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Boycott MTV? It's as shortsighted as Cyrus' decision to twerk at VMAs.

August 26, 2013|By Alexandra Le Tellier

Miley Cyrus twerked during her performance at MTV’s VMAs Sunday night.

OMG, who cares?

It turns out, lots of people. It’s been among Monday’s leading news stories, with critics shaking their heads. As if Cyrus is the first celebrity to use the MTV stage as a platform to shock viewers.

“Media reaction to Cyrus' bump-and-grind veered between disgust and sadness,” writes my colleague Patrick Kevin Day in a post that rounds up some of the criticism, which described the performance as “desperate” and “disturbing.”

Desperate, OK. Cyrus seems to be following in the tradition of Disney child stars who feel compelled to sexualize their image to show they’ve grown up. But was it disturbing? Not really. Twerking may make buttoned-up onlookers such as myself feel uncomfortable, but the provocative dance is part of today’s youth culture.

And Cyrus' nude-colored bikini wasn’t all that big of deal, and, if you ask me, it was far less offensive than Lady Gaga’s meat dress or any VMA guest who’s ever worn pasties instead of an actual top. The only bit that was a bit over the top was Cyrus’ dance with a foam finger, though some feminists argue that there is power in embracing one's sexuality.   

In all, the stunt deserves a chuckle and an eye roll. Cyrus will likely look back on the cringe-worthy performance with some embarrassment, just like how most of us look back at our early 20s and blush.

But Penny Young Nance, president and CEO of Concerned Women for America, argues that Cyrus’ “degrading performance” sends the message to young girls that “they are nothing more than walking private parts.” I didn’t walk away with that impression; still, I respect Nance’s perspective on that point.

Nance, however, takes her argument too far in an Opinion article for Fox News in which she makes a case for boycotting MTV: “This should be the last straw for a station that continues to sabotage the future and innocence of our children. If the cable providers and Congress won’t allow us cable choice, then the least they could do is allow us to drop MTV from our package. I encourage all to call or email your cable provider and ask them to drop MTV.”

By that logic, I would argue that we should boycott ESPN for giving airtime to drug addict athletes, which sends young boys the wrong message. I’d also vote against news channels that trot out anchors wearing too much makeup, which sets up an unrealistic beauty standard for women. But then, where do you draw the line?

Nance argues that consumers can enact change by making decisions with their pocketbooks. “Consumers have power when we use voices and shop our values,” she says.

True, but we can also show our power when we change or block the channel.


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Follow Alexandra Le Tellier on Twitter @alexletellier and Google+

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