I’ve always loved Miley Cyrus like she’s my little cousin or something. I feel like my loyalty to her over the years gives me permission to get pissed off when she says something stupid or, more often, culturally insensitive, because at the end of the day, I still believe she’s a decent person who’ll turn out okay. It’s been really frustrating to see her give interview after interview about how racism is over and she’s free to say anything she wants, indiscriminately and without consequence, because I don’t believe she’s hateful and I don’t believe she’s dumb. I think she’s a college-age person who has a hard time accepting criticism (who the hell doesn’t?), and after reading her latest interview with Tavi Gevinson, I’m really impressed by the progress it looks like she’s made.
The Elle interview starts off pretty typical for Miley: Tavi points out that several black women critics have taken serious issue with the way Bangerz portrays their culture as a joke, or implies that black women’s sexuality is a costume that white girls can try on for fun, and Miley rejects that notion, saying,
I’m definitely not making a joke of it. … A lot of people who have made those comments are older– they were living in a world that was more defined by color. Now that isn’t black culture– that’s just culture in general. That’s pop culture, that’s the way we dance.
Sigh. Our readers obviously don’t need me to explain to them what’s wrong with an extremely rich white woman declaring that racial discrimination no longer exists, so let’s move on to the good part– Miley’s response to Tavi’s follow-up question.
Tavi: What about people who feel you’re appropriating ‘ratchet’ culture to look cool without acknowledging the race and class implications? Do you really think they just give you a hard time because they’re old, and not because these are their lived experiences?
Miley: We actually stepped away from ‘ratchet-ness’ for that reason. … I don’t even love it when girls call each other ‘slut,’ like, ‘Hey slut’ or whatever, but it’s your intention and the way you say it.
Okay! We’re getting somewhere!
She may not be embracing every bit of criticism with open arms, but this quote makes it clear that she’s at least becoming more conscious of the power her words carry. While it’s significantly harder to experience racism and classism in your everyday life than it is to swallow your pride and accept that you’re in a position of privilege, I can empathize with what Miley’s going through here. She has to find a balance between ‘not giving a shit about the haters’ and considering that her actions have the ability to effect our culture as a whole. She probably won’t be writing a textbook on cultural appropriation in the near future, but if she’s able to compare how she feels after being called ‘slut’ to the way someone else might feel after hearing ‘ratchet’ used against them, that’s progress.
I definitely believe that Miley has the capacity to understand this topic more and more over time– and I would look like a bigoted idiot if you had a file of everything I said about class and race and gender when I was younger– so we’re excited to see that she’s growing and evolving. We have faith in you, girl.
Via ONTD / Photo: Getty Images