A BLOG BY SHANNON FISHER
How recent, seemingly vapid, tabloid fodder makes a strong sociological statement indicating the extent to which “Slut Shaming” has infiltrated our culture – and that words can be far more damaging than nearly any public display of sexuality might be.
Image by Getty
New life has been breathed into the practice of slut shaming by an unexpected source. In fact, while it is claimed that this hot air was delivered with the intent to resuscitate, it would appear that the self-described “motherly” rescuer inhaled helium in hopes of ascending her relevancy prior to offering mouth-to-mouth resusc… er, a “slut shaming” open letter to a young female artist with a Top 100 #1 hit whose fame is amidst a meteoric rise.
One of the most unfortunate aspects of this scenario (and there are many) is that this open letter was purportedly composed in response to the young woman’s public praise of the talent and artistic expression of the “motherly” artist who slung profanity-laced insults, thinly disguised as advice, at her – and subsequently called the young female artist a prostitute.
(For the benefit of those who are completely removed from exposure to pop culture “news,” the supposedly “motherly” female vocalist who authored the open letter is Sinead O’Connor – and the young woman who was the target… er, recipient of that letter is Miley Cyrus.)
It becomes evident that things have gone terribly awry in our paradoxical society when an ostensibly feminist female vocalist – one who is no stranger to controversy, who once defiled and destroyed an image of Pope John Paul II during a stint as a musical guest on Saturday Night Live almost exactly 21 years to the day prior to penning an open letter to a young woman who was a few weeks shy of having even been born when the Pope-gate incident occurred – decides to later publicly condemn that now 20-year-old young woman for having exhibited somewhat controversial behavior during a live performance, a performance given a few weeks shy of her own Saturday Night Live stint as host. Better still, the young woman responds to the condemnation by publicly ridiculing the older woman’s struggle with mental illness.
(Still with me?)
And, so begins yet another public battle with no possible victor other than those who would delight in adducing yet another example of women who are unable (rather, unwilling) to work together, support one another, compliment one another or be happy for one others’ successes. It also is another example of a woman judging another woman, and using a female’s openly expressing her sexuality as ammunition to extend that judgment as far as possible in an attempt to discredit her character or virtue for having done so.
Slut. Shaming. Has. No. Place. In. American. Culture. A woman’s sexuality is hers with which to do as she pleases – be it in private, on a public stage or somewhere in between the two. One of the foremost tenets in the founding of our nation was that of free speech. Our First Amendment reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
While perhaps not phrased as eloquently, Miley Cyrus’ own lyrics echo the sentiment, “Remember, only God can judge ya’. Forget the haters ‘cause somebody loves ya’.”
Though Ms. Cyrus’ displays of her sexuality might have been displeasing to some, they were her right – and for anyone to publicly shame her for it reduces the efforts of women’s rights activists all over the world who are trying our hardest to fight the “rape culture” in which women are viewed as anything other than equal participants on the sexual playing field.
Conversely, to ridicule Ms. O’Connor’s struggle with mental illness – while we are attempting to combat a societal stereotype that women are all “crazy” is almost (though not quite) equally as damning.
If women have any hopes of truly becoming equals, we must stop trying to tear one another down. When one of us wins, we all win – and we’d better start getting on the same page about just what “winning” means. (It is not advisable to ask Charlie Sheen for advice on this topic.) Winning means personal fulfillment. Winning means professional success. Winning means inherently receiving the respect of other human beings.
If tasteful nudity in a music video, however gratuitous one might view it as being, becomes something for which a woman loses the respect of others; if dancing in a provocative manner during a performance wearing nothing less than what a woman wears on the beach becomes something for which a woman loses the respect of others; if battling depression and reaching out for help becomes something for which a woman loses the respect of others; if owning her sexuality and willfully expressing it in any manner she deems fit becomes something for which a woman loses the respect of others – WE ALL LOSE!