Let me begin by saying I am not a fan of Miley Cyrus. She is an appropriative, entitled little twit who sees black women’s bodies as mere cogs in her privileged fame machine. But everyone knows that if we’re going to talk about the shit show that was her infamous VMA performance, then we’re not just talking about one party. If we’re going to talk about twerking and raunchy attempts at notoriety, we’re talking about two parties: one the near-naked and tongue-wagging Miley Cyrus, and the other is the pinstriped and pompadoured Robin Thicke. Which is what this blog is about, because yesterday in his interview with Oprah, Robin Thicke laid all responsibility of the backlash after their twerking fiasco firmly on the shoulders of 20-year old Miley Cyrus.
Let’s talk about why this is bullshit.
The simple explanation is, “Hey, you slick little bastard, it takes two to tango.” Cyrus wasn’t on stage alone. If she had been, we could point all available fingers in her direction. But we can’t. Because she wasn’t alone. Her ass was against somebody’s crotch and that crotch belonged to Robin Thicke.
Thicke has an answer for this.
“Listen,” he told Oprah. “I’m the twerkee. I don’t twerk. I’m just twerked upon.” Oh. What does this remind us of? A sixteen-year old girl winds up pregnant and is the talk of the town. “Little Betty got herself pregnant,” they gossip. “What a trollop.” The male in question—without whose sperm there would be no scandalous pregnancy—becomes invisible. In the face of a patriarchal framework of female behavior, the unwed girl somehow was alone in her baby-making. The stigma falls to her. The shame falls to her. Thicke throwing Cyrus under the bus—a bus he’s driving—is eerily reminiscent of this scenario in which women are viewed as lone actors in a two-man show.
Thicke goes on to further absolve himself of all responsibility. “I was onstage, so I didn’t see it.” He adds, “I’m not thinking sex, I’m thinking fun. I’m singing my butt off. I’m singing and I’m looking at the sky and I’m singing and I’m not really paying attention to all that.” His final damning quote? “That’s on her.”
Robin, no one’s demanding child support payments. They’re just saying, you know, maybe you could share some of the controversy here.
“I spent my whole career playing it safe, being a gentleman, never doing anything controversial,” he told the November issue of Vanity Fair. “They told me [beforehand] that Miley’s going to take her clothes off and dance around and she might bend over…I just said, ‘I don’t care, let’s entertain the people.'”
Is it just me, or is Thicke describing Cyrus’s potential bending over the way one might describe a loaded gun? As if he’s a victim in this whole thing, and Miley Cyrus’s body/sexuality is the true danger here? If that ass was so dangerous, Robin, why did you place yourself firmly in the way of it?
It’s all so absurd. Cyrus discussed the double standard shortly after the VMAs and as much as I dislike her, I was inclined to agree. But this is even worse. What else does this remind us of? This shunning of responsibility in the face of young female sexuality? Thicke is a 36-year old married man, Cyrus a 20-year old child-star. How many times have we heard about the grown ass pedophile saying that the 14-year old school girl “seduced” him? Remember this case in Montana? The judge gave a 54-year old teacher who repeatedly raped his 14-year old student a 30-day sentence because he believed the girl was “older than her chronological age,” implying that the girl was a willing agent in her rape by a man 40 years her senior.
Before all the rape apologists start whipping out their Sharpies and making cardboard signs decrying my comparison of Thicke/Cyrus to rape, let me be clear. What happened onstage at the VMAs was not rape, and Cyrus was and is perfectly able to make her own ridiculous, appropriative, tiresome decisions. But Thicke’s behavior after the fact, especially now with this most recent interview with Oprah, requires criticism.
Thicke’s ability to saddle Cyrus with the blame indicates a problem in our culture, a culture in which men are rewarded for their sexuality and women are punished; a culture in which a man has the agency to engage in sexual acts and then withdraw from them untainted, leaving the woman to deal with the shitstorm as if they acted alone.
All this aside, the show was rehearsed. Every second of the VMAs was choreographed, planned, done over and over. For Thicke to throw up his angelic little hands and claim ignorance not only illustrates him as the spineless coward that he is, but exposes his willingness to let misogynistic public opinion to run its dirty course, knowing full well that in this culture, if a man says “It wasn’t me, it was all her! Female sexuality is scary and gross!”…the whole world won’t think twice before shoving her under the bus that’s always rolling.