Troubled by a t-shirt slogan and what it represents, Mike Reynolds explores the prospect of his daughters dating down the road.
Oh, summer – a time to spend with our families doing things we often end up fighting over; a time to complain about how hot it is (only if we’re talking about the humidity of course); and, a time to watch men on the beach walk around with their young daughters proudly wearing their ‘D.A.D.D.’ t-shirts? For the uninitiated, ‘D.A.D.D.’ stands for ‘Dads Against Daughters Dating’. It is a real thing – seriously. I saw these shirts for myself with my own left-leaning eyes. The idea of a “D.A.D.D. movement” seems like complete b.s. to me.
Now, I know there’s every chance that the man (can I safely assume he is also a dad?) wearing this shirt is a great guy. In fact, very little of what he did the day I watched him sporting his ‘D.A.D.D. shirt’ would have led me to think otherwise. I also know there’s a high probability it was his partner or someone close to him who bought this shirt in some back alley joke t-shirt store. Maybe it was purchased on a lark or maybe it is a family joke where they all look at it and laugh and want to burn the shirt at a campfire. The motivation of the purchase of the shirt matters not.
A shirt that reads ‘Dads Against Daughters Dating’ is horrible for a number of reasons:
- It suggests girls are our property
- It suggests girls are delicate flowers who need male protection at all times
- It cheapens the role that dads play in teaching our children about relationships
- It suggests dads think other kids are out looking to assault our girls
- It teaches our girls that dating must be dangerous
- It is just plain nonsensical and unfunny
This shirt also comes in many forms: there’s the ‘Dads With Shotguns on Prom Night’ shirt; or, ‘Dads Who Lock Up Their Daughters’ Vaginas When They’re Born’ shirt. These shirts may be purchased in jest but I’m not sure a five-year-old fully understands that.
As a dad, I get that it is tricky riding the line between “it is up to me to raise a strong, confident woman who makes smart, informed decisions for herself that are meant to please her more than they please me and that sometimes I’ll have to be the bad guy to her to ensure she learns this;” and, “my daughter is my property and I know what thoughts go through the mind of a 15-year-old and I’ll kill him!” This is a line that dads need to learn to stay on top of, and it is important these archaic ideas of fatherhood die a quick death. It is because ‘dad as daughter’s keeper’ plays a big role in telling our young girls to defer to the men they look up to in their lives. It is because the idea of ‘my daughter’s virginity is too precious’ isn’t the same as ‘I want my daughter to be safe’. ‘D.A.D.D.’ is misogyny in full flight.
Why suggest we need to shorten the leash on our female children while giving out even more to our male children who we stupidly assume are out to get our girls? Why have a ‘D.A.D.D. shirt’ without the obvious other suggestion of a ‘Dads Against Boys Who Must Want To Assault Daughters’ shirt? If you want to wear a shirt that supports your daughter’s future why not wear one of the ‘It Starts With You: #ImAMaleModel’ campaign shirts that speaks to ending violence against women?
‘Dads For Daughters Dating’, or ‘Dads Who Accept Their Daughter’s Choices’ is more in line with how my wife and I are trying to raise our girls. We may not have a very appealing acronym to start a t-shirt business, but we feel pretty good about the message we’re trying to send our girls. As parents, we show our daughters respect in the hopes they will respect us back. We demonstrate through our relationship all the good and bad things relationship brings, and hope our daughters know they are free to choose the same if that is what they want. We show our daughters that females are as strong as males, and hope that sets the path for who they will and will not fall in love with.
Now, I’m sure people are yelling at their shattered computer screens, “No way dude, you won’t want your daughter going on dates! Do you know how early kids have sex these days? You’re a hypocritical ass!” Maybe, but I’m hopeful because I think it is okay for my daughters to make their own choices about the people they choose to bring into their lives.
A little bit of sex-positivity goes a long way in making our daughters feel comfortable talking to us about any relationships they do pursue, or so I hope. I’m also willing to give other parents the benefit of the doubt that they’re also doing their best to raise young men and women who will be able to enter safe and consensual relationships, even if at a younger age than I would choose for them.
I expect, “I know what went on in my head when I was a young man,” as the first line of defense a ‘D.A.D.D.’ will use when they talk about the significance of the shirt. This reads to me as, “I knew I wanted to have sex all the time and a young girl can’t expect that if we’re dating, I shouldn’t be allowed to act out those urges.” This notion, dear ‘D.A.D.D.’ members, is appalling.
You don’t have to say, “Dear Daughter, I hope you have awesome sex,” to show that you support the autonomy of your little girls. I don’t have to talk to them about their sex lives to support their choices. I hope both my daughters have fulfilling relationships no matter what the sex is like if sex is even part of it – that is not for me to dictate.
It is not for ‘D.A.D.D.’ folks to dictate either. I think it important no one treats their daughters like meandering princesses lost in the woods. I think it is a father’s duty to make sure their daughters know they are strong enough to make their own choices, and that the choices they make have their own merit and weight without having to come to dear dad to ask for his blessing.
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Photo: Flickr/ (adapted) Jos van der Hoek
Originally appeared on Puzzling Posts. Reprinted with permission.