Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Millionth Word On Miley: A Response To Meg Meeker

Is the whole Miley Cyrus thing played out yet?  I’ve seen takes on the topic regarding slut shaming, race, rape, and pretty much everything in between.  It isn’t played out yet?  Good; because I have something to say about as it relates to fatherhood.

@MegMeeker recently posted an article in which she blames Billy Ray Cyrus (BRC) for whatever that was Miley did on stage.  In it, she decries BRC’s attitude toward parenting: mostly that he cooks hot dogs and plays games with Miley and leaves the discipline up to his wife. 

She goes on to say that “What happened on stage several nights ago shows what happens to young girls who have no fatherly influence.”  But that isn’t right.  At no point does the quote above indicate that BRC doesn’t exert a “fatherly influence” on Miley.  In fact, cooking dinner and playing games with a daughter is exactly what constitutes a fatherly influence.  More fathers should be doing those things.  Unless you subscribe to the idea that discipline is entirely what constitutes “fatherly influence.”

But that can’t be right, either, because @thefathereffect, which supposedly wants to promote the importance of fathers, retweeted the article.  Nothing could lessen the importance of fathers more than relegating them to a solely disciplinarian role.  I firmly believe discipline can be and is equally effective coming from either a Mom or a Dad.  But that is beside the point:  The father’s role is so much larger than discipline.

Meeker goes on to say “no dad who cherishes his daughter would advocate such sexually ridiculous behavior.”  But what evidence is there that BRC “advocated” for Miley’s act?  As Meeker herself points out, Miley is “still cognitively not yet an adult.”  But what she glosses over is that Miley is a 20-year-old entertainer and might as well be an adult.  Your average 20-year-old is a college student with lots of freedom making lots of stupid decisions.  The difference between those 20-year-olds and 20-year-old Miley is that Miley made her bad decisions in front of a camera and however many people watch MTV.

What is perhaps most surprising isn’t that Miley made a 20-year-olds mistake, it is that it took this long.  As an entertainment act, Miley has even more freedom than an average 20 year old.  And she probably has for years.  Her life is spent on the road, governed by MTV and managed by her handlers and managers and yes, from afar, her parents.  Even at their highest, parental influences can be overcome at 20 years old by managers whispering in your ear about transitioning from child star to adult superstar.  At 20 you make you mistakes.  I made them, you made them, my kids will make them. 

A 20 year old can vote and serve in the military.  Sure, for some reason we don’t trust them with alcohol, but that one last withholding hardly means we don’t treat them as adults.  We trust them with the direction and defense of our country but apparently not to make decisions on whether or not they should do a certain dance without the aid of Daddy. Meeker ignores that we all make mistakes at 20 that probably have no reflection on our upbringing precisely because we aren’t cognitively adults yet.  Perfectly raised (whatever that means) children do stupid things at 20; poorly raised kids do stupid things at 20.  I’m willing to bet Meeker did.

It’s part of the nature of being 20; which is just at the end of the period where you break away from your parents.  At 20 you are just starting to find out who “you” are; some of that involves making decisions and choices your parents wouldn’t approve of.  BRC isn’t any more responsible for each bong hit Miley takes or guy she hooks up with than the MTV escapade.  Whether Miley looks back on the show with indifference or embarrassment will tell more about the impact BRC and his wife had on her.

You may regret the way she acted on the MTV show, but the reality is that Miley is an adult woman.  She is a sexual being regardless of the perceptions created by a decade of Disney.  She is woman who makes her own choices; choices shaped by but separate and apart from her upbringing.  It’s hard to type this, and it probably be even harder to live it, but: when my kids are 20, I hope they do make decisions I don’t necessarily agree with.  It’s part of growing up and establishing where your boundries are as a person.

To ignore the reality that Miley is an adult and pretend her conduct reflects on BRC doesn’t enhance the role a Dad plays in his daughter’s life, it diminishes it.

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