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Kasia Mychajlowycz  Headshot

Sinéad, You Bring Out the Worst in Feminism

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With all due respect to the bald goddess of all my feelings, screw you, Sinéad O'Connor. Your "open letters" (ie, unsolicited advice for someone you don't know) to Miley Cyrus after she told Rolling Stone that her music video "Wrecking Ball" was inspired by your iconic video, "Nothing Compares to You," is just so much concern-trolling and hypocrisy. You assume a lot about Cyrus' mental health, deny her agency, tell her what her body is and is not for, disrespect sex workers repeatedly, and in the end, sound like the mouthpiece of the patriarchy.

You call Cyrus a "precious young lady." Precious as in valuable, but a value that's precarious, easily lost if at all tarnished, bruised or overused. It's a pretty old trick, used by many an abusive man and institution to control what women do by telling them that their bodies lose value like a car once it's driven off the lot.

Well, whatever Miley Cyrus is, it isn't precious. She got mad and found some ghosts on your Twitter timeline and posted them on hers. Then you struck back again, and -- oh god -- again, threatening legal action (good luck convincing a judge that your own public words quoted constitutes defamation), and admonishing Cyrus for mocking people with mental illness.

You're absolutely right, that kind of stigma kills people, and shame on her. What's bizarre is you don't see how slut-shaming is also lethal. You've never heard of Amanda Todd, or Rehtaeh Parsons, who committed suicide after being ceaselessly mocked for nude photos that emerged on the Internet? Seems like you have some apologizing to do yourself.

Sinéad, your classic protest on SNL, where you tore up a photo of the Pope while singing about child abuse, is one of my earliest memories of activism, and I've carried it in the core of who I am ever since. It's telling that this time, though, you didn't write your letter to the people you call evil, the corporate suits of the music business who, I agree, are vampirising art for profit and who do not give a single fuck as a corporate entity about the well being of artists, Miley Cyrus included. Instead, you pile it all at the feet of a woman you insist is their victim without her even realizing it.

Maybe you didn't want to bite the hand that's fed you for so long, the machine that pumped your record sales up to platinum nine times in your career. I don't blame you -- we all need to get paid in this late-capitalist patriarchal hellscape.

Even "prostitutes," more respectfully known as sex workers, who, by the way, are real people who do real work. I think you owe them an apology too, since vilifying sex work is a big reason women in the oldest profession face higher risks at their job, including murder, police abuse and social isolation.

I'm not getting into the "Is Sinead a feminist? Is Miley a feminist? Am I a feminist?" thing because I don't wield the word like a club badge that can be revoked for non-orthodoxy. But I will say that this spat does not reflect the best of feminism. The part of feminism where we stop parsing every choice a woman makes into the angel/whore dichotomy and instead set our eyes filled with #misandry and rage on the institutions and authorities that really oppress us.

If you really think you're a role model, Sinéad, stop referring to women's bodies as diminishable commodities, and for the love of women, improve your grammar.

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