Kids Motherhood

Why Feminists Need to Stop Calling Daddy-Daughter Dates Perverse and Damaging

Why Feminists Need to Stop Calling Daddy-Daughter Dates Perverse and Damaging www.herviewfromhome.com
Written by Holly Mthethwa

The first thing you need to know about me is that I believe women are incredibly strong, capable, and beautiful.  

I’m passionate about empowering women. I meet with women for coffee nearly every week, and we engage in deep conversation about real world and everyday issues and how we can make a difference. I believe we should all be joining hands to lift one another up.

The second thing you need to know about me is that I am NOT a feminist.

I believe the large scale feminist movement has some serious flaws – the opinion shared below about Daddy-daughter dates being one of them—and I WILL NOT join it. I also do not believe that, that makes me anti-woman. I am far from anti-woman or anti-man.

A few weeks ago, a mom posted a photo on Facebook of her daughter and husband before their daddy-daughter date and it went viral. It was an innocent post that celebrated how the father was being an example of what the little girl should expect from future men.

Surely, we can all agree that as parents, we are examples for our children. We show them what they can become, what they deserve, and how they should be treated through our thoughts, actions, and words.

In response to that Facebook post, Romper shared an article entitled, “Honestly, Daddy-Daughter Dates Are Anything But Innocent.” You can click on the link to read the post in its entirety, but I’ve addressed some problems below that I see with it.

I believe these underlying beliefs and ideologies are causing many issues we’re seeing in society today as men and women try to establish and navigate healthy relationships. This goes deeper than an opinion about daddy-daughter dates.

At one point in the article, the author states:

“These aren’t sweet. They aren’t cute. They’re creepy, and they seek to enforce patriarchal notions of femininity.

These little girls, who are taken out on dates by their fathers, are taught that men should do everything for them. Men open the door. Men pull out the chair. Men buy everything. Men even pick out their dresses and purses, in Fladager’s daughter’s case. It’s incumbent on the man to “ask questions” and draw her out. And it’s his job to validate her inner and outer beauty.

This is 2017. And newsflash, women don’t need men to do things for them. We don’t need some big, bad patriarchal figure to hold the door or compliment our inner beauty. We deserve men who are equal partners, who share life’s journey with us, and who treat us as equals. Daddy-daughter dates include an implicit power dynamic, and it’s not in favor of the girl. They aren’t empowering. They’re teaching girls to accept a domineering masculine figure in their lives. You don’t see Mother-Son Dates, and that’s because boys don’t need socialized into a female dominated society.”

Here’s what I have to say:

  1. Women Don’t Need Men to Do Things for Them, But Just Because a Man Does Something For You Doesn’t Mean You’re Saying You Can’t Do It Yourself

Yes, we are capable women who can do things for ourselves. I can put an Ikea table together, change my tire, get the door for myself, and carry heavy boxes up three flights of stairs. I can do it myself, but I welcome the help of a man.

I’m confident that he already knows I can do it on my own by virtue of how I carry myself, so there is no need for me to prove it. 

Dear ladies, we can teach our daughters how to open doors for themselves and how to be independent, but we can also teach them that it is ok for a man to open the door for them. A man opening the door for you is not him saying that you can’t do it on your own. And when you say “I’ve got it,” or “I can do it myself,” you are taking away an opportunity for him to show care and respect.

When a man opens a door for you, offers to help you on a project, or carries the groceries in for you, it’s not because he thinks you can’t do it, it’s because he takes delight in helping you and sharing the load. The same way that when I offer to help my husband do something, it’s not because I don’t think he can’t do it (although many of us do this), it’s because I genuinely want to help.

If you have a fit that the dad helped his daughter pick out her dress and purse, I bet you wouldn’t have had a fit if the mom was helping the daughter pick out her dress and purse. The daughter was 3-years-old; I help my two-and-a-half-year-old daughter do it all the time. And, as a woman, I’m constantly asking my friends to help me pick out an outfit or whether something looks good together.

Again, a daddy helping his daughter pick out a dress is not him saying she is incapable of doing it. It’s a way of offering support, especially to a toddler.

  1. Daddy-Daughter Dates ARE Empowering and Here’s Why

We say we don’t need a male figure to compliment us or draw out our inner beauty, but how does it make us feel when a man (or a woman) gives us a compliment?

We shouldn’t base our value or our well-being off of it, but isn’t it nice? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to grow up being complimented by a loving father or to have a father show genuine interest in who you are?

As human beings we have a deep desire to be known and understand. When we’re building relationships and bonds with people, aren’t we always asking questions to try to draw them out and understand them on a deeper level?

A dad doing this is not socializing his daughter into a male-dominated society; he’s getting to know his little girl and giving her an example of what she should expect from healthy relationships and healthy conversation from both men and women.

A father showing genuine interest in his daughter and complimenting her inner and outer beauty is not disempowering. By a father doing this, he is showing his daughter she deserves to be conversed with and understood deeply. That is empowering.

And many women will respond by saying that she doesn’t need him to do that, but our children do need us to empower them by showing them how they should and shouldn’t be treated.

Again, we have to eliminate our pride here and stop thinking that because we welcome a man’s help or compliments and allow him to do something for us, it means that we’re saying we can’t do it ourselves or we can’t survive without his words of affirmation.

A father holding the door for his daughter can be just as empowering as telling her she can be the top CEO of a Fortune 500 company.

  1. There Are TONS of Examples of Mother-Son Dates

I see tons of examples online of mommy-son dates. And, you know what that mommy is doing? Getting to know her son, having fun with him, and being an example of the type of woman her son deserves.

She’s not trying to socialize him into a female or male dominated society. She is showing her son that she is interested and that a woman should show genuine interest in his likes, passions, and struggles.

Again, as parents, we should show our children a picture of what they deserve and how they should be treated.

  1. Masculinity IS NOT a Bad Thing and It Does Not Equate to a Domineering Nature

I don’t believe I’m my husband’s equal, but that DOES NOT mean I don’t believe I shouldn’t be treated with equal respect.

I don’t need to beat it into any man that I’m his equal, because…guess what…I’m not.

I’m not less than and I’m not better than.

Physiologically speaking in generalities (not considering outliers), *most* men are built and wired differently than *most* women. Mounds of research and studies show that we communicate differently, show love differently, and think differently.

Just because I am not equally the same as a man doesn’t mean I believe I should be treated differently. My husband, in all of his raw masculinity, is  super attractive to me. I celebrate his masculinity, because it is not an attempt to domineer me. 

I don’t believe his displays of masculinity are attempts at bringing me down or trying to control me.

Can we not see a daddy taking his daughter on a date and paying for everything as a loving and caring act instead of a domineering attempt to assert power or gender roles?

We have to stop portraying a man’s attempt to be romantic, kind, or helpful as an attempt to position us as submissive and passive women.

My husband respects my opinions and knowledge. We’re partners in our marriage and I find him kind and romantic both when he buys me something and asks for my opinion.

  1. Dancing with a Father or Going on a Date with Him Does Not Cross the Line of Incest

On my wedding day, I looked forward to having a daddy-daughter dance, but my dad had passed away, so I didn’t get one with him. Do you know how much I wished we would have danced together more often as a little girl?

I got to dance with my step-dad on my wedding and it was lovely. Yes, there will always be people with ill-intent out there, but throwing a ball that encourages fathers and daughters to dance is just as great as scheduling an outdoor day where daddies and daughters go hiking. It’s a bonding experience. Period. It’s not bordering incest for a father to take his daughter out to dinner and a dance.

We wouldn’t get up in arms if girls got dressed up in active wear and tennies and hit the hills with their dads, right? So, why are we up in arms about an event that involves dresses and dancing? Is it because it seems more romantic or intimate? Then aren’t we already classifying and stereotyping what’s romantic and what isn’t?

Daddy-daughter dates are not attempts to force young girls into the gendered notions of patriarchy. They’re a way for fathers to show their daughters they are capable of achieving anything, can do anything, AND that they also deserve a man who will spend time digging out what’s important to them and holding the door for them. Not because they aren’t capable, but because it’s simply a nice gesture for anyone to do all of those things.

My husband fell in love with my strength and he fell in love with the fact that I welcomed his.

That is what I’m teaching my daughter and that’s why I love it when my husband twirls her around the living room, takes her to the park,  or out for ice cream—just the two of them.

Her daddy is teaching her that she is brilliant, valued, and capable. He’s also teaching her that she can simultaneously be strong AND welcome the strength of a man.

He is teaching her that she can be in a partnership that welcomes one another’s unique attempts to show love. He’s teaching her how you can journey through life understanding that men and women are different to the point that they are biologically not equal human beings, but it does not mean one is better than the other or one deserves more respect than the other.

When my husband has a great idea and has a lot of wisdom about a subject, me submitting to that idea is not me being passive. It’s me saying, “Hey, you’re smart and have experience here and just because I’m saying you’re smart doesn’t mean I’m not smart.”

As men and women, we need to celebrate the unique ways we’re different and complement one another.

What would society look like if we stopped believing that because someone offers to do something, it’s because he or she believes we’re incapable? Could it not mean that the person is trying to show kindness? Don’t we need more of that?

We HAVE TO stop saying that men are trying to hold us back when they help us with things or show chivalry in a traditional sense.

Kids need to see us treating one another with respect all of the time and that respect looks different all of the time. Sometimes, it’s a daddy taking his daughter on a date, sometimes it’s him telling his daughter she can do anything any man can do, and sometimes it’s just him being present to listen.

About the author

Holly Mthethwa

Holly Mthethwa is the author of the Christian memoir “Hot Chocolate in June: A True Story of Loss, Love, and Restoration.” She hails from the small, Midwestern town of Cozad, Nebraska, but currently resides just outside of Washington, D.C., where she lives an adventure with her husband and daugther. Holly writes regularly about faith, family, and the moments that fish-hook her heart at www.ruggedandredeemed.com.

4 Comments

  • I wanted to say thank you for this as the Rompers post when I was linked it really hit me hard that people should think me spending quality 1 on 1 time with my daughter could be anything less then an honest desire to be a positive and active part of her life and growth into a young woman. Daddy daughter dates have been a large part of my interaction with my daughter as I don’t have custody but mere weekend visitation. some of hers and my best memories together are from when i take her out to dinner or to do something like the movies or arcade. I just was shocked and dismayed that anyone could take something I saw as important and necessary for her healthy growth to young womanhood to be some sick perverted concept of sexulization or dominance over my baby girl… where do they sick people come from.

    • Thank you for your kind words, Adam. Surely, she will treasure what you are instilling in your daughter and sharing with her for a lifetime.

      I don’t think the woman who wrote the piece is horrible or sick, and she has a right to her opinion, but I suppose she is speaking from her own experiences and beliefs and hasn’t seen the first-hand impact like you see every time you take your daughter out. 🙂

  • I am disturbed by your understanding of feminism and equality. You seem to be under the impression that it is about radically neutralizing the differences between the sexes. In reality, feminism is simply the belief that women are people who’s voice, history, and experience matter. Equality is a desire for equal treatment and protection under the law (not currently a Constitutional guarantee, and unevenly applied across the states). I can’t imagine that you desire less for your daughter, so your vehement rejection of the movement that gave those rights to you both is heartbreaking to me.

    • Thank you for your insights. I believe I have a firm grasp on feminism and equality, but I believe that many times feminists do try to neutralize the differences between the sexes and are willing to push a man down and stand on his back in order to have a platform.

      I don’t believe the feminist movement that gave me my rights is the same movement we have today. I believe, in many ways, it’s morphed and changed. Here’s a great article that already says what I believe, without me having to restate it all here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/in-theory/wp/2016/12/05/how-to-make-feminism-great-again/?utm_term=.5b711c0068f4

      I agree with the definition of feminism, but I don’t believe that, that’s what we always see acted out within the movement. I often see that women elevate themselves to the point that their voice, history and experiences matters MORE THAN a man’s. And I agree with equal protection and treatment under the law, I simply believe that we have to stop saying we’re equal to a man, because biologically we’re not equal. We deserve to be treated with equal rights and respect, but we’re not equally the same in terms of sexes.