“A son is a son till he takes him a wife, a daughter is a daughter all of her life.”
Quite frankly, this shit is creepy: Dallas-Fort Worth locations of Jesus’ favorite fast-food chain are inviting fathers and daughters to have a “date night” at the chicken shack, complete with pink and red heart-emblazoned invitations that would likely make even Stephenie Meyer gag with their faux-mantic implications.
(I will get the disclaimer out of the way in hopes that the trolls only get halfway up the basement stairs chanting “DADDY ISSUES!”. I have a fan-fucking-tastic relationship with my dad. We talk on the phone and text message each other frequently and haven’t had a fight of any real magnitude since he freaked out about my lower back tattoo a decade ago. (Looking back on it: you were so right, Dad, that shit is heinous.) He was the ambassador of fun when I was a kid, taking me to museums and reading to me and teaching me how to make a steak on a campfire, and continues in that role today, letting me and my friends hang out at the family lake house on short notice, humoring me when I decide I’m going to quit everything and open a bar, etc. My dad is a baller.)
Which I say to say: I find all aspects of the Daddy-Princess, Daddy-Daddy’s Girl, Daddy-Permanently-Infantilized-Female trope to be squicky beyond belief. Mostly, I have no respect for the deeply patriarchal notion that daughters should love/be loved and be under the protection by/of their fathers until they are under the protection/guidance of their husbands–it’s why even the most innocuous “giving away” aspect of a traditional wedding ceremony can give me the creeps. You might argue and say, but Andrea, ladies are free now! Ladies do not have to be their fathers’ possessions until they become that of their husbands! Feminism has won!
Feminism has not won. Feminism is so not winning on this point, feminism is like, still having try-outs and scraping together money for uniforms. (I’m going to limit this discussion to the modern United States, because a discussion of global patriarchal traditions, bride-selling, child-brides, etc. is just too far beyond the scope of what I can thoughtfully do right this second.)
We see this very clearly in concepts like the recently a-buzzedabout “Daughter Test,” wherein politicos, pundits and other people who think they’re superior to the rest of the world based on fuckall, reason that anything they don’t want their daughter doing should be against the law. Follow me down the slippery slope, wheeeeeeeee:
“If the answer is that I wouldn’t want my daughter to do it, then I don’t mind the government passing a law against it. I wouldn’t want my daughter to be a cocaine addict or a prostitute, so in spite of the fact that it would probably be more economically efficient to legalize drugs and prostitution subject to heavy regulation/taxation, I don’t mind those activities being illegal.”
And that’s just the dude from Freakonomics talking! If I may excerpt Jos from Feministing on this:
“Of course it’s also plenty of sexism – we’re talking about the “daughter test” not the “son test” – because daughters are to be protected, sons raised to be strong and kill the dinner themselves. Sorry, hard not to fall into some old school “state of nature” hyperbole in such an absurd theory conversation. And of course we focus on shielding lady persons from the specters of sex work and drug use.”
If you think this shit starts when girls are teenagers, or when they’re old enough to go away to college or to find a good pot dealer, you are sadly mistaken. This shit starts with assbaggery like father-daughter date nights at Chick-Fil-A. I am not articulate enough to flesh all of this out right now, but here are some things that come to mind:
- The idolization of the person “Daddy” in romantic terms presupposes a female sexuality that is solely concerned with innocent romance (whatever that means) and wooing, and not ever with sexual behavior or pleasure. Would mainstream folks be able to coo and ahhh at adorable Daddy-Daughter date nights (as the commenters here seem to want to do) if they believed that girls can develop or that women actually have sexual feelings for romantic partners?
- The “innocent” romance between Daddy and Daughter seems to me to be predicated on ideas about “father knows best,” which in many cases is true and is a major tenet of parenting, obviously. But there are many, many fathers in this world who do not know best, and the Daddy-Daughter romance narrative shames families that do not experience this dynamic, of which I expect there are multitudes.
- Speaking of families that don’t fit the dynamic, what about children raised with two mothers? Where do they fall into Daddy-Daughter night? Then again, this is right-wing Jesus sandwich Chick-Fil-A, so probably they’re not clear on gay people existing in the world.
- Ever since I’ve read this edition of “Ask A Lady” on The Hairpin, I have given it, like, ten hours of thought every day, because my gawd, what do you even do with this situation? Of course there are healthy ways for consenting adults to experience sex that includes a daddy-little girl dynamic, but eff me if it doesn’t all seem so fraught from the get-go. Nothing about any of this–the Hairpin piece or the daddy-daughter date night–is simple, not privately, publicly, politically, nor personally. Families and relationships are so different and variable, all of this could mean something very different from person to person, and I heartily dislike the Daddy-Daughter romance as an ideal for this reason.
So, even if you don’t find the incestuous implications of Daddy-Daughter date night to be apparent and offensive (as I do), surely you can find the narrative that puts girls and women of all ages in a position of submission to their fathers/lovers to be repugnant. I don’t think it should go without mentioning here that Chick-Fil-A is an unabashedly conservative Christian organization, and as a woman raised in the conservative South, I can tell you that the Daddy-Daughter love story is exceedingly prevalent among white Southern Christians. Why? Because it keeps men in a position of ownership–figuratively and literally.
One needn’t be surprised, then, when our politicians try and take away women’s bodily autonomy and treat us like children who can’t make “informed” decisions. This kind of paternalism affects every part of women’s lives, from childhood, when Daddy is apparently a stand-in for a future lover, into adulthood, when male lawmakers and religious figures fight to regulate women’s reproductive capacity.
So no, again, I don’t want to go on a “date” with my father simply because I am female, which is what these event planners seem to think. I want to learn from my dad, just as a man might. I want to spend time with him, just as a man might. I want to laugh with him, just as a man might. I could go on. If Chick-Fil-A wants to promote parents-and-kids night, or have a Father’s Day special, I say go for it. (And since there is not a widespread cultural or historical precedent in the United States for mothers “giving away” their sons in marriage, I don’t really consider a Chick-Fil-A Mother/Son date night to be adequately gender-equal here.) Let’s celebrate our parents and our families without resorting to damaging, short-sighted paternalism.