Skip to main content

Sinead didn't have to publicly shame Miley

By Peggy Drexler, Special to CNN
updated 12:36 PM EDT, Mon October 7, 2013
Miley Cyrus became a household name for families when her Disney Channel television show, "Hannah Montana," premiered in 2006. From there, Cyrus quickly rose to pop star fame and has been changing her appearance ever since. Miley Cyrus became a household name for families when her Disney Channel television show, "Hannah Montana," premiered in 2006. From there, Cyrus quickly rose to pop star fame and has been changing her appearance ever since.
HIDE CAPTION
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Sinead O'Connor posted an open letter to Miley Cyrus telling her she's a victim
  • Peggy Drexler: O'Connor could have told Cyrus privately
  • She says now we have a woman-on-woman battle
  • Drexler: O'Connor makes good points, but delivery and intention matter

Editor's note: Peggy Drexler is the author of "Our Fathers, Ourselves: Daughters, Fathers, and the Changing American Family" and "Raising Boys Without Men." She is an assistant professor of psychology at Weill Medical College of Cornell University and a former gender scholar at Stanford University. Join her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @drpeggydrexler.

(CNN) -- It's almost unfathomable to believe that Sinead O'Connor couldn't have seen this coming.

Earlier this week, in an open letter to Miley Cyrus, the Irish singer-songwriter offered the lately controversial pop star such tough-love advice as "you don't need to let the music business make a prostitute of you" and "They're there for the money..." and "Kindly fire any --- who hasn't expressed alarm, because they don't care about you."

Cyrus has certainly seemed to ask for such admonition -- and warning. In recent weeks, she's shocked the world with antics that have included a seamy, hypersexual awards show performance, a music video in which she swings around naked on demolition equipment and licks sledgehammers, and a Terry Richardson photo session in which she's depicted smoking blunts and violating herself with a red bodysuit.

Peggy Drexler
Peggy Drexler

She has officially, and unfortunately, ushered the word "twerking" into the vernacular. In return, she's been called "crude," "a hot mess," and a lot worse. She's also gotten immense attention, which is, of course, the point of all of this.

When in a recent Rolling Stone interview Cyrus said that O'Connor's 1990 video for "Nothing Compares 2 U" helped inspire her own video for her new single, "Wrecking Ball," O'Connor, it seems, saw an opening. She swiftly posted a 1,000-word letter to her website and Facebook page, issued, she claimed, "in the spirit of motherliness and love" and telling the younger musician why and how she should value her body, which is "for you and your boyfriend" and not the music honchos who "will be sunning themselves on their yachts in Antigua, which they bought by selling your body."

But by choosing to hand down her advice in such a public forum, O'Connor effectively proved that the aspiring yacht owners aren't the only ones out to get something from Cyrus. She easily could have sent Cyrus a private letter. Instead, O'Connor chose to initiate a very public shaming.

That, of course, provoked an aggressive response, igniting a woman-on-woman battle likely as damaging to young female onlookers as O'Connor's condemnation of Cyrus' self-exploitation. Once again, we have women beating down on other women.

Gauging reaction to Sinead's open letter

Sinead O'Connor pens letter to Miley
Jerry O'Connell's kids to be like Miley?
Miley Cyrus pokes fun at shutdown
Miley Cyrus: 'Weed is the best drug'

A near-teenager under attack, Cyrus responded like any near-teenager under attack might: Instantly and cruelly. She compared O'Connor to troubled actress Amanda Bynes, tweeting a screen shot of messages O'Connor had posted to Twitter two years ago about her own emotional health. Then she said she was too busy to get into it with O'Connor, because she had a "Saturday Night Live" gig to prep for.

O'Connor's sympathy for Cyrus, a "victim" in her eyes only hours earlier, immediately turned far less understanding as she threatened legal action if Cyrus didn't apologize and remove the tweets. She then mocked Cyrus in an objectifying way that was particularly ironic given such missives in her original note as "you are worth more than your body or your sexual appeal" and "women are to be valued for so much more than their sexuality." She wrote that Cyrus "can take five minutes today between G-string (effing) changes to publicly apologize."

That's not to say O'Connor doesn't have a point -- or a good one. She has called for a public discussion of how male executives at record labels manage young female stars and whether their decisions are always or ever in a star's best interest. After all, who is looking out for Miley? Certainly not her parents and certainly not the men from her record company, who are making a ton of money off of her.

Larry Rudolph, best known for guiding the career of Britney Spears, is heading Team Cyrus, surely he must know there can be a price to pay when the act overshadows the talent. There is a shelf life on outrageous behavior, as so many young stars have found out who came before Miley.

So, one might give O'Connor the benefit of doubt.

Is Sinead's advice to Miley good for other girls, too?

She was concerned for Cyrus and thought, somehow, that insulting her in a public forum was the quickest and most direct way to reach her. But by assuming that Cyrus isn't in charge -- or, more poignantly, suggesting to Cyrus that she wasn't in charge -- and by inviting a global audience to sit in on the belittling, O'Connor was very carefully and specifically asking for a fight. And a fight she got.

The letter could have been the best and most honest advice Cyrus has ever received, but delivery -- and intention --matters. And O'Connor wasn't in it just for Cyrus, now was she?

For fans of Cyrus, the best bet is to focus on the music. Cyrus might not be role model material at the moment, but if you don't look to her for more than catchy tunes, there's less chance that she'll disappoint.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Peggy Drexler.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 8:21 AM EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
Carlos Moreno says atheists, a sizable fraction of Americans, deserve representation in Congress.
updated 12:25 PM EDT, Sun August 31, 2014
Julian Zelizer says Democrats and unions have a long history of mutual support that's on the decline. But in a time of income inequality they need each other more than ever
updated 12:23 AM EDT, Sun August 31, 2014
William McRaven
Peter Bergen says Admiral William McRaven leaves the military with a legacy of strategic thinking about special operations
updated 12:11 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Leon Aron says the U.S. and Europe can help get Russia out of Ukraine by helping Ukraine win its just war, sharing defense technologies and intelligence
updated 1:24 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Timothy Stanley the report on widespread child abuse in a British town reveals an institutional betrayal by police, social services and politicians. Negligent officials must face justice
updated 9:06 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say a new video of an American suicide bomber shows how Turkey's militant networks are key to jihadists' movement into Syria and Iraq. Turkey must stem the flow
updated 11:54 AM EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
Whitney Barkley says many for-profit colleges deceive students, charge exorbitant tuitions and make false promises
updated 10:34 AM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Mark O'Mara says the time has come to decide whether we really want police empowered to shoot those they believe are 'fleeing felons'
updated 10:32 AM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Bill Frelick says a tool of rights workers is 'naming and shaming,' ensuring accountability for human rights crimes in conflicts. But what if wrongdoers know no shame?
updated 10:43 PM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Jay Parini says, no, a little girl shouldn't fire an Uzi, but none of should have easy access to guns: The Second Amendment was not written to give us such a 'right,' no matter what the NRA says
updated 1:22 PM EDT, Sat August 30, 2014
Terra Ziporyn Snider says many adolescents suffer chronic sleep deprivation, which can indeed lead to safety problems. Would starting school an hour later be so wrong?
updated 9:30 AM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Peggy Drexler says after all the celebrity divorces, it's tempting to ask the question. But there are still considerable benefits to getting hitched
updated 2:49 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
The death of Douglas McAuthur McCain, the first American killed fighting for ISIS, highlights the pull of Syria's war for Western jihadists, writes Peter Bergen.
updated 6:42 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Former ambassador to Syria Robert Ford says the West should be helping moderates in the Syrian armed opposition end the al-Assad regime and form a government to focus on driving ISIS out
updated 9:21 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says a great country does not deport thousands of vulnerable, unaccompanied minors who fled in fear for their lives
updated 9:19 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Robert McIntyre says Congress is the culprit for letting Burger King pay lower taxes after merging with Tim Hortons.
updated 7:35 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Wesley Clark says the U.S. can offer support to its Islamic friends in the region most threatened by ISIS, but it can't fight their war
updated 4:53 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
America's painful struggle with racism has often brought great satisfaction to the country's rivals, critics, and foes. The killing of Michael Brown and its tumultuous aftermath has been a bonanza.
updated 3:19 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Rick Martin says the death of Robin Williams brought back memories of his own battle facing down depression as a young man
updated 11:58 AM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
David Perry asks: What's the best way for police officers to handle people with psychiatric disabilities?
updated 3:50 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Julian Zelizer says it's not crazy to think Mitt Romney would be able to end up at the top of the GOP ticket in 2016
updated 4:52 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Roxanne Jones and her girlfriends would cheer from the sidelines for the boys playing Little League. But they really wanted to play. Now Mo'ne Davis shows the world that girls really can throw.
updated 5:04 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Kimberly Norwood is a black mom who lives in an affluent neighborhood not far from Ferguson, but she has the same fears for her children as people in that troubled town do
updated 5:45 PM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
It apparently has worked for France, say Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider, but carries uncomfortable risks. When it comes to kidnappings, nations face grim options.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT