Marilyn Monroe knew best when she was quoted as saying “It’s better for the whole world to know you even as a sex star, than never to be known at all”. In a time period where being a housewife was viewed as appropriately respectable and the best career option for women, Marilyn Monroe emerged as one of the most influential symbols in the feminist movement and possessed insight that was well beyond her years. While many feminists argue that Monroe was sexually objectified, a victim of Hollywood’s misogyny, the truth is that she is a relevant piece to the enigma known as “feminism”. Although Monroe departed the earth long ago, her spirit is evidently alive and well within the hearts of younger artists such as Miley Cyrus, Nicki Minaj, Demi Lovato, and many others who on their own accord have forged a new wave of feminism through their work. These artistic creators are not only delivering shock value but they are inspiring young women to pursue their goals, live life to the fullest and embrace the things that make them unique.
Who can’t remember the fresh-faced Miley Cyrus on the Disney Channel as she portrayed the role of Miley Stewart on the popular children’s show Hannah Montana? Right before our eyes, we tuned in weekly to watch Miley grow into a wholesome character, a young adult experiencing life, love, and friendship all while maintaing a double-life as an international pop star. As Miley seemed to morph on screen, eventually outgrowing the role, fans protested, mothers ditched their daughters dolls, toys, and signature blonde wigs, and Hanna Montana’s name was inevitably wrapped in controversy.
The 2013 release of Miley’s album ‘Bangerz’ finally laid Hannah Montana to rest, and gave birth to the twerk. Within in a few short years, Miley Cyrus and several other popular music acts have developed their own brands, expressing progressive messages, unique fashion, and liberal sexuality. No one can forget when Britney Spears emerged from her bubble gum, pop-shell or when Rihanna was officially branded the “Good Girl Gone Bad” after her 2007 album release yet, our mouths still drop as young Miley swings naked from a ball. While critics and parents alike question the messages being sent by this new generation of performers, a further examination is required to truly understand their role in shaping the contemporary view of feminism.
All controversy aside, artists such as Demi Lovato, Miley Cyrus and Nicki Minaj are inspiring young females to reach for their dreams, feel empowered, and embrace their sexuality without shame. Examining the record sales of some of their most controversial projects indicates just how effective they are at reaching a massive audience. The single “We Can’t Stop” from Cyrus’ ‘Bangerz’ album as challenged by critics due to the song’s lyrical content however, the track sold over 2 million copies and the video release garnered millions of views just hours after it was uploaded.
Nicki Minaj has been blasted by the media for the recent release of her music video “Anaconda”, a modern and arguably raunchy spin on Sir Mix A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back” where viewers are zoned into nearly five minutes of nonstop booty popping, suggestive dancing, and salacious lyrics. While critics and self-proclaimed feminists brood about the oversexed nature of the music video, Nicki Minaj has amassed over 750 million views on YouTube.
“I think girl power can mean so many things especially because we live in a time where it’s so competitive with females. Whether it’s fashion or boys or friends or boys…or boys and boys, it’s just really unfortunate. I feel like girl power is so much more important and special than anything we’re competing for!” – Selena Gomez
Record-breaking album sales and explosive viral outreach clearly indicates the position at which young artists’s are placed in modern culture. These young women hold positions of power and influence and through their own music, have created a platform by which to express themselves, something that women fought for as far back as the suffrage movement in the 1800s. The new age feminist is not just competing for equality in education, sports, and the workplace; emerging feminists of the millennium are capitalizing on the ideals that were once deemed sexist and misogynistic. Despite the fact that some detractors feel that new artist’s are simply succumbing to the provocative and often demeaning roles constructed by the entertainment industry, these same artists are efficiently building their empires brick by brick while rounding up an arsenal of dedicated fans, loyal consumers, and perpetual press coverage.
While spawning a new wave of feminism among young women, artists are often asked to take responsibility for their actions and the messages delivered to young minds however, many fail to realize that artists themselves are charting their own path to success, one that encompasses as many pitfalls as it does victories. We relish in the ideal of a picturesque family sitcom where everyone is perfect and nothing goes awry but, just like an average teenager, young artists are often forced confront their own personal demons except, their journey to maturity takes place amidst the public’s eye. If anything, the tabloid exploits and bad paparazzi moments enable young girls to see how certain actions may greatly impact one’s future and tarnish an image however, the ability to recover from scandal with class and grace speaks volumes about artists who have experienced their own personal redemption.
Demi Lovato, another Disney sweetheart who rose to fame on the popular film Camp Rock made her personal struggles public but, managed to inspire a number of young women while doing so. Hearts were broken when it was discovered that Demi was battling addiction and self-esteem issues, eventually leading her into rehab. As the media went on a frenzy, kids at home facing similar experiences found an artist that they could relate to. For some bizarre reason, music fans get so enthralled with an idealized version of their favorite performer that they tend to forget the person is a human capable of both success and failure.
“Your self-worth is determined by you. You don’t have to depend on someone telling you who you are. The most alluring thing a woman can have is confidence.” – Beyonce
Regardless of the highly publicized news surrounding Lovato’s difficulties and pushing aside the latest nude photo scandal to hit the web, Demi’s story is a testimony to young women who may also struggle with the same issues. The artist and X Factor judge even joined Secret as the ambassador for their Anti-Bullying Campaign “Mean Stinks”. There is absolutely no better way to connect with young fans than to support a cause that is relevant to them. Lovato joined with fans on a personal level and made a tremendous impact through the campaign.
Today’s crop of new artists are not only entertainers and entrepreneurs but they are also social activists and philanthropists, putting their hard earned cash to work supporting national and global causes in order to better humanity. Cyrus stands behind organizations such as the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Amnesty International, and the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Demi Lovato has shown her support for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, the Red Cross, and she and both Nicki Minaj have supported the Save the Music Foundation. Fellow Disney alum Selena Gomez, who also evolved into womanhood before our eyes has shown her support for numerous organizations including the ENOUGH Project and the Alliance for Children’s Rights.
When asked about their views on feminism, these Hollywood “it girls” have plenty to say. Using the personal connection she’s made with young female fans, Lovato pushed back against the trending hashtag #FeministsAreUgly, used by anti-feminists on Twitter to sustain the negative stereotypes of radical man-hating feminists. According to E! Online, Demi Lovato responded by retweeting something Camila Cabello posted:
“… the fact that #FeministsAreUgly trended is atrocious, ignorance kills any chance that humanity has at improving itself.”
She didn’t stop there in expressing what she feels feminism truly is. She followed up her first tweet with another, this time a retweet from from Kate Nash and a more modern definition of feminism:
“Feminism is not a dirty word. It does not mean you hate men, it does not mean you hate girls that have nice legs and a tan, and it does not mean you are a ‘bitch’ or a ‘dyke,’ it means you believe in equality.”
According to a Huffington Post article, Miley considers herself of the biggest feminists in the world’ viewing herself as someone who empowers women.
“I tell women to not be scared of anything,” Cyrus said. ” I’m for anybody. I’m for everybody, for everything. I don’t care what you wanna do in your life, or who you wanna be with, who you wanna love, who you wanna look like.”
“You’ve got about 90 years — hopefully we all live to be 105 — you’ve got about 105 years on this earth and, like, you should be happy every single one of those [years],” she continued. “There’s no reason to not be. It’s like, as long as you’re breathing, you should just find the best in everything.”
This isn’t the first time the “Wrecking Ball” singer has expressed such a sentiment about her influence in the female community.
“I’m a feminist in the way that I’m really empowering to women,” Cyrus told Cosmopolitan U.K. for the magazine’s December 2013 cover story. “I’m loud and funny and not typically beautiful.”
As women, we should be able to celebrate the success of other females; we should embrace creative expression and the freedom to have a voice, to love ourselves, to invent, and create an experience that is right for us. We should feel empowered to aim for the highest star event if it means using our given talents or assets to get there when naysayers tell us not to. Whether it is art or music, business or education, women have the innate ability to utilize their unique qualities to seize power and maintain influence along multiple platforms. Through their achievements, no matter how taboo they may seem, new artists encouraging young women to embrace their sexuality and shed outdated inhibitions.
Because of the modern day Marilyn Monroes of the industry, men are able to walk on the other side of male-domination where woman are gaining ground, calling the shots, and demanding respect. Whether it is surviving domestic abuse or defeating addiction…whether it is battling the greatest male rap contender or drastically altering an appearance to find comfort in oneself, feminism today is a remarkable evolution that never fails to inspire.
Sociologist Catherine Hakim may have demystified the puzzling behavior surrounding the young female starlets of the hour namely Miley Cyrus, and her self-proclamations as new wave feminist when she was quoted by Huffington Post on BBC Radio 4’s “Today” as saying “There’s absolutely no contradiction at all between being a feminist … and being comfortable about displaying your sexuality, she’s using it for her own purposes, she’s increasing her fan base, she’s making a lot of money, she’s doing what she wants to do.” The truth is that Cyrus, along with a host of other female celebrities are redefining the terms of modern feminism. They are knocking down traditionally established boundaries, making heads turn and assembling a new generation of fierce young women who are not afraid to celebrate their sexuality while making financial gains on their own terms.