My daughters are not my property
This morning while I was being productive, this image appeared in my feed on Facebook. It is not the first time I have seen it and it pisses me off every time. I feel the same about the images of dads with guns threatening violence to any boy who dates his daughter. The photo is anonymous so I have no idea who this guy is. I do have some strong opinions about him and the photo though…
Not Father of The Year
Based on this picture, this dad is an overprotective bully who is unwilling to acknowledge his daughter is her own person. She has decision-making skills and is deserving of trust. He is acting like she is his possession and like he has the right to beat up kids. Real manly of him…
Problems with this idea
This dad and others like him assume five things.
- He has the right to threaten violence
- Girls lack decision-making skills
- Boys are not worthy
- His daughter is straight
- He is funny
What I see in this picture is a man marking his daughter as his possession. He does it with the message on the shirt. He does it with the way he is holding his daughter’s arm. His daughter shows it with the expression on her face. If this were about caring he would not be holding her arm like he is preventing her from leaving.
Parenting does not require violence
I’ve come to learn that the first rule or parenting, or maybe it is number three, is that you shouldn’t make threats you aren’t willing to carry out. If my daughter is refusing to clean her room and I threaten to clean it with a garbage bag, I better be fully prepared to get the garbage bag and face the consequences when I walk into the room and start throwing things out.
This dad and others like him who threaten violence to anybody who is going to date their daughter think their threats come from a place of love for their kid. Sometimes it does. Often it is a power trip based in antiquated sexist views about the place of women and girls in society.
In most cases these dads against daughters dating are making an empty threat that they think is funny. In some cases they are very serious and willing to use violence against potential mate for their child who they don’t approve of. The most likely outcome of these threats is their child engaging in clandestine relationships out of sight of her father.
Trusting our children
When we equip our kids with information about relationships, sexual health and life in general and teach our kids our values, we need to trust that they will make the best decisions for themselves. Sometimes they screw it up and that is ok because it is a normal part of learning who they are and growing into the adults they will become.
They will not learn how to make good decisions if we do not trust them to use what we have taught them. They will not learn how to make good decisions if we do not challenge the bad decisions they make and support the good decisions that they make.
A chastity belt by any other name
What is the motivation of these dads who threaten their daughters’ potential mates? In a word – fear. They are afraid that boys will have sex with their daughters and their daughters will then no longer be innocent or virgins. They are afraid their daughters will end up pregnant or that they will get a bad reputation.
I suspect these dads are also not having conversations with their daughters about sexual health and relationships – at least not in a positive sense.
The threat of violence is intended to prevent their daughters from having relationships – or at least sexual relationships. The threat is intended as a virtual chastity belt.
The thing these guys haven’t learned is that telling a teenager that they can’t do something only makes them more likely to do it. We know from research that when it comes to sex, the most effective method for delaying sexual activity among teens is through comprehensive sexual health education. In case you are wondering, comprehensive sex ed does not include threats of violence by dads against potential partners.
Boys as hormone-driven sex machines
Ok, well this might be true, especially in the teen-age years. That doesn’t mean that they are incapable of exercising their willpower and controlling their actions. Teenage boys can be and usually are pretty great people. It is our job as parents to teach our kids about respect for fellow humans and our values. We need to trust that they will make good decisions.
I only have daughters and regardless of who they date, I need to trust that they will choose partners who respect them. It s also important to trust that the parents of those partners have done their job. I will do what I can to support my girls if they are in a relationship where they are not being treated appropriately. Threatening to beat up their partner is not the solution to whatever challenges they may encounter.
Not all girls date boys…
It seems out-dated to have to say this, but threatening boys to stay away from your daughter may be irrelevant given that some daughters choose to date someone other than boys. Assuming that your daughter is straight is really just setting yourself up for failure.
Threats are not funny
I have seen many men (and some women) comment on photos like these and suggest it is just a joke. As if the threat of violence and demonstration of a lack of faith in the judgment of your own child is somehow humorous.
This is patriarchal sexism at its finest. Fathers who threaten the potential future mates of their daughters are saying that she is mine, I own her until I find someone worthy enough to sell her to.
These threats do not make dads into knights in shining armour. They just make us look like jerks.
Faith in our children
I look forward to when men no longer think it is socially acceptable to post ownership photos of their daughters. It is possible to demonstrate our love for our daughters without resorting to bravado and hyper-masculine stereotypes. Let’s demonstrate to our daughters that we love them by showing we trust them and have faith in their judgment.