10/15/2013 05:40 EDT | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST

Gloria Steinem Is Wrong: Blame Miley, Not the Game

For those of you living under a rock over the past few months, former Disney child star of the Hannah Montana series, now video vixen, caused a stir with an attention-grabbing performance at the 2013 MTV VMAs.

Miley Cyrus has definitely shed her Disney-friendly image. Alongside a fully-clothed Robin Thicke, whose hit song is criticized for misogyny, the duo made a statement on the sorry state of pop music today. As Miley Cyrus gyrated her scantly clothed body to MTV infamy, older generations of feminists where forced to ponder whether the movement for equality has been set back.

Robin Thicke's rape culture anthem has made him a household name, and Miley Cyrus gained international interest by performing half-naked.

Enter feminism icon Gloria Steinem.

Last week, during the Women's Media Awards, Steinem was asked by Yahoo's Omg! Insider whether she thought Cyrus' risqué VMAs performance and "Wrecking Ball" video were setting the feminist movement back.

The icon and activist answered with a resounding "I don't think so." She expanded on that opinion, saying:

"I wish we didn't have to be nude to be noticed ... But given the game as it exists, women make decisions. For instance, the Miss America contest is in all of its states ... the single greatest source of scholarship money for women in the United States. If a contest based only on appearance was the single greatest source of scholarship money for men, we would be saying, "This is why China wins." You know? It's ridiculous. But that's the way the culture is. I think that we need to change the culture, not blame the people that are playing the only game that exists."

Cringe-worthy rhetoric from a woman who spent a lifetime defying the status quo for the weaker sex. (But not the first).

Notwithstanding the Miss America pageant, which does include both a talent and a tough question component -- something many bottled-blonde beauties are unable to master, the premise that nudity is required to be noticed is a poor explanation.

" Beauty fades. Dumb is forever"
-- Judge Judy.

The latest Miss America, a 24-year-old second-generation American, was on the dean's list at the University of Michigan when she earned the Michigan Merit Award and National Honor Society nods. Nina Davuluri, of Upstate New York, graduated with a degree in brain behaviour and cognitive science. One could argue she got noticed long before she entered the pageant. As Ms. Davulur progresses towards her goal of becoming a physician, her best notable achievements lay ahead.

That said, the TV ratings for Miss America have been in decline for a generation -- a clear sign that the "culture" which reduces bikini-clad women to walking in high heels is changing.


Plenty of female artists are asked forced to increase their bust size, reduce their waistline and plunge their neckline to attain a level of success. However, the gimmick only lasts for a short time, in most cases. Of the top-selling female artists of all time, a small fraction achieved longevity by exploiting their bodies. Even for those who shot to fame with sexually-suggestive lyrics, their longevity was ultimately assured because of their talent.

If Miley Cyrus had the kind of talent that lasts, she wouldn't have to resort to wearing lingerie on the red carpet to sell albums. Do you think a young Céline Dion ever pulled such a stunt? Put simply, the great ones don't have to go there.

Top 20 selling female artists, according to Billboard/Wikipedia.

1. Madonna

2. Whitney Houston

3. Céline Dion

4. Mariah Carey

5. Donna Summer

6. Barbra Streisand

7. Rihanna

8. Tina Turner

9. Linda Ronstadt

10. Olivia Newton-John

11. Janet Jackson

12. Cher

13. Britney Spears (NSFW)

14. Taylor Swift

15. Reba McEntire

16. Lady Gaga

17. Shania Twain

18. Gloria Estefan

19. Aretha Franklin

20. Spice Girls

Gloria Steinem's Cyrus defence seems to be "don't blame the player, blame the game." With little options, Miley Cyrus has been highly effective in manufacturing sexuality to gain attention in this sexist world we live in.

Life has given her lemons in the form of talent -- she is making lemonade, carving her place into the entertainment business. They forgot to ask Steinem whether this sympathetic lens extends to hoodie-wearing black teenage boys, living up to the B.E.T. thug culture. Cyrus doesn't deserve a pass any more than Lil' Wayne does.


Artists always have the choice to take the high road. In some cases, their actions aren't a choice but a compulsion to camouflage their artistic deficiencies. No matter the excuse, the Miley's of the entertainment world don't deserve anyone's justification or ree, ree, ree, ree, respect.

Miley Cyrus' Transformation