I wasn't going to do this. Not because I've been living under a rock, unaware of the pop star's recent antics, but because I've been hoping that she'll just go away. I've kept track of conversations about her, with people like Tressie McMillan Cottom, Syreeta McFadden, and Big Freedia expressing how I've felt about Miley's choices much more eloquently than I could (seriously, click those links. They're essential reading). And, after so many mic-dropping moments of brilliant commentary, I really hoped Miley would just get the message, hang up her own microphone, and fade away from the center of pop culture attention.
But no. We're still talking about Miley. Only now, much of the conversation is about Miley's sexual expression and whether or not we should be encouraging her to put on more clothing. And I'll be honest. In the grand scheme of things, considering the current degradation and the historical exploitation framing the context of what's been happening with Miley, I really could not care less about what Miley chooses to do with her own body.
So, even though I'm well aware that there are plenty of issues more important than Miley Cyrus, I've taken a moment to write about Miley. Because these conversations touch on issues that go far beyond the power of a half-naked pop star, and to me, it's important that my perspective isn't forgotten. That's why I'm sharing this poem, which I wrote in response to a Saturday Night Special prompt of "wiggle." Read on to find the wiggle, and see if you can hear why on some level, while I hate to admit it, Miley matters to me.
miley and me
that i’ve got something in common
with miley cyrus, but it’s the truth.
both of us hide out in costume,
each day, sharpening our tools
to redirect the glare of plain sight.
miley arms herself with designer ratchet wear,
shields of golden jewels
hanging from her ears, her neck, and her teeth,
and she never forgets the biggest gem
in her collection of prize accessories--
her background black girl,
behind her like a night sky
boosting this little star to her brightest shine.
just like miley’s black girl,
my shroud is the sky.
most days, i would welcome the conquer of a cloak
to flatten my lumps into nondesription.
and i know my ass is beautiful,
but just look what happens when it’s visible--
we saw miley motorboat a black woman’s butt
and add a slap for emphasis,
but we didn’t see that woman’s face.
i’ve been the faceless one before,
poked at and played with,
all that fascination sinking into me
until, on some level, i start to think
maybe i’m some kind of subhuman freak.
but there goes miley, doing that white girl wiggle
she calls a twerk, teetering about the pole of her spine
with the grace of a rickety speed boat
in a stuttered imitation of a nimble jet.
i say, fly, miley, fly, if that’s what you want to call it.
never would i try to stop someone from dancing,
and i guess dancing is what she calls it.
only thing is, miley cyrus doesn’t dance like i do.
when i dance, i have no army of black girls
here to set the scene.
i am the only warrior in my battle.
see, i’ve found that finding my rhythm
is my only safe escape from invisibility.
and movement to music
grants me one of very few moments
when i can close my eyes without worry
as to what’s trying to touch me.
i circle my hips into my own ozone,
alone in my sacred space of swaying.
when miley says look at me!
i say mine is the only sight i need,
and when miley humps the air,
i say mine is the only body i need,
and though we both may dance suggestively,
i know miley cyrus doesn’t fuck like me.
i drink from the same spirit spring
where i find my rhythm,
and there, i find love for the making,
love i can keep,
and love i can unleash
from my whole being
without fear of some
jungle fever idea of desire
getting stuck to me.
miley crosses so easily
into those territories i struggle to reach.
she can do it for fun,
not out of necessity,
and she can do it to craft her own identity,
never losing herself to perceptions of her body
as a ghetto, material target,
never taking a bullet to the chest from a gun
later said to be aimed at a thug.
when will my body be mine again?
if miley removes her costume,
maybe i can shed mine, too.
but this moment hatched so long ago,
and it’s ballooned so much bigger
than one disney star trying to grow up
in someone else’s shoes.
if we could, somehow, solve this
between just miley and just me,
i’d ask her to help me restore
my agency over my own body.
and in return, i’d help her
put on some grown up shoes
that fit her real feet just fine.
and i’d help her fly her freak flag
without stepping all over mine.