Remember in the good old days when fathers would have to pay a dowry to sell their daughters off to marry men? The lady with the best dowry offer was most desirable. Lest not forget the opposite existed where the grooms paid a “bridepiece” to the bride’s family. A woman’s body, a woman’s life, a woman’s autonomy was merely incidental to a transaction. What I am getting at here is that civilization has a long history of father’s pimping out their daughters for money and status. It doesn’t surprise me that amongst the highest status Americans—celebrities—it’s all too common for female pop stars to have dad managers selling their daughter’s bodies or sexuality even when they are teenage girls.
We all remember Papa Joe Simpson’s quote about Jessica Simpson’s 24-year-old body, “Jessica never tries to be sexy. She just is sexy. If you put her in a T-shirt or you put her in a bustier, she’s sexy in both. She’s got double D’s! You can’t cover those suckers up!”
Where is the line between knowing your daughter is beautiful and believing your daughter is “hot”? Where is the line between accepting your daughter’s human complexities and sexuality and objectifying her? And as a parent where is the line between motivating your child and not allowing them to “quit” and forcing them to be a child star against their best interest?
When Miley Cyrus was just sixteen she decided to quit Twitter but her father, Billy Ray Cyrus, pleaded for her stay. “Miley. You are a light in a world of darkness. You were born ‘Destiny Hope Cyrus’ for a reason. You can’t leave everyone now. We r countin on u.” Why? Because when Miley stops doing her job or alienating her fans the money stops coming in.
Later on when Miley was eighteen Billy Ray said of Hannah Montana to GQ, “The damn show destroyed my family. I’d take it back in a second . . . I’m scared for her. She’s got a lot of people around her that’s putting her in a great deal of danger. I know she’s 18 but I still feel like, as her daddy, I’d like to try to help. Take care of her just a little bit, to at least get her out of danger.” There you go.
Then there’s Beyonce, she’s a tricky one because if her father had not been the drill sergeant he was Beyonce could not be the impeccable singer and dancer she is today. There’s no doubt that Beyonce revels in a good competition, in a long rehearsal, in overworking herself—that’s who she is and her father saw this in her and capitalized on it. Nevertheless the notable transformation from Beyonce Knowles to BEYONCE only happened after she fired her father who was not just her manager but producer of her music projects (even film projects) from Destiny’s Child and on. That’s a lot of creative control.
You see before she was BEYONCE, Mrs. Carter’s sexuality was always presented through the male gaze. Even in the “Deja Vu” video featuring Jay-Z, it’s her song yet she is dancing around Jay while he sits in his chair and raps like she is a common “video ho,” like she is still Jay Z’s accessory. Before BEYONCE, her song, her sexuality was presented as something to fulfill the desires of men, to outshine other women to fulfill his desires. It was only after Beyonce dumped her dad manager that her sexuality became about fulfilling her desires. Every song and image shows women being sexual without objectifying them, it’s about women getting there’s not pleasing him.
The same can be said of Janet Jackson who was implored by her father to be the bubbly younger sister of the Jackson brothers, when she ditched them and went solo it was a whole different story. She exploded onto the scene reclaiming her sexuality and power as a woman—bubbliness thrown to the wind. It was unheard of in the ’80s.
I watched I Am Britney Jean, the most recent documentary about Britney Spears and, I’m not going to harp on this because we know the story of Leave Britney Alone Spears all too well, but I noticed something I hadn’t before. It’s of the general consensus that Britney Spears’, whose manager of her estate, finances and career is her father, heart is no longer in the game.
She went from being a magnetic dancer to being incredibly uncomfortable on stage and on camera. In the documentary she actually says, “I’m really not cut out for this business because I am so shy.” A grown woman is telling you she’s not cut out for this, imagine her when she was a teenager. That’s not what I noticed, what I did notice was the way Britney talked about sex. To paraphrase she says something like, “I love sex. I think sex is great but I do think about it differently now that I am a bit older.”
Britney Spears is an adult woman with two kids but her manager-father is still pushing her to act like a 25-year-old sex kitten. What’s worse is that she was expected to act like a 25-year-old sex kitten when she was 16. It came as no surprise that Britney said she was forced to be more sexy in the “Work Bitch” video. “Oh my God, we showed way more skin and did way more stuff for the video than what is actually thereLike, I cut out half the video because I am a mother and because, you know, I have children, and it’s just hard to play sexy mom while you’re being a pop star as well,” she said.
Later on her father interjected, “Britney is never pressured into anything. She reviews all creative and for her ‘Work Bitch’ video she discussed toning down some parts in finding a balance of sexy and being a mom.” He sounds guilty as fuck to me.
After five years of having control over every aspect of his daughter’s life Jamie Spears asked for more money, saying, “I continue to perform services to protect and care for Britney’s person and to administer her estate in good faith and in her best interests. I continue to have significant oversight duties relating to her visitation with her children.”
So why does this happen all too often to not be a trend? Of course, if a kid wants to embrace superstardom at an early age it’s incredibly difficult to do that without parental support but where is the line? Well, I’ll tell you, when your daughter has a mental breakdown that’s probably a good fucking line. When you’re sexualizing your daughter’s breast that is a good fucking line. When you sense an unfaltering deep unhappiness that is a good line.