Mediating Miley Cyrus and Sinead O'Connor feud

WASHINGTON, October 10, 2013 – Miley Cyrus’ video for her hit single “Wrecking Ball” had her critics talking, but after her performance at the MTV Video Music Awards, the media has become fixated with her transformation.

She was criticized for “twerking,” shaking her bottom and grinding her hips against Robin Thicke and engaging in a series of lewd and strange behavior both on stage and in her personal life. Her performance at the VMA gave new meaning to “the finger” gesture. 

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For Cyrus, there is no such thing as bad press. Her music is at the top of the charts. She has more than 14 million Twitter followers, and she has shed her wholesome Hanna Montana image in a big way.

Last Saturday, Cyrus hosted Saturday Night Live, where she proclaimed, “there’s a few subjects we’re not going to get into tonight,” Cyrus said. “I’m not going to do Hannah Montana, but I can give you an update on what she’s been up to — she’s been murdered.”

It was not really murder, it was the morphing of America’s innocent Hanna Montana into the unclothed, wrecking ball riding, wild child.

So what is behind our fascination with Mile Cyrus’ transformation? 

Singer Sinead O’Connor penned an open letter to Cyrus after Cyrus said in a Rolling Stone interview that her “Wrecking Ball” video was similar in style to Sinead’s video “Nothing Compares 2 U,” .  

Sinead warned Miley that she is being “pimped,” perhaps to keep Miley from making some of the same mistakes she herself made 20 years ago, when she was an “it” girl, but also to distance herself from the image Miley portrayed.

Miley mocked Sinead by tweeting a picture of some of Sinead’s incoherent tweets from two years ago. Sinead threatened Miley with legal action and a celebrity feud ensued. 

Miley tweeted “Sinead. I don’t have time to write you an open letter cause I’m hosting & performing on SNL this week. So if you’d like to meet up and talk lemme know in your next letter.”  It was a gut punch as Miley’s tweet makes reference to Sinead’s lifetime ban from SNL after she tore up a picture of the pope in efficacy to protest the Catholic Church’s role in ignoring the sexual abuse of children at the hands of priests (Sinead O’Connor reveals her abuse in Catholic Magdalene Laundries).

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Sinead blames Miley for hurting those suffering with mental illness. Miley trashes Sinead during an interview with the Today show.  In her third letter to Miley, Sinead warns “I have no interest in or desire to cause you trouble but if you do not apologize for having deliberately tried to cause me hurt and trouble personally and professionally, I will have to bring pressure upon you. When you end up in the psych ward or rehab I’ll be happy to visit you, and would not lower myself to mock you.”

It is difficult to determine exactly what Sinead wanted to accomplish, but Miley has somehow become a target. The situation has become serious. 

Their communication styles are generations apart. Miley, age 20, tweets and Sinead, age 46, pens long letters. Both claim to have been misunderstood and publicly disrespected by the other. 

If a face-to face meeting became an option, a mediator might be able with assist Miley and  Sinead to think critically about their own perspectives in an effort to help them understanding what caused their feud and gain an appreciation for the other person’s perspective.  A lawyer, on the other hand, may seek an injunction or potential lawsuit to force the other party to change their behavior.  

Mediation assumes that both Miley and Sinead have the willingness to listen and understand  each other’s perspective and the capacity to separate fact from fiction.  

A more restorative and relationship-oriented approach to addressing the Miley-Sinead conflict might be more effective, as it would engage them in a facilitated discussion of how they were each shamed and hurt by their perceptions of the other’s behavior.  Rather than focus on the conflict their relationship has produced through open letters, tweets and interviews, a restorative practitioner would guide the women to explore what really happened and how they were each affected. 

Miley and Sinead share many common experiences. Rather than take sides, perhaps our time is better served trying to understand what drives these women to engage in destructive behavior.

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Millicent Carvalho-Grevious

Dr. Millicent Carvalho-Grevious, is the founder and principal of Pennsylvania Conflict Resolution and Mediation Services, Inc. She has mediated conflicts for over 30 years, providing services in a variety of venues for private and public entities, including the United States Postal Service, the Office of Dispute Resolution of the Department of Education, and the office of Employer Support for the National Guard and Reserve. She was one of 14 conflict resolution experts from 11 nations invited to Chongqing, China in 2009 to participate in a forum titled, “Responding to the Challenges of Financial Crisis and Building Social Harmony.” Previously, she served as Director/Program Chair of Urban Studies and Community at LaSalle University, Associate Professor and Chair of Department of Social Work at Virginia Union University and Associate Professor and Social Work Department Chair at Delaware State University. She earned a Doctor of Philosophy, Master of Social Work and Master of Law and Social Policy degrees at Bryn Mawr College and Master of Education (Counselor Education) at Boston University and Bachelor of Arts at LaSalle University.

Contact Millicent Carvalho-Grevious


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