In a recent interview with Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders, Hynde stated that Miley Cyrus isn’t “doing feminism any favors” with her. In the same article, Hynde takes responsibility for a gang rape she suffered in her youth, basically by saying that she deserved it because of what she was wearing.
Aside from the fact that Hynde has obviously received some REALLY bad counselling, I want to address her opinion about Miley Cyrus, because it’s an opinion I hear echoed quite frequently.
There are musicians, there are artists, and then there are entertainers. A musician has skill using a certain instrument, including voice. An artist creates pieces of art, which are then judged as being good or bad by society, using a set of criteria including creativity of the piece, popularity, artistic integrity, etc – all of which contribute to a piece’s cultural value. A performer, or entertainer (used interchangeably in this article) is someone who’s job it is to entertain an audience. A performer could be someone performing works they created, or performing the works of others, as a musician, actor, poet, etc.
No one, including Hynde, questions Cyrus’ skill as a vocalist, but what Hynde and others don’t realize is that Cyrus is primarily a performer, and not only that, but also an artist in the performances she engineers and creates. I argue that her artistic medium is not just music but entertainment creation, and in this, Miley Cyrus is nothing short of genius. Love her or hate her, she gets your attention and she gets you talking. Her ‘Happy Hippie’ backyard sessions have featured some of the most culturally relevant artist of today like Laura Jane Grace and Ariana Grande.
In using her sexuality onstage, Cyrus is not being exploited or setting feminism back in any capacity. In fact, she the embodiment of everything that former strong female icons like Hynde were fighting for; the right to be who she wants to be. She is utilizing sexuality in her performance art, and she has every right to. Feminist fought against the objectification of women (the idea that women are sexual objects to be enjoyed by men), not against women’s sexuality itself. If Cyrus’ sexuality is a part of her songs and her performance, then using her sexuality is in line with her artistic integrity. The important distinction that Hynde doesn’t grasp is that Cyrus is a feminist of the new millennia – she isn’t afraid of her sexuality or ashamed of it, and neither is she reduced to it. She has serious vocal ability, she has an empire built on being weird, and she has her sexuality. It is one tool in an arsenal of performance weaponry she wields onstage. Much like Yo-Landi Vi$$er of Die Antwoord, Cyrus weird up what the idea of ‘sexy’ is. She combines crude sexuality with Marilyn Manson-esque antics to throw the audience off and make them really think about whether they like what they’re seeing or not – and even if the answer is no, you can bet they’ve been entertained. And in that, Cyrus is achieving her goal.
I’d much rather support such a person than a slut-shaming old has-been who promote rape culture openly and purports to be speaking ‘for women’. Chrissie Hynde, you should be ashamed of yourself.