Today our favorite, outspoken, semi-nude, former-Disney star Miley Cyrus turns 23, and can I just say, she’s had a pretty crazy year. A year that was filled with crazy outfits, bizarre photo shoots, a feud with Nicki Minaj, and let's not forget that time she allegedly got caught smoking a joint in the press room after hosting the VMAs (because, why not?). Miley Cyrus is definitely controversial, and many people love to hate her, but one thing is pretty clear: She’s a total badass. Over the past year, we’ve seen her embrace her inner feminist, advocating for equality, criticizing double standards, and generally celebrating the awesomeness of women everywhere. And that's definitely worth celebrating today.
Of course, people have a lot of opinions of Cyrus and her claim that she is “one of the biggest feminists in the world." She is constantly criticized for her in-your-face brand of sexuality, her envelope-pushing performances, and, particularly, what many people argue is her appropriation of women of color and black culture. And, admittedly, sometimes her own comments miss the mark, and seem to feed further into the negativity that other people like to spew in her direction. But whatever your feelings are about Miley Cyrus, it has to be said that anybody self-identifying as a strong feminist with intentions of supporting women and gender equality is a totally awesome thing, and, really, is there ever just one right way of being a feminist? Not to mention that Cyrus is still only 23, and her social and political outlook is definitely going to evolve as she gets older (remember when Taylor Swift used to say she wasn’t a feminist? Or Katy Perry? And then they got a little older and realized that was ridiculous? JUST SAYING.)
So today, in celebration of the birth of the girl who introduced twerking to the masses (uh, thanks?), here are some of Miley Cyrus’ best feminist moments from the past year.
When She Spoke Out About Feminism Being Greatest Thing Ever
In an interview for Australia’s Daily Telegraph in February, Cyrus talked about feminism being awesome, saying:
We were talking about women’s rights last night and [someone said], ‘Women are more suppressed right now than ever before.’ Well, I don’t think so – I think we’re more free than we’ve ever been. I’m seeing it everywhere; young women are totally ready to come out of their shells, to take on the world.
There’s a lot of talk about feminism – people want to take that word and make it a bad thing, but it’s the greatest thing ever! Of course you’re a feminist, you know?
Right on, Miley.
When She Realized That She Is Totally Fine On Her Own
After a broken engagement with Liam Hemsworth, and a few post-breakup hookups, Cyrus has learned that she is actually completely and totally fine being single and independent — and she chalks it all up to feminism. Speaking with Time back in May, Miley said:
It has a lot to do with being a feminist, but I'm finally O.K. with being alone. I think that's something we have to talk about more: that you can be alone.
There are times in my life where I've had boyfriends or girlfriends, and there are times where I just love being with myself and don't want to give part of myself away to someone else … I think that's a new freedom for women, especially. I don't know that my mother would have been able to be 22 and secure in being alone. But my future doesn't rely on having a partner.
You tell 'em, Miley.
When She Stood Up Against Nudity Inequality
Cyrus gets flack for her penchant for nudity, but she’s not just an exhibitionist: She uses the backlash as a tool to point out the huge inequity that exists when it comes to male and female nudity, especially as it relates to breasts. Cyrus has been a big advocate of the #freethenipple movement on social media, pointing out the double standard around how we view women’s nipples — sexualizing them in a way we don’t with men, even though women’s breast and nipples can literally feed children.
But of course, she said it in the most Miley way possible. During an August appearance on Jimmy Kimmel, she noted:
The nipple, what you can't show, is what everyone has. But the jug part that everybody doesn't, you're allowed to show underboob. I've never understood the way it works.
And in starting such a public conversation, Cyrus is hitting on something activists like Soraya Chemaly totally agree with — that censorship of women’s nudity is just another example of misogynistic thinking. As Chemaly told Mic in May:
Women's breasts are not the problem. Sexual objectification is the problem...Breasts don't hurt children, breasts feed children, and it's the sexualization of women's bodies that's actually hurting children the most.
Let's #freethenipple, people!
When She Embraced Her Gender-Fluidity (And Body Hair!) In A Candy Magazine Photoshoot
A big part of feminism for Cyrus is embracing her uniqueness and doing whatever the hell she wants without being afraid of what other people will think. And, as someone who is constantly on magazine covers, it makes sense that this would be reflected in the way she looks.
In a series of cover shoots shot by Terry Richardson for Candy Magazine earlier this month, Cyrus showed lots of skin (surprise, surprise), but also played with gender norms and androgyny, and even shot a cover showing off her armpit hair. And given that lots of us who identify as feminists still have mega issues about our relationships to our razors, I’d say that’s a pretty brave move.
When She Launched A Charity For Homeless And LGBT Youth
Say what you will about Miley Cyrus, but it’s clear that she is definitely trying to make the world a better placed for anyone out there who feels marginalized in society. She even started a charity, called the Happy Hippie Foundation, to help homeless youth and as well as those who identify as LGBT, and has thrown her celebrity clout behind it all the way, recruiting musician friends like Ariana Grande and Joan Jett to help out with money-raising efforts.
Speaking about her foundation, Cyrus said:
All humans have valid feelings and rights! I want to use my voice as a megaphone to young people everywhere and encourage human evolution...No one should have to hide who they really are, no matter what his or her name, gender or status. That’s why Happy Hippies are here to say that every life is valuable!
So happy birthday, Miley Cyrus. Here’s to another crazy, female-empowering year.
Image: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images