Monday, October 21, 2013

Malala vs. Miley

It seems that everywhere I go on the internet, every time I turn on the radio or walk past a television, someone, somewhere, is ranting about Miley Cyrus. I cannot tell you how many times I've seen my friends post pictures of Ms. Cyrus as a little girl on their Instagram...#whathappened. I see this and I laugh...don't people feel weird being nostalgic for someone else's childhood? Don't they realize that everyone grows, changes, and makes mistakes? But then, amidst the "open letters to Miley Cyrus" that seem to be surfacing left and right, some questioning, some humorous (see Sufjan Stevens, one of my favorite musicians, correct Miley's grammar in a blog post here), some majorly offensive and body-shaming, I wonder: is it better to pretend not to care, or more important to realize what a huge role celebrities, especially female celebrities, play in today's media? When so much air time is devoted to a single female-identified person, whether deliberately or not, it affects the way the public perceives women and how we talk about this person's actions reflects society's opinions as a whole. I think that the conversations circulating Miley Cyrus' recent personal revolution has stimulated some extremely important discourse about body politics, racism within the music industry, and how we react to women putting themselves in the public arena. During such a phenomenon, it would be easy to brush it aside as trivial banter about a pop star when there are more important things going on in the world...but I can't help but think that these so-called "important issues" are inherently connected to larger topics that can be brought up outside of the realm of E! News. For example, Malala Yousafzai, the 16 year old Pakistani girl who was shot by the Taliban because of her support for education for young women in her country, was recently interviewed on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Malala's words are inspiring, intelligent, and full of hope for the future of women in Pakistan. Malala's words of fearlessness in the face of the violent, misogynistic world in which she lives definitely were heard around the world-her interview has nearly a million views on YouTube. It would be silly to say that people don't care about what Malala is saying to the people of America, Pakistan, and the rest of the world. Yet it should be noted that the video of Miley Cyrus' controversial performance at the 2013 Video Music Awards has reached over 3 million views. Should we be worried that an amazing, 16 year old Nobel Peace Prize nominee has gotten less airtime than a girl dancing on a stage to a song she probably didn't write herself? Or should the collective discourse that arises from both of these viral media sources be considered important, no matter what the focus is, because at least people are interacting, voicing their opinions, and showing that strong female figures are influential in our society? I think it is a tricky situation to be in, and though I don't think we should be concerning ourselves with pop music as much as we should human rights violations, everything in the information society is connected, and as consumers and citizens we need to recognize our duty to discern what is important, and to spread messages that will positively affect our society.

Jon Stewart interviews Malala:

On Miley Cyrus, slut-shaming, and cultural appropriation:

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