I feel terribly sorry for Miley Cyrus - it is just one mistake after another. She placed herself firmly in the media spotlight earlier this year with her 'twerking' episode at the MTV Awards with Robin Thicke. And now, in another misguided effort, she has declared that all her controversial hammer licking and semi-naked frolicking has actually made her empowering to women. In a recent interview with British Cosmopolitan, she announced that she was "a feminist in the way that I'm really empowering to women... I'm loud and funny, and not typically beautiful." Now call me old fashioned, but this is a prime example of how the term 'empowerment' has become a validation for over-sexualised behaviour. And therefore, it has been rendered meaningless.
Now, there are several things wrong with her statement, and before I go into them - I would like to point out that I don't have a problem with Miley herself. But I do I have a problem with her misguided view of what feminism is. I have a problem with her encouraging young, impressionable girls to view sexuality as semi-naked grinding on married, misogynistic men. But, most importantly, I have a problem with the idea that acting in such a way is empowering.
For such a weighted term, 'empowerment' really is thrown around quite a lot. It crops up when a female celebrity strips off on live television to sell an album, and it appears when we argue that 'page three' models degrade women. And now, Miley has adopted the term for her own, rather degrading display of 'sexuality'. She, like many other female celebrities, has been duped into thinking that making an orgasm face, licking hammers and taking your clothes off on stage with Thicko (who was allowed to leave his on), is actually empowering.
On a side note - I would also like to address Miley's little speech about not being a role model. She stated in the interview that she doesn't put pressure on herself to be a role model for young fans, "other than hopefully inspiring people to be good and to treat people well." In her attempt to banish her good-girl Hannah Montana image to the back of the wardrobe, she has given teenage girls the idea that the way to sexually mature is by turning yourself into a wank object and to throw oneself onto awful men. I don't see how that would inspire anyone to be "good" to be honest.
Miley has a responsibility to her fans - particularly the young and impressionable. Yes, she was introduced into show-business at a young age and with that comes with the problem of growing up in the public eye. Transforming from teenager to adult is a difficult process for any young person - and trying to find out 'who you are' in front of a global audience is hard to imagine. But with fame comes responsibility - whether she likes it or not.
While Miley is busy not being a role model - she is, however, still empowering to women. And this is because she is doing what she wants ("I'm going to be what I want, and I'm going to do what I want"). While I agree that feminism is about choosing a path for yourself in life - whatever that might be - I find it difficult to understand how portraying yourself as a sexual object is empowering. Surely that is defeating one of the major ideals of feminism - fighting for women to be seen as something other than a vagina.
Just because Miley is doing what she wants - or what she thinks the media wants - doesn't mean that she is empowering. Being known for getting your baps out isn't empowering. If I got my arse out on the tube, it wouldn't make me an inspiration to womankind. Female empowerment, for me at least, is about overcoming gender stereotyping. It is about equality. For the individual, perhaps, empowerment is about choosing your own path in life - whatever that might be. It isn't a term that should be used to advocate portraying yourself as a sex toy.