As I write this the world around me is in an uproar about a young woman who dressed up in latex and danced with teddy bears and danced in some rather lewd ways using a baseball finger and a form of dancing called “Twerking”. I have a whole long list of reactions to this. And then a whole long list of reactions to the reactions of other people. And I also recognize that a letter to you about something which will likely be long forgotten by the time you’re all grown is probably a bit silly.
So I’m not going to write so much about Miley. I’m not going to write much about the man that she danced with or the type of dancing that she did. I’m not going to write about all these things that will be a distant part of a past that is not relevant to your “today”.
I’m going to write about “slut shaming” and all of the confusion of self ownership. About actions and reactions and about what happens when everyone feels like they have a say in what you do with your body, and what happens when you react to that in certain ways.
I’m far less bothered by what Miley did than I am with everyone’s reactions. I’m far less bothered by Miley’s clothing, Miley’s gyrations, Miley’s slutty behavior, Miley’s possible drug use, Miley’s this and Miley’s that than I am by all of the people who seem to feel that they have any right whatsoever to define who and what Miley should or should not be.
Honestly, I see a 20-something year old kid getting ripped apart by people for something that likely feels a lot like self ownership and rebellion. And I remember back to the days when I wanted to own myself because everyone around me claimed ownership over every. little. part. of. me. Every little part of the fact that I was female. Every little part of everyone around me. Because fat people shouldn’t wear this, and skinny people shouldn’t wear that, and oh go on a diet you fat person you! And eat a cheeseburger so you won’t be so thin. And never with the stripes! But that’s too l0w-cut and that’s too prim. And that’s totally the wrong pair of shoes to wear with those jeans. And ohhhh he shouldn’t wear that type of bathing suit! And she should show off her body a bit more instead of hiding it away like it’s something to be ashamed of– I’d kill for that body! But not that other body because that’s just too much of a thing that I just said was good.
I rebelled by covering my body up with ridiculousness and random. And I looked ridiculous and random. And people responded to me as though I was ridiculous and random. Then I felt sad. And your daddy thought I dressed like a hobo so we didn’t end up together for a decade. Miss Miley seems to be rebelling by dressing up in latex and showing off her body and all of the expectations that people have about what “sexy” is, and taking it to the extreme into “trashy” for the same reason that I wore XXXL mens t-shirts from the goodwill when I was young. Because when everyone claims ownership of everyone’s body and actions around them.. It feels damned good to stand up and say “F*ck you, you don’t own me.”
I don’t think that Twerking and slutty clothes are any more who Miley is than Hobo was me. But I’m sure that it feels empowering. And everyone deserves to feel empowered. If this is the world that we live in where the only way some people can feel empowered is to do something that is so far out there that so many people feel like they have to have so many strong words… What type of world do we live in?
Daughter… No one owns you. But when you react instead of acting, then you’re not owning yourself. You’re handing over who you are to the people that say they own you.. Just as much as you would be if you were meek and demure and did everything that everyone said you should.
Maybe you’ll dress in baggy clothes because everyone says you shouldn’t. Do you really want to dress in baggy clothes, or do you just want to do it because they don’t own you? Maybe you’ll dress in clothes that people call slutty because you think it’s ridiculous that clothing is labeled that way and surely it’s your right to dress as Whorelike as you wish and that clothing doesn’t mean people have the right to treat you a certain way. (And they don’t have the right. Which doesn’t mean that they’ll treat you any better.)
Some day you’ll probably mistake reaction for action. Maybe you’ll go slut. Maybe you’ll go hobo. And everyone around you will react to your reaction and look at you with questionmarks on their faces and wonder why you’re wasting your beauty and your talent and your “you” on such things.
And they’ll be right. Not for the reasons that they’re thinking — which are that their definition of you is the correct one. But because you’re giving up the chance to be YOU for the chance to react to their stupid over-reactions and misguided notions that they have any right at all to define you or anyone other than themselves.
It is my hope to raise you to know that no one owns you and that you own no one.
Miley’s actions are not something to be aghast at, nor are they something to be proud of and defend. They’re reactions. Because people think that they have the right to own other people. And people don’t want to be owned. And sometimes it feels like the only way out of being owned is by running screaming in the other direction.
I don’t own Miley. I don’t own you. No one owns Miley except for Miley. I’m not going to react to Miley’s reaction to the world around her, because no one owns her except for herself. I have no right to a say in what she does. I have no right to a reaction. I have no right to tell her that she should just go on being Hannah Montana because *I* liked Hannah Montana better. I don’t own her. And neither does anyone else. Certainly she’s not owned by Disney just because she was an actress in something that they produced. She’s not Hannah Montana. She’s Miley. And Miley gets to define who and what Miley is and wants to be and how she wants to experiment with her ownership of herself.
Miley is rebelling. If it was simply taken for granted that she owned herself, what would she have to rebel against?
Don’t waste your time reacting, babygirl. That just gives them exactly what they want- control. Be you. And don’t mistake “doing the opposite of what they say” to be “you”. It’s not. Being you despite everything that they say- both compliance and defiance… That’s being you. Sifting the you out of the nonsense.. That’s being you. Owning every second of your life and striving to be the things that you truly want to be, not simply reacting to the controlling nature of others.
It’s okay to say “I don’t like pink that much, I like red.” and it’s okay to say “I don’t want to be a lawyer, I want to be a doctor.” You don’t have to say “I dislike all of the colors and I’m dropping out of school because I’m tired of being told what to do.” You don’t have to act in the opposite way of the ways that people try to control you. You simply have to ignore their control and BE YOU, even if that means that you do things just slightly different from what they say you should be instead of declaring your independence by doing the exact opposite. You own you. Don’t forego being a poet because everyone defines you as a writer. Don’t forego being a veterinarian because everyone tries to tell you to be a doctor. Don’t forego you to be a hobo or a slut just because everyone tells you that you’re supposed to be some specific thing that feels alien to you. Make your changes, make your choices, and feel empowered by choosing YOU even if it’s just a little bit different from the version that they’d choose.
The one thing that I’m going to tell you is that you have no bloody right to try and own someone else. You don’t. Sorry. You have no right to talk trash about the girls in your class. You have no right to be aghast at the fat people or the thin people. You have no right to gossip about the wrong shoes. You own no one but you.
And you? No one… NO ONE.. No one but you owns you. You don’t have to react to their attempts at owning you, it’s okay to simply ignore what they have to say. Because They. Do. Not. Own. You.
<3 – Mama