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)
Eight years ago, Jaden Smith was a baby-faced child star appearing with his dad, Will, in 2006's "The Pursuit of Happyness." Although he once again starred with his father in 2013's "After Earth," teenaged Jaden isn't a kid anymore. Eight years ago, Jaden Smith was a baby-faced child star appearing with his dad, Will, in 2006's "The Pursuit of Happyness." Although he once again starred with his father in 2013's "After Earth," teenaged Jaden isn't a kid anymore.
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
<<
<
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
>
>>
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
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.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 2209 GMT (0609 HKT)
There is no way around the topic of nakedness in front of your children without getting personal and slightly uncomfortable.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 1155 GMT (1955 HKT)
Teens might be shedding their rebellious reputations: A survey says they're doing fewer drugs, drinking and smoking less. But E-cigarette use is up.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 1453 GMT (2253 HKT)
Carol Costello asks whether American culture sends a message to girls that it's not cool to study math and science fields.
December 9, 2014 -- Updated 1744 GMT (0144 HKT)
It's that special time of year, when Christmas and Hanukkah toy sellers try to put children in a box.
December 10, 2014 -- Updated 0059 GMT (0859 HKT)
Foodies and travelers: They're adventurous, they have discerning tastes and they love to discover a little-known jewel. Here's how to shop for them.
CNN iReport asked families with children with developmental and physical disabilities to share what their lives are like.
December 8, 2014 -- Updated 1200 GMT (2000 HKT)
Don't know what to get parents who are always on the move or kids who seem to have everything? This is just the list for you.
December 10, 2014 -- Updated 0445 GMT (1245 HKT)
You probably know LOL and OMG -- but what about IWSN, CU46 or IPN. It's all about KPC -- "keeping parents clueless."
December 3, 2014 -- Updated 1417 GMT (2217 HKT)
Out of control parties, sex and alcohol are some of the dangers kids might get into when left alone overnight. But some are mature enough to handle it. How do you know?
December 2, 2014 -- Updated 1658 GMT (0058 HKT)
Across the country and around the world, synthetic drugs are tearing holes in families.
December 2, 2014 -- Updated 1642 GMT (0042 HKT)
There's no place like home for the holidays -- and for one little girl in Cleveland, it's the only place.
Girl Scout cookie sales are entering the 21st century. For the first time ever, Girl Scout cookies will be sold online through a national platform called Digital Cookie. This breaks the organization's ban on e-sales of Thin Mints and Samoas.
December 1, 2014 -- Updated 1419 GMT (2219 HKT)
Author/actor B.J. Novak
B.J. Novak is catering to kids. His first children's book tops the New York Times list of best selling children's picture books. But here's the catch: it actually doesn't have any pictures.
November 25, 2014 -- Updated 0020 GMT (0820 HKT)
Hundreds of students walked out of their Oklahoma high school Monday to protest the school's response to the alleged bullying of three classmates who say they were raped by the same person.
November 26, 2014 -- Updated 1310 GMT (2110 HKT)
If it hasn't happened already, it likely will at some point: the moment you don't like one of your child's friends. What do you do?
November 22, 2014 -- Updated 2112 GMT (0512 HKT)
Students unhappy with school meals are taking it out on the first lady by sharing images on social media of lunches sarcastically tagged #ThanksMichelleObama.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 2220 GMT (0620 HKT)
November is National Adoption Awareness Month. CNN's Michaela Pereira grew up in a family of five adopted girls in Canada and eventually reunited with her biological half-sister.
November 20, 2014 -- Updated 1939 GMT (0339 HKT)
It began for Nickolay Lamm as a question: What would Barbie look like if she had the dimensions of an average woman?
November 18, 2014 -- Updated 1735 GMT (0135 HKT)
If you think 'my teen would never sext,' you might be mistaken. Recent studies suggest it's more common than many parents might want to admit.
November 14, 2014 -- Updated 1144 GMT (1944 HKT)
Jillian Knowles has a master's degree, a good job and is part of the "boomerang generation" who moved back home.
November 18, 2014 -- Updated 1738 GMT (0138 HKT)
Samantha Futerman and Anais Bordier tease, poke and prod each other like they've grown up together, but they didn't. Neither woman knew she had an identical twin sister until less than two years ago.
ADVERTISEMENT