On Miley Cyrus again, choosing anger over indifference.
We all know what happened at the VMA’s already, it’s been days. Accessorizing at the expense of marginalized groups, objectifying the bodies of women of color (such an essential component of the music industry nowadays) this slapping, this sexism, this racism caused a lot of anger.
This is good news for those who care about social justice. I am sad about this spectacle, but I am glad there was anger.
I am not talking about the anger expressed by parent-council sections, or segments who where raging against Miley’s “trashy” moves, her hyper-sexuality, her loss of innocence. This anger was not directed against the racism, but rather against Miley’s failure to model how a white, privileged woman should act.
We also have those who were angry against the sexism of the performance, and yes, we could agree that the performance was very sexist, but this anger does not cover the whole field.
Those who expressed anger at the sexism and racism of the performance, those who realized that, hey, Miley is appropriating from negative rather than positive stereotypes of black culture and helping stabilize and perpetuate negative stereotypes of an already marginalized group, those, I would say, are expressing resistance, a good form of anger. We should be angry at this spectacle. Not at a twenty year old girl, yes at this spectacle.
Anger is not always a negative pathology. Bell Hooks who grew up in the south, who suffered from the consequences of racism and sexism most of her life, who was always told not to act angry, constantly makes this point in her book Killing Rage were she writes:
Confronting my rage, witnessing the way it moved me to grow and change, I understood intimately that it had the potential not only to destroy but also to construct. Then and now I understand rage to be a necessary aspect of resistance struggle. Rage can act as a cataliysist inspiring courageous action. ( 1995: 17)
When a white woman is used by the media to perform and perpetuate negative stereotypes of black women, of black culture, just to look edgy at the expense of such group, we should be expressing our anger publicly. It is the least we can do for solidarity. Yes, there is so much more we can do for solidarity, but this is the least you can do. Do it. Get angry.
Part of colonizing teaches us to repress our rage, so acceptance of certain spectacles and indifference to certain spectacles becomes a form of complicity. A commitment to justice is actually a great motive to get angry, regardless it was caused by a Miley Cyrus performance. Growing up as a woman in a hyper sexualized, machista, latin american country, I know my own rage has helped me grow and change. It had the potential not only to destroy but also to construct healthier meanings and healthier models in my own life.
So why is it so difficult to accept that many women got angry after Miley’s performance? Why all the feminist mocking? Is it because we live in a culture where anger expresses despair and is characteristic of oppressed, marginalized groups? Barbara Einrich in her book Bright Sided makes a point about the toxic positivity of contemporary life highlighting how failure becomes a consequence of a bad attitude, anger, acting negative etc. rather than a consequence of structural conditions. (2009:13) and following this line of thought, those who mock at other people’s sensitivity, at their anger, might just be contributing to the ideology of the positive, the idea that getting angry is for losers with a bad attitude.
For those indifferent to the whole thing. For those who would rather keep a good attitude because they have the privilege to not get angry. For those who have a problem with the sensitivity or (excuse me) hyper-sensitivity expressed after Miley’s performance by feminists. For those who feel somewhat superior to those who felt anger, for those who engage in “angry feminist” bashing on blogs, for those who think that it’s all click baiting and that is all there is, and there is nothing more to it- that all we are is an eye ball clicking…Well, all I can assume is that you just don’t get angry, that you have a good attitude, that your structural conditions of class, race, sex and privilege allow you to remain indifferent. Good for you. We will keep getting angry for the rest of us.