Now, forget for a moment that I don’t actually have a son, or any child of my own actually. But I do have a brother and a nephew and lots of little guys that I adore, and this applies to them.
I’m not going to sit here and tell you I think Miley Cyrus’ VMA performance was good. I’m not going to tell you I think it was appropriate. I’m also not going to say she’s desperate, slutty, talented, untalented, a good role model, or a bad role model. Plenty of people have shared those opinions in the past 48 hours, the world doesn’t need mine. However, she’s a real girl with real feelings and she’s certainly more than just this one performance or year in her life.
I don’t have cable anymore, so I didn’t see the VMAs but I did notice my facebook feed was filled with comments about Justin Timberlake. Then, comments on Miley Cyrus and her performance with Robin Thicke started to crop up as well. Without even seeing the performance (I did find it online later), I already had a gut-reaction. Where is the criticism for Robin Thicke? No one is calling him trashy, pathetic, attention seeking, or talentless. If anything, he’s receiving the opposite reaction for his role-sympathy. I saw headlines like “Miley’s dance won’t damage Robin” and “Robin Thicke’s mother: ‘I can’t unsee it’”- as if no one thinks they didn’t rehearse that? He was not surprised by her hyper-sexual performance. It was orchestrated, for attention and publicity (um, it worked). Miley is 20, Robin is 36. He’s nearly old enough to be her father. Old enough to know and accept the consequences of his actions. The song they performed, his hit, “Blurred Lines” has already been controversial for its video (full of topless women while the men remain fully clothed) and its lyrics, which at worst are mildly rape-y and at best only continue to perpetuate stereotypes that being sexual is for bad girls, and that all good girls secretly want to be bad girls, and when she says no she really means yes. Gee, what a great message to send to our youth today. If a girl dances on you at a club, she must want to go further.
Our culture perpetuates a narrative that girls are either innocent or evil, virgin or temptress. We criticize Taylor Swift’s penchant for fairy tales but society will only let her be that or a Britney (or, Miley). If a girl gets drunk and passes out, is it ok to have sex with her? Dr. Phil tweeted that recently, I assume to start a dialogue (and probably get some publicity). But why do we even need to discuss it? Why is it even an issue that the answer could be anything other than NO?
If a girl gets drunk and passes out, well, she should have made better choices. Oh, I’m sorry, men never have too much to drink? If she wears a low cut top or short skirt because she has great legs, and a man cat-calls her or grabs her ass, then she shouldn’t have tempted him. Doesn’t she want people to look? If a guy buys her a drink or dinner, she’s obligated to at least give him a little kiss. Or more. If a guy and girl dance at a club, she must want him to take her home. Maybe she just loves to dance, y’all! If a man and a woman participate in a scandalous performance, the man gets to save face while the girl takes all the crap and women tell their daughters they better not grow up to be like her (unladylike and desperate). Why aren’t we also telling our sons not to be like Robin Thicke? A 36 year old man who performed with a 20 year old girl not because he thinks she’s super talented, but to use her as a tool to get himself more publicity? To let her dance around scantily clad while he remains fully clothed? Implying she’s a “good girl gone bad”-I mean, what the heck does that even mean?
So, Son/nephew/brother/young man I adore: Please do not act like Robin Thicke. No woman is responsible for your actions/choices. You are responsible for your own actions, your words, your thoughts, and your feelings. YOU. Take that responsibility seriously. A woman doesn’t owe you anything, no matter how much money you spend on her. Do not objectify women based on their bodies. Do not assume that all women are going to want you, and also realize that sex is not a woman’s sole purpose in your life. I want you to appreciate a girl for her intelligence and her talents, not just her face or her body (it’s okay if you like those too, but those things don’t last and aren’t the most important thing about her-make sure you tell her that, too). I want you to have conversations with her. Ask her what she thinks about movies, music, politics, and food. Take the time to learn what she likes. Listen to her. Remember what she tells you. She will like that.
Please be the kind of boy that will sit with the drunk girl at the party and make sure she gets home okay or that she sleeps it off and no one bothers her. Most people make poor choices at least once in our lives. If someone tries to bother her, especially if they try and perform sexual acts on her while she can’t consent, please stand up for her and/or call an adult if necessary. If you stand there and videotape it, I’m warning you now, I’ll kick your ass.
If a girl wears a low top or short skirt, don’t stare. Tell her she has nice eyes instead. Don’t ever assume that a girl wants you to touch her or kiss her because of what she’s wearing or how much she’s had to drink. If you’re ever not sure, it’s better to be respectful if there are “blurred lines.” Being a gentleman: Never the wrong thing to do.
Do not be entitled. Be compassionate. Look out for the little guy (or girl). Be responsible for your actions and respectful of yourself and others. You are going to meet many people in this world, male and female, gay and straight, old and young, of many races and religions. People who are different from you can teach you a lot-about yourself, how you see the world, and what your place in it will be. Learn something from everyone. Especially from your favorite Aunt, Miss July. I’m the best. But you already know that.
And just don’t ever, ever, EVER perform at the VMA’s. It’s probably a bad idea.