Sinead O’Connor offers an argument for what is effectively chastity in the way young women present themselves in public, and in particular in relation to the way one misguided young woman, Miley Cyrus, presents herself in public. In an open letter prompted by Cyrus’s claim that one of her videos inspired her own naked-on-a-wrecking-ball video, O’Connor writes:
Nothing but harm will come in the long run, from allowing yourself to be exploited, and it is absolutely NOT in ANY way an empowerment of yourself or any other young women, for you to send across the message that you are to be valued (even by you) more for your sexual appeal than your obvious talent. . . .
Yes, I’m suggesting you don’t care for yourself. That has to change. You ought be protected as a precious young lady by anyone in your employ and anyone around you, including you. This is a dangerous world. We don’t encourage our daughters to walk around naked in it because it makes them prey for animals and less than animals, a distressing majority of whom work in the music industry and its associated media.
“Associated media” clearly including the editors of Rolling Stone, who apparently just featured Cyrus on the cover. O’Connor continues:
Real empowerment of yourself as a woman would be to in future refuse to exploit your body or your sexuality in order for men to make money from you. I needn’t even ask the question . . . I’ve been in the business long enough to know that men are making more money than you are from you getting naked. It’s really not at all cool. And it’s sending dangerous signals to other young women. Please in future say no when you are asked to prostitute yourself.
Her language is, I should warn you, rough, and I’ve omitted some of the best quotes for that reason.
O’Connor writes, she explains at the beginning of the letter, “in the spirit of motherliness.” Three cheers for Sinead O’Connor.
My thanks to Bob Gardner for the lead.
Update: There is, not surprisingly now that I think of it, a pro-Miley backlash, according to Katy Waldman, an editor at Slate. (The photo at the top of the story is unedifying, let me warn you, and also a little weird looking.) Driven, again not surprisingly, by people who stand to make more money with the exhibitionist Cyrus than with one more modest, and who use the liberationist and feminist rhetoric to justify their exploitation of this girl.
These women, from august glossies like Cosmopolitan and Harper’s Bazaar, say Cyrus is being slut-shamed for “owning her sexuality.” One editor calls her a “genius,” an “emblem of rebellion and trouble.” According to another, Miley has “launched a conversation about female sexuality.” Most importantly, they say, she knows how to sell herself.
There follows other revealing quotes, then Waldman explains:
People may be talking about Miley Cyrus, but even her partisans don’t seem to respect her for much beyond her ability to generate buzz—and drive traffic. What bold and courageous point has Cyrus left us with? That sex sells? That teddy bears and foam fingers have still got it? That metal machinery is delicious? I think it’s a cop-out to reflexively applaud her for, as my colleague Jessica Grose puts it in Elle, “publicly exploring her sexuality in a provocative way.” The ranks of pop stars are overflowing with young men and women doing just that. They’re not doing it out of bravery—they’re doing it because it works.