thinking big: feminism, media, and pop culture

Posts Tagged ‘Miley Cyrus’

Why We Should All Be Making a Fuss about Miley’s VMA Moves

In activism, gender, race on August 27, 2013 at 3:03 pm

Phoebe B.

Since the infamous Miley twerking incident at the VMAs, I’ve spent the last couple days following Facebook conversations—mostly by white liberals, of which I am one myself—on Miley’s performance. For the most part, white liberals have spent these threads arguing over whether or not to pay attention to this particular media event and if it really even matters. A few comments have suggested that “well-intentioned white liberals” are overreacting to Miley’s appropriation of black ratchet culture. This brand of dismissal is not only wrong on many counts, but also, I think, a big part of the problem.

Many of the conversations I have been following miss several truly important points about the history of white appropriation of black culture—and erase the participation of black voices from the discussion to boot.

UGH.

UGH.

As Dodai Stewart writes on Jezebel,

“basically, she, as a rich white woman, is “playing” at being a minority specifically from a lower socio-economic level. Along with the gold grill and some hand gestures, Miley straight-up appropriates the accoutrements associated with certain black people on the fringes of society.”

Miley is just one in a long line of stars who have appropriated parts of black culture for their own financial and image-remaking advantage. Indeed, Miley adopts this persona for power and profit, both of which are her reward for said appropriation. In her re-making of herself from Hannah Montana to … well, something else, she unapologetically uses black culture—and a specific vision and part of black culture—as a way to make her appear cool, hard-core, and badass. This brand of appropriation reinforces problematic and harmful stereotypes about black culture and reiterates that it is a-okay for a rich white girl to steal, use, and abuse any part of black culture that she sees fit (as she also de-historicizes and de-politicizes ratchet culture).

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