So, I'm not sure how many of you have been paying attention to pop culture lately, but Miley Cyrus has "wowed" everyone with her display's at the VMAs and also in her new music video.
However, sadly, most people probably just flipped the channel or had a good chuckle at how ridiculous it all was, before moving on to more interesting things.
This, my friends, is a problem. A serious one, too. There's a fine line between being "desensitized" to things that we see or hear consistently in a culture full of music, video, dialogue and ongoing movement, and being "desensitized" to the point that we don't apply any common sense.
The downward spiral of women being excessively sexualized to sell their music, videos, movies, etc...may seem like nothing new. It's been years in the making, right? Ever since women have been "liberalized," they have felt that great freedom to express themselves in ever creative, and revealing, ways. Right?
It seems to me that this is a false notion. It seems that if we apply some common sense, we might notice something. A young woman who has a talent for music, dance or acting, but who does not have any interest in being sold as a public prostitute through the media, may not make it very far. That is a reality. That does not seem like freedom or liberty. That seems like a very specific pigeonhole that one either has to accept or reject. Those who accept, like Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Miley, Katy Perry, Selena Gomez and the many others, are all doing the same thing. They are being sold by their bodies. They are selling products on sexual appeal, on sexual expression, on sex. They are not selling products because of their quality, talent, creativity and ingenuity. (And need I mention, for those things to sell, there has to be a market. There are consumers who create this demand and keep it going.)
There are some women artists who are able to maintain a somewhat decent amount of fame and success and also maintain their own decency in terms of their bodies... but the reality is that they are still not ever going to enter the "upper crust" of the market unless they decide to forsake some of their decency for racy and risque expression. This is what I see as such a problem.
There will always be artists who desire to be shocking and revealing and who feel that their value and worth really is only in their sexual appeal and sexual expression. That is a very sad situation, but I don't think it is likely to change. However, there is a wide gap between those who truly desire that sort of expression and those who feel they have no other choice if they wish to be competitive and successful. (I'm setting aside the question of "if you know that's the market, why get into it in the first place?" Let's assume these artists are in it to win it, and look at the bigger picture.)
The larger picture is that the same culture that decries sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, rape, incest and other such horrible crimes (and for very good reason), the same culture that defends young women in foreign cultures from sexual abuse and from forced child marriages or other instances where a woman is likely to be abused, that same culture demands that the entertainment world provide women in soft porn situations in every level of artistry, music, movie, video, etc...
HELLO. Again, we through common sense out the window when we decided we were desensitized. The effect of consistent and similar experience that causes us to have our senses dulled to what we are experiencing should not translate to our purposeful ignorance and relativistic tolerance of something that is inappropriate!
What on earth can we expect a young girl of middle school age to think at this point? She has been told that all of those abuses I already mentioned are terrible things. Yet, she sees women constantly being marketed as only sexual objects. The ads from underwear to potato chips include women barely covered, and often the actions and body language of the models and actresses is more suggestive than the clothes they aren't wearing. What does that translate to in the mind of a thirteen year old girl? "If I want to be beautiful, if I want to be desired, I have to be like that. Because she is so desirable. So therefore, that is what will make me desirable." Is there anything being taught to this child about how to protect herself from abuse? How to value herself as a person? How to realize her worth both in the beauty of her body and in the many talents she has, and her intelligence? Is she really to understand her self worth as only the physical body when it is being seen and lusted after?
That is precisely what our culture had decided. Despite the many who cry out against the abuse of women that still continues today, there are just as many who cry for the "freely accepted" abuse of women through contemporary media and entertainment. This is a double standard that cannot continue.
A woman is beautiful. A woman should understand her beauty in her body, certainly. That is a very important part of what it is to be womanly. Yet, that is only a part. Every woman is still a person. Every person has a mind, soul and body. Every person is comprised of both the spiritual and the physical. We are never just a body, just as we are never just a mind. The person must be understood for the whole. A woman who is only valued for how she looks scantily clad or undressed, is not being valued appropriately, and is suffering a form of abuse that everyone just accepts because it has become "commonplace." It should not be. It cannot remain so. Our culture has a responsibility to every woman, and especially every little girl, to wake up and realize exactly how far down this road we have gone. It is much, much too far.