Sitting down to write acts like a dog whistle for children, relatives, and telemarketers.
Someone recently told me that this is the Year of the Offense. Everyone seems to be offended by every little thing going on around them, which is of course amplified by the media highlighting the most ridiculous and inane things to stir the pot. This includes some bloggers. So, guess what the big offender is now? Well, the title should give you a clue, but you can humour me by making a few wrong guesses …
Okay, okay. It’s those “dating my daughter” memes like this one:
For some idiotic reason, folks are missing the point that these memes are jokes; exaggerated caricatures of fathers wanting to protect inexperienced teenage girls who are (generally speaking) wrapped up in romantic ideals and fairy-tale notions.
In fact, one daddy blogger stated that these demeaning memes show that men don’t trust their daughters, have no confidence in them, and think their daughters are “weak and feeble creatures” (that’s a direct quote). From his comments about over-bearing fathers bullying, intimidating future friends and dates, and his obnoxious choice to post this topic under the category of “bad parenting”, it’s obvious that he’s confused the satirical portrayal of fathers in movies and television with real life. As the rest of us know; very few people actually behave the way these memes portray. That my father greeted a young man at the door with a shot gun in hand was just poor timing and reinforcement that you should always call ahead before showing up at someone’s house (… that’s also an attempt at humour.)
For that daddy blogger and any others who struggle with this topic, here are some points to consider:
1) When Dad screened potential dates, met them at the door, spoke to them on the phone, and/or “put the fear of God” in them, I never felt like he didn’t trust me. Know why? Because, *MY* behaviour wasn’t what he was worried about.
Dad trusted me to do the right thing, and then he empowered me to be able to make good choices by teaching me what to say, what options I had in certain situations, and if all else failed, where to strike if I needed to. He did that so I would never feel or be defenseless just because I was on my own.
Nor did I feel “owned” or like property by the fact that his primal instincts were to protect his offspring. I find the above mentioned daddy blogger’s suggestion of that ridiculous and, dare I say – offensive.
2) At no time did Dad’s (over)protective behaviour give the impression or make me feel like I was a helpless little thing that would collapse in a fit of vapours in a crunch. Instead, I feel important, precious, and worth protecting. I also felt confident that Dad had my back if things ever went sideways. He taught me that family takes care of each other; I could count on him to step up if I got into a situation I couldn’t handle on my own as an inexperienced teenager.
3) My old-world Italian father was pretty blunt about men and dating, but he didn’t teach me to “fear” men by being (over)protective. You know who did? Men (and boys) who didn’t respect me; mentally, emotionally, or physically. Those assholes really drove home everything Dad was trying to tell me about why he was so worried and why he felt the need to teach me how to slam a fist into a man’s throat.
You know why fathers do and say these things? It’s not that they don’t trust their daughters or think they’re “weak and feeble creatures”.
To paraphrase Dad:
Not all parents raise their kids to know and do what’s right. Even those kids who are raised properly make mistakes. It’s a parent’s job to make sure everyone is on the same page – that there’s a mutual understanding and respect. And, if there’s a lapse in respect, there is a knowledge that there will be consequences – obviously not Liam Neeson style, but real solid consequences to their actions.
Despite the “caveman instinct” to protect our young, these memes, and the “tough-guy” mentality that some people are sneering at, isn’t about feminism, sexism, lack of trust in our children, or “bad parenting”. It’s about teaching our daughters (and their potential suitors) that “Even when you’re by yourself, you’re never on your own.”