Friday FREAK OUT! Miley Mania! Coming to a sex ed class near you

Miley Cyrus, formerly known for her character Hannah Montana,

20131004-003848.jpghas received a LOT of media attention lately, and has been largely criticized for what people are calling highly sexualized antics. A few examples that people cite include…(some links are not necessary safe for work-NSFW)

Twerking with Robin Thicke at the VMAs.

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Her video for Wrecking Ball, which shows Miley swinging on a wrecking ball in nothing but work boots (among other things).

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Her interview with Rolling Stones that got Sinead O’Conner riled up enough to write an open letter to Miley, in which O’Connor states,

“I am extremely concerned for you that those around you have led you to believe, or encouraged you in your own belief, that it is in any way ‘cool’ to be naked and licking sledgehammers in your videos. It is in fact the case that you will obscure your talent by allowing yourself to be pimped, whether its the music business or yourself doing the pimping.”

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Most recently, Pics showed up on a blog that show her topless and doing sexually suggestive things with soda cans.

So why are people freaking out about Miley so much? In part it’s because she’s going to great lengths to change her image from a Disney poster child, to her own individual performing artist. It’s not easy to change how people perceive you- first impressions are often lasting impressions. Did anyone else look forward to going away to college so you could be someone different? I couldn’t wait for a fresh start with new people that didn’t have a picture of me with buck teeth as a kid!!

So the media captured an image of Miley as sweet, young, and mainstream. She’s now claiming an image as tough, mature, and edgy. And sexual. I think people are uncomfortable seeing Miley blatantly displaying her sexuality, especially when they have always seen her as innocent. I’m not necessarily in the Miley Cyrus camp, but I do think that the media attention is both encouraging Miley’s behaviors and judging a woman’s attempt to assert her individuality.

Miley Mania will likely end up in sexuality education classes, just as it has infiltrated the media. When it does, take a few moments to explore the participants’ perceptions of her. Ask questions such as,
– What do people say about Miley?
– What does it take to change people’s perceptions of someone?
– What kind of image do you think Miley wants to maintain?
– What messages do her performance at the VMAs and her Wrecking Ball video send about sexuality?
– Why are some people saying that the media is slut-shaming Miley?
– What do we need to consider in order to both accept Miley’s individuality but also hold her to high moral standards?
– If you had a conversation with Miley Cyrus, what would you want to talk to her about?

Just be mindful that as you engage in this discussion, if we judge Miley harshly, we potentially ostracize individuals who are in the Miley camp. Encourage the participants to think about all sides of the coin, and not just make a snap judgment.

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