An African American Woman’s Perspective on the Miley Twerking Thing

Miley’s twerking has been way over-exposed. I didn’t write a post about it because I couldn’t give a crap. She just seemed like she was either pulling an Andy Kaufman on us by looking absolutely ridiculous or she was doing a Bieber and losing her marbles.

However, I came across this pretty awesome post written by an African American woman sociologist on how the performance looked to her. These are the types of posts that make me happy that blogs exist. I learned about an experience I couldn’t begin to fathom since I’m neither racially black nor a woman. I didn’t read all the comments on the post, but there were some disagreements from other black women. I’d say you should probably give her more weight than the average blog, considering her PhD, but also remember that not everyone has the same experience – even people of the same race/sex.

As for the white guys telling her she was imagining everything – as someone who strives to be empathetic, I know enough about myself to know that it is impossible to put myself into the headspace of someone who had such a different life as me. Heck, I even got into arguments with other Hispanics at Cornell over perceived racism/isolation/etc because growing up in Florida – I was actually in a majority minority. So don’t presume you know about others’ experiences, which, of course, are crucial to the way their brain interprets the world. It is, I am positive, the reason for 99% of the disagreements over what’s racist, sexist, etc

3 responses to “An African American Woman’s Perspective on the Miley Twerking Thing”

  1. I was surprised at all the news over Miley’s performance because if you imagined a concert mash-up of the “We Can’t Stop” video and the “Blurred Lines” video – I’m pretty sure it would look exactly like their VMA performance.

    I accept that I don’t have any experience that would give me this understanding, but I am having a hard time understanding any of the commentary saying the performance was racist. Is it just because Miley is a skinny, white girl and her dancers weren’t? Or is it because her black back-up dancers were treated in the way almost all back-up dancers are – kinda like objects? Should Miley have selected dancers of broader diversity? Is it possible these dancers were the best at twerking while maintaining a standard “all back-up dancers look the same”? Wouldn’t she have garnered additional commentary if she used all white dancers while appropriating black culture?

    • Good points. I have no idea. To me it seemed just as ridiculous as the music video for the song. Both show her in an unflattering light. The music video seemed, to me, to clearly be self-mocking. She seemed to be appropriating African American culture in the most ridiculous ways. She seemed like a female version of The Offspring’s “Pretty Fly for a White Guy”.

      As I said, that’s why I wondered if she wasn’t Andy Kaufman-ing us. She couldn’t possibly think she looks anything approaching attractive when she sticks her tongue out like that. It was just over the top.

      I linked to the article above because, as I said, I don’t have the cultural experience to interpret Miley’s actions as racist. I definitely understand if I didn’t write my commentary clearly enough, but I definitely meant it to be reduced to: “Hmm, I didn’t see Miley’s performance the way this woman does. It’s interesting that her life experience and degree lead her to see it in the way she does. When it comes to something like experience (as opposed to science) I think everyone’s viewpoint is valid out of necessity (because it’s the only viewpoint they’re capable of forming – given their life experiences). Lack of understanding this concept is what leads people to talk about ‘frivolous racist accusations’ Or to put it in a way I’ve heard others say in the past, ‘Why do black people always see racism?’ The answer is because enough times in their life it was”

      • I don’t think I was clear in my thoughts behind my comment. It’s troublesome for me that there’s all these feelings, but if Miley had to do it again and attempt to not make people feel this way while keeping her artistic ideal in place – I’m not sure what she would have to change. Or rather, I’m not sure what’s in her performance that’s not in a lot of other music videos and performances.

        Because I (and I’m assuming Miley) don’t have the experiences to recognize a bad message in her performance, I think it’s incredibly hard to avoid a similar mistake in the future. The linked article gives a really nice insight into the author’s experiences, but I still expected more. It still feels a bit like pointing fingers to say she did something terrible, but not saying what exactly was the terrible part.

        And I agree – I think she’s smarter than people give her credit for. And she’s well aware of the ridiculousness she’s presenting.