Wednesday, August 28, 2013

What Miley Can Teach Us

Miley Cyrus photo: Miley Cyrus MileyCyrus1st1_zps1c751e36.png
Miley Cyrus. Photo Credit: Photobucket.
The last few days have seen a flurry of activity in the news, online, and in the blog world about Miley Cyrus and her performance at the VMA's. I won't link to any of that because you can find it if you're interested.  I have not seen the show nor the clips, but the descriptions some people gave and a few pictures I've seen are more than enough to both anger me and break my heart.

Forgive me for using a poor phrase, but some say I don't have a dog in the fight because I don't have any daughters of my own, nor do I have sons who would be caught up in that temptation. True. My son isn't "into" dating or even noticing girls for more than half a second. His world consists of food, sleeping, and music for the most part. I do however, have two young nieces growing up in this world and I know friends with daughters at this time. My concern isn't just for the young ladies I'm related to. I'm concerned about them all.

One post I read mentioned that parents who allow their children to watch MTV should expect some filth. That is a true statement, but filth has permeated more than just that arena. Magazines and ads geared toward teens and tweens encourage provocative dress. A movie I watched on Netflix recently about a coach who dared to try and teach his basketball team educational and personal responsibility showed a school dance scene that included a girl of 15, 16 years of age simulating a sex act with a boy. Some just call that "harmless dancing." And shows like Toddlers and Tiaras or a trip to the beach teach us that  risque and "mature" outfits are being pushed on the babies and the preschool set as well. Because little Dolly looks so "Cute!!!" in that little bikini with the ruffled bottom or the sequined strapless gown on the four year old with the 25 year old made up face.

 True, there is more to girls than the clothes covering her body or how she acts in public. But. While I think it's great (up to a point) that young ladies are taught that they are beautiful (they all are. Every. Last. One.) and they should be free to express themselves in the way they dress and how they conduct themselves in private as well as public, I think a huge piece of the puzzle is missing: Self Respect. And with it, Self Esteem.

Years ago, when Miley was a rising Disney star, her father, Billy Ray Cyrus, had concerns that his daughter not turn out like another Britney. Fast forward to the present. I do not know his reaction to his daughter's sex act onstage in front of the world (that's what it was, folks. Plain and simple). No one bothered mentioning him. Her mother however, stood up and applauded. Applauded! Had she been my daughter I would have stood up as well --and marched up onto the stage to yank the little princess backstage. I don't care that she's 20 years old now. And i would have wondered about myself: Did I teach her as well as I could have? Did I tell her "no" when she needed to hear it and stand firm on that no? And a million other questions. I'm not totally laying the blame on Miley's parents. Like most of us, I'm sure they did the best they could in teaching her and did what they thought was best. Hollywood, the rest of the media, and Miley herself have their share of responsibility as well.  And while the focus is on Ms. Cyrus lately, she isn't the only one who thinks that exploiting her own body is the way to get attention and sell music. Lady Gaga, Madonna, Katy Perry, and even Taylor Swift has abandoned her sweet, romantic persona for angry and sexy. 

So what are we as parents, aunts, mentors and friends supposed to do in order to combat this era of women being seen only as a thing to be used and tossed aside?

  • Pray. Pray for our children, both male and female, from the moment they are conceived and continually thereafter.
  • Take them to Church.  Raise them up in the church. Teach them from Day One about the love of God, and Jesus who died for all our sins. Fill them with the Word.
  • Be a Role Model.  If they see how important our Heavenly Father is to you, and how you handle yourself in and out of public, they will pay attention. On the other hand, if you say that Gaga's outfits are outlandish and yet your skirts are a little too tight or too short, they notice that as well. True they have to make up their own minds, but the more positive influence that kids and even young adults have in their lives, the harder it is for Satan and his Hollywood influence to poison them.
  • Teach them that self love does not equate to self degradation or the degradation of others. The world is teaching our girls that in short, they are nothing but a sex object. Or that they should be. Objects are things to be used and discarded when no longer deemed useful. We should be combating the very idea that girls need to show a lot of skin or act in a lascivious manner in order to be noticed and loved. Modesty in both dress and action should be lauded. Unfortunately, girls are taught that it's okay to have sex at a young age, and society praises them for it. When they do have sex, the boy gets what he wants and discards her for another conquest when he's tired of it or she gets pregnant. Once pregnant she must either decide to give the baby up for adoption, raise the baby herself (often but not always with the help of family) or she is convinced to abort the child. In each case, she must grow up all too quickly. Our boys should be taught as well that women are not to be treated as sex objects to be used and abused. Respect needs to be taught on both sides of that fence.
  • Tell them NO. And stick by that. It is not the end of the world if a child misses out on a party or an outfit or whatever. They will live. Even teens need boundaries. Will they continue to push them? Yup. Will they be defiant at times and do or buy what they want anyway? You bet. And hopefully you handle it, not by giving in, but through discussion, discipline, and consistency.
  • Educate them.  Not just ABCs and 1+1+2, although a good well rounded education in which they are taught how to think and reason for themselves and not just spitting back answers so that exams can be passed, is a very good thing to have. Teach them how to care for themselves. Teach the girls as well as the boys how to change a tire, how to do minor repairs around the house, how to find the North star. Teach them that they are very valuable, and that valuable things should not be given so cheaply.  Teach them that they should strive to be healthy, not skinny enough to fit society's standard of the day.  Teach them to honor God and to pursue their goals. Sadly this has to be the case, but also teach them that their are wolves out there who want nothing more than to hurt them in some way, and also teach them how to protect themselves from it. There are many sweet, loving, kind people out there, including men and boys, but girls need to know the signs of those who would only abuse them.
  • And finally, Be there for them.  If you are the parent, aunt, mentor, or other woman of authority, that is your first responsibility. Being their friend can be part of that, but they need a Mama first. Guide them. Teach them. Be available. I know it isn't easy sometimes, but find the balance between standing firm and being approachable so they can come to you to talk. About anything. Some conversations are going to be hard, for both of you, but this is very important to keep the lines of communication open.

I stated earlier that I was both angry and saddened at Miley's actions that night. And I still am. I'm both heartbroken and furious that this child thinks that the way to acceptance and popularity and adulthood is this type of behavior. I'm outraged and upset that the media and society at large thinks this is "liberating" for women and a good thing, and I'm disgusted that there are those who think it's better to let a child do what she wants than to "Judge." 
    I'm not naive enough to think that if everyone followed scripture and my suggestions the whole world will be rosy and happy and all young ladies will dress and act modestly and all young men will be respectful. There is a thing that we all possess, called "Free Will," given to us by our Creator. We can be taught what is good, what is noble, what is lovely, but we are able to choose for ourselves whether we do right or wrong. We seem to have gotten that lesson loud and clear here in this country. What I fear we've neglected is that with free will comes responsibility and consequence. Instead of consequence, we tend to hide our heads in the sand or pass the buck. And this is where we have failed young Miley and those who are heading down that same path.  
 It's not too late for Miley or all the others to be taught. Or maybe she was and just chose not to listen. I don't know. But its still not too late.

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