Hey you guys! I can post now! Oh happy day :,) And it happened just as I finished this blog post, so now I will share it with you.
Earlier today this article crossed my newsfeed on an old high school friend’s facebook and I clicked on it. I don’t know why, maybe because I’ve been thinking more about the relationship between men and their children. Partially because my friend has a daughter, and I wondered how she was dealing with that. Mostly because I’m a graduate student and I’m minoring in procrastination, which means clicking every link that is posted on any social media site.
I immediately regretted clicking this one.
The article is a list of ‘8 Non-Negotiables for Dads with Daughters.’ A list of rules with a focus on maintaining sexual purity and laying down the law with your new lady possessions to turn them into Good Christian Lady Baby Makers. After all, you’re going to need to marry those little girls off some day and no one wants to bed a harlot.
I’ve never read one of these lists for dads with sons. I’ve always wondered how it would read. I suspect it would be one line: “teach them to be adults.” Somehow the ones for dads with daughters always reads “teach them to stay dependent.”
Some of their rules seem fairly benign on a cursory read through. For example,number five is ‘discipline consistently.’ This seems fair; we do want parents to set and enforce rules. Then they explain that “setting strong boundaries and standards early on will save her from future heartache.” As usual, the focus is on teaching women to be submissive and follow the lead of a man. Because defiance equals heartache. If she doesn’t follow the standards early on, she could get abandoned by a man. (Also, really heteronormative).
We live in a society where one out of four women will be sexually assaulted, a huge number of women will experience domestic violence, and even more will continually be taken advantage of by people who know that they are too polite to say no. Aren’t those more valid fears for our children than being dumped?
Instead of teaching women to stand up and say ‘no’ we are teaching our daughters to follow the boundaries and standards set by others. What about creating their own?
The focus of the article is on fathers teaching their daughters to be pure christian ladies. Certainly not a new concept, but one that is frustrating in its persistence. Rule number three on the list is ‘prize purity’, and they go on to say that men should help their daughters ‘understand that it’s god’s plan to save sexual intimacy for marriage.’
The focus on virginity has always been creepy, and placing the responsibility for it on fathers is even more creepy. Daddy daughter purity balls remain a thing, and we treat our daughters like chattel, passing ownership from one man to another. Even the marriage tradition of the father giving the bride away is particularly creepy when you think of the sexual connotation. “Here is my daughter, I have protected her purity and am now passing her over to you for the purpose of boning.”
Putting so much focus on virginity can also be incredibly detrimental, as Elizabeth Smart pointed out. Focusing on how important a low number count is important can force women into staying in abusive relationships or make rape survivors' road to recovery even more difficult. By attaching a woman’s value to the status of her hymen or the number of people she’s slept with, we reduce her to a body. A mindless vessel with no worth.
I would like to provide a new list for this website. One that I think would make me not want to punch walls.
8 non-negotiables for the parents of young women
- Teach her how to think for herself, and to question beliefs. The most important word in a child’s lexicon is ‘why’. This word is stripped from girls especially early and they are taught that ‘why’ is not important, things simply ‘are’, an unchangeable force or creed. Reward your daughter for asking why, and try to answer her question. If you don’t know...say that. Teach her to search for answers.
- Love is important, but loving herself is more important You don’t want to hear this, but toxic people will enter your daughter’s life. In order for her to be okay, you need to teach her now that it’s okay to cut these people out of her life. Talk to her about healthy relationships, and how to take care of and love her friends.
- Teach her that her body is hers. Everyone is either going to be trying to take your daughter’s body and agency from her, or telling her what to do with it. Whether they are trying to sell her a diet plan, a new outfit, or a makeup product. Don’t be afraid to buy her makeup or let her shave her legs, but teach her to do it because she loves herself, and because these things are fun. The hardest part of this is going to be learning to love your own body. Every time you poke a little fat in the mirror or say “I can’t wear that, I’m too ugly” you are teaching your daughter a lesson that is more important than what you say.
- Share passions I don’t know how to tell you this. Your daughter is going to (probably) go through a horse phase. It’s going to be awful. You are going to have to listen to every breed of horse on loop. You’ll probably have to watch Black Beauty a lot as well. Try to enjoy it, fake it as much as you can. Watch her face light up and try to be happy that she’s happy. Then share your passions. Whether that’s golf, reading, or renaissance fairs. Let her see who you are and make sure she understands that she never has to share in these things (except maybe reading).
- Make rules Make rules. You need rules. She needs rules. Your family needs rules. And then everyone needs to follow them. It’s not okay if she curses? Then you can’t either. It’s not okay if she doesn’t clean her room? Then make sure yours isn’t a wreck. Talk about the rules together. Ultimately, you are the parent, and you need to be firm about things like homework. But you also need to teach your children agency.
- Make time to listen, and do things you enjoy together. When she talks, listen. Really listen. Ask questions. Do it while you go backpacking, or walk a museum, or go fishing together. Do it in the car on the way home. Do it even though you are tired. Listen without judgement. Make suggestions and ask questions that might provoke deeper thought, and challenge her assumptions, but be patient. And remember you were also once sixteen and interested in dating a drummer.
- Don’t be afraid to take time to yourself. A lot of people are introverts. You might be one. You might not, but sometimes you will need to get away. You can be passive aggressive about this, which will lead to an avalanche of doubts in your child’s head. Or you can be direct. “Hey, I really need to d-estress a little, is it okay if we talk about this later so I can go sit alone and think for a little bit?”. Not only are you getting what you need, but you are teaching your daughter that it is okay to ask for what she needs from the people she loves.
- Be human. If you make a mistake, apologize. If you are upset, be upset. You won’t be able to be perfect, and neither will she. Teaching her grace and humility will be a much better lesson ultimately than “my parents are superheroes”.
Obviously no list is perfect, because every child is going to end up being an individual. That’s both the coolest and the most terrifying part of parenting. Ultimately, having a child is a huge life changing event. And raising a daughter right now does have unique challenges. But maybe it’s time to stop raving about purity and making jokes about shotguns. It's boring.