Daddy-Daughter Date Night Skeevs, Creeps, Squicks.

My dad and me, sailing the seas of East Texas on his tiki boat.

“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.

About andrea grimes

Andrea is a journalist living in Austin, TX. She has a master's degree in anthropology and did her thesis work on gender and stand-up comedy. Seriously. Also, she has a bunch of cats. Three of them. Is three a bunch? Discuss.
This entry was posted in Dallas, food, parenting, politics, relationships. Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to Daddy-Daughter Date Night Skeevs, Creeps, Squicks.

  1. Tara says:

    As a former/recovered fundagelical, I have truckloads of gratitude that my parents were not, and that I was never subject to this sort of Father/Daughter creepfest crap.

    As an aside, I don’t comment often, but thanks as always for your intelligent and resonating posts. Go girl. :)

  2. notdiurnal says:

    I’m so happy to hear that someone else thinks the whole ownership of women aspect of marriage is creepy. The fact that my father is “giving me away” to another man so he can protect and look after me like my father did is inherently weird to me. First of all, nobody is “giving me away,” I am not a possession. I am a person. Secondly, the fact that the bride is being “given” to another man by her father so that the “protecting and taking care of” duties transfer from the father to the husband but mutates into a relationship in which you are supposed to have sexual relations, possibly children, and an equal status does skeeve me. This and much more ensures that marriage will never be an option for me, but I’m glad to see somebody else finally sees what I see. All of the people I know just think I’m incredibly cynical when I go on an anti-marriage rant.

    Almost all father-daughter activities creep me out because of all of the oppressive reasons mentioned in your post. Father-daughter dances, dates, purity balls, and whatever else there might be are just….gross. They just are.

  3. Michelle says:

    Yes! This, of course, reminds me of the even-skeevier “purity balls” that seemed so popular a decade or so ago. (Maybe they’re still popular and I’m just no longer plugged into that scene.) You get to promise that your sexuality belongs to Daddy until he transfers ownership to your husband, and then Daddy is “in charge” of your purity.

    Furthermore, the same people that came up with the purity ball also promote a “manhood ceremony” for boys at age 12. Suggested activities include a purity ring and presentation of a sword (conflicting messages much?).

  4. joereform says:

    Good Lord, Andrea. It is an opportunity for fathers to bond with their daughters. It isn’t some statement of “ownership.”

    Here’s a crazy thought: maybe if more fathers were present in their daughter’s lives, modeling respectful male behavior, we’d have fewer young women exchanging photos with married U.S. Congressmen.

    While I am not taking my daughters to Chick-Fil-A date night (despite their temptingly delicious waffle fries), you are really reaching here with your crackpot conspiracy stuff. I and plenty of other fathers who make a concerted effort to spend one-on-one time with their daughters, and frequently it looks a lot like this event (minus the corporate sponsorship).

    Rather than applauding an organized effort to encourage men to invest in the lives of these future women they are raising, you mock. Ask me if I am surprised.

    • Actually, Joe, while I think you get just about everything else wrong here, I think you reveal an interesting point.

      Why should fathers be either celebrating or even waiting for opportunities like this to “bond with their daughters”? Why should contact with our daughters be something that is celebrated, either innocently or in this skeevy manner, as if it is an event? As long as the time that fathers spend with our daughters is seen as a special event, or even worse, “BABYSITTING”, the very concept of involved fathers takes a hit. Stuff like this isn’t just creepy or young women; it’s also marginalizing for their dads.

      As fathers, we’ll get the respect we deserve when we stop participating in ridiculous and condescending events like this one. Celebrating spending time with our daughters? Why the hell WOULDN’T we be?

      • joereform says:

        I do not require the respect of the likes of Andrea Grimes to know that I am doing a pretty good job as a father. In fact, that may actually be a red alert.

        Let’s be clear here: Chick-Fil-A is promoting itself here and trying to sell some chicken sandwiches. It is not on some agenda with this event to subjugate women. The girls who will be in attendance at these events will overwhelmingly be well under a reasonable dating age (think “elementary school”), so the implication that this is going to include anything romantic is patently ridiculous.

        Of course, Andrea could send Patrick undercover with a little girl to do a scathing expose of what an orgy this will be. Why don’t you do that, and report back?

      • Joe, as a father, I would hope you’d at least be vigilant to the dangers of societal sexualization of little girls. If I were a young woman, my father would be the very last person I’d hope to see taking a dismissive attitude about it.

        “The girls who will be in attendance at these events will overwhelmingly be well under a reasonable dating age (think “elementary school”), so the implication that this is going to include anything romantic is patently ridiculous.”

        Yeah? Because they are young girls, there couldn’t possibly be an inappropriate subtext at work? What a relief. My job as a father just got so much easier.

      • joereform says:

        You are just being absurd, now. If I don’t attack Chick-Fil-A for coming up with this idea, I am taking a dismissive attitude to the societal sexualization of little girls?

        The only “inappropriate subtext” is in the minds of Andrea and those who think like her. Like I mentioned below, should we take Hallmark to task for making Daddy-daughter Valentine’s Day cards, too? Or do we give them a pass until we discover whether the CEO believes in Jesus or not?

    • Kristen says:

      Going on a romantic outing with your daughter is totally not creepy at all! This event exists in a void where there is absolutely no history of the ownership of women! Anthony Weiner’s indiscretions were totally a result of the unschooled, infantilized women he solicited! I get it now!

      Joe, I am SO glad you were here to lay that all out for me.

      • joereform says:

        And I am so glad that the use of the word “date” leads you and the other idiots here to infer romantic undertones.

        I suppose that I need to get back the Valentine’s Day cards I gave to my kids, too, before someone gets the impression that I have incestuous designs on them. I think there might have been hearts on them, too! What a sick level of perversion Hallmark has sunk to!

    • Allison says:

      What parental support was lacking in Representative Weiner’s life that led him to exchange photos with young women while married?

  5. It’s creepy on multiple levels. If a dad said to his daughter, “Hey, I want to spend some time with you. I’m taking you out for a dinner, just you and me, and we can talk about anything you like,” that would be AWESOME and lauded for the great parenting it is. When a corporation co-opts that, it’s annoying. When it takes a corporation to inspire that, it’s disappointing. When the corporation infuses the whole thing with iconography generally used for sexual relationships, it’s creepy beyond all measure.

    Here, let me test this with my husband, who has a super-awesome and healthy relationship with our daughter and, while he works full time and thus doesn’t get to do as much with her as I do, regularly does awesome bonding stuff with her that he’d do just as much with a son, if we had one…okay yeah, just called him over and asked him about this. He appeared dubious as I described it and then completely grossed out by the heartsy-woo page. He gave it a dirty look and left the room without saying anything because this is so obviously sick and offensive that nothing more needed to be said.

    I don’t think it’s a conspiracy as Joe’s rambling about because, sadly, it doesn’t need to be. It’s just more reflection of the way things are: messed up and patriarchal, as you describe. In fact, this nonsense is so pervasive in our society that coverage of stupid Congressmen always takes on the same narratives of shame and laughter instead of ever questioning if maybe boys are being raised to objectify themselves and women and are deprived of education in being reasonable human beings who can make civilized decisions like, “I am in the public spotlight, perhaps I should not photo my winkie.” What does it say to a son when Daddy goes on a date with a daughter in the context presented? What roles do such actions and attitudes play in both girls and boys in terms of how they will evaluate themselves and each other as adults? It’s ridiculous to assume that any man and girl who do this have an inappropriately sexual relationship, of course, but it’s completely valid to question the judgement of anyone who would participate in something with such plastered-on overtones, just as it’s one thing for a couple to share intimate photographs, but it’s valid to question the judgement of a Congressman who leaves himself open to public scrutiny in doing so.

    • joereform says:

      When the corporation infuses the whole thing with iconography generally used for sexual relationships, it’s creepy beyond all measure.

      I think this is the heart (pardon the pun) of the disagreement here. We as a society have lost the notion of a platonic date, so when certain people hear the term, what is instantly registered is “date=sex.” Believe it or not, there are still grown-ups out there who will date other grown-ups and not end up in bed at the end of the evening. I would say that such is the mindset of the majority of men who would participate in this kind of event.

      My daughters’ Girl Scout troop held a “father-daughter dance” last year. And guess what? No bumping and grinding. No sexual overtones whatsoever. And if any of the men got lucky that night, it certainly wasn’t with the girls that they escorted there. Should the Girl scouts be dismantled for hosting an event at which fathers brought their daughters as “dates”?

      Leave it to radical feminists to take a good bonding experience between involved fathers and their daughters and piss all over it.

  6. If there is no sexual element, would you be okay with a gay father taking his son on a date? Or a straight one, for that matter? Would it be okay if the exact same event was open to dads and sons, with the same iconography?

    If your answer is yes, I will concede to your argument that it’s not sexual.

    • joereform says:

      I will concede that it is unabashedly heteronormative. That still does not make it “sexual.”

      • You’re being evasive. If you want to blame feminists for oversexualizing the world, you don’t get to be evasive on this question. Would you as strongly support this same activity with the same iconography being applied to men and their sons? If a gay man wanted to take his son to this event, would you stand up and so vociferously support that as non-sexual and perfectly acceptable?

      • Joe says:

        If a gay man wanted to take his son to this event, would you stand up and so vociferously support that as non-sexual and perfectly acceptable?

        As non-sexual? Yes. Unless you think that gay men want to have sex with their own sons.

      • Then fair enough, I concede that you’re applying the standard fairly and although I disagree with you and would find it creepy for any parent of any gender to go on a “date” with their child, I can see that you define the word differently and in your context, I would agree that it wouldn’t be creepy.

    • If T.G.I. Fridays, or Applebees, or ————fill in the blank, wants to do that, I say let em’. I’m not about ruling out what a given corporation can do, just let em’ and give others the same opportunity. You will speak with your dollars and I will speak with mine. Chick-Fil-A has their promotions, others have theirs. Why the attacks? Why can’t you just let the market work and the customers choose based on their own beliefs? Will you not go to Chick-Fil-A because of this? There you go. I’m not speaking for joereform, just me. You see, Christians aren’t about control or demagoguery, at least Biblical Christians aren’t.

  7. I think your primary compaint with this event was betrayed by your reference to “Jesus favorite fast-food chain”, which is nothing more than a link to the company’s home page. “Closed on Sunday”! That’s an outrage! Really!? To say Jesus has a favorite fast-food chain reveals the weakness of your argument, which begins with “This —- is creepy”. There are no sexual overtones in either the press release, or the invitation. Hearts automatically have sexual implications? It’s not a “take your daughter to bed day”. Your profanity and your demonization of the ideal that Dads may have a stake in protecting their daughter from predation by those raised under the current belief that women/girls are tools to be used for sexual release for selfish beings, while the girl “liberates” herself from the constraints of over-protective fathers, reveals a disdain for fathers who think their daughters should not waste their most intimate and personal gifts given to them on young men who will happily walk away afterward. Jesus forgave a woman in a similar situation when he saved her from stoning by a mob who was most likely guilty of using her, or young ladies like her, when he said, “go and sin no more”. She was used and beaten down by men/boys who cared nothing for her welfare or feelings. But, she found relief in a “Father figure”, who saved her from certain death. Quite an allegory, isn’t it? Please, give it a chance. Maybe, one daughter will find a moment of inspiration to take a different path. I am a father of a young daughter. Maybe much like your own father in some ways. I hope my daughter will find the one to understand and respect her even more than I ever could, with no feeling of selfishness or “”ownership” for my part. I offer this with the utmost respect for your opinion and hope you will return the same respect by reading and allowing others to read it.

  8. Furthermore, maybe, my daughter won’t be forced to consider exercising her rights of “reproductive freedom” and suffer all of the physically and emotionally destructive consequences of that action. For all of the “no big deal” stories of abortion, I can offer real stories of lives forever altered by these “choices” made by very real people who can never go back and do it over again. Fatherhood, after all, is about saying no when it’s in the interest of “long-sighted paternalism”.

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  10. Brandon says:

    Getting mad about this borders on pure stupidity. It seems that the author and even some commenters don’t have a problem with a father spending time with their daughters…it’s just the usage of the word “date” that is creeping or skeeving feminists out.

    First off, the idea that these “daddy-daughter dates” would be sexual in nature is pure crap. Most fathers would just like to spend time with their daughters and have some fun (go out eating, go to a museum, amusement parks, etc…). While in the truest sense, the word “date” is about forming intimate relationships between adults, it takes some warped thinking to even imagine fathers would see their daughters as sexual beings.

    The creators of this could have easily called this event “Father Daughter Bonding Time”, but “Daddy Daughter Date” is more marketable. (i.e its shorter, rolls of the tongue easier and each word begins with a “D”).

    Some marketer probably thought it was a catchy name and that marketer didn’t have an “every thought I have must be filtered through a feminist lens or not offend some feminists sensibilities”.

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