finally recently finished Peggy Orenstein's Cinderella Ate My Daughter. While Orenstein's writing style might be a bit kitschy for my taste (it's a book, not a blog post after all) I still thought this was enjoyable. There were fun facts about girls toys and the way girls are marketed to (did you know that the all-girls-toys-must-be-pink thing didn't really happen until the 1980s?) and it highlighted some of the way we, as American's, let things become normalized.
The thing I actually found more interesting than the Disney Princesses fodder was Orenstein's take of the sexuality of young women. She writes about how young girls are made to look "sexy" younger and younger but that they are almost never encouraged to really learn about and embrace their own sexuality. It's about "looking" sexy rather an Our Bodies Ourselves style empowerment. It's about commodification rather than ownership.
Which brings me to Miley. Orienstein spends almost an entire chapter on Hannah Montana/ Miley Cyrus and I couldn't help but think about Cinderella as I watched Cyrus' VMA performance. There a ton to analyze through a racial lens here but in some ways that's already been done well here and here (although that probably won't stop me from writing a post on the topic soon). One of the things I've seen less on my facebook wall about has been the performativity and commodification of women's sexuality. No part of Cyrus' performance seemed connected to her own pleasure, body, or sense of self. It was not only un-sexy but seemed totally generated for the consumption of others. It wasn't a sexy dance, instead it felt like watching a poor interpretation and caricature of American Sexy. The stripper pole equivalent of those poorly translated Japanese advertisements.
And in many ways Cyrus was translating a language, one she wasn't (and shouldn't be) well versed in. For her, it seems, the language of women's sexuality is created and defined by men. She is only pantomiming "sexy" in the way that she thinks men want to consume it. I still dream that one day we'll raise sexy, confident women who are not afraid of their sexuality and are able to express it in ways that feel good to them, rather than just peddling what they think men will buy.
But in MTVs defense...at least they got the king of women-as-things to be part of the act. It wouldn't have been the same without Robin Thicke. By the way, that link is NSFW.