On a typical Sunday night, I'm usually in bed early after an activity filled weekend of family fun and/or chores. But on the night of August 25th, I was having an uncharacteristic bout of insomnia, so I decided to do some channel surfing. It was because of this that I ended up tuning to the MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs) and my eyeballs were subsequently treated to the twerking sensation that was Miley Cyrus's hind quarters. It was a performance fueled by decadence, wrapped in a layer of debauchery with a little bit of mischief sprinkled on top.
And just like that, the internet was set ablaze. Even I have to admit, I jumped into the fray almost immediately after and gave my initial reaction:
|I might've been a bit judgmental...|
But hold on a minute... did anyone notice that the guy Miley was seductively dancing on was Robin Thicke, a 36 year old married man of two children? Where is the outrage for him? Where is his pitchfork mob? The irony of it all is the fact that his father is Alan Thicke, who played sensible father Dr. Jason Seaver on the 1980's hit growing pains. But I digress...
This to me, as both a young male and a father, is where I think apart of the problem lies. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that Miley is not accountable for her own actions. I would even make an argument that that under the right circumstances, her performance was perfectly fine for the intended age demographic (fully developed, 18+ year olds who are responsible for their own actions) and perhaps the parents who are so concerned should simply do a better job of monitoring their underage kids' media exposure. But in a supposed modern society of gender equality, it's pretty obvious that there are some glaring double standards here.
To get a clear picture of this, you can look no further than your high school years. Remember the guy who was perceived as a ladies' man? The guy who was thought to have had multiple girlfriends, some whom he dated at the same time? He was probably seen as one of the most popular kids in school. Now remember that girl with the exact same reputation? More than likely, she was probably known as "promiscuous", to put it nicely. This is basically how our society has and continues to function today and our current pop stars (and some politicians) are simply a mirror reflecting our own distorted values back at us. Somehow, when it comes to sex, the burden of responsibility seems to shift almost entirely onto women and men seem to be able to get away from accountability and are easily forgiven by their peers.
And our young boys are watching and learning from all of this.
It's an unfortunate but all too real cycle of accepted misogyny that needs to be addressed. Because if we don't, we can never truly refer to our world as equal from a gender standpoint.
So how can we, as fathers help break this cycle? It starts at the dining room table, or on the basket ball court, or even on the hiking trail. Wherever the location, it should be an environment where you and your son spend quality time together and can communicate openly with each other about issues. As men, we need to be able to own up to our role and give our boys/young men the tools that they need to make smart decisions as they get older when it comes to girls, sex and how and the perception of both in the media vs the reality differs. Teach them that the images they see on TV are a pre-packaged fantasy with the intention of selling us a product. Without the proper guidance, it is likely a young man might misinterpret these images for the way actual, healthy relationships work in real life. Developing boys need to learn how to identify and distinguish between the two. Dads need to counteract the negative media influences and make sure their sons understand that women are human beings that deserve respect and words like "bitch" or "hoe" should only be used when describing a female dog or a useful gardening tool, respectively. And last but not least, despite what the lyrics of Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" say, teach them that telling a women "I know you want it" while one or both of your are under the influence of alcohol isn't foreplay, but rather a potential precursor to a sexual assault charge.
Currently, both of my sons are too young to know who Miley Cyrus is and what she has to do with their potential development, but I'm sure there will be someone just like her in the media when they do reach that age (which seems to be younger and younger as technology evolves). Whenever that time decides to rear its ugly head, here's hoping I'm ready to take it head on.