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Joan Vennochi

Don't blame Miley for our problems

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Joan Vennochi
Globe Columnist / May 2, 2008

For once Rosie O'Donnell is right. Leave Miley Cyrus alone.

It's not Miley's fault that our daughters are walking around in plunging tank tops and rolled-down-below-the-belly-button pajama bottoms. It's the fault of parents who can't say no to their children about clothes, entertainment or anything else.

My almost-15-year-old daughter makes some fashion choices I don't like. If I'm not as tough as I should be about overruling them -- and I'm not -- is it Hannah Montana's responsibility to play the role of mom? It's my job, not the job of a teenage singer-actress phenomenon.

Yes, I know, this isn't about clothes. It's about our over-sexualized culture and its ability to lure girls much younger than 15 into thongs. But why should any parent expect a 15-year-old Hollywood superstar to be the role model who turns that battleship around? That would be like trusting professional athletes to give up showboating and steroids for modesty and hard work.

Cyrus is an industry. The teenager apologized for controversial photos taken of her for an upcoming Vanity Fair spread only because they created an uproar that might threaten the family business. And, that's if you believe she and her father, country signer Billy Ray Cyrus, are genuinely upset over the uproar. They are transitioning to the next phase of Miley's career and that's their priority. They may have over-calculated the public's readiness for the transition, but ultimately they got the publicity they desired.

What's harder to understand is the public disappointment over choices made by an entertainer and TV character. It's like Dan Quayle bemoaning Murphy Brown's single motherhood back when he was vice president and Candice Bergen played a high-powered, unmarried television anchor who decided to have a child.

We, the parents, underwrite the culture we say we don't like. We pay for the padded bras, French manicures, and low-rider jeans. We drop off our teenagers at movies that feature sex and vulgar humor. We dress little girls in bikinis and purchase black cocktail dresses for 14-year-olds heading off to a freshman dance.

You can blame it on peer pressure, but peer pressure is not new. What's different is the unwillingness of parents to be the adult who says no. Back in the '60s and '70s, daughters rolled their skirts up to mini after they left the house. Now, daughters brazenly walk out of the house on their way to school wearing 3 inches of denim.

You can blame it on the Internet. But, we, the parents, put the computers in our children's rooms, despite expert advice to the contrary, and fail to monitor their use as closely as we should. We do it whether or not Miley Cyrus drapes herself in a sheet for Annie Leibovitz.

Joan Vennochi can be reached at vennochi@globe.com.

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