Claire Black: Reading O’Connor’s letter to Cyrus

Claire Black. Picture: Jane  Barlow
Claire Black. Picture: Jane Barlow
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ELDER stateswoman of popular music with a reputation for outspokenness writes to whippersnapper with penchant for provocatively licking sledgehammers – what can go wrong?

When I first read Sinead O’Connor’s open letter to Miley Cyrus (they’ve been a thing in the past week) I thought good on you, Ms O’Connor. Yes, it’s true that I didn’t agree with every word she wrote – some of it was a bit misjudged, perhaps a little patronising, but when she stated, “Nothing but harm will come in the long run, from allowing yourself to be exploited, and it is absolutely NOT in ANY way an empowerment of yourself or any other young women for you to send across the message that you are to be valued (even by you) more for your sexual appeal than your obvious talent”, I found it hard to disagree.

Yes, we probably all knew that Cyrus would roll her eyes and say ‘eff off, grandma’. That’s basically what her tweets have been – for example, comparing O’Connor to Amanda Bynes who at present is in a secure psychiatric unit having suffered a very public meltdown. And then there came the sleazy photoshoot with the always dependable (if you want to look like an underage sex worker) photographer Terry Richardson.

But in years to come, maybe five, maybe ten, when Cyrus is in a different place, when being photographed giving herself a wedgie seems somehow less appealing, she might realise that in all the bluster, the advice she so harshly rejected meant that someone gave a toss and tried, however ham-fistedly, to offer an alternative. And even if O’Connor’s words only appal Cyrus, I’m still glad that she wrote them. Because maybe for all the girls thinking that to be cool you have to simulate sex in front of millions of people, they might just offer a get-out clause, an alternative to perpetual gyrating.

Of course, it’s all spiralled and become embarrassing (for both parties) as the open letters have proliferated and the argument has degenerated. And yet however badly O’Connor has now behaved, there is something about watching the transition of Cyrus as she tries to dry hump the memory of Hannah Montana out of existence that remains excruciating.

Some say of Cyrus – she’s in control, she’s calling the shots. Others say, young women should be able to twerk until they slip a disc if they want to. And, yes, there are merits to both of these arguments. But maybe we’ve seen this story play out too many times already. Maybe it’s that the contrast between the way in which Harry Styles gets to enjoy his popstar existence seems so much less compromising and damaging than how young women seem to have to do it. Either way, I wish Miley could choose to keep her clothes on and to put her tongue away, just sometimes.

AND while we’re on issues of a gendered kind, did you notice that the Feminist Times website launched last week? It did. Inevitably, there were teething problems. Some were technical, some were, well, not. There was a bit of a hoo-ha about a story on the topic of forced sterilisation and a bit of a muddle from the editorial board as to whether it was staying up or getting pulled – oh dear. But muddles aside, I’m glad that the website exists and I wish it well. In a world where there is a market for T-shirts that say “I feel a bit rapey”, there is definitely a need for it.

LET’S talk about fashion. Well, I say fashion, what I really mean is anti-fashion. Must my poor eyes be assaulted by the sight of “nude” shoes at every turn? I know Kate Middleton started it, but that was months ago and really everyone else should know better. And yet, they’re everywhere. But here’s the thing – whose skin is that colour? If you are Scottish, then a light heather colour might be more apt. If you are of any ethnicity other than white, then they’re definitely not a match for you. «

Twitter: @Scottiesays