What a bunch of twerks!

Why are feminists reducing so-called black culture to a cheeky dance?

Ellamay Russell

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It seems the virtual world is suffering from an ‘achey breaky heart’ after Miley Cyrus, the daughter of country and western star Billy Ray Cyrus, performed a song and dance at MTV’s Video Music Awards (the VMAs). As Miley boasted on Twitter: ‘Smilers! My VMA performance had 306,000 tweets per minute. That’s more than the blackout or Super Bowl!, (sic).’

What was all the fuss about? Miley’s show consisted of a skinny little white girl (Miley) in a Madonna-esque outfit and matching hairstyle dancing on stage with a fellow ‘artist’ called Robin Thicke, notorious for his explicit music video ‘Blurred Lines’. Aside from the fact that the suit Thicke was wearing resembled that of Beetlejuice’s (Thicke even had the same leering attitude as the 1980s film monster), I agree with the Onion that there was nothing interesting about the performance.

Yet if the performance was tedious, the response to it was far worse. The most problematic consequence of Miley’s three-minute raunch-by-numbers has been the global outbreak of pathetic feminism. As a 20-year-old female, I can safely say that feminism comes across to my generation as a heap of bullshit. It seems just about the only thing feminists today agree upon is that it’s good to be nice to women. Congratulations, you are officially right (on).

I first watched the performance having been told that Miley was a fresh teen corrupted by the evils of Hollywood. I was told to expect to be saddened by the sight of a good girl gone bad, a living confirmation of Thicke’s most famous lyric, ‘You’re a good girl, I know you want it’. Yet the reality is rather different. For a start, Miley is not a girl at all. She is a 20-year-old millionaire and is perfectly aware of how she is presenting herself. Thicke himself may have been trying to ride on the back of her fame – not to mention grinding on the back of her arse – but that’s hardly anything new.

Yet the right-on are in hyper-righteous mood. Online magazine and bastion of trendy feminism Jezebel provided a depressing example of how worked-up some have become over three minutes of cheek. One columnist was particularly annoyed by Miley’s seeming appropriation of black culture, especially the ‘twerking’ dance. ‘As a black woman’, she wrote, ‘it’s not that we can’t share. It’s that until such time as black people are not ridiculed and debased for the styles and music and lifestyle that they create, live and breathe, hands off.’

It depresses me to think that this is what constitutes feminism today. I agree that the roar of outrage from commentators and tweeters over the apparent sexualisation of a white girl grates, given that for the past 30 years black women have been dancing half-naked in rap videos to little or no public outcry.

But the problem here is not that the one-time Hannah Montana child star has appropriated black culture as a white thing; no, the problem is that black culture is being reduced to a sexually provocative dance. That is what is really offensive about this Cyrus the Siren furore: the degenerate identity politics of feminism has transformed a racial stereotype – the black woman as sex object – into something to be embraced by, er, black women. Contemporary feminism really is a schizophrenic beast. One minute its proponents are ‘slut-shaming’ and the next they’re shouting ‘you go girl, you work that twerk!’.

A PR stunt has revealed the political poverty of present-day feminists. They really seem to have nothing better to do than bicker over a celebrity strip show. Haven’t they seen Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Rhianna, Madonna? Get over it; we need a new discussion.

Ellamay Russell is an MA student of literature at Sussex University

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