Food Environment / Junk Food / Marketing / Soda

What Does Miley Cyrus Twerking Have to do with Junk Food?

mileyWhen my oldest was in first grade she came home from school one day lamenting, “Everyone’s a fan of Hannah Montana but me.” We didn’t (and still don’t) have cable TV so she had never seen the show. That afternoon I watched some clips of it on YouTube and thought it seemed more like a teen soap opera than something a 6-year-old should watch. I told my daughter why it was inappropriate for her and she moved on to other interests like turtles and horses. Many of her classmates moved on from Hannah/Miley to Taylor Swift.  Flash forward to a few days ago when Miley Cyrus twerked her way back into our lives.

This time my daughter is a 6th grader in middle school and Miley has moved on from teen soap opera to raunch culture.  My first inclination was to ignore the Miley mess and not give it any extra attention.  I had a change of heart after realizing the odds are high that my daughter will see the video from one of her peers.  It’s important that I talk to her about it ahead of time to limit the damage.

It’s ‘good PR’ and helps them to be taken seriously by directors for roles which may get a PG13 rating or better. While that’s all well and good for those celebs, it wreaks havoc on those of us who are trying to raise emotionally healthy girls…It can hurt our daughters if we don’t take the time to unpack the culture for them when they’re young.

I have been unpacking the junk food culture for them since they were very young.  This was driven by our family history of diabetes and the need to instill healthy habits at a young age.  In teaching my daughters to love food that loves them back, I soon realized we were up against some very powerful junk food marketing forces aimed at children.  Seeing the film Consuming Kids moved me to act to limit their exposure to advertising and teach them media literacy.

I hope this will help them question the legitimacy of Coke’s claim that it’s part of the solution when it comes to obesity.

If you make billions of dollars a year selling unhealthy food, you don’t get to tell us to work out.

I hope it will help them question a woman in a cupcake bra shilling for Pepsi.  I hope it will help them avoid what many of their peers have learned from advertising: to crave both junk food and an unrealistic thin ideal.  I don’t underestimate what I am up against.

Today’s parents have to pull off parenting by exercising some degree of control over how much pop culture gets to their kids while also giving them the increased freedoms they need as they get older to develop media literacy and critical thinking skills. It’s a tough balancing act. And it’s unfair that this burden lands squarely on the shoulders of well-intentioned parents who are outgunned by conscience-free corporations.

Those conscience-free corporations (aka “merchants of cool“) are made up of people who see the harm, but do it anyway.

“Even though I work at MTV…I am starting to see the world more like someone who’s approaching forty than someone who’s twenty,” says Brian Graden, the channel’s president of programming. “And I can’t help but be worried that we are throwing so much at young adults so fast. And that there is no amount of preparation or education or even love that you could give a child to be ready.”

This Frontline program, which first aired in 2001, unpacks the  intense relationship that exists between youth culture, the media and marketers. It connects the dots that bring us to Miley Cyrus twerking in 2013.

In the midst of all this controversy, it’s easy to overlook some important signs of progress for women. My alma mater, the Air Force Academy,  now has a female general at the helm.

The first woman to lead the Air Force Academy says she faced resistance and sexual harassment in her career, but competence and confidence helped her push through the ranks to one of the top jobs in the service.

This is the kind of competence and confidence that I strive to instill in my daughters instead of the false power of raunch culture.

9 thoughts on “What Does Miley Cyrus Twerking Have to do with Junk Food?

  1. Great post, Casey!!!! The Cool Ranch culture, as I’ll call it, is a mighty force fueled by corporate dollars that has managed to infiltrate many of our homes, our schools and our lives. I love how you are fighting back and teaching others to do the same. Your daughters are lucky to have you as their mom!!

    • Thanks and the first piece I linked to under raunch culture does a good job addressing this: Robin Thicke and Miley Cyrus are being talked about everywhere, in different ways and by different communities, but the conversation is valid. It is not acceptable to attempt to shut up and silence people concerned about the impact of media with the cries of “slut-shaming!” simply because we are discussing how raunch culture impacts our families and society as a whole. Critical analysis and media literacy require us to examine these things, and we can do so in a way that does not include slut-shaming.
      http://blog.pigtailpals.com/?p=4433
      The second link under limit the damage also touches on this: Look, this isn’t about judging these persons hearts, but judging and analyzing what they’re doing is absolutely the point! We can all walk around talking about live and let live and “whatever works for you is just dandy as long as it hurts no one,” but the reality is that it does hurt someone.
      http://www.digitalshepherds.com/blog/?p=628
      As we teach children to develop their own good judgment, I don’t think parents are doing them any favors by framing her twerking as empowerment. I think doing so would set them up to be exploited by those that would take advantage of their false sense of power.

      • Absolutely. I referenced this post not to say I agree with everything she says but specifically to make the connection on self ownership and acting vs reacting/rebelling and managing the influence the media has on this aspect of this normal adolescent process. I feel like she’s saying, be yourself (whoever that may be, raunchy or not) because you own yourself. Don’t be raunchy because the media tells you it’s cool to be raunchy or that being so is the only way to prove your self-ownership. Don’t rebel just to prove no one else owns you. Do you think I missed her point?

      • It’s a good message but I don’t think that was really the message given to girls and women who watched her performance.

      • P.S A reader made a comment on that post regarding the media influence and how she is most likely “scripted” to perform this way by her handlers, that I think emphasizes the media point.

      • That’s my take on it too. As Jacques Saisselin put it, “The difference between the raunch of the Stones and Madonna/Britney/Miley is one was part of a spontaneous and authentic cultural movement and the other is pure corporate boardroom invented product that doesn’t explore or liberate, but stunts and stultifies.”

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