Ever since Miley Cyrus’ VMA performance, I’ve thought a lot about sexuality, pop music, and the twerking phenomenon. I’ve also been more exposed to feminist thought and theory, so I feel like my response is well informed. Forming an opinion on this topic was tricky for me to do, as it crosses intersections of race, class, and gender.

First, I don’t have that big of an issue with pop stars and sexuality. Of course, women are sexualized for profit and I do not agree with that, but isn’t it also unfair to tell women that they can’t be sexual? Beyoncé recently released a self-titled album, and some of the tracks were about her sexuality (i.e., “Partition” and “Rocket”). I think it’s great that women are able to sing/rap/write about sexuality, and I’m especially glad that Beyoncé’s album helped bring feminism and feminist issues to the mainstream. No matter what Miley Cyrus wears, or what she sings about, I think it’s up to her to decide, and I don’t think it’s completely right to judge her because of how she goes about exploring sexuality. Her behavior demands critique, but she’s more than just a sexual person. Nearly all women have been affected by how sex is portrayed in the media, and I think it’s time to stop thinking that female pop stars are the only cause of this issue.

Second, I think twerking is about sexuality just as much as it is about race. When you think of twerking who comes to your mind? Before Miley Cyrus, it would most likely be a black woman. When black women twerked, they were often called ghetto or ratchet and looked down upon. But when white girls like Miley Cyrus twerk, they get the privilege of acting ratchet in an ironic way. They’re acting like black women, but they can get away with it without judgement and even popularize it. Everyone can twerk now. Miley Cyrus is appropriating black culture for success in her career.

Finally, combining my thoughts about Miley Cryus and twerking, I think it is controversial because of how she appropriates black culture. Specifically in her VMA performance, she objectified black women’s bodies. I felt uncomfortable watching Miley, the white singer, interact with black dancers in such a way. She spanked one of her dancers on the butt like it was a drum, and her dancers were dressed up as teddy bears and made into objects. It’s not like Miley acted in a novel way; everyone can observe how black women are objectified and sexualized in music videos, popular music, and other media. So while Miley’s performance was something like a stunt to grab attention, it also made her look foolish and ignorant in how she interacts with black women. It’s not just men who objectify women. No doubt has Miley developed a narrow view that it is okay to treat black women that way because that’s what she sees black culture is all about.

Pop music, sexuality, and twerking–we should probably add race to that list. I’m still thinking about these issues and trying to understand them better, but mainly I believe that it’s okay for women to be sexual and even put it on display through music and dancing. However, I don’t want women to think that is the only way to be sexual, or that they have to be sexual in the first place. And as for twerking, I think when it’s done in a way that Miley Cyrus did it, not only is black culture appropriated, but white women are given privilege over black women in how they get to be sexual.

-Tia Bangura

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