By Alex Cupples
Miley Cyrus has been criticised for her overt use of her sexuality so much over the last year that you would think people would get bored of it. It would seem, however, that we are still not over her ability to create a highly sexual music video using highly unsexual building materials.
Indeed, outspoken BBC Radio 1 Presenter, Jameela Jamil, recently accused Miley Cyrus and the other female pop stars like her of stunting women’s progress. In Jamil’s opinion, women in the pop industry are not empowering themselves by claiming ownership of their bodies because they are perpetuating an image of sexually available women created by men.
But are the internet critics and Jameela Jamil right to be criticising women in mainstream culture?
When discussing the backlash she received from her comments at a conference, Jamil attacked the culture of “women tearing down other women” without a hint of irony. Women are arguably the greatest oppressors of women and it is disheartening to see so many women pretentiously claiming to be fighting the feminist cause whilst attacking the women who they do not think are ‘feminist enough’ to be in the public eye.
Even within the music industry the behaviour of women in the pop world has been scrutinised. Shortly after Miley Cyrus ‘twerked’ herself to the headlines with Robin Thicke at the VMAs, Lily Allen released “Hard Out Here”. The track attacks the high powered men in the music industry for exploiting female sexuality to sell records. Whilst this may be a very real issue, it is not the one Jamil is trying to address.
Women in the music industry must not all be instantly labelled victims and perpetuators of exploitation and it is in fact very difficult to see Miley Cyrus as a helpless victim of the industry. In interviews she appears comfortable with what she does and who she is, she said in one, “I feel like I’m one of the biggest feminists in the world because I tell women to not be scared of anything.”
Beyoncé is another highly successful female pop star who faces attack at the hands of a few feminists who do not think she is worthy of their title. Again it is her presentation of sexual empowerment that comes under attack. It is true that Beyoncé and Miley Cyrus set an example for young girls who see women becoming successful through making themselves sexually attractive to men, but what needs to be taught, to boys as much as girls, are the rules of consent.
A woman can use her body how she wants, if she has control over it and is not taken advantage of. Accusing Miley Cyrus of being antifeminist and asking for sexual degeneration because she dresses and dances provocatively runs along the same logic as accusing women of asking for rape by, something no one who believes in gender equality would say.
Modern day feminism is centred on an aim for gender equality. However, there are many branches coming off the big gender equality feminism tree which cause self-proclaimed feminists like Jameela Jamil to attack other self-proclaimed female feminists on their actions. What feminism really needs is a clear target which unites women rather than divides.
The mainstream music world in which women are openly expressing their sexuality is not what we should be afraid of. We should be afraid of continuing to tell girls what they can and cannot do because of their gender.