Twerking Ball: Philosophy and Miley Cyrus

Don’t worry, this isn’t a call for papers for one of those ‘Philosophy and…’ collections that were all the rage a few years ago, although I’m sure one is in the works as I write this. No, I wanted to comment on what I think is an interesting philosophical issue raised by the most recent debate about Miley Cyrus.

For those of you who aren’t as obsessed with shitty pop music as I am (Ke$ha: I love it!), Miley Cyrus (former child star of Hannah Montana and daughter of achy breacky prat Billy Ray Cyrus) brought out two controversial songs in the last couple of months. The first was ‘We Can’t Stop’ in the video for which she shamelessly appropriates black culture and uses black people as props (as this great assessment highlights:

The second and most recent is ‘Wrecking Ball’, or rather it’s again the video that’s proved controversial. Basically, Miley swings about naked on a wrecking ball and licks a sledge hammer in a suggestive manner, among other things. Sinéad O’Connor posted an open letter to Miley on her website (which is probably down due to heavy traffic, so you can read the letter here:

O’Conner makes some interesting points about exploitation in the music industry, particularly the exploitation of women to line the pockets of men, as well as some oddly conservative and heteronormative ones (‘Your body is for you and your boyfriend.’). Anyway, this provoked another open letter in response, this time from Amanda Palmer of The Dresden Dolls:

What’s interesting in these two positions on Miley Cyrus’ nudity and sexuality is in how they put to work completely opposed positions on agency and autonomy. O’Connor’s letter claims that Miley Cyrus has absolutely zero agency and is simply a tool being used by the music industry to make money, while Palmer’s one argues that Miley is actually in complete control of her actions and is in no way manipulated. The truth, well it’s probably somewhere in the middle, but what’s perhaps more important is that both Sinéad O’Connor and Amanda Palmer take it upon themselves to attribute these opposing conceptions of agency to Miley Cyrus, something Miley actually addresses pretty well in her Twitter response to O’Conner’s letter:

Sinead. I don’t have time to write you an open letter cause Im hosting & performing on SNL this week.

— Miley Ray Cyrus (@MileyCyrus) October 3, 2013


So if youd like to meet up and talk lemme know in your next letter. :)

— Miley Ray Cyrus (@MileyCyrus) October 3, 2013


So basically: ‘if you actually want to hear about my motivations and not attribute various forms of agency to me, ask me about it!’

So there, philosophy and Miley Cyrus, or how you can waste an hour of your day while shamelessly trying to divert internet traffic to your blog.

P.S. This piece from Melissa Bradshaw at the Guardian is pretty good on the subject: as is the CelebYouthUK twitter feed: There’s also this interview with Miley Cyrus where she talks a bit about some of the issues raised by the videos:

P.S.S. Thanks to people on Facebook who pointed me towards all of the links included here and got me onto the subject during my usual early-morning Facebook distraction.


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