This is an open letter to Sinead O’Connor and Miley Cyrus.
I wasn’t going to write this letter, but I’m growing tired of seeing my Facebook news feed clogged by the incessant ramblings of people who read into your preposterous feud like it’s some great debate between the pre-eminent scholars of our time.
Seriously, my Facebook friends are paying more attention to this pathetic excuse for discourse than the fact that our government isn’t currently functioning. Maybe that’s more of an indictment of my inability to reject friend requests than of your ability to function like adults, but the fact that your typo-laden bickering is receiving any consideration at all is insane.
The two of you can’t even seem to use the English language to communicate with one another. The “comments” sections of your posts are the only examples of writing on this subject that are less coherent than your own.
Yet somehow this petty squabble has been turned into some great debate about feminism. The fact that it gets mistaken for one ought to be offensive to those who legitimately have those debates.
This is a meaningless fight between an aging artist who took a Prince song and made it outstanding and a Disney Channel pop star turned 21-year-old public relations maven with sex-symbol aspirations. It’s staged over social media with no implications of philosophical grandeur whatsoever. It’s like an episode of “Celebrity Deathmatch” with less tact and fewer consequences.
This has not stopped opportunistic pundits from slut-shaming Cyrus, accusing O’Connor of slut-shaming Cyrus, defending Cyrus’ actions by calling them empowering and even building a 45-foot-tall golden monument of the two engaged in an epic battle on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.Okay, so I made that last one up; the Lincoln Memorial is closed because we are governed by children with the same talent for communication as the two befuddled pop stars.
What seems to be lost in this entire conversation is that O’Connor’s central point — that male music executives stand to profit from Cyrus exposing herself — is neither controversial nor contested.
We lost sight of the fact that Cyrus is not the first pop star to get naked in order to sell music. Thanks to our freedom of speech, it’s her intrinsic right to do whatever she wants with her body. Thanks to that same freedom, it’s O’Connor’s right to reach out to Cyrus. This whole thing, very simply put, is not newsworthy.
Neither of them did anything wrong to begin with. Since the drama has escalated, however, both have revealed that they’re not the type of people you would want to know.
Cyrus mocked O’Connor for having a mental illness. O’Connor petulantly threatened to sue Cyrus over Twitter if she didn’t get rid of those tweets.
Cyrus did try to end the debate with a shameless piece of self-promotion and an emoticon. O’Connor chose not to accept the terms of a face-to-face meeting and instead chose to continue a social media barrage because conversations should happen through a medley of Twitter and Facebook and not between two thoughtful adults who know how to use their words in reality.
What I’m trying to say is that this quarrel was the second-stupidest argument that took place last week. In any normal week, it would have easily been No. 1.
I would appreciate it if we could stop pretending like the relationship between these pop stars is at all important. In fact, it would be nice if we could take a look at how crazy our reactions have been to the whole thing.
Isn’t it telling that when a pop star tries to make a point about institutional fervor to exploit the lives of pop stars for personal gain, we respond by exploiting a feud between two of them?
If we as consumers of pop culture were not so eager to capitalize on these types of interactions, would O’Connor ever have felt the need to post such a personal letter on Facebook? Would Cyrus have ever felt the need to “reinvent” herself as a hammer-fellating sex symbol?
I think the answer is no.
This issue isn’t on the two of them; it’s on us. We watch TMZ, and so terrible people are incentivized to follow celebrities everywhere they go in an attempt to catch the person doing something controversial. We watch music videos like the one for “Wrecking Ball” hundreds of millions of times and then complain about the fact that our female pop stars feel pressure to straight up get naked. Why wouldn’t the next pop star looking to make a splash do this exact same thing?
Whether we agree with Cyrus, O’Connor, both or neither of them, we do a disservice to our cultural discourse, our arts and our friends on social media by debating silly conflicts as if they were serious news items. It’s especially heinous when we have serious news items that warrant discussion.
So please, to everyone who keeps inundating me with social commentary about this situation, make the world a better place and stop talking about it.