My husband and I are trying to raise our daughters to be independent and empowered. It's hard, though, because the world is so scary, especially when it comes to how men treat women. Most (probably all) women I know have experienced some form of sexual violence, and so many men are let off the hook for their "bad behavior." So, how can we keep our daughters safe? What should we teach them? And knowing firsthand about how men operate, what do dads want their daughters to know about men? To find out, I went straight to the source, asking dads to tell me the most important thing they want their daughters to know and was totally (and pleasantly) surprised by their answers.
To be honest, I sort of expected dads to tell me that they intend to tell their daughters that they have "rules for dating" them (gross) or to greet their daughters' suitors while cleaning their guns on the front porch to scare them into submission (also gross). It turns out that the dads I know understand that their daughters aren't their property, and might not choose to even date men. More importantly, they want their daughters to know that they have a right to bodily autonomy and don't have to go along with something to please a guy or because they think they are supposed to do it.
I also expected to hear how "not all men" are problematic and how some guys are "nice." It turns out that most of the dads I spoke with don't really have a high opinion of other men. And while it's true that some guys are nice, unfortunately, way too many men aren't and the "nice guys" allow their behavior to continue. The lack of accountability established by other men in spaces they hold is astounding, so more men with horrific intentions are able to see them come to fruition.
Read on for some important messages from dads to their daughters about men. They might make you regain some faith in humanity. I just hope if any of these men have sons, they're holding them accountable, too.
"Love is complex, but it’s also simple. Whomever you want to love, love them. That may mean you choose to date men, date women, date both, or something else entirely. Nothing is more up to you in this life than who you choose to be with, and I will always be there for you.
Many of the men in your life will try to own you, hurt you, and make you feel like you deserve it. Even seemingly 'nice' boys will do this, because it is so common. It does not matter how nice you are to them, or what you say, or how long you wait for them to grow up and treat you with respect. It does not matter how you dress, what music you listen to, or where you work. You will find bad men in all walks of life. They will find ways to grind you down every day, but you can, will, and must fight back. Your family will love you no matter what your struggles are. You can count on our support."
"Always be skeptical of them, and when in doubt don't trust them."
"It's OK to be sad or mad and you decide how to react. If you don't want someone to touch you, it's OK to say no."
"There's no such thing as a guy friend. They are just playing the long game."
"My daughter is 2-and-a-half-years old. I want her to know that her body is hers. There are things I want her to know that I don’t know how to articulate, maybe because she’s still so young, and I’m learning how to recognize things like rape culture, myself. I want her to know she can do great things all on her own."
"The value of friendship, respect, and loyalty."
"Men have feelings, but it can be hard to get past a lifetime of being conditioned not to acknowledge them. And there is never a point of no return: any guy who says it's too late to stop is lying. If he cares about you, he'll make sure you are just as excited to be with him as he is to be with you."
"The best they will treat you is the first date. So if it's not good, move on!"
"What I want my daughter to understand about men is how predatory even the 'safest' men can be. There are a lot of overt examples of men being trash that frequently incriminate themselves in locker rooms and bragging to their Lyft/Uber driver on the way home from the bar. I think 'men are trash' is Men 101.
There’s also a thicker layer of straight men on the 'feminism' spectrum who act like they respect women and have even convinced themselves that they respect women, but still maintain some pretty gross expectations that they openly share with other men, and are often totally un-self-conscious about the contradiction.
To boil it down, most straight men, even the ones who seem to understand consent and boundaries, have the potential to be monsters. Not all of them are, but it’s hard to know until it happens. Even the 'best' men are still unpacking what society has taught them. This isn’t an excuse or a reason to feel bad for them, but just a warning that she needs to be alert for men whose un-learning is still incomplete.
I don’t want her to know how many times I’ve failed as an ally, but I do want her to know that men are never really her allies. I want my daughter to understand how dangerous straight men are, but I’m worried that it will scare her. But, maybe it’s OK if she’s scared?"
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