NASHVILLE, Tenn. — As Miley
Cyrus transitions from her Disney image as Hannah Montana to the teenage star
of racy music videos, parents whose daughters revere her are left with a
dilemma: How do they explain to their children that Miley isn’t an ideal role
model? Is a talk even necessary?
Dannah Gresh and Vicki
Courtney, two mothers known for their guidance of young girls, each addressed
the topic on their blogs after the release of Miley’s sexually provocative
video for the song “Can’t Be Tamed.”
In an open letter to Miley’s
parents, Billy Ray and Tish Cyrus, Gresh acknowledged that in the past she gave
Miley room to make mistakes and encouraged forgiveness. But the latest video
crosses a new line.
“I wanted Miley to be the
one who would say no to the money-hungry industry that turns perfectly
adorable, talented young girls into common sex toys. You — her parents — were
my hope,” Gresh wrote May 12 at blog.secretkeepergirl.com. “That’s why I’m so utterly shocked at what appears
to be the parental approval you placed on Can’t Be Tamed.”
Gresh said Miley, 17, still
looks to her parents for direction and said in an interview that she reasoned
that the video could not possibly be too sexual because her mother was sitting
on the set.
Miley even acknowledged her
following, which includes hundreds of thousands of tweens, by saying, “A lot of
my fans have grown with me on the show, and I think (the video) is the first
step to growing up.”
“A girl doesn’t have to and
shouldn’t grow up to be what Miley portrays in Can’t Be Tamed. I’ve been on the
front lines of counseling sexually broken teenage girls for 12 years, and they
get broken by imitating the behavior they see in videos like this,” Gresh wrote
in the letter to Miley’s parents. “The media fuels behavior, especially when a
face as trusted as your daughter’s is showcased.”
Gresh said research
indicates there is a link between early sexual activity and the amount of
sexual imagery a child views in her formative years. The more the child sees,
the greater the risk of early sexual activity.
Also, research shows that
girls who are exposed to music lyrics, Internet content and picture-perfect
beauty icons in their tween years tend to be more likely to struggle with
eating disorders, depression and low self-esteem when they are teens, Gresh
“While the impact is not
immediate, it comes like a stick of dynamite to blow up everything you’ve
attempted to build into your daughter,” Gresh wrote on the blog. “One day you
have a bright little sixth grader, and the next you have a depressed ninth
grader with an eating disorder. What they feast on is what they desire to
become. But they can’t be the picture perfect, dolled-up Miley. Miley isn’t
even that. It’s an illusion.”
Gresh, author of the
upcoming book Six Ways to Keep the Little in Your Girl, offered three pieces
of advice for handling the latest Miley debacle with young girls.
teenage girls only, watch the video and read the letter Gresh wrote to Miley’s
“If you’ve been fueling them
with the right stuff along the way, they won’t even need the letter to help
them think it through. My daughter Lexi, upon seeing the video, announced her
disappointment. ‘That’s just stupid!’ she said.
“Look at this as a great
opportunity to talk to your daughter about her self-worth,” Gresh said. “Remind
her that playing the tramp doesn’t attract the right kind of interest. Case in
point, the advertising community has discovered by way of research that sex
does sell, but it doesn’t sell brand.
“For example, if you use sex
to sell Kleenex, viewers tend to become more interested in product (tissues)
but they tend less to remember the brand of Kleenex. In general, when a girl
behaves like Miley in public places, she creates interest in product (girl) and
less memory of brand (insert-your-daughter’s-name-here),” she wrote.
For younger girls, rather
than watching the video with them, Gresh suggests saying, “Miley decided to
make a video that shows too much of her body in ways that I don’t want you to
“Your 8, 9, 10-year-old
should not see the video,” she said. “But she also should probably not be
plugged in to the Miley Mania until Miley decides to be a better role model.
So, talk to her and trust God to guide you.”
Finally, Gresh advised
parents to be careful with Miley’s heart and name.
“The goal is not to boycott
or vilify her. She is God’s precious creation and, just like us, will make some
mistakes along the way,” Gresh wrote.
“Take this as a teachable moment to point
that finger right back at yourselves as mother/daughter. In what areas of your
lives are you being careless?”
Courtney, author of 5
Conversations You Must Have With Your Daughter, said that as mothers across
the country are throwing out their daughters’ Hannah Montana backpacks,
lunchboxes and T-shirts, Miley appears to be on the same path as Britney
Spears, who sacrificed “her girlhood innocence on the sex-sells altar of fame
Like Gresh, Courtney advised
parents to put a positive spin on a difficult subject.
“It’s OKto be
disappointed over Miley’s actions,” Courtney wrote at vickicourtney.com. “But rather than crucify her (in the hearing of our
children), what if we instead acknowledge the video and what it represents
(aka: take advantage of a teachable moment) and shift the focus to examining
our own hearts and encouraging our children to do the same?
“What if we as parents set an example to our children by
stepping up and owning it when we ourselves are guilty of chasing after
counterfeit gods? Now, that would be radical, wouldn’t it? And rather
refreshing, I might add.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Roach is a
staff writer for Baptist Press.)