Cyrus deserves commendation, not condemnation

Letter to the Editor by: Ashley Neimeier, Senior, Philosophy

Apparently, she’s all the rave. To quote an op-ed by Jon Caramanica, “Get Back and Just Let Miley Cyrus Grow Up” published Oct. 2 in The New York Times – which, I may remind, every student on this campus has access to, both online and in print – “The most vibrant culture moves at uncomfortable speeds.”

This line was written within a larger scope intended to address what many have called Cyrus’ recent riotous behavior, harmful to the image of a respectable woman the world over. We need not mention, in detail, the extent of said riotous behavior but you should know that it has something (or everything) to do with swinging on wrecking balls while naked, licking large metal sledgehammers and twerking in an obscene manner on live television. One thing may in fact be true: Miley Cyrus is thrashing restlessly, sometimes violently, against standard notions of how a woman should act.

Caramanica’s piece does several things well. For one, he calls out, and holds accountable, those who have seen in Cyrus’ sudden transition from pop and child-friendly songs to rap and hip-hop as an opportunity to make her into “a punching bag,” categorizing such attitudes as “slut shaming.” Caramanica shows how this targeting is not only inappropriate, given Cyrus’s strong history of success, but also unfair. The assumption that name-calling such as that brought forth by Cyrus’s critics represents an ad hominem attack against her person. Here I include my own thoughts to say that such attacks are ultimately antithetical to what our response should be: to support and encourage growth in the expressive arts whatever that growth looks like.

Cyrus’s actions ought to be understood not as some catalyst for “moral panic[s]” but met instead with a deeper appreciation of the musical talent and gutsy bravado that Cyrus manages to bring to the table. This becomes all the more pertinent when it is made clear just what Cyrus may be responding to through her music, namely an industry which for most intents and purposes severely undervalues the legitimacy of female talent and/or a society which may yet be uncomfortable with the idea of a dominating force the likes of Cyrus.

As Caramanica’s piece points out, Cyrus is responsible for a great many pieces of powerful music. For these the op-ed is unambiguously right in calling Cyrus an influential artist alongside the likes of Madonna and Katy Perry. Her songs are attractive samples of heady music.

After re-playing “Wrecking Ball” for the upteenth time, for example, I find myself selecting it again, no qualms at hand. A classmate once referred to her song “We Can’t Stop” with the words, “Can’t Stop … Listening.” I think that about sums up Cyrus’s success.

Regardless of what her music may or may not say about our culture at large, it seems clear that it does not say much past what we’ve already heard or think we know. If it is true that vibrant cultures move at uncomfortable speeds, then let it be known that Cyrus’s actions reflect a positively bright culture even as they encourage what some may call reckless endangerment within that culture.

In the end, such a sense of vibrancy should be cause for an attitude of admiration toward Cyrus for her display of courage, not the sort of distasteful condemnation that seems to now be following in the wake of her newest album release.

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