How Miley Cyrus Made Me Come To Terms With My Own Sexism

If you had told me this time last year that not only would Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth be divorcing, but Miley would have moved on with not one, but two people in the time it usually takes me to throw out my leftovers, I would have laughed in your face. What can I say? I still believed in love then. It was a simpler, purer time. But now, after watching Miley declare “Miam” officially dead and proceeding to bounce from relationship to relationship (first with Brody Jenner’s ex Kaitlynn Carter and now with Australian musician and one-time BF to Gigi Hadid, Cody Simpson), nothing that comes out about Miley’s love life surprises me anymore. And while I’m happy that Miley seems to be moving on and living her best life, I can’t help but admit that watching her love life play out like a public game of musical chairs has made me think differently about her—and not in a good way. 

I’ve been a huge fan of Miley’s for years. We’re both the same age, and it always felt like when she was going through a significant life change I was somehow going through something similar. When Miley and Liam broke up for the first time and she went through her Bangerz phase, I was just coming off my own breakup. I was a junior in college and things with my on-again, off-again boyfriend seemed officially off. He was my first serious relationship and the only guy I’ve ever said “I love you” to. After the breakup, I felt wild and lost and a little like I didn’t know who I was anymore without this person in my life. I saw these same feelings reflected in Miley. Except instead of getting drunk off strawberry Burnett’s and getting felt up in a bathroom at the Pi Kappa Phi house, Miley was miming masturbation with foam fingers and swinging naked on wrecking balls. At the time, the media made it sound like Miley was just “acting out” after a bad breakup, but to me it didn’t seem like an act of rebellion so much as her just trying to figure out who the hell she was after Disney and Liam. 

When Miley and Liam reconnected in the fall of 2015, I felt irrationally happy, considering the two of them are actual strangers to me and probably always will be. Seeing them work things out after all these years, it was almost like I was reconnecting with my own first love. So when Miley announced earlier this summer that they were divorcing after only a few months of marriage, and that she had already moved on with friend-turned-lover Kaitlynn Carter, I was shocked and a little—dare I say—angry? 

The anger didn’t stem so much from the breakup itself. I get it, people change, and even though I follow several Miam fan accounts on Instagram, I’m not actually in that relationship so I guess I’ll never know the full story. No, the anger was more about Miley’s actions post-breakup. One minute she was posting on social media about reconnecting with nature and focusing on herself during this trying time, and the next she’s making out with Kaitlynn Carter on a boat and posting thirst traps on IG. When her relationship with Kaitlynn eventually fizzled out I thought, “oh good, now you can start actually dealing with this breakup,” only to watch her dive head-first into some sort of romantic thing with Cody Simpson. I felt disappointed by her actions. It seemed disrespectful for her to jump so publicly from one relationship to the next so soon after breaking things off with her partner of 10 years. 

The media seemed to agree with me. Over the past few months, story after story has been published about Miley and her romantic suitors. And while no one outright calls her a slut for her behavior, most of the articles read with thinly veiled contempt, as if we’re all disappointed that she’s not sitting at home alone, scrolling through her phone for old pictures of her and Liam, listening to “Wrecking Ball” on repeat, and crying into a pint of Ben & Jerry’s (or is that just me?). 

Picking up on the contempt, Miley took to her Instagram stories last Friday to defend herself against slut-shamers by pointing out that men rarely get called out for serial dating. She referenced Leonardo DiCaprio and John Mayer in particular, saying:

 “Men (especially successful ones) are RARELY slut shamed. They move on from one beautiful woman to the next MOST times without consequences. They are usually referenced as ‘legends’, ‘heart throbs’, ‘G’, ‘Ladies Man’ etc… where women are called sluts/whores!”

Honestly, she’s not wrong. I myself have written about instances like Scott Disick moving on from Kourtney Kardashian to Bella Thorne to Sofia Richie in rapid succession, and only commented on the diminishing age of his hookups, and not the frequency of them post-breakup. And while it’s not news to me that the media is often sexist in the way they portray famous women versus famous men, what was news to me was that I was a little sexist myself. 

As a feminist, I pride myself on advocating for women. It’s 2019 for god’s sake, and women should be allowed to be open about their sexuality, to own their sexual experiences without consequence. This is what I’ve always preached but rarely practiced myself. After my ex-boyfriend from college dumped me (on my birthday) for a girl he’d been secretly dating behind my back for months, he made the comment that no matter what happened between us, I shouldn’t “spread myself around” after the breakup and that I should still be a “good girl.” At the time, I’d only had sex with two people and one of them was this prince. He made me believe that if I had sex with other people or started dating around, I wouldn’t be attractive to men, that I’d somehow be dirty for moving on too quickly. 

I’ll admit that those words have stuck with me, even years later. I find myself saying things like, “I’m not a casual dater” or “I just need some commitment before I sleep with anyone,” which are statements I rarely follow through with, but often use as a way to make myself feel bad anytime I have a casual hookup or a one night stand. 

Watching Miley Cyrus defend herself on Instagram for doing something that men do ALL THE TIME brought back those feelings of insecurity and worthlessness. I’ve always felt like you should grieve a relationship when it ends and be respectful of the other person, but why do I feel that way? Hell, I’m notorious for mourning a breakup ghosting from guys whose most attractive quality is that he had a washer/dryer in his apartment. So why do I owe them celibacy? 

And it’s not just me, either. Most of the women in my life are the same way, keeping their sex lives on the down-low post-breakups—at least from their exes. So why are women like this, then? Men certainly don’t hesitate to move on after a breakup—or even hesitate to flaunt their moving on, so why should women? Is it that we don’t want to seem undesirable to the men who’ve wronged us or to the future men in our lives? And why is a woman having a healthy sex life so often associated with spiraling out of control or acting out?

During the same IG stories where Miley took down slut-shamers she said, “I am trying to just THRIVE/survive in a ‘mans’ world… if we can’t beat em, join em! If our president can ‘grab em by the pussy…’ can’t I just have a kiss and açai bowl?!?!” And, this, poetic as it is, struck a chord with me. Here I am, saying how I support women and f*ck the patriarchy, and I’m getting disappointed in a woman doing what she wants to do because it doesn’t seem… ladylike? Apologetic? What? Bottom line: Liam seems to have moved on (albeit more quietly), and also these people are literal strangers to me and therefore I have no emotional stake in their relationship, so what am I really angry and disappointed for?

And while I may have handled a breakup like Miley’s a little differently (or maybe not, because literally the only people invested in my love life are my dog and @SweetestBetchYou’llEverMeet who is constantly trying to pimp me out on Hinge), I’ve decided that I don’t want to read about Miley Cyrus making out with Cody Simpson or Kaitlynn Carter or anyone else for that matter. Why? Because it’s none of my damn business. If I’m not going to be angry at Leonardo DiCaprio for serially dating any model under the legal drinking age, then I shouldn’t be angry at Miley for doing whatever it is she does.

Watching Miley go through all of this has made me realize that for how much I call myself a feminist, I still have work to do when it comes to judging other women and coming to terms with my own sexist thoughts. So, thank you, Miley Cyrus, for the reality check and this deep self-introspection. I’ll be sure to tell my therapist that there’s no need for their services anymore, I’ll just get my life advice from your IG stories from now on.

Images: Shutterstock.com; Giphy (3); @cosmopolitan /Instagram (1)