To anyone who is a mother, a father, a son or a daughter: You are the message.
One of my friends is a graduate student, investigating how examples of shame and disgust can work as educational tools in understanding our human condition. I’m not sure if this is what she had in mind, but here goes.
Many have weighed in on the so-called Miley Cyrus scandal. Some frame it as “much ado about nothing,” while others as “disgusting” and “shameful.”
I was talking to a young woman the other day and asked what she thought. She wondered what the big deal was, noting Rihanna and Katy Perry “got naked,” “did raunchy stuff” and that “lots of people do it.”
I offered that just because something has a history of occurring, it doesn’t follow it is necessarily positive; that such images are the new normal is worth a rethink.
But such tangents distract us from the larger point, that it’s sad to watch self-destruction unfold, particularly because there’s an instant recognition that it’s preventable.
But we watch.
It’s painful to witness any reductionist account of what it is to be a woman, one that carves off her rich complexities as a human being, diminishing her to a single marker – her sexual attractiveness or lack thereof. Hot or not.
There is so much more to being a woman, indeed a human being, than our sexiness, whatever that is.
Exacerbating the reduction are the troublesome, unrealistic portrayals of a woman’s sexuality – contrived acts, performances of a sort, removed from anything real.
Maybe I’m naive and have led a sheltered life, but I don’t think any little girl dreams of one day swinging naked on a wrecking ball and licking a tool to express her sexual freedom. I just don’t. On the contrary, perhaps such images reveal the layers of imprisonment from which our girls struggle to escape.
Some might argue that this might be exactly what Miley’s point was. OK. Not that she isn’t capable, but hands up anyone who believes that was her intention.
Others might argue the scandal has created space for an important social discussion, and for that we should thank Miley. I disagree. We can get to those deep understandings without watching – without participating in – the objectification of a fellow human being.
How can we help our girls define themselves in healthier ways? What roles do mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, extended family, teachers and the larger community play?
It’s not enough to just blame the media anymore, as if it ever were. We are the media. We dictate what is bought, published, presented, consumed, produced and valued. Or not. Marshall McLuhan said, “the medium is the message.” He was sort of right. We are the message.
The next time you purchase a book, watch a television program, buy a movie ticket, download a song, attend a concert, click on a website, post something on Facebook, buy a magazine or choose an outfit, ask yourself what message you are supporting. I will too.
Let’s step up. Let’s take responsibility.
Let’s change the message.
Shannon Rodgers, Surrey