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Miley Cyrus – next teen victim of the “blame and shame” game.

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This week I have been asked numerous times to comment on Disney’s 15 year old poster girl Miley Cyrus  ( a.k.a Hannah Montana) . There has been much controversy surrounding her provocative Vanity Fair photo shoot and revealing My Space photos.

Mmm…well here are a few thoughts.

First up, the magazine shoot. Most commentators seem to be debating whether she knew she was posing in a provocative way or whether she was in fact duped by Vanity Fair ( she claims they mislead her and she had been told the images would look arty not sensual). Isn’t this missing the point? For me, the real question is: what makes it ok for an adult magazine to publish images of a 15 year old girl looking so sensual and post-coital? Even if she had knowingly posed for these – this does not excuse the adults involved (both at the magazine and within Miley’s team of advisors and minders) for encouraging her to represent herself  in such an age inappropriate way. Why is Miley the one coping the flack?

Interestingly, her risque My Space pages have been leaked at exactly the same time. As evidence that she is wayward? I have viewed these, most are average pictures of a young teen in love mucking about with a boy and with her girlfriends. She seems to be exploring her budding sexuality, I can understand that. She is 15. By 15 – I had a boyfriend, I played at pouting, posing. She may well have been sick of the “perfect girl” pressure that can overwhelm all our young women. Working for Disney must amp up the pressure to be perfect by a million. 

In her own “space” she is breaking free. Thank goodness that in my day we did not have inexpensive digital cameras that make it far too easy to take and post images that are best not recorded for posterity!

On the one hand our young people seem so very grown up and IT savvy, yet they can also be incredibly naive – particularly about the possible ramifications of what they post and share on line. They think they can play around, explore, and take images that will be forever “just for their friends” to see. Nothing in cyber world is truly private forever. 

The truth? Miley is not “God’s Police” as Disney would have us believe. Nor is she a “Damned Whore”. And oh how her fans have turned on her – we hate the perfect girl when she messes up.  

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She was merely mislead and foolish. Sadly, she may have done irreparable damage to her career and reputation as society will not quickly forgive the “girl slut”. Take the recent Big 21 story in Queensland – would a group of 17 year old boys forming a “boys club” and bragging about their drinking and sexual exploits have made national news?

The other important lesson from all this – some of her My Space pictures are alarming as it is sad that she thinks playing at grown ups means flashing her bra and knickers. But let’s be realistic – at the moment – it does! She is wearing more than many of the Bratz dolls we give our pre-schoolers.

If we are going to be shocked and offended by Miley, then we are hypocrites. We reap what we sow.

And I think we need to be VERY careful in any debate featuring young people at playing sexy that we DO NOT shame them. They are victims too.

However, we can shame the Bratz developers, advertisers and all other adults who push the “women as sex object” line onto our children.

Which leads me to sharing the following article with you. It discusses the truly shameful cyber sites we should all be really worried about.

I will save my rage for Miss Bimbo – and just hope Miley gets new advisors and a big hug.  

Thank you to Melinda Tankard Reist for this guest post…

A half-starved bimbo is not a cool role model for girls

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“What do you want to be when you grow up darling?” a mother asks her little girl.

“A Bimbo!” she replies enthusiastically.

Forget dreams of your precious daughter growing up to be Prime Minister or solving world poverty. Young girls are being given the message that their ultimate aim in life is to be a bimbo.

If it’s not enough that Paris Hilton has been lauded as the ultimate role model for girls, now there’s a new virtual fashion game to help them become “the coolest, richest and most famous bimbo in the whole world.”

It’s the sluts-r-us approach to childhood play.

Miss Bimbo requires the purchase of plastic surgery and “essentials” like motivational weight loss products for the girl’s virtual persona to win.

Each player is given $1000 bimbo dollars. Your bimbo is hungry? Buy her some diet pills – the first item on the food menu and “the easier way to eat.” They’ll help her stay “waif thin”. Since when did diet pills become food?

(Because of the international outrage over the diet pills, Miss Bimbo’s creators have since removed them from the food list. That’s very noble and all, but they should never have been there in the first place).

Miss Bimbo has to get bigger breasts or she’s got no chance of winning. “Bigger is better!” the pre-pubescent youngster is told. Does she lose points if her implants start leaking? We’re not told.

A study late last year found one in four Australian 12-year-old girls wanted to get cosmetic surgery. A Queensland surgeon says more young girls are expressing a desire to achieve the same look at the implant stuffed ex-Big Brother housemate Krystal Forscutt.

Can’t we offer girls more than an aspiration to be Miss Silicone 2008?

The site’s fashion shop offers lingerie for little girls to buy for their bimbo.
Girls can earn extra “attitude” points by buying a makeover and putting their character on a tanning bed. I wonder if points are deducted if Miss Bimbo gets cancer?

The “French kiss game” involves kissing boys in Club Bimbo where they can “dance, flirt and maybe meet a handsome Boyfriend”. Just click the “go flirting” button and our primary schoolers are on their way. “Your boyfriend will (hopefully) give you some money every day because he loves you”. Sounds more like a pimp than a boyfriend. At higher levels, girls must seduce a billionaire on vacation.

Last I checked, the player in the lead was 10-years-old.

The “Miss Bimbo” game helps entrench the belief that a girl’s sexual prowess is her main appeal – even if she’s only six, the age one player registered last month.

The game promotes being sexy and hot as the ultimate ideal for girls, diminishing their value and worth. It makes them think they have to be a bimbo to deserve attention and admiration. This puts under-age girls especially, in danger.

The game also turns girls against each other by competing to be the bimbo who “skyrockets to the top of fame and popularity.” Victims of school-yard bullying and the bitchiness of other girls are vulnerable to feeling even more self-hatred because of this game.

Should we be surprised when we learn that school girls are ranking each other for hotness and popularity and wearing their ranking on their writs, as emerged recently at a private girl’s school in Mackay? Girls who flunk out and receive low rankings end up victims of exclusion and cyber bullying when results are posted around the world.

The site’s all-male founders say the bimbo’s goals are “morally sound”. Which part of “morally sound” don’t they understand?

The game is irresponsible. Research shows that the objectification and sexualisation of girls and young women is contributing to eating disorders, self-harm, depression, anxiety, low self-esteem and poor academic performance.
This game feeds on the body angst of girls. “You want to turn heads on the beach don’t you?” players are asked. And if you don’t, there must be something wrong with you.

Eating disorder experts say the game is as lethal as websites promoting anorexia. In Australia, eight-year-olds are being hospitalised with the disease. Games like this fuel a climate which makes girls feel they have to look like stick insects to be acceptable.

Why can’t game makers come up with games that make girls feel good about themselves rather than selling a message damaging to their health and wellbeing?

Melinda Tankard Reist is an author and director of Women’s Forum Australia (www.womensforumaustralia.org)

Published inCyber world / BullyingMediaSexualisation of children

10 Comments

  1. Melinda Liszewski

    re: miss bimbo

    the developers removed the diet pills but somehow the breast implants are ok to stay? Where is the logic in this?

    and i agree about miley cyrus….how can they blame her? She is following the advice of those who are supposed to be older and wiser and she is being exploited.

  2. Claire Clements

    re: Miley’s photo shoot

    My first reaction, when I heard that Miley was saying she was embarrassed by these photos, was “hold on, surely if people were asking you to take your top off and look at the camera sensually and you didn’t feel comfortable about this then you should have spoken up then” and apparently Billy Ray was on set while they were being taken so he could have spoken up to. Annie Lebowitz is a professional and very good photographer so if I don’t like the fact that she agreed to the poses and then says she’s embarrassed by them. If she had come out saying they look artistic and actually quite vulnerable rather than sensual then people may not have blown up like they did, I mean, because she has doubted them then others are doubting them. Confidence may have gone a long way here, and we know she has plenty of that. And let’s not forget that these are in fact Vanity Fair, not playboy, photos.

    However, I do agree that it is a strange thing to be asking a 15 year old girl to strip off and pose such and even Lebowitz had her artistic reasons and is a good photographer, it could have saved a lot of trouble and questions if they had just done some artistic clothed shots. Although, now that I look at the shots again, I’m actually getting an image of a scared little girl who’s been stripped of her fame and is in such a vulnerable position and could be hurt easily.

    Hmm… art.

    I’m not even going to comment on the Miss Bimbo site – there are no words for such horrible horrible things.

  3. Claire Clements

    Sorry, my above comment has a lot of errors it :S

  4. Claire I do not think we can assume as you do here that Miley has lots of confidence – we know that many girls project “I am FINE!!” while they silently suffer. Furthermore, even if she is a very confident young lady it would not be easy to say no in a room full of adults who are all saying it is “fabulous!”.

    I like your point about her father – yes, he could and should have set some boundaries. Adults have a responsibility to help teens work through all the possible ramifications of their decison making. I would have expected the aults in her life, all veterans in the fame / PR game, to have thought this through more carefully.

    I must also take issue with you saying it is perhaps not as disturbing as the images were for Vanity Fair and not for Playboy. I think this makes it more alarming – mainstream magazines should not be presenting images of 15 year old girls that resemble those taken in adult magazines! Too many images that are exploitive are justified in the name of “art”. Art may be beautiful, challenging, interesting, evocative – yet surely not exploitive? We know these images are exploitive as the subject has said she is not comfortable with them.

    Thank you for offering opinions that helped me to reaffirm my own views Clarie. I want Butterfly Effect to be filled with various viewpoints so we can all think and grow together.

    AND model to young women what healthy debate looks like! 🙂

  5. Claire Clements

    Very true, Danni, very true. I guess it’s a bit silly for people to make all these judgements in the first place without having actually being there and knowing the situation in full, so many different versions get spread around through the magazine and so sometimes you think one thing and then find out you were wrong.

    I am always happy to be proven wrong and I agree that healthy debate is needed if our minds our to broaden. Thanks for giving me another view of the situation 🙂 I am actually starting to see it all in a different light.

  6. Sonia Lyne

    Oh the bimbo game – ARRRRGGGHHH! Sadly I have just jumped online to check out this game and there are 783 online players and 552 145 registered users. I know I count as one online user but 782 girls are more than likely engrossed in this destructive game.

    I agree Melinda with your final comment in regards to game makers creating more positive outcome games. As Jean Kilbourne says, “We are becoming a society that trivialises relationships and encourages young people to envy and compete with their friends.” I’m sure most would agree we want more than this … it can no longer be seen as tongue-in-cheek humour. This is an example of gone-to-far.

  7. Storm Greenhill-Brown

    I find it a sinister image of Miley Cyrus to say the least. She is portrayed in virginal white, ribs protruding, lips stained crimson red, wild bed hair. This is an absolute portrayal of innocence-sexual and social-that has been tainted and destroyed. Is this the statement Annie Lebowitz is making? A child who has been sold out by the media and the adults in her life? I doubt though that this is the message that our young girls, some who have not reached puberty yet, will read from this photo. Was it to create another “grown-up” more serious side to her so she will be cast in other roles? No matter what the photo’s intention the underlying message is clear. This is a girl adrift in a highly sexualized world, why should the public see these moments in a girls life? Moments that should be private and meaningful. Any girl would be embarrassed for the world to see such vulnerability especially when at this age you have no true sense of self or of your own power. As a teen I so vividly remember thinking one thing and then being gutted when the reality was so vastly different from what I’d imagined.I hope the adults in Miley’s life feel very ashamed that they have let her down so badly.

  8. ggslibtech

    The only way I could see the makers of Miss Bimbo coming out with any credibility would be if they were trying to make a point about our society rather than feeding the problem, but by letting anyone other than adults register (and through the public comments they make to criticisms, obviously) they are clearly demonstrating what a degenerate bunch of creeps they really are. I just can’t stomach the fact that there are actually people within the society (apparently not in the minority either) who actually believe and promote the garbage these people are peddling.

    P.S. Ever since the arrival of the ‘Bratz’ dolls, I have enforced a strict boycott on them (and spit when I say the brand 🙂 ) as they sexualise images of babies and young children. By combining the large head to body ratio, receding chin, large forehead, small nose and large eyes of a baby with the sexual imagery of red lips and dilated pupils to indicate physiological arousal, and the skanky clothes, these dolls encourage the sexualisation of children. They encourage children to behave in ways which they do not understand but which are sexualised behaviours, and encourage adults (of the creepy paedophile kind) to see the sexualisation of children as normal. Lets not forget there is also a Bratz clothing range, and they are not the only inappropriately sexualised clothing range. A few years ago I encountered fake leather pants for the under fives – there is no way that is right.

  9. Welcome ggslibtech!

    I had actually forgotten the Bratz clothing range extended to real life clothing for girls. I can only hope it does not also include the fishnets, killer heels and chains so favoured in the doll range!
    I bought a male Bratz doll once as a point of comparison to show the girls we work with – he had on a collared shirt, tie, vest ( vest! how many teen boys wear vests?) long pants and sensible shoes. He couldn’t have had any more clothes ON if he tried!
    There is hope. At my last event with Year 9 girls in Canberra when I showed a slide featuring skanky Bratz dolls, they all started boo-ing and were adament that the whole look – bloated lips and all – was highly inappropriate.

  10. Jessica

    I think it’s crazy that everybody makes a big deal about girls. Our teenagers should be able to feel good about themselves, and do whatever they want to do in life, no matter what they look like. You don’t need implants to make you feel better, you just need to learn to live with yourself and have confidence in yourself because you ARE beautiful just the way you are. Once you truly believe that, no one can stop you!

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