You may have heard or read that earlier this week Miley Cyrus, formerly of “Hannah Montana” fame, decided to go topless, snap a photo of it, and post said photo on Instagram. Instagram was not amused and took the post down, saying they have a policy of not allowing nude pictures on their site. Miley said she was just doing her part for the “Free the Nipple” campaign which has also garnered support from celebrities such as Rhianna and Chelsea Handler.
Let me start by saying that Ms. Cyrus is 22 years old and can pose in anyway she chooses. That is her right. And if she wants to post those pictures on the Internet, I have no problem with that, either. If people don’t want to see another person topless online, then they should avoid sites which have such photos on them. I am an ardent supporter of the First Amendment. Considering that I write for a living, how could I not be?
In addition, female friends and colleagues have recently pointed out to me that there is a major double standard which exists in the way the law treats women who decide to bare their chests. A man can stand in his front yard and mow his lawn with his shirt off and no one thinks anything about it, except maybe to wonder why someone finds it necessary to do yardwork sans a shirt. Hey, I don’t care if you have six-pack abs, I still don’t want to stand on my front porch and see that. But that is my hang-up, not theirs. If a woman does the same, however, she will be immediately arrested for indecency in most states. Most certainly where I live in Georgia. This is an incredibly valid point and should lead us all to examine why there are such dichotomies in our legal system when it comes to men and women.
But now allow me to see this debate from the perspective of a father. I have an 8-year-old daughter who is, like most young people in the world today, deeply tuned into what happens on the Internet and social media. And in addition to the nude photos Cyrus posted, she also included mocked-up images of a topless Hannah Montana. (Yes, I think you see where this is going, but bear with me.) My daughter came into the house Monday afternoon after spending several hours at a friend’s house for a playdate. She walked up to me and asked, “Why did Hannah Montana take off her top?” My first thought when confronted with this query was not to consider how to best answer the question. My first thought was, Why me, Lord?
After gathering my composure, I asked my daughter what she was referring to, even though I had already seen the Miley Cyrus story on the Internet that morning. She proceeded to explain that the friend she had gone to visit pulled up the topless Hannah Montana images on her smartphone. (Who gives an 8-year old a smartphone?!) I explained that Miley Cyrus, who played Hannah Montana, had done the pictures as a joke and began to ramble on about freedom of expression. To which my daughter replied, “I guess that’s how you get a million hits on the Web in an hour.” At 8, my daughter is much savvier than I am. I like to think that’s a compliment to me and how I have educated her so far, but I’m pretty sure I don’t deserve much of the credit.
Later that same evening, as I was sitting in the living room reading a book, I started to contemplate the notion of my daughter posting a topless photo on the Internet when she, like Miley, is 22. Would I want her to do that? Would I be as calm if she followed down the Miley Cyrus path? Are you kidding? I may not let her date until she’s 35! But how much can we truly “control” our children? With that question lingering in my mind, I admit I didn’t sleep too well that night.
So, to Billy Ray Cyrus, Miley’s father, all I can really say is, better you than me.