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Good to know you weren’t listening: A critique of the ‘pro-Miley backlash’

8 October 2013

In a somewhat anti-climactic return to blogging after a bit of an unplanned hiatus (explain in below) I present to you a link to another piece about cultural appropriation and Miley Cyrus on Medium. I hope you enjoy and can forgive the long break in posting. I will be back soon with more typical material here on the blog.

I had about a month off between turning in my MLitt dissertation at the end of September and officially starting my doctoral program. So I took some time away from the computer and stacks of books that had consumed my every waking moment for the previous three months. I read fiction. I went outside. I played my flatmate’s Xbox. I even had a visit from Norway. When I returned to my dying laptop (which I should probably do something about), I was greeted with some curious news: early October had been the scene of a renaissance of encomia and apologia for pop starlet Miley Cyrus. I’ve gone on the record with my thoughts on Ms Cyrus and I wasn’t particularly interested in revisiting the issue, so I took to twitter with a quick comment and got to work on my literature review. But it nagged at me. It bothered me that so many voices were so happy to defend racism and decry those who criticise it. It scratched at the inside of skull that Miley Cyrus should be insulated from criticism. And it sticks in my craw that even I as write this I know that nothing about it is going to change.

There were many lines of argument employed by Miley Cyrus’ defenders but they all came down to one thing: derailment. Derailment is the tactic of avoiding engaging with the arguments and experiences of the oppressed by changing the subject to make the discussion about the privileged. When I talk about being harassed by police or followed by store associates and you cite crime statistics you don’t understand at me, that’s derailment. When women describe being cat-called and followed in the streets and you ‘explain’ peer-pressure to appear masculine, that’s derailment. When black writers describe the perpetuation of negative stereotypes about black bodies by Miley Cyrus’ cultural appropriation and white newspaper columnists talk about the context that makes that OK, that’s derailment.

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