Sinead & Miley

Like everyone else on the internet, I read Sinead O'Connor's open letter to Miley Cyrus this morning. I thought it was very thoughtful and comes across, as she says herself, "in the spirit of motherliness and love." I also think she's a lot smarter than some people give her credit for at times. I agree with her on the main message of the letter: the music industry does not care about Miley Cyrus except for the money she makes for them, and it would be wise to rid herself of those around her who wish to exploit her youth and sexuality. That said, parts of Sinead's letter made me feel uncomfortable. Firstly, she uses the words "prostitute" and "prostituted" a LOT. I understand that in the context of the letter, this probably refers to being exploited, but I think that a clear distinction needs to be made, because I would be of the belief that selling sex as a service isn't inherently wrong. I have many friends, both online and off who work/have worked in different areas under the huge umbrella that is "sex work;" each of whom have experienced varying degrees of hardships from their job, as well as varying degrees of joy. Some didn't enjoy it that much, and some feel that it's their life's calling. It's like any sort of labour dispute, really. It's not the work that's the problem, it's about whether or not the employee is being exploited. So I can't really agree with her using the term "prostitution" in direct association with "exploitation." Secondly, Sinead speaks about Miley's nudity in her video for "Wrecking ball" and worries that it is obscuring her talent as an artist. Again, while I agree with her in the sense that pop stars are being terribly exploited by their record labels, I also think that context is everything and nudity can most definitely be used in a tactful, empowering, and sometimes revolutionary way. I think it's just as harmful to tell women to cover-up as it is to tell them to strip. Either way that message seeks to control women's sexuality, though I do not for one second believe that that was Ms. O'Connor's intention. And finally, this is where I completely agree with her, whether we like Miley's music or not, her influence on young people is spread across the world. The Miley machine sets an example. She, as well as the entirety of the pop music world, is being presented on a platter by her record label and management to millions of fans who are visually being told that the most important thing in life is the artifice: ostentatious clothing; gold grillz; flashy cars; and most importantly, above all, being conventionally attractive. It sends off the overt message that the ONLY way a person can succeed in the pop world is by looking "perfect," and then confirms that message with the overuse of autotune. If Miley really wants to shed her Hannah Montana image, she should, like Sinead suggests, fire everyone around her who isn't there to protect her, and start from the ground up. The cynic inside me doesn't believe that that will ever happen, but I hope that it does, and how amazing would it be if it did?