Note before we proceed: I’m going to include a short version of the episode of a Question Time Q&A with Greer here, along with a later moment where a Father in the audience takes exception to her suggestion that girls being told to “kiss daddy goodnight” might carry a sexual or gendered behavioral connotation.

This is obviously an edited clip, but one that I do think accurately reflects the original argument and the follow-up. Naturally I would always recommend that people watch the whole thing, but Question Time is roughly an hour long and this is really the only part of the show that deals witht his particular issue. Otherwise, know that this clip does — in my mind — encapsulate what I’ll be talking about.

This statement of Greer’s has become one of the things she’s most known for in MRA circles. Mostly because they use it as “proof” that feminists think all men are pedophiles.

If you haven’t watched the video, effectively Greer attempts to argue that from a young age, little girls are being sexualized in the way that they dress, in the toys they’re given (particularly Barbies), and in the way that they’re expected to play certain roles in the home. The example she gives on the final point is that girls are often taught to “flirt” with their fathers, to behave coyly and suggestively, and that you can see evidence of this in the tradition of “give daddy a kiss goodnight.”

Part of the problem with the way that this was introduced is that Greer doesn’t really give it enough context. So to the outside observer, it sounds like she is literally saying, “If your daughter kisses you goodnight, you’re sexualizing her.”

I disagree with that assumption. Instead, from personal experience (not me, so I won’t give too much detail), I’ve seen a handful of girls under 13 behave in ways with their fathers or stepfathers that could only be described as a kind of juvenile immitation of flirtation; Mostly with the bashful facial expressions and body language, often with a kind of squirming coyness and lash-batting.

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These moments didn’t disgust me, per se, nor did I have any reason to believe that these girls were being abused by these men. But they did always strike me as odd. It did feel like the girls were being trained on how to flirt, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that a lot of women will jokingly (or not) refer to their boyfriends or husbands as “Daddy,” particularly in sexual or flirtatious moments.

That said, this moment has always stuck in the back of my head from when I saw it years ago, and I wouldn’t mind having your opinions on it. Are girls often taught to flirt with their fathers? Is the coy kiss goodnight or fluttering lashes something to worry about, particularly with pre-pubescent girls? Or is Germaine Greer another childless academic* over-analyzing a situation she has no personal experience with?

*One of the kinder suggestions I’ve heard from people who disagree with this.