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-shirt.
For the uninitiated, D.A.D.D. stands for Dads Against Daughters Dating. It's a real thing too, I saw these shirts for myself with my own left-leaning eyes. And the idea of a D.A.D.D. movement is complete bullshit.
Now, I know there's every chance that the man (can I safely assume 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 box who bought him said shirt. Maybe it was purchased on a lark or maybe it's a family joke thing where they all look at it and laugh and want to burn the shirt at a campfire. But at face value, a shirt that reads Dads Against Daughters Dating is horrible for a number of reasons:
- It suggests our girls are our property.
- It suggests our girls are delicate flowers who need male protection at all times.
- It suggests girls should "just take a joke" when it comes to their own strength.
- It cheapens the role that dads do play in teaching our children about relationships.
- It suggests dads think your kids are out looking to assault our girls.
- It teaches our girls that dating must be dangerous.
- It's just plain nonsensical and not funny.
This shirt comes in many forms. There's Dads With Shotguns on Prom Night and also Dads Who Lock Up Their Daughters Vaginas When They're Born. 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's tricky riding the line between "it's up to me to raise strong, confident women who make smart, informed, decisions for themselves that are meant to please them more than they please me and that sometimes I'll have to be the asshole to her to do 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 you."
But it is a line that dads need to learn and it's important that these archaic ideas of fatherhood die a quick death. 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. 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 Dads Against Boys Who Must Want To Assault Daughters? 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 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 we're trying to raise our girls. We don't have a very appealing acronym for our t-shirt business but we feel pretty good about the messages we're trying to send out girls.
We show you respect, you dole respect back to us. We'll show you our relationship and all the good thing and bad things that come with it and you know that you're free to do the same if that's what you choose. We show you that as a woman you're as strong as a man and that you set out the path for who you do or do not fall in love with, not us.
Now, people are yelling at their shattered computer screams yelling "No way you douche, you won't want your daughter going on dates! Do you know how early kids have sex these days?! You're a hypocritical asswipe."
I probably am that but not because I think it's okay that my daughters makes their own choices for the people they want to bring into their lives. A little bit of sex positivity goes a long way to making our daughters feel comfortable about talking to us about any relationships they do pursue. Or so I think. 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, consensual relationships even at a young age.
I expect "I know what went on in my head when I was a young man," is the first line of defence a D.A.D.D. uses when they talk about the significance of the shirt. That line 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."
That, dear D.A.D.D. members is appalling.
You don't have to be "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's not for D.A.D.D. folks to dictate either. Stop treating your daughters like meandering princess lost in the woods. Make sure they know they're strong enough to make choices and that those choices have weight of their own, even before they've come to dear dad asking for his blessing.