Engaging the Feminine in Collective Transformation

The Active Feminine in Pop Culture – Miley Cyrus’s ‘Wrecking Ball’ Video

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The recent Miley Cyrus Wrecking Ball video controversy is a great illustration of the Active Feminine bubbling up throughout popular culture – and how we respond to Her.

If you haven’t seen the video yet, check it out. You have to get past the teary-face part to see what stirred up the controversy.

I initially saw this as an opportunity to use the video as an illustration of how the Six Gestures of the Active Feminine are showing up in popular culture. But then Sinead O’Connor jumped into the fray and took it all up a notch on the archetypal dial.

Today I’m writing about Miley’s video – the next post will address the Sinead O’Connor (et. al) response.

Symbolism of The Central Three Gestures of the Active Feminine:

The symbolism is all blatant – relative to the ‘central (or obvious) gestures’ of the Active Feminine:

1) She’s literally riding a wrecking ball, bashing down walls, rolling around in the wreckage. All the while her lyrics are talking about wanting to be let in. Pure, brute force, blazingly obvious Disruptive Engagement. Hating barriers, attacking blockages, toppling edifaces, flailing around in a wild instinctual effort to connect.

It’s an image that perfectly fits our time. The Active Feminine is emerging from the shadows where patriarchy has trapped her, crashing out of her box, reclaiming her power – and she will break things in frustration.

2) She gets naked, poses erotically and licks things. Simplistic Embodying Eros, at its crudest. Juxtaposing her fragile, fleshly, feminine corpus against the mechanical, metal, masculine context for full contrast effect. Insisting, as the Active Feminine does, in the most overt way, that body and sexuality are relevant. Inserting it where it is usually most absent.

3) This video seriously Surfaces Shame and Shadow – which we’ll dig into a little more in the next post. The simple sexual overtness of it has stirred up the usual controversy around the commercialization of female sexuality – the frequent insistence that female nudity and overt sexuality inherently eclipses and devalues every other aspect of her being – which inherently implicates everyone who watches the video. As Chris Molonphy asks on NPR music “Doesn’t her move to the top of the chart reflect more about our collective prurience than our love of the song?”. Or as Judy Berman puts it “There’s no way to watch the video and not feel a little bit dirtier for having sat through it, and that’s the sum total of what Terry Richardson [the video’s director] has accomplished in his career as an artist: he turns us all into perverts.”

The obvious Active Feminine gestures are crystal clear. They’re what caused the uproar, and they usually distract us from whatever Subtle Active Feminine Gestures are also present.

The Marginal Three Gestures of the Active Feminine:

Not that there is a whole lot of evidence of the more developed & conscious aspect of the Active Feminine in this video.  But I’ve said elsewhere – Active Feminine women have few consciously-evolved role models, no elders, and there is very little collective cumulative experience of them showing up as themselves – and surviving long enough to mature and share their learnings. So we should expect that when we see her, we’re likely to see her immaturity (regardless of the woman’s biological age).

In this instance, the kid herself is 20. The video was directed by an old man (accused of being a slime bucket). So what could we expect? Of course there is little of the depth, development, intentionality and self-awareness we’d expect in a fully developed, conscious Active Feminine representation.  Still – there are seeds:

The Polarity is evident in the hazard/vulnerability of her body on that ball; in the metallic, mechanical, masculine context/fleshy feminine feelings; even the performer/director creative relationship is polar – a fresh, nubile, young woman and a lechery, Priapic old man – a classic mythical pairing that (repugnant as it may be to us in the everyday world) a young woman on a certain path finds intensely compelling. All rudimentary motions toward the gesture of Reuniting Sacred Polarities.

The Vulnerability is also incipient – she’s exhibiting a lot of vulnerability, but has yet to know how to handle it, and clearly is not Holding Vulnerable Space for others to enter into. Like the immature Active Feminine in all her guises, her vulnerability is dangerous, for herself and for others. Still, she’s dancing toward working with that magic.

And as for Dancing on the Margins – the margin she’s dancing on right now is that charged and writhing boundary around female sexuality that women so rarely get ‘right’. At least her stance is intentionally transgressive – crossing that line is much more personally destructive when it happens naively or on accident. And it’s a line that, once crossed, can teach one about the other important margins that need to be messed with as well.

So What?

To be clear – I am neither condoning or condemning this specific expression of the three obvious Central Gestures. If we understood the Active Feminine better, we could say that would be like condoning or condemning crawling – it’s simply a necessary stage of development for an Active Feminine woman. She is trying to understand & work with the ingredients of her transformational capacity – there’s bound to be a learning curve.

We cut young men some slack in their learning curve toward becoming conventionally masculine (yes, it’s also a different story for the un-conventional male): we coach and channel their natural aggression, rule-seeking and competitiveness into sport & military competence. Because even if we don’t like the un-disciplined expression of those qualities, we recognize their value to society.

If we understood the transformational value of the Active Feminine qualities, we might cut Miley a little slack as she finds her way to maturity as well, instead of being hostile and trying to shove her into the Stable Feminine mold (which often backfires).

These crude gestures in the video are the initial breadcrumbs on the path to the subtle, more conscious, healing and intentional Marginal Three Gestures of the Active Feminine. Miley’s gestures in the video are cruder than any adult woman showing up in community would exhibit (they’re art, not life – art is supposed to be amplify reality). Even so, the reaction to the Active Feminine in community is often of the same quality as the public/media reaction to ‘Wrecking Ball’, toned down a bit – but equally repressive and dangerous.

We’ll take a look at that reaction in the next post.

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[Verse 1 – Miley]
We clawed, we chained our hearts in vain
We jumped, never asking why
We kissed, I fell under your spell
A love no one could deny

[Pre-Chorus]
Don’t you ever say I just walked away
I will always want you
I can’t live a lie, running for my life
I will always want you

[Chorus]
I came in like a wrecking ball
I never hit so hard in love
All I wanted was to break your walls
All you ever did was wreck me
Yeah, you wreck me

[Verse 2]
I put you high up in the sky
And now, you’re not coming down
It slowly turned, you let me burn
And now, we’re ashes on the ground

[Pre-Chorus]
Don’t you ever say I just walked away
I will always want you
I can’t live a lie, running for my life
I will always want you

[Chorus]
I came in like a wrecking ball
I never hit so hard in love
All I wanted was to break your walls
All you ever did was wreck me

I came in like a wrecking ball
Yeah, I just closed my eyes and swung
Left me crouching in a blaze and fall
All you ever did was wreck me
Yeah, you wreck me

[Bridge]
I never meant to start a war
I just wanted you to let me in
And instead of using force
I guess I should’ve let you in
I never meant to start a war
I just wanted you to let me in
I guess I should’ve let you in
Don’t you ever say I just walked away
I will always want you

[Chorus]
I came in like a wrecking ball
I never hit so hard in love
All I wanted was to break your walls
All you ever did was wreck me
I came in like a wrecking ball
Yeah, I just closed my eyes and swung
Left me crouching in a blaze and fall
All you ever did was wreck me
Yeah, you wreck me

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2 Responses to The Active Feminine in Pop Culture – Miley Cyrus’s ‘Wrecking Ball’ Video

  1. What do you think the male equivalent of Miley's wrecking ball song as a crude attempt at presencing the active feminine is? Is there anything a man can do that would be as shocking to our 'sensitivity'? Are we trying to protect Miley by our shock? Is it the mother's protective instinct that is finally responsible for supressing the active feminine in everyone? I reacted as a mother, wanting to cover her up, wanting to hug her and say don't do it. Like Sinead, really.

    • The male equivalent, I think, would be a man being openly very vulnerable – crying, talking honestly about deep shame-things, openly admitting fear (not calmly, as in a prepared speech, but spontaneously, inarticulately, in the throes of the emotions – like women often do). I think those things are still taboo for men. Maybe not shocking in the same way, but deeply unsettling for everyone. They'd probably draw as much contempt, and could have an even greater cathartic potential, simply for being so unusual.

      And – yes, we are trying to protect Miley by our shock. And – I'll get into this in the 3rd (and last) post about Wrecking Ball, but we're not just trying to protect her, we're trying to protect the already-mangled Miley in our own souls. Because you're right, it is that protective mother instinct that suppresses the active feminine in everyone. But when we choose the maternal instinct over the active feminine instinct, we choose to treat others like children, and we block their growing up. This is the same instinct that keeps men shamed & confused about their own sexuality, trapping them in the madonna/whore dichotomy. A viciously reinforcing feedback loop.

      Thanks for commenting:-)

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