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Caitlin Kennell Kim, seminary grad, baby wrangler, ordinary radical, writes about the life of a convert in the Catholic Church and explores how faith and everyday life intersect.

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September 3rd, 2013

Dear Miley Cyrus: An Open Letter

 
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miley-cyrusDear Miley Cyrus (and women in their late-teens/early 20s and the me of several years ago),

Hi. It’s me. At the ripe old age of 30-something, I consider myself to be somewhat of an elder stateswoman in the realm of young adult womanhood. After the debacle that was your performance at last Sunday’s MTV VMA’s (which inundated my Facebook feed on Monday morning, which we didn’t see live because 1) we’re old and don’t watch “the MTV” and 2) we have a gaggle of little people for whom that channel is — part and parcel — utterly inappropriate), I think we need to talk. Like right now.

I know you didn’t ask for my advice. Too bad.

Listen … I get it. You want to be seen as a grown woman. Fair enough. The thing is that I’ve learned some stuff over the past decade or so that might be helpful to you. Some of this knowledge was hard won. I’m trying to give you a leg up, sister. I care about you. And, seeing as how we’re both sojourners on the road to figuring out what it means to be a woman in this world, I want to help you. I’ve been on this road longer. And, seeing as I have three little daughters just beginning their respective journeys, I have a stake in your walking it with dignity. Because, for better or worse, your journey is a public one.

So here are my two cents:

  • Womanhood is not defined by sexual availability to men. I understand that you’re trying to shed your teeny bopper, Hannah Montana image. I understand that you want to announce to the world that you‘re an adult woman. But being a woman does not mean being an object. Being a woman does not mean advertising your willingness (implied and explicit) to engage in various and sundry sex acts with whomever, whatever, whenever, wherever. You have dignity. God made you. You are not defined by your sexual availability to men. You are precious. You are not a means to an end. You are an end in and of yourself. You bear the divine image.
  • Lift as you climb. Right now (right this very second) there are thousands of Hannah Montana backpacks hanging in cubbies, lockers, and on little shoulders around this country. Girls look up to you. Many of them want to be like you. Whether you like it or not and whether you think it’s fair or not, when you engage in hypersexualized behavior you contribute to a culture which hypersexualizes children. This is a form of violence. This is serious. You have the right to grow up. You have the responsibility to do so in a way that doesn’t threaten the safety (emotional, spiritual, psychological, and physical) of the little girls who have made you the commercial success that you are. Whether famous or not, we are (all of us) accountable for each other. As we scale the rocky road of womanhood, we need to lift each other up and help each other find safe passage.
  • Beware. The kind of man attracted to a woman who debases herself, disrespects herself, and devalues herself is not a man worth having. Period. The End.
  • The power to elicit lust is not power. Not really, anyway. It might feel good to be able to violently grab the attention of others by provoking lust, but lust is flame that will eventually devour itself … and those caught up in it. Beauty is different. Beauty is noble. It inspires. It alleviates our weariness. It lifts our hearts up to God, the author of all beauty. Beauty is not violent or forceful. Beauty does not strive to dominate. Seek beauty. Real beauty.
  • Casual sex is not a sign of gender equality. I have heard it proffered that women should free themselves from the shackles of oppressive ideas about female sexuality by having sex like men (the subtext of which is having lots of casual sex without the hassle of emotional attachment). This is not having sex like a man … this is having sex like a particularly BAD man. Sexuality is powerful (and indeed a truly good and holy part of what it means to be a human person), but you are not empowering yourself or other women by advancing the notion that sex is akin to a recreational sport like table tennis or racquetball. You did not appear to me to be an empowered woman in the context of last Sunday’s performance. You seemed to me to be a young woman who doesn’t understand when she’s being used … used to create media hype and used to make a quick buck. That’s exploitation.

I know that you are not the only one putting forth these harmful ideas about women, but I remember seeing you on TV as a young girl. You were not so different from my girls. I fear that you don’t have good people around you who have your best interest at heart. It seems to me you could use some sisterly advice. This road you’re on is fraught with snares, detours, and pitfalls. Proceed with caution. I’m praying for you.

Warmly,

Me

 
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The Author : Caitlin Kennell Kim
Caitlin Kennell Kim is a full-time baby wrangler, writer, and ponderer of all things theological. She earned her Masters of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry and Theology from Union Theological Seminary in New York City. She currently lives in Northeast Ohio with her husband and their four small children.
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Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • Marie Shanahan

    I hope to God someone grabs here in time. I look at her and I cringe. Something terrible is going to happen to her (even worse than where she is now) if someone doesn’t get through to her in some way. Even if it is a thin, life line, it has to be something. I didn’t appreciate Madonna, Gaga or Britney Spears when they worked smut into their acts, either, particularly. Most people didn’t. But they at least tried to make it “artistic-ish.” Miley Cyrus is basically fondling herself – any everyone else – on stage – including teddy bears, dolls and sledgehammers. Something happened or is happening to her. I think she’s some kind of emergency. Poor kid.

  • kmd90

    Good job on saying absolutely nothing about her racist exploitation of black women: use of black women as props, slapping the butt of a black woman she didn’t know and simulating analingus of that same woman.
    Or maybe #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen ?

    • Caitlin Kennell Kim

      Hey, kmd90… you’re absolutely and unequivocally right. Thanks for calling me on that. #SolidarityIsForEVERYWoman #IGotSchooled

    • K Jackson

      I’m sorry, KMD90, but I don’t get the need to insert race into this conversation. This letter is about gender. It’s about women. ALL of us. And frankly, I didn’t notice the eye, hair, or skin color of the women gyrating around with Miley. I just saw women. Maybe I’m ignorant because I haven’t walked in your shoes (and if you feel that way, I do apologize and respect your opinion) but I think that as long as race is made to be an issue, it will always BE an issue. I know there are definitely times when conversations about race and equality need to come up, but THIS conversation isn’t about race, it’s about how women don’t want to be objectified. As women, we need to stand TOGETHER and inserting differences only separates us.

      • kmd90

        I (and the many, many Black women who have written about the racism in Cyrus’ performance) am not inserting race. Race is there. Ignoring it is your privilege as a white woman, but that is wrong and means you are separating yourself from the majority of the world’s population and insisting that they only deal with the things that are relevant to you.

  • Holly Todd

    Plus pray for Miley. She has at one point given her heart to God. So she is our sister in the Lord, and a sweet daughter of the King. We were all broken daughters when away from Him, so lets pray and call out the gold in eachother.

  • Inés Santos

    Even if Miley is too engrossed pursuing her next ‘venture’ to read your letter, I pray other young women will have read your comments and take time to meditate (for an instant at least) on their young lives and where they want to be as women, leaders, mothers , executives, etc. (yes even as entertainers). Life’s satisfaction is not static..it moves and changes so rapidly…young women need to value their role in this world and not forsake it for the ‘quickies’, as these too also pass away in the blink of an eye.

  • Nancy Roach

    Well said.
    Thank you,
    NR

  • Erin McClain

    Amen! I’m a 51 year-old virgin (how quaint in today’s society) and I still believe with all my heart your “two cents worth.” Thank you for speaking the Truth! How about a follow-up article on Alan Thicke and his part in dummying down the chivalry and masculinity of today’s young men thru his pornographic musical “art.”

  • Pat

    well-written, Caitlin…I hope Miley reads it!…save it…It’s important to have this same conversation with your three daughters…I hope everyone is well…peace and good…

  • B Anne George

    OMG so on target. It might not be the popular opinion, but the truth hurts.

  • disqus_bwLdEewGFT

    June Cleaver would be so proud of your opinion….how 1952 of you.

    • Nirva’ana Delacruz

      which is actually a good thing. :)

    • Nancy Roach

      Self Respect and dignity can time travel.

  • Mary Reisman

    Amazingly well said, Caitlin. Thank you. My 10 yr old stepdaughter came home from school the Tues after the VMAs and said the performance was the talk of the playground… In the world of Wi-Fi and iPods what’s stopping her or her friends from seeing it. I may let her read this post when she asks me questions about it!

    • Nirva’ana Delacruz

      ughh..the talk of the..playground. hahah.. *shakes head

  • Sunny555

    I’m sure Miley is reading this and amending her ways at this very minute… reality is that she may not understand this until she is 30. I didn’t.

  • SusieQGuru

    A great message for all young women!

  • Terri Blumatte

    Thank you for this letter. I agree with you 100%. Thank God that some parents have some common sense. It seems. Billy Ray needed parenting classes

  • pburg

    Thank you! Now if only I could go back in time 15 years and get my younger self to read this.

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