Dr. Jennifer W. Shewmaker

Parent, Teacher, Author

Caged by Liberation

I was doing a presentation with my friend Stephanie at ACU’s Summit in September, and we showed a clip of the Miley Cyrus video “Can’t be Tamed,” in which the young female singer is dressed in a black leather bustier and singing from within a giant cage. I’m fairly certain that Miley Cyrus wasn’t trying to make a philosophical point about power and post-feminist ideology. And yet, she does. The visual image of a young woman caged and dressed scantily lead one of the participants in our session to observe that often what seems to be liberation leaves one trapped by their own ideas of freedom. So, as she bursts out of the cage, claiming that she “can’t be tamed,” she is, in fact, handing over her power to others in her search for attention and fame.

When women buy into the idea that their power comes from their sexuality, and choose to exploit that part of themselves, they become caged by their own liberation. Instead of finding their power through internal and lasting traits, they are seeking power through the feelings and desires that they stir within others. This is a shallow, temporary power. And, it doesn’t honor the deepest part of one’s identity.

Psychologically, it’s unhealthy to constantly and openly identify oneself in a very narrow way, especially with an aspect of oneself that will lose power overtime. Character can get stronger, knowledge can grow, kindness can be extended, looks will fade. Even when a celebrity claims that they are just using their sexuality for publicity, can it be possible that such a persistent focus on one area of your life will not grow to mean something very important about how you identify yourself emotionally? Most of us identify ourselves in varied ways,  as a student or professional, family member, member of a certain race, gender, religious group or nationality. But the culture of celebrity that promotes such narrow identification of young women with their sexuality is not healthy.

Young women are powerful when they choose to identify themselves with their gifts and strengths, whether it be a beautiful singing voice, a talent for math, science, or sport, or the ability to make peace or stick up for the underdog. There is so much more to young women than their physical appearance. It’s time for all of us to recognize that and help our young women recognize it as well. Enough is enough, no more cages for us.

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