Updated February 21, 2014: 5 p.m. EST.: A previous version of this blog contained sections about a sibling whose privacy the author worried was being violated.
In 2013 Miley Cyrus was a complete rock star-diva-asshole. She jettisoned 'twerking' into the dictionary. She was a runner-up to the Pope for Time's Person of the Year. Where wasn't Miley in 2013? Even if you're a social media hermit (or an actual hermit) you'd be hard-pressed to go even a week without hearing her name and at least one body part. How do you even begin to try to understand the year that Miley had? For all of her media buzz, both big and small, it seemed like the world wanted to vilify her beyond reason. I don't condone Miley's antics. Nor do I think her behavior sets a positive example for anyone. But the world has to realize something: Miley Cyrus doesn't want to be a role model. And we have to learn to be okay with that. Why can't Miley just be Miley?
This past November, The Daily Beast published an article declaring pop stars like Miley Cyrus and Rihanna feminists. The article cites the actions of these pop stars over the last year as offering a different kind of feminism, one that contradicts a common ethos regarded as "singular, easy, and self-affirming". When Miley's twerking video went viral, the manner in which she expressed her sexuality was challenged. And this criticism would continue after her even more widely viewed "Wrecking Ball" music video and subsequent performance of "We Can't Stop" and "Blurred Lines" at the VMA's with Robin Thicke.
Trying to understand how Miley's actions might be characterized as feminist is a more difficult sell than what we might consider 'the normal feminism', and so her example is that much more important to understand. There is a long and well-documented history of male performing artists who have expressed their own sexuality in a manner not too dissimilar from the 21-year-old pop star and have not been rebuked to both the extent and degree that Miley and some of her female contemporaries have. I don't think that Miley's trying to be a feminist, but her actions over the last year certainly merit more than a superficial snub or dig. They are meant to be attention-grabbing, but what begins as shock must develop into conversation, not devolve into badmouthing.
Regardless of whether or not you think she's talented (and if the jury's still out for you then I suggest you watch this) you need to recognize that Miley wants to do things her way and seems to be doing just fine.
Last year Miley did a lot to grab headlines and further her career in the process. In October, her latest album, Bangerz, premiered atop of the Billboard charts. She's a long way now from The Disney Channel and Hannah Montana. We've lived through pop/rock stars both female and male who have challenged us to reconsider how we evaluate a person's life. Miley Cyrus has every right to be who she wants to be: to twerk, and shout, and make a scene. She deserves it, because we grant this to her male counterparts. She deserves this, because she doesn't take herself too seriously; she has us to do that for her. She deserves this, because this is now 2014, and we owe it to ourselves.
After performing at the 42nd Annual 'New Year's Rocking Eve' in Times Square, Ryan Seacrest asked Cyrus what she hoped for in the coming year. Her response? "Another year like 2013."
A wrecking ball serves one purpose. And while Miley certainly did much to rattle the foundation of our social structure, whether she realized or indented to or not, what comes next--what we choose to rebuild in its stead--well that's up to us.
Updated 5:00 pm Feb. 21: A previous version of this blog contained sections about a sibling whose privacy the author was worried was being violated.