Posted by: Kate | April 28, 2008

Unclench the Outrage-Muscles, You’ll Sprain Something

One the one hand, I understand the uproar over this Annie Leibovitz photo shoot of Miley Cyrus, the one where you have a 15-year-old apparently naked in bed and just tousled enough to thrill pedophiles and outrage those who never quite allow their outrage-radar to come off high-alert.  On the other hand, just hush, shhhhhhh, think those calming thoughts, do the relaxation exercises.  This is not a shock.

It’s been a while since we’ve had a big media-centered to-do about the antics of a young starlet, what with all of these engagements and premarital pregnancies being handled with a faint glimmer of maturity and social appropriateness. Britney’s under guardianship and either getting proper treatment or at least learning how not to display every painful misstep to the entire world. Lindsay is busily striving toward her goal of wearing every pair of black leggings ever manufactured, and this endeavor has kept her away from youtube-worthy outbursts. Somebody’s got to take the initiative and create something new for people to profess shock and horror while their google searches become increasingly irrelevant and disturbing, and Miley’s up to the task.

I get it, she has an image to maintain, she’s supposedly all G-rated and stuff, let’s protect the children, won’t you think of the children. But have you actually watched her perform? This is no Barney or even Princess Ariel; this is an almost-adult with adolescent and young adult messages in her songs and in her show. She sings about relationships and wears tight, figure-enhancing clothing. (I haven’t had the pleasure of sitting and watching an entire episode of Hannah Montana on the Disney Channel, mostly because I grew out of the target age about 16 years ago, but I have watched what Emily has watched, heard the music and read the lyrics of her CDs, and generally not lived under a rock for the past few years. No entertainment expert, here, but I’ve never let limited information prevent me from forming an opinion.)

If you’re looking for inappropriate displays of flesh and sexuality among children, you don’t even need to start clicking and breathing heavy. All it costs you, to get a perfectly legal viewing of disturbing levels of parental permissiveness, is the admission price to any major theme park, especially if there are water rides present. There will be young children, even toddlers, in string bikinis and decidedly unchildlike prints and cuts. There will be little girls with words like “SEXY” and “JAILBAIT” stretching across their rear ends. There will be parents dressed in precisely the same manner as their children, with no more success in the let’s-look-attractive efforts.

It happens. It’s a trend, a tendency for the age of sexual attraction to sneak younger and younger and society’s permissiveness to follow accordingly, and you can either get sucked along with it or you can resist. Or, I suppose, you can blithely avoid it altogether, but that’s a whole other set of lifestyle decisions. And resistance seems to come in two basic forms: outrage and finger-pointing, or awareness and adjustments on a smaller level.

The problem with the outrage is that too often, like now, it blows things way out of proportion; sure the photos are risqué, but not inordinately so for this particular artist and environment. It also ends up making the outraged people sound just a bit like pedophiles, themselves, with all their attention to this nasty sex stuff. But then, the problem with keeping it at awareness and personal adjustments is that public silence can be – and usually is – interpreted as acceptance of the behavior, and acceptance is just a step to the right of encouragement amongst a certain (media) mindset.

So, there’s no good answer, except to remind my daughter of our dress-code standards and explain why I’m not comfortable with certain clothing choices she might consider. And to speak to my son about the choices he can make and how other people might view him. And, well, here I am feeding into the whole frenzy by posting about it. My work here is done.


  1. Personally, I think Miley is rebelling from her goodie-goodie image and probably enjoying the attention it brings. Her performance on American Idol was definitely grown up and made a statement that she isn’t a little girl anymore.

    I find the problem to be when parents think that this type of behavior or attitude is ‘cute’ on a 6 year old. That’s sick.

  2. I’m the conservative mom in terms of how my 4 year old dresses. I recently looked for swimming suits at a children’s clothing store. I didn’t buy anything because I’m not going to buy a string bikini or any other swimsuit that tries to make it look like my daughter is better endowed than I am.

    After searching at home, I found her suit from last year. A t-shirt type of top with bottoms that covered everything that they needed to. I’m not a prude, but I don’t want to sexualize my daughter.

  3. I’m not there yet, Thank goodness. But I want to educate myself on everything I can that my kids are into so we can make healthy choices as informed parents.

  4. I do not feel sorry for that girl. She POSED for the damn picture. She made that choice and I find it hard to believe her parents were not involved in the decision. (there were pictures taken of her and her dad too – so he had to be there during the shoot). She knew what she was doing. It is just a shame that all those preteenies had to see it.

  5. …….deleted post by art major; with photography concentration, due to the subject matter involved and the mullet that let it happen. The media even got an apology from Annie Leibovitz (that’ll learn the people that are outraged, learn’em good, just like it did when Demi Moore posed naked w/8months of baby strapped to her.) Leibovitz stock just went up. Vanity Fair just sold a million more magazines pre-print. The Cyrusseseseses knew what was going on, and the Mag paid them for the trouble. The media Shiat Storm will sell more Cyrus gear, and create a frenzy when it’s frowned upon by parents. I say, take’em out back and shoot them… the father has been using my achy-breaky-oxygen too long, the daughter is on the road to rehab. “that’s just me though, they may be wonderful people” Excuse me….. while I throw out all my Hannah Montana g-string underoos. [Ziiiiing]

  6. Funny Kate! Made me laugh, oh and I agree with you of course. 🙂

  7. See, Karmyn, I feel a little sorry for the girl, herself, because I believe that a 15-year-old is not yet able to fully comprehend the consequences of her actions. She had her parents (or “minders,” whatever that means) present, consenting to it all, and a photographer pressuring her to go along with it, and she got caught up. So I do feel for her, but she’s getting more than adequate financial and social compensation for it all… so I don’t feel VERY bad.

    But the parents, they knew better. And they cannot pretend that they’re shocked and surprised, and it’s frankly cowardly to put the blame on the photographer or the subject: at the end of the day, my children are MY responsibility until they’re 18. Then they can wrap themselves up in sheets as much as they want.

  8. I think most everything in the life of high profile figures is choreographed and calculated. Further that “The Apology,” which almost invariably follows such an act as this had already been throught through.
    People who have control of juveniles, children, who use their talent to exploit the world’s appetite for these activities, need examined and removed. Not likely to happen, though some like Brittany have extended their careers through such public fights.

    To me, exploiting children’s bodies for publicity and profits, for anything, is child abuse.

  9. You know I read an article that said her parents and “handlers” were there. How would you like to be 15 and read that you have handlers? It’s like she’s not a person. I do feel a little sorry for her because I really don’t think at 15 she can fully grasp the consequences, she’s trying to grow up in the public spotlight. In a public that doesn’t want her to grow up but she really isn’t different from other 15 year olds, you have myspace and facebook where 15 year olds are posing much worse than the Vanity Fair photo shoot.

  10. Well said, Kate, as usual.

    And I’m sighing in relief that I have boyz. Who will bring about a different set of problems as they age, of that I am sure, but this whole teenybopper clothing thing (or lack thereof) makes me CUH-RAZY.

  11. Amen, sister! So well said, esp. the bit about “SEXY” and “JAILBAIT” and the parents who join in.

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