Monday, April 28, 2008

Miley Cyrus photos

WARNING: This post discusses some adult themes and is NOT for children.

Back in February I wrote a post that was somewhat complimentary of Miley Cyrus. I felt that in order to do my “due diligence” I should also, therefore, comment on the latest news item about Ms. Cyrus that I just saw on the Today Show this morning.

Apparently, a number of moderately suggestive photos have surfaced of Ms. Cyrus. Most of them are on the internet. Of those they showed on the Today Show, they seemed to be depicting her laying across a boy her age, fully clothed but bearing her midriff, along with various other pictures of her in close proximity with this boy, and one in particular which the Today Show described as her kissing another girl (in all honesty, to me it looked like they were both eating something like a Twizzler, one on each end, a la “Lady and the Tramp”, but I admittedly only got a quick glimpse of it and the overall tone did seem to be suggestive in nature).

But the picture that is getting the most attention is in the latest issue of “Vanity Fair.” There, a photo appears of Ms. Cyrus sitting down. The picture is taken from behind her, but she appears to be topless, holding a blanket or sheet up to cover her front. She is wearing very bold lipstick and you see her full bare back. Ms. Cyrus is 15 years old.

Aside from the fact that Annie Liebowitz, who took the photo, did so (I believe) in exceedingly poor taste, Ms. Cyrus obviously went along with it. According to one source her parents were present the whole time. According to another they left 10 minutes early (I do not know if this particular photo was taken during that 10 minute span).

Ms. Cyrus has apologized. Apparently she initially believed the photo was “artistic,” but now acknowledges that it never should have been taken. Time will tell if she really means what she says.

The biggest thing that struck me about this whole story, though, was a comment on the Today Show by Donny Deutsch, host of MSNBC’s “The Big Idea.” Mr. Deutsch said that this is a “win-win” situation for everyone, including Ms. Cyrus. He claimed that the Vanity Fair photo will be good for her because it begins her transition from girl to woman. She needs to show a little sexuality in order for people to accept her as a woman. If she continues to keep her squeaky clean little girl image, then her career will be over when she turns 18.

I can accept the general principle that you need to be seen as an adult in order to have an adult career. But here is my issue with Mr. Deutsh. Why must being viewed as a “woman” be equated with sexuality? Don’t get me wrong. I am not na├»ve, and I am well aware that this is a viewpoint that is pervasive throughout our culture. I am admittedly simply choosing Mr. Deutsch’s remarks to illustrate a point that could have been made in any number of other contexts.

I am also admittedly not a woman. But I would think that this type of thinking would be offensive to most women. If not, maybe it should be. Basically, what Mr. Deutsch is saying is that if you want the public to view you as an adult woman, you must portray yourself as a sex object. Why can’t we come to view her as a woman by her exemplifying maturity, or the ability to make the correct decisions on her own without her parents’ involvement? Frankly, I believe she would have shown herself to be more of an adult if, assuming her parents were not there at the time, she showed the maturity to tell Ms. Liebowitz “no” to this particular pose. That would show that she can make her own decisions, and would demonstrate a level of maturity that we expect from adults.

Please do not misunderstand me. I do not want to seem like I am coming down too hard on Ms. Cyrus. She is, after all, only 15 years old, and is likely still learning how to be an adult. It is somewhat unfair how we place these young people in the enormous spotlight and expect so much from them. They are, after all, people like everyone else. And like all other teenagers they will go through their struggles as they make the transition from children to adults.

I only bring up the other possible decisions Ms. Cyrus could have made to illustrate what I believe is wrong with Mr. Deutsch’s viewpoint. He basically equates “womanhood” with “sexuality”, and ignores the plethora of other qualities that should properly define what it means to be a “woman.” Women, like men, were made in the image of God. But if you look at them as nothing more than an object designed to satisfy your personal selfish sexual desires, how are you treating them any different than any other consumable commodity; i.e., food satisfies my biological urge for sustenance, television satisfies my urge for entertainment, women satisfy my urge for sex? If that is all they are, how are you treating them any differently than food or your television set?

Women are human beings. They have far more value than consumable commodities. But when we define women in purely sexual terms, we devalue them as persons. They become “things”, not “people.” People have personalities, feelings and souls. Objects do not. I personally find this type of thinking to be highly offensive.

I also do not mean to say that this type of thinking only applies to women. Any time men are objectified I find it offensive as well (while I believe it is far more common in our culture to objectify women, any number of examples of treating men the same way can also be seen).

This is one of the reasons I am opposed to recreational sex. If the only reason you are engaging in the activity is to satisfy your sexual desires, each party is treating the other as no more than an object. When any of us are treated this way, we should be screaming out, “NO! I am more than that!” We should try as best we can to avoid looking at others that way and we certainly should not allow ourselves to be treated like that.

This is why, I believe, the Bible describes sexuality as two becoming one. It is an expression of intimacy, of recognition of the bond between the two of you. It shows in a very real, physical way, that you are bound to each other as if you shared one body, for the rest of your life. The two, quite literally, become one. Your partner is one and the same with you, not simply some object to satisfy your selfish desires. In the act of intercourse, you are quite literally equating your partner with yourself. When sex occurs properly, you are explicitly elevating your partner above “object” status to the same “personhood” status you recognize for yourself.

So I encourage Ms. Cyrus and anyone else who reads this (whether you be woman or man) to refuse to surrender to this cultural norm. You do not need to show your skin to be seen as an adult. In fact, if that is how you choose to express your adulthood, you run the risk of starting down a dangerous path in which you define your identity based solely on your sexuality, and all the entailments that may lead to. So please, when someone tries to get you to define yourself in that way, boldly assert, “No! I am more that that!”

God bless.

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