I know I have a habit of championing the underdog, but I’m not going to do that here. I thought her performance was pretty disgusting, not because of the “oooh, she looks so slutty” (if you’re reading, you probably already know this and that I hate the term “slut” because it just refers to a woman who owns her own sexuality) but because: 1) she is not a very good twerker
and 2) cultural appropriation.
Because everything has already been said my people much more knowledgeable and eloquent than me (see here, for example), I didn’t say much. I just read and learned and looked for the words to express my feelings.
Then I came across a comment to the effect of, well, don’t the back up dancers share some of the blame for allowing themselves to be exploited?
No. And since I haven’t seen that addressed, I thought I’d rant about that for a bit.
First, that sounds a lot like blaming the victim. I’m not saying that the dancers were victimized. But it could be that a culture was. And Miley would have performed the same dance even if those particular dancers turned down the opportunity. Asking if they share the blame puts them in an equal position as Miley, and they just weren’t. More on that in a bit.
Second, and perhaps more practically, do you think the back up dancers asked after their audition but before they accepted the role “how many of the other dancers will be African American? I only want to dance with Miley Cyrus at the Video Music Awards if the stage will be a proportional representation of the American demographic.”
Which brings me to my final point, power. It reminds me a lot of what Juv said in Informed Dissent about nudity in Game of Thrones:
Getting naked as a job is a complicated topic, but this is not really what these women do anyway. They’re actresses. They act. Game of Thrones, as one of the most popular shows in the past couple of years, is probably the best a beginner British actress can do right now. Many of these women are very new to acting, some of them having Game of Thrones be their first big role, and so there is something pretty disturbing about the situation this creates. Let’s see, you’re an aspiring young actress, and you’re offered a role in the most expensive TV show of all times, that people talk about nonstop and that will make you a star (and probably pretty wealthy) overnight, and where you will actually get to play an interesting character, with depth and all of that good stuff. The only thing is… you have to be naked. A lot. So, you can agree to be naked and become all of these things, or you can say no, keep your clothes on and spend the next so and so years auditioning for students’ short films and not earning enough money to cover even the bus fare to the set and back.
A lot of that is true here too even though the situation is different. So no, I don’t think the dancers–looking for their big break, not in an equal bargaining position, not being the ones who choreographed the performance–should share some of the blame.