Miley Cyrus rubbed a lot of people up the wrong way with her antics at Glastonbury 2019, but that was nothing compared to the NSFW music video she was about to drop. A few days after what Independent called her “brilliantly scuzzy set” at the world famous festival, Cyrus released the video for “Mother’s Daughter,” and it caused quite the stir. If you’ve seen it, you understand why. The song is meant to be a “feminist anthem” according to the former Disney star, and she needed a director who could make the desired impact with the accompanying video. The final product was a collaboration between Cyrus and Alexandre Moors, who opened up about their creative process in an interview with the Los Angeles Times.
“The video is about the woman’s body — the right to own your own body and make it free from the male gaze, in any way shape and form,” Moors, who has directed music videos for Jennifer Lopez and Kendrick Lamar, explained. “It’s a broad message, and we’re not trying to be dogmatic. But we’re living in difficult times in America, and what I get from this video is that it injects a lot of energy and determination and the right fuel for the struggle.”
There was a mixed reaction to the “Mother’s Daughter” video on social media, where some users criticized Cyrus for sending mixed signals. It’s certainly a sexually charged video, but its core message can be found in the finer details. Here’s everything we noticed.
Yes, this video is trying to tell you something
A number of provocative phrases pop up on screen throughout the “Mother’s Daughter” video. Blink and you’ll miss them, but if you watch carefully you’ll notice that a theme begins to emerge pretty quickly. Flashcards that say things like “virginity is a social construct” and “not an object” send a clear message — a woman’s body is her own. These slogans pay homage to activist groups like Guerrilla Girls and Femen, who have used similar ideology to push their agendas and make their voices heard. When he spoke to the Los Angeles Times, director Alexandre Moors said that he’d been inspired by the women of years gone by who “put their physical body in harm’s way to achieve the goal” of gender equality.
“We wanted to make a tribute to the previous women who fought this battle, because you can imagine how hard it was for the women of the ’90s and ’80s, when it wasn’t even a subject people were bringing up,” Moors said. “These women put their bodies on the front lines to fight for what is right, and I have a deep respect and fascination for them.” Moors and Miley Cyrus clearly wanted their message to reach international audiences, too — one of the slogans that flashes up on screen is in French. It means “the flesh heroism,” Moors confirmed.
Miley Cyrus is ready to break down taboos
“Mother’s Daughter” pulls no punches with its in-your-face feminist slogans, but some sections of the video do employ a little more subtlety. Miley Cyrus and director Alexandre Moors try to shatter the silence that still surrounds everyday issues women face using simple, but effective imagery. Moors told the Los Angeles Times that he went out of his way to include “images of breastfeeding, C-sections, menstruation pads — everything [about the female body] that’s supposed to carry some taboo, but we should be beyond that.”
Cyrus once told Marie Claire that her first ever period was “embarrassing” (it happened on the set of Hannah Montana), but her video for “Mother’s Daughter” reinforces the idea that menstruation is nothing to be ashamed of, and the same goes for breastfeeding. “What’s so special about this moment is that Miley has shined light on people you never knew existed until now,” activist and social media star Melanie Sierra, who breastfeeds her baby Manifest in the edgy music video, said in an emotional Instagram post. “This opportunity will help us help others. WE DESERVE THIS. I represent single mothers, I represent Puerto Ricans, I represent the emotionally disturbed, I represent the underdog, the outcast, the people who are unsure of their place or purpose in this life. This moment is OURS!”
Mother’s Daughter challenges gender stereotypes
There’s no shortage of suggestive imagery in Miley Cyrus’ “Mother’s Daughter” video, something that haters have been quick to point out. “Miley u r the worst inspiration to those children’s [sic] out there,” one angry Instagram user fumed after seeing the video (via Fox News). Would any of this even be under discussion had a man made the exact same video? That’s a question that director Alexandre Moors was keen to discuss during his chat with the Los Angeles Times.
“Even the right to be salacious without being judged, if you want to, is encompassed in [a woman’s] struggle,” Moors said. “If a man were in a video grabbing his crotch, nobody would make a second mention of it because it’s expected, and a woman is supposed to be shamed for expressing her sexuality. That’s just another component of the political messages that are in the video.”
This message is one that Vendela Lindblom (above right) was able to get on board with. The Swedish-Brazilian model appears alongside Cyrus in the “Mother’s Daughter” video, which she was incredibly grateful to be part of. “I’m not afraid to be who I am and not who society says I should be as a woman,” Lindblom wrote in a passionate Instagram post, adding, “Empower yourself. Even better, let’s empower each other. Thank you Miley for letting me be a part of this amazing project.”
What’s the deal Miley Cyrus’ outfit?
Mitchell Lichtenstein’s Teeth split opinion when it hit cineplexes in 2007, lauded by the majority of critics while failing to hit the mark with regular movie-goers. This divisive horror-comedy follows a religious teen named Dawn (Jess Weixler), who discovers that her body has developed a viciously effective defence system against anyone that would dare violate it. “What’s most important for Dawn is she discovers her vagina is not a curse but a source of power,” Birth Movies Death said when it revisited Teeth on the films tenth anniversary. “And in the Age of Trump, that’s more important than ever.”
That’s the kind of message that Miley Cyrus was likely hoping to convey with her controversial “Mother’s Daughter” outfit. The singer’s red catsuit is reminiscent of the one Britney Spears wore in her iconic “Oops… I Did It Again” video, but this one definitely has more bite — Cyrus’ version comes with a silver vagina dentata. It’s quite the shocking sight, but this isn’t for shock value alone. Folktales of vagina dentata (Latin for toothed vagina) exist all over the world, born out of men’s “inherited cultural belief of sexual entitlement,” Vice explains. “Respective wars on women around the world are deeply rooted in the persistent myth of the toothed vagina and what it represents.”