Op-Ed

Let this be the last time you read about twerking

Photo courtesy of Facebook

SAY WHAT YOU will about Miley Cyrus and her less-than-modest performance at the MTV Video Music Awards, but I’d like to contend that she should not be first in the firing line for criticism— though probably not for the reasons you’d think.

So many things were wrong with Cyrus’s twerking performance that the public’s response to it continues to develop. The first reaction was to judge our dear Hannah Montana—the fallen star—for her bad life decisions. What is she doing with her tongue? How could she forget the rest of her clothes? Is her father watching, palm to forehead?

The critique then shifted to the racist aspects of the performance. Cyrus’s newfound image and attempt at ratchet culture shocked millions of viewers. Kate Dries, a writer on the website Groupthink, commented that the use of black women as back-up dancers encouraged the notion that they are “lewd, lascivious, and uncontrollably sexualized,” compared to their pale counterpart in tight, tan-coloured undergarments.

Eventually, the twerk transformed itself into a cautionary tale about pop culture and its influence on young people. The hypersexualization of young stars is certainly problematic, especially for our vulnerable young population who—until recently—knew Cyrus as the sweet actress on the Family Channel. We began to wonder how we’ve allowed the music industry to go so far. Is it even about the music anymore or just the shock value?

Though I agree with most of these commentaries, I recommend some time to reflect on our own responsibility in all of this. The more I read about this story, the more involved I became. I was at first curious, then confused, and finally captivated—trying to solve the puzzle and to understand the true meaning of the performance.

I reckon we’re captivated because the performance is something we can all recognize and identify, but since it doesn’t involve us personally, we think we can put it into a box to authoritatively and unabashedly judge. Meanwhile, thousands are dying in the streets of Syria from chemical weapons reportedly administered by their own government, the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s famous speech 50 years ago has highlighted how little progress has been made in racial equality, and Russia refuses to accept the LGBTQ+ community in the country. We need to dig deeper to understand why we find twerking onstage the most newsworthy phenomenon.

Though hypocrisy oozes from this ink, I think it is still worthwhile to question what videos you will choose to watch when they pop up on your Facebook news feed, what topics you discuss with friends over a pint, and which headlines in the Fulcrum attract you the most. Let’s therefore make a pledge together to consider the time we spend reading, watching, and listening to mindless nonsense, and try to outweigh it with a good dose of honest and authentic stories that impact people’s lives, or maybe even the course of history.