Skip to main content

Sinead didn't have to publicly shame Miley

By Peggy Drexler, Special to CNN
October 7, 2013 -- Updated 1636 GMT (0036 HKT)
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
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1305 GMT (2105 HKT)
LZ Granderson says Congress has rebuked the NFL on domestic violence issue, but why not a federal judge?
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1149 GMT (1949 HKT)
Mel Robbins says the only person you can legally hit in the United States is a child. That's wrong.
September 15, 2014 -- Updated 1723 GMT (0123 HKT)
Eric Liu says seeing many friends fight so hard for same-sex marriage rights made him appreciate marriage.
September 15, 2014 -- Updated 1938 GMT (0338 HKT)
SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 04: NFL commissioner Roger Goodell walks the sidelines prior to the game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers at CenturyLink Field on September 4, 2014 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Martha Pease says the NFL commissioner shouldn't be judge and jury on player wrongdoing.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1315 GMT (2115 HKT)
It's time for a much needed public reckoning over U.S. use of torture, argues Donald P. Gregg.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1225 GMT (2025 HKT)
Peter Bergen says UK officials know the identity of the man who killed U.S. journalists and a British aid worker.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1128 GMT (1928 HKT)
Joe Torre and Esta Soler say much has been achieved since a landmark anti-violence law was passed.
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 2055 GMT (0455 HKT)
David Wheeler wonders: If Scotland votes to secede, can America take its place and rejoin England?
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1241 GMT (2041 HKT)
Jane Stoever: Society must grapple with a culture in which 1 in 3 teen girls and women suffer partner violence.
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 2036 GMT (0436 HKT)
World-famous physicist Stephen Hawking recently said the world as we know it could be obliterated instantaneously. Meg Urry says fear not.
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 2211 GMT (0611 HKT)
Bill Clinton's speech accepting the Democratic nomination for president in 1992 went through 22 drafts. But he always insisted on including a call to service.
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 2218 GMT (0618 HKT)
Joe Amon asks: What turns a few cases of disease into thousands?
September 11, 2014 -- Updated 1721 GMT (0121 HKT)
Sally Kohn says bombing ISIS will worsen instability in Iraq and strengthen radical ideology in terrorist groups.
September 11, 2014 -- Updated 1730 GMT (0130 HKT)
Analysts weigh in on the president's plans for addressing the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
September 11, 2014 -- Updated 1327 GMT (2127 HKT)
Artist Prune Nourry's project reinterprets the terracotta warriors in an exhibition about gender preference in China.
September 10, 2014 -- Updated 1336 GMT (2136 HKT)
The Apple Watch is on its way. Jeff Yang asks: Are we ready to embrace wearables technology at last?
ADVERTISEMENT