This Watchdog Group Blasted the VMAs for ‘Sexualizing’ Women

Britney Spears at the 2016 VMAs.
All eyes — and hands — were on Britney Spears’s sexy costume at the MTV VMAs. (Photo: Getty Images)

Oops, she did it again: Britney Spears dressed provocatively for her 2016 MTV VMAs performance, and one media watchdog group is not that into it. Parents Television Council (PTC) — a “non-partisan education organization advocating responsible entertainment” — cited Spears’s sparkly cut-out bodysuit as just one example of this year’s VMAs telecast sexualizing women, according to Entertainment Weekly (EW). The council compared her barely there number to the “covered-up” leather outfit worn by her male stage partner, rapper G-Eazy — though it should be noted that he did walk the red carpet with his shirt completely unbuttoned.

PTC also blasted MTV and its parent company, Viacom, for airing Kanye West’s new “Fade” music video, which features recording artist Teyana Taylor working up a sweat in skimpy exercise gear and lying naked next to her fiancé, NBA player Iman Shumpert. In fact, a spokesperson for PTC told EW, “Many of the female costumes revealed part of or most of [women’s] buttocks,” in what PTC President Tim Winter called “concerning levels of sexualization.” (And then there was singer Halsey’s epic “underboob” while performing with Andrew Taggart.)

Halsey and Andrew Taggart at the 2016 VMAs.
Halsey and Andrew Taggart get risqué at the VMAs. (Photo: Getty Images)

As EW points out, Britney Spears is a 34-year-old woman. Teyana Taylor is 25. Both are adults in an entertainment business based on sex appeal. Many would argue they have a right, as grown women, to dress however they want — while others believe performers who appeal to young people should embrace their role-model status. Though the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) defines obscenity on television — “It must appeal to an average person’s prurient interest; depict or describe sexual conduct in a “patently offensive” way; and, taken as a whole, lack serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value” — PTC feels the onus is on the network to set a standard for moral decency.

The group also felt that MTV sent a mixed message to young people by including the wholesome “Final Five” Olympic gymnasts from Team USA alongside suggestive performances. “Viacom and MTV need to make a pivotal choice about the sexualization of women: either they must decide that it is good, or they must decide that it is bad,” declared PTC President Tim Winter in a press release posted to the council’s website yesterday. “When you have the juxtaposition of the U.S. women’s Olympic gymnastics team and their positive image of what’s healthy and right, contrasted with the sexualizing content that was so pervasive on the rest of the program, MTV is sending starkly-conflicting messages about what is important. So MTV, which one is it?”

Nicki Minaj at the 2016 VMAs.
Nicki Minaj gets revealing a pink one-piece. (Photo: Getty Images)

That said, Winter and PTC did give credit where they felt it was due. The council offered some surprising kudos to this year’s VMAs broadcast for being “less explicit than VMA broadcasts in recent years.” In its press release, PTC suggested that corporate sponsors were responsible for this year’s shift and thanked them for holding MTV accountable. “We also applaud the network broadcast standards department for their quick reactions to remove the harshest profanities,” added Winter in the statement.

In an earlier interview, EW asked Winter how he felt about the suggestion that parents should be responsible for the content their kids are watching. “The issue of protecting children from what’s harmful begins and ends with the parent. They are the first and last line of defense. That doesn’t mean it should be the only line of defense,” Winter replied. “Any other product in the history of American commerce is held accountable for what happens when that product is consumed — except for television.”

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