Skip to main content

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

By Kelly Wallace, CNN
December 4, 2013 -- Updated 2018 GMT (0418 HKT)
Haley Joel Osment has been working steadily since his breakout role in 1999's "The Sixth Sense." Now 26, <a href='http://www.comingsoon.net/news/movienews.php?id=122803' target='_blank'>Osment's intriguing look for his role</a> in the Kevin Smith comedy "Yoga Hosers" has put his career back in the spotlight. See how these other child stars have grown up. Haley Joel Osment has been working steadily since his breakout role in 1999's "The Sixth Sense." Now 26, Osment's intriguing look for his role in the Kevin Smith comedy "Yoga Hosers" has put his career back in the spotlight. See how these other child stars have grown up.
HIDE CAPTION
All grown up: Child star transformations
All grown up: Child star transformations
All grown up: Child star transformations
All grown up: Child star transformations
All grown up: Child star transformations
All grown up: Child star transformations
All grown up: Child star transformations
All grown up: Child star transformations
All grown up: Child star transformations
All grown up: Child star transformations
All grown up: Child star transformations
All grown up: Child star transformations
All grown up: Child star transformations
All grown up: Child star transformations
All grown up: Child star transformations
All grown up: Child star transformations
All grown up: Child star transformations
All grown up: Child star transformations
All grown up: Child star transformations
All grown up: Child star transformations
All grown up: Child star transformations
All grown up: Child star transformations
All grown up: Child star transformations
All grown up: Child star transformations
All grown up: Child star transformations
All grown up: Child star transformations
All grown up: Child star transformations
All grown up: Child star transformations
All grown up: Child star transformations
All grown up: Child star transformations
<<
<
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
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Women had strong reactions to Sinead O'Connor's open letter to Miley Cyrus
  • Many women applaud O'Connor and hope Cyrus follows her advice
  • Some women think O'Connor missed the mark
  • More needs to be done to stop sexualization of young girls, women say

Editor's note: 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. Read her other columns and follow her reports at CNN Parents and on Twitter.

(CNN) -- Irish singer Sinead O'Connor's open letter to Miley Cyrus in which she urged the 20-year-old not to allow herself "to be pimped" by the music industry certainly got our attention.

It seems to have gotten Cyrus' attention, as well, because the former Disney star, who has dominated the headlines recently following her controversial awards show twerking and nude performance in a music video, took to Twitter to respond.

In a tweet, she compared O'Connor to troubled star Amanda Bynes, and she included a Twitter feed of O'Connor's from the past when she wrote about struggling with and seeking help for mental health issues.

The Sinead O'Connor and Miley feud isn't over

O'Connor fired back, threatening Cyrus with legal action if the Twitter feed was not removed, accusing her of mocking people with mental health issues and questioning where she's getting her direction.

"Who the (expletive) is advising you?" O'Connor wrote on her Facebook page. "Because taking me on is even more (expletive) stupid than behaving like a prostitute and calling it feminism."

Sinead O'Connor pens letter to Miley
Miley Cyrus: 'Weed is the best drug'
Miley Cyrus' emotional performance
Billy Ray Cyrus: 'She's just Miley'

Outraged parents: Why Miley Cyrus' performance sets girls, women back

Moving beyond the O'Connor-Cyrus public feud, we wanted to know what women across the country thought about O'Connor's direct message to Cyrus, and whether it might have any impact on the larger conversation about how our girls are sexualized at younger and younger ages.

In conversations and in exchanges on Twitter and Facebook, we mainly heard from women who applauded O'Connor, although there were some who thought she missed the mark. We also found widespread agreement that much more needs to be done to battle the early sexualization that has become one of the top concerns for parents today.

Gloria Feldt, a bestselling author and feminist leader, said her first reaction was to be non-plussed by O'Connor taking the time to reach out and give advice.

"She certainly has not been a perfect role model, but sometimes that's how you learn, and so when I thought about it again, I thought well, in some respects, who better to give a little voice of experience than someone who has been through that mill," said Feldt, who is now co-founder and president of an organization devoted to developing and encouraging women leaders called Take the Lead.

"I think 'Good for Sinead,' really in the end," she said.

Billy Ray Cyrus on his daughter: 'That's still my Miley'

Melissa Atkins Wardy, co-founder of a new advocacy group focusing on the portrayal of girls in media called Brave Girls Alliance, believes O'Connor's letter "was really needed."

"I don't think that Miley has people on her team that are guiding her in a way that is in her best interest," said Atkins Wardy, whose book, "Redefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, Birth to Tween," will be released in January.

"She can't be Hannah Montana forever, but at the same time ... does an artist bear a responsibility to her fans? I think that's kind of what Sinead was saying, in that, if you prostitute yourself to the music industry, they're just going to eat you up and spit you up and get the next new girl off the train who is five years younger than you and willing to go farther than you," she said.

Nicole, a single woman who works in advertising and who only wanted to use her first name, said she hopes Cyrus takes O'Connor's advice seriously.

Too hot for tweens: Why some parents dread back-to-school shopping

In response to a request for comment on CNN's Facebook page, she said, "Young women need to know that talent, not our bodies, should carry us through our lives and be the root of our successes and in some cases, our failures ... Women need to be empowered not devalued."

Dannie Cade, also in response to a request for comment on CNN's Facebook page, said, "I think every woman, and I mean EVERY woman, should read this letter regardless of the strong language that was used ... No matter what industry, career or talents a woman chooses in her life, Sinead's letter applies."

On the other hand, some thought O'Connor was out of line. "I hate it when women tell other women what to do under the guise of 'Don't let anyone tell you what to do,'" one tweet said.

"Sinead's of course entitled to her opinion but, from what I've read of Miley's thinking on things, I believe she's quite in control of what she will and will not do and why," another reader said on CNN's Facebook page. "She's in the entertainment business. Business as usual won't get you noticed and will kill a career more certainly than pissing people off."

Feminists like Erin Matson, editor at large for RH Reality Check, a daily publication focusing on sexual and reproductive health and justice issues, believe O'Connor "missed the point."

"There was a very good reason for her to write an open letter to Miley Cyrus about what she's doing, but the problem is not that Miley needs to put some clothes on. The problem is she's engaging in this racial power play," Matson said.

Matson said Cyrus is relying on racial stereotypes and racial appropriation, citing her dancing with brown teddy bears, twerking and saying she wants to make music that "sounds black."

"What I object to is the practice of a young white woman taking sexual power by relying on racial stereotypes and racial appropriation," Matson said.

Countdown for Kendall Jenner turning 18: Gross or fair game?

As for the issue of hyper-sexualization of women in the music industry and in entertainment in general, Matson said it's the people behind the scenes who are responsible for it, not entertainers like Cyrus.

"Let's look at the producers, let's look at the advertisers, let's look at music television, let's look at all those people in charge who are by and large men," Matson said. "It seems awfully curious to point our finger at a small number of women in power in the entertainment industry and say they're the problem when it's the people who are controlling the purse strings who are the problem."

Stay in touch!
Don't miss out on the conversation we're having at CNN Living. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for the latest stories and tell us what's influencing your life.

Feldt says she has heard the it's-the-media-not-Miley debate, but she disagrees somewhat. She believes there is a role for Cyrus to play.

"How do you change the media if you don't start setting your own boundaries? And, no, you can't expect any one person to change an entire institution, but if each one of us doesn't use our best judgment, we'll never change," Feldt said.

"It's not just the responsibility of the individual, but if an individual has an opportunity to make an impact as a Miley Cyrus or a Sinead O'Connor does, she should take it," she added.

Atkins Wardy's group is launching a campaign next week, renting a billboard in Times Square to showcase tweets on what changes in the media young girls and those who care about them want to see. She says it helps when celebrities like O'Connor lend their voices to the discussion about how girls and women are portrayed.

"So when we have celebrities and media members ... speaking out against this, it helps a little bit to give credibility because sometimes you are labeled as, 'Oh, you are a prude' or 'Oh, you are just a feminist that lacks a sense of humor or something,'" Wardy said. "But here are women who are part of the game and are actually saying the game's pretty sick."

Follow Kelly Wallace on Twitter and like CNN Living on Facebook.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1427 GMT (2227 HKT)
The indictment of NFL star Adrian Peterson on child abuse charges has revealed sharp differences in cultural, regional and generational attitudes toward using physical force to discipline kids.
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 1324 GMT (2124 HKT)
cara reedy
The world often treats little people like Cara Reedy as less than human. She's learned to stand up for herself and shout back.
September 11, 2014 -- Updated 1526 GMT (2326 HKT)
The unheard voices of domestic abuse spoke up on CNN iReport when Rihanna's story of abuse came to light. In light of the Ray Rice controversy, we decided to bring back these stories that are still just as powerful as the day they were told.
September 10, 2014 -- Updated 1410 GMT (2210 HKT)
More than 3 million children witness domestic violence every year, and the damage can last a lifetime.
September 9, 2014 -- Updated 1820 GMT (0220 HKT)
As media outlets Monday circulated video of Ray Rice punching his then-fiancee in a hotel elevator, many wondered why the woman -- now his wife -- could remain with him.
September 4, 2014 -- Updated 1652 GMT (0052 HKT)
The ways mother-daughter book clubs can help empower girls are the focus of a new book, "Her Next Chapter."
September 4, 2014 -- Updated 1344 GMT (2144 HKT)
Colleges are working to prevent sexual assault by educating students on affirmative consent, or only "yes means yes."
September 5, 2014 -- Updated 1443 GMT (2243 HKT)
A mom questions if she wants her daughters seeing a "sado-masochistic relationship, dressed up as a Hollywood love fantasy?"
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1904 GMT (0304 HKT)
In 2014, why is society still so incredibly uncomfortable with public breastfeeding? Kelly Wallace gets to the root of the controversy.
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 1442 GMT (2242 HKT)
Seven years ago, Barbara Theodosiou, then a successful entrepreneur, stopped going to meetings, leaving the house and taking care of herself. She grew increasingly distraught -- her two children were addicts.
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 1304 GMT (2104 HKT)
The situation in Ferguson, Missouri, after the police shooting of an unarmed black teenager, throws America's problem with talking about race into sharp relief.
August 21, 2014 -- Updated 0225 GMT (1025 HKT)
Mo'ne Davis is the first girl to throw a shutout in the Little League World Series. She's an inspiration, but will she change the face of the sport?
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 0036 GMT (0836 HKT)
There is a reason why when people post pictures of themselves during their middle school years on Facebook for "Throw Back Thursday," we all stop and take notice.
It could cost nearly a quarter of a million dollars to raise your child -- and that's not even including college costs, according to new government estimates.
August 21, 2014 -- Updated 0409 GMT (1209 HKT)
From parent to son, uncle to nephew, there's a raw, private conversation being revived in America in the wake of violence in Ferguson, Missouri.
August 14, 2014 -- Updated 0150 GMT (0950 HKT)
Children sometimes get left out of our conversations about mental illness. The truth is, they suffer too.
August 12, 2014 -- Updated 2114 GMT (0514 HKT)
CNN's Kat Kinsman says that talking freely about personal mental health and suicidal thoughts can help others.
August 12, 2014 -- Updated 1726 GMT (0126 HKT)
morning person
Easy tips on how to improve everything from your dinner order to the song in your head to your career.
August 7, 2014 -- Updated 1733 GMT (0133 HKT)
The case of an Arizona mom who left her kids in a car during a job interview highlights the fluid line between bad parenting and criminal behavior.
August 6, 2014 -- Updated 1941 GMT (0341 HKT)
A children's book about gun rights has benefited from an unexpected boost in sales after it became the subject of a mocking segment on a talk show.
August 5, 2014 -- Updated 1505 GMT (2305 HKT)
Some campers and counselors keep the campfire flames burning with summer flings that become lifetime commitments.
August 1, 2014 -- Updated 1143 GMT (1943 HKT)
After letting her 7-year-old son walk from their home to a park to play, a Florida mother faces up to five years in jail for child neglect.
September 2, 2014 -- Updated 1916 GMT (0316 HKT)
Lindsey Rogers-Seitz, who lost her son in a hot car, hopes mandatory technology in cars and car seats will stop child death from heatstroke in cars.
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1442 GMT (2242 HKT)
Not to mention your jeans, bras and pillows? Here's a definitive guide to keeping all your quarters clean.
Imagination Playgrounds have snaking tunnels, platforms and springy mats just like any other playground. But they're different in one fundamental way -- they're built by kids.
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 1535 GMT (2335 HKT)
Grammy Award-winning singer Sarah McLachlan, a 46-year-old divorced mom of two girls, talks about parenting, sex and whether women can have it all.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1154 GMT (1954 HKT)
Researchers say physical punishment actually alters the brain.
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 2041 GMT (0441 HKT)
The case of a South Carolina mother arrested for allegedly leaving her 9-year-old daughter at a park while she was working sparks debate over how young is too young to leave a child alone.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1515 GMT (2315 HKT)
CNN's Kelly Wallace reveals 5 common parenting mistakes that many parents admit to making.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1244 GMT (2044 HKT)
Is it a bad idea for parents to let kids drink underage at home, or does an early sip make drinking less taboo? Studies are divided on the subject, which is a tough nut for parents to crack.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1404 GMT (2204 HKT)
Kids who takes cellphones to bed are not sleeping, says Mel Robbins. Make them park their phones with the parents at night
July 15, 2014 -- Updated 1840 GMT (0240 HKT)
Professional photographer Timothy Archibald uses his camera to connect with his autistic son.
Post your personal essays and original photos, and tell us how it really is.
cnn, parents, parenting, logo
Get the latest kid-related buzz, confessions from imperfect parents and the download on the digital life of families here at CNN Parents.
ADVERTISEMENT