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Sinéad, You Bring Out the Worst in Feminism

Posted: 10/08/2013 1:34 pm

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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  • February 9, 2013

    BEVERLY HILLS, CA - FEBRUARY 09: Singer Miley Cyrus arrives at Clive Davis & The Recording Academy's 2013 Pre-GRAMMY Gala and Salute to Industry Icons honoring Antonio 'L.A.' Reid at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on February 9, 2013 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

  • February 11, 2013

    NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 14: Miley Cyrus poses backstage at the Marc Jacobs Collection Fall 2013 fashion show during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at New York Armory on February 14, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for Marc Jacobs)

  • February 24, 2013

    WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 24: Singer Miley Cyrus attends the 21st Annual Elton John AIDS Foundation Academy Awards Viewing Party at West Hollywood Park on February 24, 2013 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for EJAF)

  • May 6, 2013

    NEW YORK, NY - MAY 06: Miley Cyrus attends the Costume Institute Gala for the 'PUNK: Chaos to Couture' exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 6, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for The Huffington Post)

  • May 19, 2013

    LAS VEGAS, NV - MAY 19: Miley Cyrus arrives at the 2013 Billboard Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on May 19, 2013 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Getty Images)

  • June 12, 2013

    LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 12: Actress/recording artist Miley Cyrus attends the Myspace Event at the El Rey Theatre on June 12, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

  • June 29, 2013

    MIAMI BEACH, FL - JUNE 29: Miley Cyrus poses at the iHeartRadio Ultimate Pool Party Presented by VISIT FLORIDA at Fontainebleau's BleauLive in Miami on June 29, 2013 in Miami Beach, Florida. (Photo by John Parra/Getty Images for Clear Channel)

  • August 4, 2013

  • August 11, 2013

    UNIVERSAL CITY, CA - AUGUST 11: Singer Miley Cyrus attends the Teen Choice Awards 2013 at Gibson Amphitheatre on August 11, 2013 in Universal City, California. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

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  • August 25, 2013

    NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 25: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) Miley Cyrus attends the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards at the Barclays Center on August 25, 2013 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for MTV)


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