NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–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 said.
“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. First, with teenage girls only, watch the video and read the letter Gresh wrote to Miley’s parents.
“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 see.”
“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?
“Where might there be influences that could cause you to make similar judgment errors? Creating a video like this is really not worse than watching them as a regular course of action. Have you been doing that? Open your own heart and be careful with Miley’s during this tender time, or you may send your daughter the message that if she behaves a certain way she isn’t restorable. She is. And so is Miley.”
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 and fortune.”
Like Gresh, Courtney advised parents to put a positive spin on a difficult subject.
“It’s okay to 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.”
Children, she said, need to understand the concept that believers are works in progress, and that sometimes second chances are appropriate.
“I hope and pray Miley finds her way back to God’s path. If she is a believer, we can be certain that deep within the recesses of her heart she knows freedom in Christ doesn’t mean living your life any old way you please and excusing it under an umbrella of cheap grace,” Courtney wrote.
“A true believer can’t live a life that is openly contrary to God’s standards for long without experiencing tremendous conviction for their waywardness. The conviction will eat their lunch and eventually bring them to a place of godly sorrow that results in repentance.”
Erin Roach is a staff writer for Baptist Press.