It is a topic that circulates unstoppably, turned into one of those tribal beliefs that should be carefully analyzed. And the topic says that the last song of Miley Cyrus, “Flowers”, With which she dethroned Shakira from the first place of the most viewed videos, it is a wonderful hymn to female empowerment. Oh really? I think it is worth giving this statement a spin.
Let’s recognize, because it is fair, that the song is musically successful. That is not in question. And let’s also admit that the idea of empowerment is quite ambiguous and elusive, a catch-all in which everything fits. Empowered is Cristina Pedroche, because she dresses, or undresses, as she pleases: empowered are the warrior women who have been so abundant lately in movies and television, because they are strong, in the physical sense, and violent; The ‘satisfyer’ women are also empowered, who do not allow themselves to be tied down by a partner or a family and indulge in hedonism. Sometimes stubbornness, coarseness or self-congratulatory arrogance also add points in the primer of the good empowered woman. And above all, empowered women don’t cry (they bill). They don’t even smile, that’s docile submissives with a need to please.
Feminism claims and promotes new masculinities in which men give up our strength – whoever has it – that we are sensitive and fragile, and that we cry our eyes out. Even Rigoberta Bandini, when she has to dream of a world for her son, wants one where she can let herself be carried away by tears at ease. Instead, the new femininities go through investing women not only with traditionally masculine attributes -power, strength, violence, revenge, self-sufficiency, arrogance- but also with attributes that feminism criticized when associated with men. It is seen that toxicity goes by sex, and that the same can be good or bad, depending on and depends.
In this context, while the song of Shakira was an exercise in self-affirmation of a spiteful woman that he was vindicated -a little, saving the distances, as in the ranchera “El rey”, by José Alfredo Jiménez, but with more sauce and revenge- Miley Cyrus’s song goes a step further and introduces a very disturbing novelty: narcissistic love for oneself is preferable to love with a partner. In the face of difficulties, nothing similar to striving to fix things and exaltation to the utmost of the most solitary, independent individualism, and ‘liberated’ from affections and ties.
We had already seen it in the newspapers. Do you remember those women who married themselves, because no one was going to understand them better? We thought that it was an eccentricity that was not too dangerous, since it was marginal and not very relevant. Well, there you have a very similar speech in the fashionable song.
Let’s remember the chorus of “Flowers”: “Yeah, I can love myself better than you can, baby, I can love myself better.” The images express this idea of self-sufficient isolation, and quite sad, on the other hand. Miley Cyrus is the only person in the video, dancing alone because “I can take myself dancing and I can hold my own hand.” We see her training, we see her in the pool, shaking her skeleton compulsively in a cold empty room of a mansion (hers?). It is the individual monad who believes that strength lies in the lack of dependency, the lack of ties. A person, in this case a woman, who doesn’t even know why their relationship broke up. “We built a home and watched it burn,” sings Miley, like someone reporting the eruption of the Etna volcano, or a terrible hail.
Let’s go back to the lyrics: “I didn’t want to leave you, I didn’t want to lie to you. I started to cry, but then I remembered that I can buy myself flowers, write my name in the sand, talk to myself for hours.” Three gestures that until yesterday would have been associated with some degree of mental alienation -especially talking alone for hours- are now claimed as signs of empowerment and strength.
How is this possible? Perhaps we have denatured love, turning it into a conjunctural alliance of solitudes? It may be that, for many people, this is the only possible way to be with the other, at least for a while, in some societies, Western ones, in which an epidemic of excessive self-referentiality was diagnosed years ago. Sociologists Jean M. Twenge and W. Keith Campbell churned up a mountain of data as evidence for their thesis on ‘The Narcissism Epidemic’.
I don’t know if it is necessary to explain at this point that Giving yourself flowers and having them given to you are incomparable experiences. The flowers are a sign of the love of the other, the one that is difficult to obtain, the valuable one. Self-love, on the other hand, we always have, except in pathological cases of people trapped in self-hatred. In the same way, dancing together speaks of harmony, of a capacity for understanding, of being aware of each other, while solitary dancing easily drifts towards the compulsive and arbitrary, as the video itself shows.
We talk about “toxic empowerment” in the title of this article, which is a way of suggesting that there could be a healthy one. Beyond the little appreciation that the word itself deserves -introducing power as a reference for human relationships is very bad idea – it is possible to conceive of an inner strength, character and self-confidence that does not necessarily lead to egomania and arrogance. the interesting movie Wonder Woman 1984by Patty Jenkins, offers a good and pertinent opportunity to approach this question.
Let’s make it clear, even if it is secondary to our topic, that the second film incarnation of Wonder Woman is very irregular, and in it great ideas and good moments coexist with some simplicity, and a general problem of rhythm in its central strip. But Patty Jenkins and her writers have made an effort that we don’t want to waste. There are Wonder Woman 1984 a healthy warning about the danger of one’s own desires, especially when dreams lead us to despise the real in the name of the possible. “We live in a world bent on satisfying unnecessary desires,” explains the director. And he adds: “You can’t have everything you want.” Therefore, you have to accept a certain level of frustration in life.
But the most interesting part of the film is the contrast between Wonder Woman and Barbara Minerva ‘Cheetah’: two very different ways of understanding female empowerment. The first has been educated in a prudent and responsible use of one’s own strength, and in the conviction that what makes us unique and better must be put at the service of others, without the desire for exhibitionism. Barbara Minerva, on the other hand, has always been a shy and self-conscious woman, although affectionate and friendly, who becomes a ruthless and bitter being when she magically receives powers like Diana’s.
It is not difficult to see here a contrast between two ways of understanding female empowerment. “Greatness is not what you think,” Diana’s mother, the queen of Themyscira, tells Diana. True greatness is in accepting the sometimes painful truth. It seems that Patty Jenkins wants to advocate for a path to female power that does not disempower women from the ability to love, grieve the loss of a loved one, care for others, or engage in ‘frivolous’ activities such as dancing or wear elegant and flowing dresses. Little to do with most of the heroines and superheroines who come to our screens, unable to smile or lead a life that has even the slightest appearance of happiness. Women who give up having a stable partner or their own family because it is incompatible with their work, when even James Bond was capable of risking it and giving up everything for the love of a woman (in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Casino Royale and No time to die), something that seems to be forbidden to superwomen. And now, thanks to Miley Cyrus, the circle has closed and self-sufficient and self-centered loneliness appears to us as the most suitable space for happiness. It’s a crazy idea, but there are many people determined to convince us of the goodness of it, and many more willing to believe it.