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Industry torn over sexualization of young women

Published: Friday, Nov. 1 2013 7:35 p.m. MDT

Miley Cyrus and her sister Brandi Cyrus attend the MTV Video Music Awards on Thursday, Sept. 6, 2012, in Los Angeles.

Jordan Strauss, Invision

Miley Cyrus is a household name at this point, going from sweet double-life-living Hannah Montana/Miley Stewart on the Disney Channel to warning us that she "Can't Be Tamed." Now, she is seemingly everywhere. Her ubiquity has not escaped comment by veterans in her industry, many of whom have weighed in on her current controversial state.

Annie Lennox, former vocalist for Eurthyhmics, wrote a few posts on her Facebook page, about the general state of the industry, shortly after Cyrus' infamous Video Music Awards performance.

"It seems obvious that certain record companies are peddling highly styled pornography with musical accompaniment," Lennox said. "As if the tidal wave of sexualized imagery wasn’t already bombarding impressionable young girls enough…. It’s a glorified and monetized form of self-harm."

Perhaps the person with the most opinions about Cyrus' latest is Sinead O'Connor. Cyrus said that she was inspired by O'Connor as an artist, and particularly by her video for "Nothing Compares 2 U." O'Connor fired back, writing not one, but four expletive-filled letters to the younger singer, urging her to leave her sexualized videos and performances behind.

"Nothing but harm will come in the long run, from allowing yourself to be exploited,” O’Connor wrote, "And it is absolutely not in any way an empowerment of yourself or any other young women, for you to send across the message that you are to be valued (even by you) more for your sexual appeal than your obvious talent."

Cyrus is hardly the only one being criticized for her antics of late. She’s not the only one responsible for the latest brand of super-sexualized music videos, photoshoots and performances.

Selena Gomez, who is just older than Cyrus, commented on the issue to audiences on several stops in her tour.

"Every day, I get told I'm not sexy enough or I'm not cool enough or if I did this or if I did that, I would have people who love me. Look at this room. I don't have to do any of that to have love," Gomez said, as reported by USA Today. "Let me tell you one thing, the sexiest thing I think — actually, I know — is class."

The USA Today article also pointed to actress Rashida Jones, who called on women to "be sexy, but leave something to the imagination." Singer Charlotte Church recently spoke out on how she has been dealing with pressure to be more sexual for years.

"The star accused record labels of encouraging young singers 'to present themselves as hypersexualised, unrealistic, cartoonish, as objects, reducing female sexuality to a prize you can win,'" Church told the BBC.

Actresses like Scarlett Johanssen, Alyssa Milano, Lacey Chabert and Jessica Biel all expressed how they have felt pressure to stay relevant – through their sexuality.

""For me," Milano told USA Today, "I did whatever I had to do to continue working and to stay relevant."

Ann Oldenburg and Arienne Thompson conclude that this does not have to be the model, citing the success of stars like Adele and Lorde.

"What happened to the also age-old line about 'letting the work speak for itself?'" they wrote in USA Today.

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