european hair… Brazilian hair…. NEVER their OWN!!… is that considered racist cause they wanna parade around looking like you have hair of another race? …. i dont support anything that Miley did… but this is takin it too far as to call her racist or having racist actions…. Our black women need to step it up and force the ones around them to step it up so that when someone sees someone just shakin their ass or being ghetto, its not automatically related to our Black women…. the good black women dont need to be taking the Fall for the stanks ones out here… and the STANK ones are currently the MAJORITY!

  44. Latonya Bannister August 27, 2013 at 1:29 pm #

    Thank you for bringing this to light! I did not (nor ever really) watch awards shows but you can’t seem to get away from this performance. And I tried to watch some it, the first I saw was the black back up dancers, and the term minstrel show came to mind, and I thought why would these women (the back up dancers) be a part of this mess.

  45. Adam August 27, 2013 at 1:34 pm #

    You can obviously only use black dancers if you are black. White dancers if you are white. J-Lo better be using Hispanics next time she performs or she is picking and choosing what parts of a culture she wants to use. I hate when subjects are made to be racist or bigoted. This is stupid. She acted like a total slut that is all.

    • Jesse McDonald August 27, 2013 at 8:13 pm #

      you have great critical thinking skills and totally fit in among the readership of this feminist blog. no one is thinking to themselves right now “oh god how did this guy wind up here,” and you haven’t outed yourself as racist and sexist in under 100 words at all!

      ….ON OPPOSITE DAY!!

  46. katherineowings August 27, 2013 at 1:38 pm #

    This was what I was thinking, just written down a lot better. Totally agree 110% with you.

  47. Michelle Jeannette Nowak August 27, 2013 at 2:02 pm #

    I find this blog post to be racist. Basically what your implying to me is that it is unacceptable for a white person to display or take part in any form of black culture. On the other side of the coin then you’re thusly implying that black people should not display or take part in any form of white culture. This article also sounds like you’re upset that all her back up dancers are black and she’s white and she’s objectifying them by slapping their ass and dancing with them. I hope you realize that she would have done the same thing to the dancers whether they were black, white, Asian, Mexican or any other race, it was part of her performance. All you seem to be trying to do with this post is separate black culture and white culture instead of encouraging everyone to get along and unselfishly take interest in different cultures.
    Also, where was anyone’s outrage when Gwen Stefani went through her Japanese phase and had nothing but Japanese back up dancers dressed as dolls in her videos and on stage. Dressing up women as dolls, if that’s not objectifying I don’t know what is. Yet no one seemed to care, in fact people flocked to buy her albums and perfume and all that crap.
    Don’t get me wrong, racism is horrible and should never be encouraged or ignored in any situation, but I feel like you’re looking for racism where there isn’t any. Writing articles like this is only serving to further segregate these races from one another by creating rifts that weren’t there to begin with. It saddens me that instead of working towards equality, there are people out there still looking for the differences instead of the similarities among all of us. You’re article only serves to further separate black and white women from one another instead of encouraging them to take interest in similar things and support feminism as a united front instead of a divided one. It’s a pity.

    • Jesse McDonald August 27, 2013 at 8:20 pm #

      you have a really flimsy and white understanding of how racism works. you should rely less on your imagination and read some books by Black cultural critics. a tip for free is that it isn’t a two-way street. everything can’t be inverted and remain parallel. in a white supremacist culture (this one), prejudice toward the marginalized groups has more force than prejudice toward he hegemonic group.

      and where the outrage was when Gwen Stefani accessorized with Harajuku girls is: everywhere. if you didn’t observe it, then you weren’t paying attention to anyone writing on race or intersectional feminism at the time. it happened in a big way. it also has LITERALLY NOTHING TO DO WITH THIS.

      Anne’s article isn’t creating division – it’s recognizing divisions that exist. The rifts are there – she didn’t just make this up. Again – read some writings by Black women on this topic. There are lots.

  48. BronweN August 27, 2013 at 2:06 pm #

    I think this blogger is way off base. Yes, black people have been oppressed in North America for centuries. So have the Native populations, as well as the “poor white trash”. Who is really doing the oppressing? Is it really the white people. Doesn’t seem to me to be wholly accurate…
    Those who are oppressing ALL of these groups are the RICH… they oppress 90% of society and they lick their lips and dance with glee when we decide to label it “racism”, because that obfuscates the true agenda, and it also creates lines of division between ALL of the groups being oppressed..

    Furthermore, this specific blogger is quick to criticize Miley’s treatment of the “black backup dancers”, but not once does she criticize THOSE dancers for THEIR involvement in this spectacle.
    But they’re backup dancers, probably not paid a lot, probably need to take every job they can to make ends meet and so somehow THEIR involvement in this supposed racist spectacle is okay? Its okay as long as you’re poor and doing it to feed your babies?

    Which completely proves my original point of where the REAL oppression is coming from.

    • sisisodapop702 August 27, 2013 at 5:46 pm #

      Exactly. SPOT ON!!! Thank you!!!

    • Jesse McDonald August 27, 2013 at 8:23 pm #

      thanks goodness someone white has once and for all pointed out that racism is pretend

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Things Amanda Macotte Thinks Are Important | Danielle Paradis - August 27, 2013

    […] all of the very valid criticisms of cultural appropriation like that of Jody […]

  2. Miley Cyrus, the VMAs, and what it all means (socio-culturally speaking…) | Tish Grier.com - August 27, 2013

    […] On Miley Cyrus and Racism (bellejarblog.wordpress.com) […]

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