I’m a regular Morning Joe watcher and I can’t imagine watching the show without you, but I need to tell you something–you know, “Mom to Mom.” Stop talking about Miley. Now. Yesterday, if possible.
Keep talking about degradation, but don’t talk about this young woman in particular any more. Here’s a phrase I whisper to my husband when he starts arguing with his teen-age daughters when they are in deep hormonal flux: “Don’t engage the crazy.” I don’t mean to demean people with mental illness when I say that, I simply mean, Stop making sense. It doesn’t work when the daughters in the throes of hormones haven’t the capacity for extended rational thought. All you are doing is wasting your energy and their time. (And they have more time than we have energy.)
So, Mika (may I call you Mika?), when I ask you not to engage with Miley or her family, I’m simply asking you to not make them dig deeper into defensiveness of what they know, deep down, is indefensible. Because when you shame someone, you aren’t shining a light on their goodness, you are sending them scurrying toward those who don’t hold their respect and reputation as a first concern.
Keep talking about MTV (actually, don’t. they were fairly irrelevant until we all started talking about it). Keep talking about the degradation of women in general and women of color in particular. These are good issues to raise.
Talk to your daughters about sex. Talk to them about gender politics. Talk to them about white privilege and misogyny (my, God, make them watch your program as they grow up–I know my daughters witnessed plenty of examples of both each morning they sat near me while the show was on).
Talk to them about their responsibility as a woman human–and the responsibility that comes from the privilege they carry simply because of their race, their ethnicity, and their access to power. But do not teach them to shame other women or themselves in the process.
Tell them good, positive things about themselves (and don’t ever, ever let me hear you say ‘she looks like she has an eating disorder’ about any other female on the planet again!). Don’t forget: every young woman in a plastic bikini is doing battle with you — your daughters’ first and most important role model (whether you like it or not). Don’t forget that regardless of what your daughters see in the world, they have you to center and guide them. Especially when you think they aren’t looking.
I don’t say this out of any kind of platitude. I say it because I am still mothering three smart, beautiful, foul-mouthed, mostly-clad young women and I have talked with them about anything they wished to talk about and I have set a good example for them (mostly, I fear, in the foul-mouthed part).
They are smart and they are kind and they watch television and pop-stars with a critical eye. And it is not because I sheltered them from it, but because when the world’s crazy showed up on our door and in the world’s living room, I talked to them. I gave them resources. I gave them love.
I wish all girls had the opportunities to be loved in the way your daughters and mine have been. But, Mika, not everyone has solid role models. And even those who do, have moments of risk-taking and, shall we say, “creative outlets.”
I’m a Unitarian Universalist, Mika, and and my faith tradition urges me to acknowledge the inherent dignity of every human being— which means that I believe its in there, even when it doesn’t show up for itself.
Let’s take the shame off Miley, Mika. Don’t engage the crazy. Or, in other terms, don’t feed the bad argument.
I think you are right to be angry with the executives at MTV, the producers, and every “adult” in this young woman’s life who didn’t say, “you want to think about this a minute?” Because the other thing you are doing when you call her a girl and emphasize her age, is give her an out for poor decisions. She is, ultimately, in control of her own self. And this is the other thing I tell my daughters: you will make mistakes; try not to make ones you can’t recover from.
Having said all this, I don’t want to let her off the hook for what I found to be the most unconscionable piece of her performance and her video: which is the dehumanization of black and brown women and using them as props. I’ll let other voices sing about this from their lived experiences, but I bristle at the thought that all white feminists are ignorant and/or silent (bristling because I recognize the truth in it). Mika: join me in speaking out about this. Let us be voices of the privileged culture who help to say: Stop. Just stop. Think. Adopting hand gestures, dental bling, and slang does not make you anything other than ignorant. Shake your damn tail-feathers all you want, but do the homework, first. Are you honoring or are you perpetuating?
And, Mika, you have the platform. I’m just an old Midwest mother with a blog. You, on the other hand, have the platform and the power and the privilege: use it wisely and for the good.