Are Miley Cyrus And Rihanna Exploited Or In Control? Two Writers Have Their Say

17 October 2013 by

Are Miley Cyrus And Rihanna Exploited Or In Control?

Miley Cyrus' flesh-flashing

Another day, another shot of Miley Cyrus naked. This time, the singer has stripped off for Future’s new music video and in just-released snaps, she's coated in nothing but metallic body paint. It begs the questions: are young female pop stars being exploited or are they in control? Annie Lennox last week joined Sinéad O’Connor in criticising the likes of Miley and Rihanna for behaving like porn stars – saying it was a ‘monetised form of self-harm’. We asked two writers for their verdict on whether these women really are victims...

Is it really so hard to believe that Miley Cyrus might be in control of her own image? Yes, it’s sexy and provocative, but give the girl a break. She just  turned 20 – this is exactly when most girls are experimenting with what they look like, even making mistakes. It’s no surprise that Miley wants to change her image: she had to drag herself through Disney school, after all. All this disapproval is far from supportive and sounds an awful lot like slut-shaming.

Miley argues quite rightly that it’s her body, her style and her reputation. Why assume we know better? By arguing that she and Rihanna are being taken advantage of we are guilty of undermining their autonomy and the success they’ve worked so hard for. There’s something wholly regressive and patronising about this ‘poor girls, they’re the victims’ attitude to female pop stars, which we don’t extend to their male peers. Justin Bieber has a ton of topless pictures of himself on his Instagram and has made a career of provocative crotch-grabbing, yet nobody’s accused him of ‘monetised self-harm’ or called him a victim.

Another day, another shot of Miley Cyrus naked. This time, the singer has stripped off for Future’s new music video and in just-released snaps, she's coated

Rihanna in her new music video for 'Pour It Up' [YouTube]

Perhaps this panic boils down to a simple generation gap. Rihanna and Miley’s images aren’t updated versions of Madonna. They’re controversial in a totally new way. So Miley didn’t make time to meet Sinéad O’Connor – but then appeasing older musicians probably isn’t high on her to-do list right now. She’s much more concerned with what her fans think, and the fans are showing their approval in the iTunes store. This month, Wrecking Ball got to No.1, Miley’s ninth Top 10 hit. Rihanna was ranked fourth most-powerful star last year, with earnings of $53m.

Young female stars don’t have it easy: they’re either too outspoken or boring; too fat or too thin; dowdy or precocious. Attacking them viciously in the media is a dirty habit, and one we need to curb before we’re the ones guilty of setting a bad example, sending out a message that attacking a woman’s looks, dress choices and body is OK.

It’s one thing when your mum tells you to cover up. But when two music legends – who know what the industry’s really like – warn you off behaving like porn stars, maybe it’s time to listen up.

First up was Sinéad O’Connor, who told Miley that she’s talented enough not to need to fellate a sledgehammer in her new video. Then, just days after Rihanna’s latest video was banned for being too explicit, Annie Lennox stepped in, saying, ‘Their assumption seems to be that misogyny is totally fine as long as you’re the one creating it… justifi ed by how many millions of dollars you get and YouTube hits. It’s a monetised form of self-harm.’

Miley’s now infamous foam fi nger pretty much sums up the ‘Do I care?’ response of today’s young stars to such advice. At the peak of their physical perfection and stardom, it’s easy for them to think they’re the ones in control. Indeed, except for Adele – who looks almost quaint for keeping her clothes on – today’s music is dominated by female stars all apparently locked in the same X-rated battle to see who can push the boundaries the furthest.

Are Miley Cyrus And Rihanna Exploited Or In Control?

Miley Cyrus [Rex]

Once we were shocked by Britney dressed as a sexy schoolgirl. Fourteen years later, any female pop star wearing more than underwear looks seriously overdressed. With ‘naked fatigue’ setting in, there was nowhere to go but to simulate porn. How depressing and utterly naive to then say today’s stars are empowered by doing this. Yes, you could argue Madonna has played this game for years, but with her conical look-but-don’t touch bras and empowering lyrics she was forthright about the political points she was trying to make.

By mocking Sinéad’s concern, Miley doesn’t sound like someone with a sound argument for what she’s done. She seems like someone who’s been encouraged by an industry chasing profits, there to be pushed to shock. But in the process a dangerous message is being sent to her young fans: acting like a porn star makes you famous and hot. I wonder when she and Rihanna will realise how wrong they are. Hopefully before it’s too late…

So what do you think? Let us know by tweeting us @Grazia_Live or joining the debate on Grazia UK's Facebook page >>


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