Yesterday, Anne Theriault of The HuffPost Canada Music wrote What Miley Cyrus Was Disgusting But Not For the Reasons You Think.
And it was tripe.
I read the article slack-jawed, wondering why any aspiring journalist would even spin VMAs debacle this way.
Because unlike what the author suggests about Miley appropriating moves from black culture, the author actually ended up making it sound like people of colour are nothing but bumpers and grinders.
I haven't made it a secret that I don't care for the performances of folks like Beyonce or Rihanna; but not because of skin colour, but rather because they represent the continued demand for lust/carnality rather than spectacular femininity. I don't care how many self-owned businesses they run, they still insist on perpetuating male-dominated carnality, rather than mutual sexuality. Both boys and girls look up to these stars and believe sexuality has everything to do with peek-a-boobs and poles (with a bit of glitter thrown in).
Let's travel back in time about 1.5 years. I was attending my winter residency at Eastern University in Philadelphia. One of the student activities offered to us was an evening of African dance. The lady who facilitated it was a beautiful woman with long tightly-plaited hair, luminous eyes, and colourful dress. She brought in friends to drum for us, and she began to teach us some tribal moves.
(Now… in the fair sharing of honesty… I didn't engage the actual dancing, with all the loudness, constant motion, etc. Guilty as charged, I had more of a meltdown in anxiety rather than dance. However I did watch, listen and learn behind the scenes).
One of the explanations of these moves, some of which seemed quite "carnal" to us at first, was the need for tribes to sustain themselves through procreation. Of course, then, dance and music would reflect that pride in the ability to bear children down through the generations. Us females were encouraged to "shake our thangs", not because we were skanky but because we were beautiful women with the capacity to bear life. The males were encouraged to move forward with deep pelvic thrusts not because they were creepy slimebags, but because they were proud men capable of helping create that new life.
And new life was sacred.
What's the difference between our dance night and something like Beyonce's or Rihanna's? (aside from the overdone stage glam)…
Well, our facilitator sat us down and told us what these dances meant through story, music and song. The sacredness and freedom came after there was context brought to us by someone wise, caring and respectful of the human body — men, women, and children. The performers on stage have no such context. They bump and grind for the sake of a camera… for dollars…
Let's go back further… say… 200 years in the States. Some of the racist propoganda generated by white plantation owners and politicians declared that black men were brutes, incapable of suppressing their wild lust and needed to rape, hurt and otherwise dominate women (especially white women). The reality that lynch mobs often tortured hanging victims mercilessly is often glossed over in history, but the lie that black men are more sexual beasts often leaves vestiges in communities across the States and Canada.
Did our facilitator express sexual freedom and pride through dance?
But the expressions were of mutuality, gratitude, community and life.
The way I see it, Cyrus and her predecessors (of whatever colour) are gyrating an old lie on new poles: "A woman can only make it if she flaunts her body for the enjoyment of men".
Cyrus' crudeness had nothing to do with racism, for if it did… the implications would be far more offensive than they would be flattering.
Her performance only reflected our demand for sleaze… young sleaze at that. Again, we need to be looking at ourselves as the consumers of this sleaze, rather than placing all blame on a young starlet acting out. She wouldn't do it if there was no market for it. But there is. And we are the market.
Youth: she's on a path that is destroying who she is. This isn't craftsmanship of art… this isn't talent… this isn't sexuality… this isn't passing on community or tribal values in ways that uplift us or frees us… this isn't anything worth drooling over. Miley needs love in her life that she's either rejecting or has never experienced.
Adults: yes, there are some erotic tribal dances that rightly need to be taught and shared with younger generations. But they need to be shared in the manner we were given during our residency: with respect, context, love and freedom. However to declare that the sexual obscenity we see on stage by various performers is somehow equivalent to this good dancing/teaching is wrong.
No equivalency here.
Yes, I agree it is still difficult for women of colour to "make it" in our world. Sometimes my white privilege keeps me from seeing this, but my gender however gives me more of an insight than some might think. There are more ways to make it than to shake it.
And there are more definitions of "making it" than a stage or a pole. If girls believe this isn't true, then we need to grow more community around us to show them that yes…
… it is so.