My list of reasons why I’m glad my girls, ages 5 and 7, were too young to ever get into “Hannah Montana” grew exponentially longer after Miley Cyrus’ unforgettable “twerking” in a bra and undies at MTV’s Video Music Awards).
“Miley, what exactly were you thinking?” pretty much sums up the sentiment I heard from outraged moms and dads around the country who believe Cyrus, whose loyal fan base includes a huge chunk not yet old enough to drive, should know better.
“It’s a damn shame that Miley is doing this to herself, making a vulgar joke out of her talents and her beauty, but it’s a much bigger shame that she’s doing it to her young fans and other young people (who) see her in the media,” said Heidi Cardenas, a mom of two teenage boys, in response to a request for comment on CNN’s Facebook page.
“It’s the same thing as going to any street corner in America and selling herself for money,” said Cardenas.
“I have to instantly think that Miley does not either a) care what her younger fans think of her or b) hasn’t even bothered to think of what her actions (are) doing to her image,” said Larene Grady, a mom of two whose tween was “absolutely infatuated” with Cyrus but isn’t anymore.
“She thinks Miley does not appeal to children (who) used to like her as ‘Hannah Montana,’ which speaks volumes coming from a 10-year-old who had two ‘Hannah Montana’ parties, everything from bed sheets, pajamas, bath soaps, toothbrushes and book bags,” Grady added, also in response to a tout on CNN’s Facebook page.
“Hannah Montana” seems about as relevant to the current day Cyrus as a typewriter is to millenials.
The 20-year-old has every right to chart a new course beyond her Disney days, moms and dads said in comments on Facebook and exchanges via e-mail. It’s just that the path she is choosing seems so wrong and dangerous, many said.
Sonia Prince of Nashua, New Hampshire, said her kids — ages 9, 12 and 13 — will no longer be listening to Cyrus’ music. “There is enough fantastic music out there with people who have respectful behavior, especially women who don’t feel the need to be sexual in public in order to be successful,” she added.
Cyrus’ choice to wear next to nothing and strut around the VMA stage is yet another example, frustrated parents say, of the sexualization of our young girls, an issue we touched on at CNN.com just a few weeks ago in our piece on how too many tween fashions are too sexy, skimpy and short.
“I do think Miley wrongly represents the way girls should act today,” said Steve, a CNN commenter who shared his first name and the fact that he has a 12-year-old granddaughter.
“The way they dress, act, not caring about how other people may respond to your actions,” Steve added. “I think it is an oversexualization of young girls/young women.”
Robin Belkin, a mom of three in Northern California, believes Cyrus’ performance only adds to the already “damaging image of women-as-sex-objects.”
“I just find it extremely discouraging and difficult to hold out hope for the improved status of women in this world when even the most entitled among us so negatively reinforce the worst stereotypes and misogynistic attitudes about women,” said Belkin.
“Her behavior sets 50 to 60 years of women’s forward progress back a long way when you consider that her huge fan base really only consists of young and impressionable girls and horny young boys, who, unfortunately on many levels, are our future leaders,” said John Rodrigues of Boston, on CNN’s Facebook page.
“Growing up under the impression that this behavior is not only OK, but acceptable, is such a terrible message and, in this case, I am happy I’m not a father trying to keep this away from my children,” the 35-year-old single Army veteran added.
Eric Solomon, a father of two, watched the VMAs with his 15-year-old son. “I am so embarrassed and sitting next to my son and watching this happen made me even more embarrassed,” he added.
Solomon said he has conversations with his sons about what’s right and what’s wrong, and said that they know Cyrus’ performance was “not appropriate” and not the behavior of “your normal woman.”
Mary Hogan of Cordova, Tennessee, doesn’t have kids but works in education and says parents have a role to play.
“Parents need to explain to their kids that what she did is not OK, and should not be imitated,” said Hogan, adding that parents who didn’t like what they were seeing should have changed the channel.
“I think the biggest responsibility for a parent is to know what their kids are watching,” said Mark Edwards of suburban St. Louis, who has three teenage sons. “The VMAs aren’t appropriate for kids under a certain age and if some parents feel discomfort over what was aired, should they have been letting their kids watch the show in the first place?”
“The VMAs are supposed to be shocking,” said a woman who did not want to be identified. “Why is Miley Cyrus such a big deal? … I am more shocked people are watching the VMAs with their children.”
After all, consider VMA highlights of years past when Lady Gaga donned a dress made entirely of raw meat and Madonna and Britney Spears kissed (mouths open!). It was, in fact, at the VMAs years earlier when Madonna broke out onto the national stage with her “Like a Virgin” performance.
Cyrus “took a page straight out of Madonna’s playbook,” said Ivan Baker, a father in New York City, on Facebook. “I guess I am jaded. Not very impressed or shocked.”
While much of the online conversation post-Cyrus’ national “twerking” episode was dominated by criticism, there was also a very motherly and fatherly response, parents who worry that Cyrus is a child in need of serious help.
“It’s clear that Miley Cyrus’ lifestyle as a young woman is expressing pain and is dealing with emotional problems,” said Andrew Thompson, an engaged father of two boys in Country Club Hills, Illinois.
“Her mother and father have a responsibility to come to her aid and work out these social issues before it’s too late,” he added.
Some parents said there was only one upside they could see from the blistering reaction to Cyrus’ performance and that is that it may show strength.
“The fact that she doesn’t play the victim and shows that girls can be as aggressive and bad in many ways might in some twisted way pave the way for (women) to play in a more level field with men,” said Leigh Bordbar, a mom of two from Toronto who said she was personally disappointed with what Cyrus did at the VMAs. “In her performance, she seemed like the one in control and in the driver’s seat, which sets her apart from the ways that perhaps Playboy or fashion models portray women.”
Nicky Calvert, a mom of two in Marietta, Ohio, sees another positive.
“There is only one good thing that I can say about her performance on the VMAs,” said Calvert. It shows her 9-year-old how she “should never act in public.”
May I repeat how happy I am my girls missed this one completely.
Kelly Wallace is CNN’s digital correspondent and editor-at-large covering family, career and life. She’s a mom of two girls and lives in Manhattan.
Kelly Wallace | CNN