Awesome Dad of the Day

Will Smith:

“We let Willow cut her hair. When you have a little girl, it’s like how can you teach her that you’re in control of her body? If I teach her that I’m in charge of whether or not she can touch her hair, she’s going to replace me with some other man when she goes out in the world. She can’t cut my hair but that’s her hair. She has got to have command of her body. So when she goes out into the world, she’s going out with a command that is hers. She is used to making those decisions herself. We try to keep giving them those decisions until they can hold the full weight of their lives.”

About Jill

Jill began blogging for Feministe in 2005. She has since written as a weekly columnist for the Guardian newspaper and in April 2014 she was appointed as senior political writer for Cosmopolitan magazine.
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84 Responses to Awesome Dad of the Day

  1. Jadey says:

    Having one of those, “Gee, shouldn’t that be baseline parenting?” moments, but I agree that it’s good he wasn’t a controlling asshole jerk about his daughter’s bodily autonomy! I do like Will Smith. I’d love if they’d interviewed Willow about why she chose to cut her hair and what she thinks of it. (From my own experience – buzzed/bald is beautiful!)

    Can’t quite figure out why the Riot Grrl mention was shoe-horned in there – promoting the bodily autonomy of women (and addressing emotional and physical abuse, sexuality, racism, patriarchy) is hardly limited to one very specific movement. Not that I resent the shout-out to Riot Grrls, but it seemed weak from a journalistic standpoint. In any case, it seems more like Willow is the Riot Grrl if anything.

  2. Jamie says:

    This is cool. But it’s confusing me because I watched Hancock last week, and in one of the opening scenes he grabs some random woman in public and that got me all barfy, so I’ve been all “Will Smith sucks!!!” and now this?????

  3. PM says:

    One step closer to making amends for “Big Willy Style.”

  4. Rillion says:

    I agree with the general sentiment that kids should be able to make their own cosmetic choices, but the reasoning is weird. Does Will Smith also not tell his daughter when she can be home at night, because she’ll just go out in the world and replace him with some other man telling her when to come home at night? Or, potentially, some woman? Yeah, it’s sexist and wrong for men to tell women what to do. That doesn’t mean it is for fathers to tell daughters what to do.

  5. Dan says:

    Jamie: I believe that that is what is commonly called “acting”. As it turns out, Will Smith is a pretty good actor as well as being a good dad.

  6. EG says:

    There is a difference between rules about behavior and safety and decisions about one’s own body.

  7. Noadi says:

    @2 I’d assume that was something written into the movie and the woman grabbed was an extra. I try not to put my dislike of something an actor’s character does onto the actor. Now if I heard that was ad-libbed and the woman wasn’t aware of what would happen, that would be pretty crappy of him.

  8. Rillion says:

    Yep, I know EG. But it’s really not about what men should or shouldn’t tell you to do.

  9. Anon21 says:

    Not following you, Rillion. He didn’t say “If I tell her what to do, she’ll go out and replace me with some other man,” he said “If I teach her that I’m in charge of whether or not she can touch her hair, she’s going to replace me with some other man when she goes out in the world.” You seem to be strawmanning his “argument.”

  10. librarygoose says:

    But it’s really not about what men should or shouldn’t tell you to do.

    Could you elaborate, I really don’t understand what you mean in this response to EG?

  11. Rillion says:

    I mean that the idea of her going out into the world and finding some other man to tell her what to do about X really has nothing to do with whether Will Smith as Dad should tell her what to do about X. When Willow goes out into the world, she’s going to make her own decisions about everything from how she wears her hair to when she comes home at night to whether she saves money or cleans the house or racks up credit card debt, and Will Smith as dad should hope she doesn’t bow to some man’s dictates about any of those things. She should have command of her body, yes, but not because if she doesn’t it can be expected that she will at some point hand control of that over to some other man instead of her dad.

  12. librarygoose says:

    She should have command of her body, yes, but not because if she doesn’t it can be expected that she will at some point hand control of that over to some other man instead of her dad.

    But how Will and her mother treat her is more than likely going to effect how she views the role of her later significant other. He doesn’t want to set up a precedent of Willow handing over her body to the whims and policing of people that aren’t Willow. He doesn’t want to control things like that, not because he’ll later have to give up his claim, but because he doesn’t want his daughter to think anyone has that claim.

  13. Jadey says:

    @ Rillion

    No, I don’t think you get it. The logic chain being invoked here is that if you raise someone to obey, then first they will obey you and then they will find someone else to obey, because obedience is how they have been taught. Perfect example is some hyper-religious Christian groups where women talk specifically about replacing their obeisance to their fathers with obeisance to their husbands. (I have seen literal quotes to this effect.)

    So the idea is that teaching Willow that she can think for herself as a child will translate into her awareness that she can think for herself when she’s an adult. And doing the opposite will be more likely to result in the opposite. Basically, we don’t actually change that much from childhood to adulthood – we do what we’ve been taught to do (taught through action, not so much through words). Turning 18 doesn’t generally change all that unless something major intervenes.

    So, yeah, it does make sense that you would want to raise your child to learn the lessons you want them to apply as an adult. It does matter that she’s not being trained from a young age that male figures in her life can and should trump her own autonomous decision-making. Those lessons last.

  14. EG says:

    I mean that the idea of her going out into the world and finding some other man to tell her what to do about X really has nothing to do with whether Will Smith as Dad should tell her what to do about X….She should have command of her body, yes, but not because if she doesn’t it can be expected that she will at some point hand control of that over to some other man instead of her dad.

    I strongly disagree. First of all, because I think Smith is right. If he is the one telling his daughter how her body should be, and that is what we are concerned with here, then indeed, the message she is going to get is that her body is not her own to do with as she pleases, but is to be made to please a man, and, (and this is the crucial part) this message will be reinforced by a cultural and political hegemony that constructs women’s bodies as either communal property ultimately controlled by men or as the property of individual men. As we no longer, thank goodness, live in a society in which the hegemonic view is that women’s curfews are to be set by men, that is not a concern Smith has to have on his radar.

    Secondly, Smith very clearly notes that this is part of an ongoing process of increasing his daughter’s decision-making powers in her life in accordance with her developmental ability to handle them. Presumably, there was a time in his daughter’s life when she did not decide everything about her own body; for instance, you have to cut infants’ nails for them so they don’t accidentally scratch themselves or anybody else, even if they don’t like it. No doubt when she was six months old, if she had hair, she was not given power to decide what was to be done with it.

    There is no reason at all to suppose that Smith is claiming that all decision-making powers should be accorded to–how old is this girl?–eleven-year-olds. But eleven is a completely appropriate age to be making decisions about one’s body, and to accustom her to the idea that they are not hers to make but some man’s would be, I agree with him, a problem.

  15. Li says:

    It’s not just about when kids grow into adults either. Kids that are taught that they deserve bodily autonomy and can refuse consent to people touching them are frequently more able to articulate when other people violate those boundaries. They also tend to be better at respecting the boundaries of other people. Trust me when I say that six-year-olds that will actually ask before jumping onto your lap (and I’ve met a few queer kids like this) are a godsend on days you need your personal space.

  16. karak says:

    I want to point out in this conversation that Willow is a young black girl. Her father teaching her to embrace her hair and do with it what SHE wants is a really important lesson. The hair of black women is heavily scrutinized and policed, and teaching her early on that it is HER hair, to do with as SHE pleases, is an important way to keep the conventional beauty culture from trying to destroy her.

    And just to say–my mom let me dye, style, and get my hair cut however I wanted when I was 11. Wasn’t allowed to cut it myself, due to hair fails in the past, but yeah, an 11 year old can be given control of their hair, within reason.

  17. ASH says:

    I completely agree 100% with what Kayak said.

    I have to say, as a woman who has cut her hair and done all sorts of “crazy” things to my hair, if I had a dime for every single time a hair dresser asked me what my boyfriend/husband thought about me cutting off my OWN hair, I’d have a tidy fortune.

  18. Jen in Ohio says:

    karak, big yeahs to your post @10:41am.

    I was not allowed to control my hair as a child. My mother policed my gender both strictly and violently, and this included my hair style and length. I’m in my 40s and I’m still dealing with the damage this kind of control over my childhood body did to me.

    In general, Will Smith strikes me as sort of a schmuck, but imo he’s got this one all the way right.

  19. EG says:

    Even not as a child, when my mother decided to stop dying her hair and just let it be gray, my grandfather asked her if that was OK with my stepfather! I ask you.

  20. Azalea says:

    Eh. Statements like these dont mean shit to me if the parents circumcized a child (regardless of gender). Because NOTHING says ” I own you” like deciding you have RIGHTS to cut off pieces of someone else’s genitalia. My oldest son had his hair cut, by force, because a family member who was babysitting decided he needed a haircut. But you know what, unlike genitalia, hair grows back so he’ll be fine.

    In general, I think decisions about your child’s body should be their own (except of course unless there is a scientific/medical reason like surgery or life saving medication). I’m so grateful to my parents for *eventually* giving me full reign over what to do with my hair, over whether or not to shave etc. It gave me a “you cant tell me what to do” attitude when it came to my body, my life and decisions.

    Go Will & Jada!

  21. Azalea says:

    In general, Will Smith strikes me as sort of a schmuck…

    Why?

  22. I was not allowed to control my hair as a child. My mother policed my gender both strictly and violently, and this included my hair style and length. I’m in my 40s and I’m still dealing with the damage this kind of control over my childhood body did to me.

    This. My father intervened in the matter of hair length (I have horrifically thick curly hair and it actually hurts to grow it out) and thankfully I was allowed to wear pants and all, but there were other areas of gender policing that still haunt me today, and make me feel pretty much like shit about my body all the time. (Add the fact that dressing feminine for extended periods – I’m talking more than a day or two – freaks me out badly, and it was pretty much a recipe for disaster.)

    This is why I look at my little stepkid with the yellow/green/blue/red hair cut short just the way she likes, and beam my head off. Nobody’s going to police that child’s gender on my watch; I will reinforce that with teeth. *grin*

  23. And frankly, hair is as innocuous a thing over which to grant a child control as it gets. If she does something truly hideous, we can always cut it off and it always grows back.

    I will never understand how people are A-Okay with circumcision (talk about a permanent decision, yo) but think that green hair on a teenager is this SHOCKING THING.

  24. armillaria says:

    When I first read this I was picturing a small child, and was like, “Oh, cool.” And then I clicked on the link and saw the person was a teenager, and was like, “How is this a story? Does anyone believe you could stop someone from changing their hair / whatever at that point in their lives?”

  25. DoublyLinkedLists says:

    Circumcision is performed at a time when permanent memories are no being formed and learning about social norms and cultural expectations regarding our bodies is not occurring. Therefore, an attempt to problematize circumcision on the basis that it harms the child’s feeling of bodily autonomy, like a forced hair cutting might, or a requirement for a particular gender performance, is false and absurd.

    If I am operating from an external perspective, and what it is important to me is a mental pat on the back for being such a good person, then I might draw an equivalency between these two actions based on the required mindset of the parent who does both of these things.

    If I am interested in what is the most “righteous” action regarding respecting my child’s bodily autonomy, I will see circumcision as worse than hair cutting, because I obviously must feel a great sense of ownership over my child to cut them!

    The problem with the above view is that the original purpose for my feeling that respecting my child’s bodily autonomy is “righteous” is based in a concern for their well-being and attitudes towards themselves. Since the act of circumcision, as pointed out above, occurs shortly after birth, there is little likelihood of it causing lasting psychological damage or negative attitudes towards bodily autonomy. Therefore, viewing circumcision as “worse” is a view centered on the child, as I might pretend, but a view centered on myself and my own ego.

    To demonstrate this fact, we can see that there have already been several comments talking baout how lasting emotional and psychological insecurities regarding hair can be.

    Despite the commenters determined to bring circumcision into the conversation (due to their self-absorption, as pointed out above) there have been no men commenting to talk about lasting emotional or psychological insecurities from it.

    In fact, my circumcision, while extra bloody and requiring me to go to the hospital, is a completely innocuous fact of my life that does not contribute to any sense of a lack of well being or any feeling of insecurity.

    So can you shut up about circumcision? Because when you talk about it, you sound ignorant, and a touch anti-semitic.

  26. Azalea says:

    What does any of that has to do with the fact that the penis you’re cutting up isn’t your own? So cutting off pieces of your daughter’s vagina shortly after birth is ok because she will not remeber it? It wont teach her ownership? Who cares if you rememeber it happening, you will grow up knowing it DID happen and that you had NO say so and it was done because someone OWNED the rights to do as they please with YOUR genitals.

    We can play this game of “ohhh they wont remember, ohhh it didnt hurt” doesn’t take away the fact that it was OWNERSHIP of someone else’s GENITALS AGAINST that person’s will. You cna NEVER reverse a circumcision, hair grows back, you can dye it later on, dye can come out, you can get tattoos later on, you can get tattoos removed, you can get piercings later on, you can remove the jewelry in the piercing and let the hole close. You can NOT undo circumcision, EVER. The circumcision of a child is forcing your views on someone else’s body, permanently and painfully.

  27. Azalea says:

    I’m not anti-semitic, I’m anti-circumcision. I am not anti-Christianity, I am pro-choice. I could go on and on. You can’t bully me into thinking it’s ok to chop up a child’s genitals (REGARDLESS of gender). A newborn who is orally sexually assaulted will not remember being sodomized, does that make it ok? A newborn who is fondled will not remember it, does that make it ok? A newborn who is slapped, pinched or punched will not remember it, does that make it ok?

    This is a conversation about assuring your child that their body is their own. I say it’s bullshit if you can take ownership of a child’s GENITALS and do with them as you please and give them something like their hair. A person can accidentally touch your hair without your permission, they can’t accidentally touch your genitals without your permission. Hair grows back, pieces of your genitals do not.

    The law gives you ownership of newborn baby males penises, if you decide to cut it up, that’s your choice. I can believe that’s a choice no one has a real right to because I dont think people have a right to forcibly cut another person’s genitals at ANY point of the other person’s life even if it is your child.

  28. So can you shut up about circumcision? Because when you talk about it, you sound ignorant, and a touch anti-semitic.

    …you are aware that Jews aren’t the only people who circumcise? Because you’re sounding a touch self-centred here.

    Circumcision is performed at a time when permanent memories are no being formed and learning about social norms and cultural expectations regarding our bodies is not occurring.

    “They don’t remember, so it’s okay”? Seriously, this is the best argument you can come up with? Is the extremely problematic nature of your argument completely fucking invisible to you? Seconding Azalea on the question about whether fondling a newborn would also be okay because they don’t have permanent memories or cultural expectations regarding their bodies.

    Read Dan Savage’s columns sometimes; there’s many, many letters from circumcised men who’ve lost sensation in their penises, or who feel “less than” because of it.

    Therefore, viewing circumcision as “worse” is a view centered on the child, as I might pretend, but a view centered on myself and my own ego.

    How about a view centred on “I will not permanently change, especially traumatically (in the medical sense of trauma), the body of a human being without full and informed consent”? Sounds a lot less creepy to me, personally, that way.

    In fact, my circumcision, while extra bloody and requiring me to go to the hospital, is a completely innocuous fact of my life that does not contribute to any sense of a lack of well being or any feeling of insecurity.

    I’m glad to hear that you’re not left with insecurities and fears surrounding your circumcision, DLL (in much the same way that, thankfully, my sexual abuse didn’t leave me with the inability to have or enjoy sex). That doesn’t mean that others don’t have that issue, or that the act itself was fine, any more than I get to stand up and tell all survivors ever that they’re not allowed to have fears about having sex because of it, just because I don’t.

  29. Jen in Ohio says:

    Azalea @5.26.2012 at 8:10 pm: I can’t be too specific about it because I don’t know the guy personally, it’s just the vibe I get from a distance. Of course it’s possible that it’s a mistaken impression, but he’s always seemed like a poseur to me, and not in the standard Hollywood actor way. I’ve felt the same way about John Travolta for nearly 30 years, fwiw.

    This is why I look at my little stepkid with the yellow/green/blue/red hair cut short just the way she likes, and beam my head off. Nobody’s going to police that child’s gender on my watch; I will reinforce that with teeth. *grin*

    Good on ya! I’d do the same if I were actually responsible for any kids.

    After commenting on this thread yesterday, I went and shaved my hair back down to half an inch again and it feels awesome. BFF says it looks lovely. There’s tons more gray than last time and I feel a little like a Bonnie Raitt song, heh, but I’m glad I did it. Some of the psychological scars my mother left on me from policing my gender are actually far worse than some of the physical scars she left on me from violence, but I understand why a lot of people don’t understand this. I sort-of hope they never understand it, since a well-versed comprehension in agony is the only way to understand it, and I don’t have the constitution to wish that kind of agony on anyone.

  30. zuzu says:

    Why is circumcision of penises relevant in a discussion of a little girl’s bodily autonomy?

    As for why it’s news that Willow Smith might be allowed to cut her own hair, keep in mind that she had a hit song called “Whip My Hair,” and you can’t really whip your hair when you have a buzz cut. Plenty of people in entertainment, usually women, have clauses in their contracts that prevent them from significantly altering their appearance. Emma Watson, for example, was required to keep her hair long as long as she was under contract to play Hermione Granger, and chopped it off as soon as filming wrapped on the last movie. And she was about Willow Smith’s age when she entered into that contract, so consider that she had no autonomy with regard to her hair during her entire adolescence.

  31. Why is circumcision of penises relevant in a discussion of a little girl’s bodily autonomy?

    It honestly wasn’t, until DLL started flinging “anti-semitic” around.

    And she was about Willow Smith’s age when she entered into that contract, so consider that she had no autonomy with regard to her hair during her entire adolescence.

    Getting back on-topic… it’s one thing to enter willingly into a contract that has stipulations on personal appearance. It’s another to be forced to adhere to random conditions just because of genetics.

  32. Emily says:

    Circumcision is one of the first parenting decisions parents of boys make, and it is a heavily culturally supported practice. So lots of people decide to do it without really thinking about it. Also, children’s age certainly affects what they can reasonably be given autonomy over. I have come to an anti-circ position through parenting (have two girls but we did not find out their genders before birth). I was prepared to circ the first but argued strenuously against wrt the second. Having a child made me think about the decision differently.

    That is aside from the religious issues which are different. I think that religious people who believe the circumcision is necessary are fairly reasonably deciding for their infant sons that it’s better to do it as an infant than later. There are lots of irreversible decisions parents are allowed to make for their children, and there are a lot of religious men who are glad their parents made that decision for them. It does not mean that the parents don’t want them to have bodily autonomy as adults (or as older children) but that the parents are making a decision for the infant that they think their sons would choose if they could.

  33. EG says:

    it’s one thing to enter willingly into a contract that has stipulations on personal appearance.

    Eleven-year-olds should be considered capable of consenting to multi-year business contracts? I doubt this was a decision that she made on her own, or that it would be reasonable to hold her to if she had.

  34. Good on ya! I’d do the same if I were actually responsible for any kids.

    *grins* Thank you! I just read your comment and it made me have a warm and fuzzy.

  35. zuzu says:

    Circumcision entered the thread before DLL’s comment, and it wasn’t relevant then, either.

    Emma Watson was ten years old when she was cast as Hermione Granger. She had no legal ability to bind herself, but her parents did, and they entered into a contract on her behalf requiring her to maintain her hair a certain way, despite the existence of wigs.

    Compare and contrast to the Smiths, who have ensured that their daughter has control of her hair and body despite potential career demands.

  36. ASH says:

    “It honestly wasn’t, until DLL started flinging “anti-semitic” around.”

    UH, NO, until you and Azalea started talking about circumcision, it wasn’t even part of this discussion.

    We’re talking about, as zuzu pointed out, body autonomy of little girls. Every single time that a discussion is brought up about female body choices, SOMEONE just has to throw in the obligatory circumcision discussion. It wasn’t even about FEMALE circumcision, it was about MALE circumcision.

    The difference between how men and women are treated is that society acts like a girl/woman at any age has some male that she must answer to in regards to her appearance. Would her dad approve? Would her husband approve? Did she consult with them before wearing/not wearing an article of clothing? Did she consult with him about how to cut/style/color her OWN effing hair?

    Circumcision is a choice made for a male when he is a baby (most times). No matter what your beliefs are on the matter, this is made on his behalf as a BABY. Men are not expected to check in with their mommies/wives well into adulthood about their own body choices. Adults are not commenting on message boards about little boys’ HAIRCUTS, for crying out loud.

  37. Emma Watson was ten years old when she was cast as Hermione Granger. She had no legal ability to bind herself, but her parents did, and they entered into a contract on her behalf requiring her to maintain her hair a certain way, despite the existence of wigs.

    Fair enough. I hadn’t considered that. Thanks, zuzu and EG.

    In which case, though, I’m unsure how moral the acting thing is at all, where minors are concerned. If a child has the ability to choose what to do with their hair, in the event of a contract that requires them to keep it a certain way, are they incapable of considering that in consenting to the contract? (If they’re not consenting and are forced into the contract, that’s a whole other deal and bordering on illegal, at best, right?) I’m not posing rhetorical questions, I’m genuinely not sure what the ethics of that situation would be. Anyone have further thoughts on this?

  38. EG says:

    I’ve always thought the ethics of what we as a society do to child performers are awfully…murky. I can’t help but look at how many of them turn out awfully unhappy, or how many of them turn out to have been abused, and think about what we take from them when we (adults) have children sing or dance or act or achieve fame in some other way for our entertainment and/or profit. On the other hand, I wouldn’t want to stifle the creative powers of a child who loves and wishes to dedicate herself to dance, for example. I find it to be a really thorny problem, and it’s one that as a society, I don’t think we handle very well.

  39. zuzu says:

    Conditions for child actors are a *lot* better than they were in the old days, when they were essentially exploited and robbed blind.

    But the appearance clauses are standard for a lot of actors. I have to wonder if the Smiths avoided such a thing for Willow because a) Willow is a singer, not an actress, and thus might not be asked to even have that term; b) Will and Jada have been around the business and are probably a lot more savvy than Emma Watson’s parents were years ago.

    Few adult actors even think to negotiate around these clauses, because who really thinks about the show being a multi-year hit that will lock them into a look? Ginnifer Goodwin is one of the few I know about; her contract for Big Love specified that she could keep her hair any way she liked and wear wigs on set.

  40. Azalea says:

    Adults are not commenting on message boards about little boys’ HAIRCUTS, for crying out loud.

    False, they do.

    For the record, I brought it up and said circumcision fo a child of ANY gender. Age doesn’t matter, a child’s genitals should not be the property of their parents to decide what cosmetic surgery they will have it on. I call it consistency. Otherwise you’re simply saying little boys penises are Mommy’s property, little girls vaginas belong to little girls. That’s a gross way of thinking , period.

    Have you SEEN a little boy without a haircut? Or a little girl WITH a haircut? How people say often they couldn’t tell the boy was a boy or the girl was a girl? I think children shouldn’t get their first haircut until they are old enough to say they want it cut. Most 2-3 year olds cry bloody murder when getting a haircut, it’s scary, this new thing buzzing around your head, demanding a toddler be perfectly still to avoid nicks and cuts on their scalp.

    Small children shouldn’t have chemicals in their hair because wouldn’t it damage it at such a uyoung age anyway? But once they are older preteen and beyond they should be able to make those choices and their parents should back them up. But I think in respecting your child’s bodily autonomy, their hair is at the bottom of the totem pole. It grows back, it gets longer, if it is dyed it could be dyded again, there are wigs, etc. Allow your child to choose whether or not he or she will be circumcized, have pierced ears, transition or suppress puberty in order to discuss transitioning.

  41. Allow your child to choose whether or not he or she will be circumcized, have pierced ears, transition or suppress puberty in order to discuss transitioning.

    As someone who had her ears ritually pierced at 11 months….this, thanks.

  42. Norma says:
    Adults are not commenting on message boards about little boys’ HAIRCUTS, for crying out loud.

    False, they do.

    Thanks, Azalea, for repeatedly bringing this thread back to where any discussion of girls really belongs: the experiences and concerns of boys. I was worried we might finally be moving away from penises for a minute there.

  43. Azalea says:

    Thanks, Azalea, for repeatedly bringing this thread back to where any discussion of girls really belongs: the experiences and concerns of boys. I was worried we might finally be moving away from penises for a minute there.

    You couldn’t have possibly read the rest of that post , saw where I type “girls” and read boys. Nah, you couldn’t have.

  44. Jill says:

    You couldn’t have possibly read the rest of that post , saw where I type “girls” and read boys. Nah, you couldn’t have.

    Actually, I think she’s probably referring to the totality of this thread, where you keep derailing to bring up circumcision. And yes I know your excuse is going to be “But I didn’t specify MALE circumcision!” But sadly we are not stupid. Will and Jada are American parents, and the cultural norm here is to circumcise boys and not girls.

    Anyway, enough derailing about circumcision. This post is about girls and controlling their own bodies. Not Azaela’s pet issues.

  45. DonnaL says:

    OK, I’ve refrained from commenting on that subject, but given the other thread, I have to ask this one rhetorical question, to which I expect no answer: Azalea, are you saying that Mary failed to respect the infant Jesus’s bodily autonomy when she had him circumcised? (There’s no question that it happened; after all, the Feast of the Circumcision is a holy day, and there were enough Foreskins of Jesus floating around medieval Europe as sacred relics to choke a horse.) If so, did she sin? I thought she couldn’t. In which case, how could it have been wrong?

  46. Azalea says:

    DonnaL yes from a human rights standpoint she was. She didn’t cut her penis-she doesn’t have one, she cut his.

    I’ve been pretty consistent that what is sin and what is a human rights issue are two very different things. They differ, they just do.

    When people use religion to justify FGM. I call it wrong too.

  47. Azalea says:

    And Willow’s hair,

    She had a mohawk type of thing going on in the “Whip My hair” video, didn’t she? I’m guessing she chose that and that was a few years ago.

    I’m wondering how many pre-teen/teenaged girl entertainers were allowed to do with their hair as they please aside from Willow? How many were restricted by contracts and who signed those contracts restricting what they can and can not do to their hair?

  48. tinfoil hattie says:

    Yeesh. Dude gets a cookie for bragging about “letting” his daughter cut her hair. Ooooooh, what an amazing feminist! And a super-duoer Dad, too!

  49. Natalia says:

    But the appearance clauses are standard for a lot of actors. I have to wonder if the Smiths avoided such a thing for Willow because a) Willow is a singer, not an actress, and thus might not be asked to even have that term; b) Will and Jada have been around the business and are probably a lot more savvy than Emma Watson’s parents were years ago.

    More savvy – and in possession of a whole lot more industry clout, I’d say. Watson’s parents are both lawyers, but this was Watson’s first professional acting gig, and they probably did everything to make sure that she would get it – and keep it. The rules are way different when your parents are already major celebrities, of course.

  50. EG says:

    Dude gets a cookie for bragging about “letting” his daughter cut her hair. Ooooooh, what an amazing feminist! And a super-duoer Dad, too!

    Actually, it’s “famous, influential Dad makes explicit the importance of teaching his daughter that her body is her own to do as she likes with, and nobody else’s.” You may think that’s no big thing, but in this country’s cultural climate, I’d have to disagree. I’d put it up there with my father telling me explicitly when I was 10 that any boy or man who touched me without my consent was doing the equivalent of hitting first, and that as far as he was concerned, I had every right to defend myself physically.

  51. tinfoil hattie says:

    As a parent, still filing it under: Big friggin’ deal.

    As an acerbic feminist, filing it under: Sycophancy abounds for the famous dude. Also: Big friggin’ deal.

  52. Donna L says:

    Well, you know what fun feminists are like. They don’t ever miss an opportunity to kiss the asses of famous and not-so-famous dudes. And hand out cookies, too.

  53. EG says:

    Maybe you live in some feminist wonderland where this kind of statement represents the dominant thought on the issue and where fathers routinely portray themselves publicly as supporters of their daughters’ bodily autonomy. How fortunate for you. As a person who lives in this world and is aware of exactly what messages girls and young women get about their bodies, I think it is a big goddamn deal.

  54. tinfoil hattie says:

    If I teach her that I’m in charge of whether or not she can touch her hair, she’s going to replace me with some other man when she goes out in the world.

    “Her mother, of course, has no say or influence on anything.”

    Also: I do live in that kind of feminist wonderland, EG! How did you guess. In my feminist wonderland, though, women’s words are given more weight than men’s.

    • Jill says:

      “Her mother, of course, has no say or influence on anything.”

      Also: I do live in that kind of feminist wonderland, EG! How did you guess. In my feminist wonderland, though, women’s words are given more weight than men’s.

      WTF are you even talking about? Where was it said or even implied that her mother has no say or influence on anything? In fact, if you read the quote, you’ll see that he uses the term “We” repeatedly — a reference to himself and Jada.

  55. amblingalong says:

    OK, I’ve refrained from commenting on that subject, but given the other thread, I have to ask this one rhetorical question, to which I expect no answer: Azalea, are you saying that Mary failed to respect the infant Jesus’s bodily autonomy when she had him circumcised? (There’s no question that it happened; after all, the Feast of the Circumcision is a holy day, and there were enough Foreskins of Jesus floating around medieval Europe as sacred relics to choke a horse.) If so, did she sin? I thought she couldn’t. In which case, how could it have been wrong?

    …beautiful.

  56. In my feminist wonderland, though, women’s words are given more weight than men’s.

    Yay! And in your feminist wonderland, do they read original sources, which would allow them to determine that this quote came from an interview of Will Smith, and not an article on Willow? And that, as such, when X is being interviewed, they ask X questions on Y, Q and P, and Z’s input on Y, Q, P, or all of these, however valid it may be, is not customarily requested?

    If this had been an interview of Jada Pinkett instead, where she said the exact same thing, would you be clamouring to know what her husband’s view on this is?

    Or, you know, you could do another feminist thing and suppose that Will and Jada, as equal partners, came to the decision that Willow has a right to do as she pleases with her hair. Talk about not giving women’s decisions weight – does the idea that Will may have run this by his wife and received her permission as well honestly not occur to you?

  57. Where was it said or even implied that her mother has no say or influence on anything? In fact, if you read the quote, you’ll see that he uses the term “We” repeatedly — a reference to himself and Jada.

    QFT.

    Also, hattie, if you mean to say that the “replace me with another man” is the objectionable part…. it’s probably reasonable to say that “controlling spouse” would have been a more LGBT-friendly phrase (though I would say that, given Willow’s age, if the kid were bi/lesbian the parents would have noticed? They’re both fairly progressive, yes?). But that wasn’t your issue, was it?

  58. EG says:

    Look, if Jada and Will were saying different things, then it would matter whose words carried more weight. But they’re not, so I’m not sure what your point is.

    I just don’t see any implicit silencing of Jada at all. He’s being interviewed, he’s being asked about himself, he’s talking about his philosophy. Add to that the fact that when it comes to teaching a young girl that no man, however important, has the right to control her body, it makes sense that you want a father (figure) to model that, because he is most likely the most important man in her life at this point.

    I really don’t understand what you find so obnoxious about this.

  59. ABee says:

    …. it’s probably reasonable to say that “controlling spouse” would have been a more LGBT-friendly phrase (though I would say that, given Willow’s age, if the kid were bi/lesbian the parents would have noticed? They’re both fairly progressive, yes?).

    I wouldn’t call them progressive considering that they are Scientologists. It’s said that one of the major draws of Scientology in Hollywood is that they’ll hide your gayness for you and hook you up with a proper straight spouse, hence how Will & Jada came to be (so the gossip rags say).

    That said, I think the Will quote is great and I’m glad he’s considering bodily autonomy in the raising of his beautiful daughter.

  60. I wouldn’t call them progressive considering that they are Scientologists.

    They’re Scientologists? O_O I did not know that.

  61. Donna L says:

    It’s said that one of the major draws of Scientology in Hollywood is that they’ll hide your gayness for you and hook you up with a proper straight spouse, hence how Will & Jada came to be (so the gossip rags say).

    I don’t think it’s really very nice to use this occasion to spread entirely speculative (so far as I know) rumors about Will’s, or Jada’s, sexual orientation — rumors, which, so far as I know, are based entirely on the fact that he *is* a Scientologist, given the similar rumors about Tom Cruise for the last 20 years. You really have no idea one way or the other. And, who cares? It’s not like Will Smith is anything like John Travolta, who’s been seen at every gay bath house in Hollywood for the last 30 years or so!

    Separately, and coincidentally, there happens to be a post over at Shakesville today about the new Men in Black movie; more than one commenter has posted that they worked or have worked in service industries, and that Will and Jada are among the nicest people in the entertainment world that they’ve met. I guess being nice and a Scientologist aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. Progressive? I have no idea.

  62. IrishUp says:

    Will Smith does not identify as a Scientologist, for the record.

  63. Donna L says:

    Thanks, IrishUp. That’s what I get for assuming that someone who posts that kind of tidbit must know what they’re talking about. See this Wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Will_Smith

  64. ABee says:

    Thanks, IrishUp. That’s what I get for assuming that someone who posts that kind of tidbit must know what they’re talking about. See this Wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Will_Smith

    Saucy, Donna L. My mistake is duly noted.

  65. amblingalong says:

    It’s said that one of the major draws of Scientology in Hollywood is that they’ll hide your gayness for you and hook you up with a proper straight spouse, hence how Will & Jada came to be (so the gossip rags say).

    Seriously? I didn’t know anyone actually read those things; I really am surprised to hear that there are people who take them seriously.

  66. Off White says:

    It kind of makes me wonder if Will Smith, as an actor/performer in an industry that is very much about appearance, has ever experienced a little loss of self determination over his own body.

    I believe children should be raised to think their opinion matters. Its not the same thing as getting everything you want, but it does facilitate discussion, reason, and respect, important attributes in becoming an adult.

  67. tinfoil hattie says:

    “i really don’t understand what you find so obnoxious about this.”

    I really don’t understand why feminist blogs are fawning all over some famous dude for being a decent parent.

    • Jill says:

      One post with no commentary other than a title is now “fawning”?

      Feminist blogs: Not the place to work out all of your own personal issues.

  68. EG says:

    I really don’t understand why feminist blogs are fawning all over some famous dude for being a decent parent.

    Acknowledging: not the same as fawning. Here is what fawning would look like:

    “Isn’t Will Smith just the greatest? He’s so cute and talented and smart and considerate and I just love him! I’ve always loved him! I wish I could meet him! Will Smith is just dreamy!”

    As for why acknowledge his good parenting? Again, because it is not so common for a famous man to set an example of being involved in his daughter’s life and respecting her decisions and bodily autonomy.

  69. DonnaL says:

    Perhaps a rhetorical question, but at least in the last 8 or 9 months or so that I’ve been reading Feministe on a daily basis, has Tinfoil Hattie ever posted a comment here, one single time, for any purpose other than criticizing this blog, and the people who comment on it, for being insufficiently feminist, and/or the wrong kind of feminist? So she can go back to I Blame The Patriarchy or wherever else she hangs out, and say nasty things about Feministe?

    I think the answer is no, but I suppose there could be one or two examples to the contrary. Which wouldn’t really disprove my point.

  70. DonnaL says:

    I had a feeling that if I checked IBTP I’d find that Tinfoil Hattie is following her usual pattern — “hit and run” snarking here, followed by condescending contemptuousness elsewhere:

    tinfoil hattie
    May 29, 2012 at 8:09 pm (UTC -6)

    . . . . I’m so glad to be here, instead of arguing on other, lesser blogs that Wil Smith “letting” his daughter cut her hair does not make him a super, enlightened, awesome, feminist dad.

    I WAS ACCUSED OF LIVING IN A FEMINIST PARADISE FOR EVEN DARING TO CLAIM SUCH A THING. “Well, maybe YOU live in a feminist paradise where fathers blah-blah-blah bloviate simper simper”

    No, in my feminist paradise, there ARE no men.

    What a huge surprise!

  71. PrettyAmiable says:

    “Isn’t Will Smith just the greatest? He’s so cute and talented and smart and considerate and I just love him! I’ve always loved him! I wish I could meet him! Will Smith is just dreamy!”

    First, all true. Second, literally the only thing I dislike about this guy is that his ego must be ridiculous to have all of his kids named after him – but! I just watched an episode of Fresh Prince on TBS the other day, and he totally made a joke about naming all of his kids after him. It was kind of funny and meta and I wonder if he’s been legit saying that for years. I do want to point out that Jada is kind of an awesome name (says this girl with a distinctly shitty name).

  72. EG says:

    I’m so glad to be here, instead of arguing on other, lesser blogs that Wil Smith “letting” his daughter cut her hair does not make him a super, enlightened, awesome, feminist dad.

    Heh. Poor Hattie. Sometimes space aliens use mind control and actually force her to come onto Feministe, and then they force her to take part in conversations that do not interest her. That must be very, very difficult to deal with.

    No, in my feminist paradise, there ARE no men.

    OK, straight women, you can either live here in this world, as imperfect as it is, and get laid by people who turn you on, or you can come to Feminist Utopia Land! All for FUL, please form a line to the right. Anyone?

  73. shfree says:

    I would be interested to see a conversation between her and Politicalguineapig sometime. Depending on the topic, it could almost be theater.

  74. DouglasG says:

    Going back three spaces to Ms Macavity and Ms Donna, how much does being progressive matter in parenting once LGBT issues pop up? There are so many examples where everything seems upside down; I think after Sonny and Cher demonstrated that a Republican elected official can handle their child’s coming out better than a gay icon, I’ve avoided assumptions in that regard.

  75. I think after Sonny and Cher demonstrated that a Republican elected official can handle their child’s coming out better than a gay icon, I’ve avoided assumptions in that regard.

    Personally I would say that being a gay icon (unless you are gay and an icon) means nothing – it just means gay people like your work. And as we all know – witness women who love Chris Brown, immigrants who vote Republican, survivors who support Polanski, men who believe in the draft – there are always going to be sections of the people you oppress who support you for whatever bass-ackwards reason. Gay people liking Cher has nothing to do with Cher liking gay people.

    On the other hand Dick Cheney is the two-faced, malevolent, ignorant offspring of a sack of shit and a swamp of evil, so do I give a fuck that there’s this ONE gay person out there that he’s willing to support? No. He spent his time in power slaughtering innocents and stripping freedoms with equal glee, and now that he’s a safe nonentity with no actual power or obligation to do anything about what he says, he spouts all the pious phrases of social justice? Fuck that.

  76. EG says:

    He spent his time in power slaughtering innocents and stripping freedoms with equal glee, and now that he’s a safe nonentity with no actual power or obligation to do anything about what he says, he spouts all the pious phrases of social justice? Fuck that.

    macavitykitsune, you are an awesome lady who knows how to turn a righteous phrase. If I could, I’d buy you a drink–or several!

  77. DonnaL says:

    do I give a fuck that there’s this ONE gay person out there that he’s willing to support? No.

    Exactly. The fact that somebody is accepting of their own child is certainly a good thing — and is a whole lot better than disgusting people like Alan Keyes who, IIRC, cut off contact with his gay daughter — but doesn’t mean they feel the same way about other people’s children.

    Is there a better chance that a parent who is politically progressive is more likely to be accepting of an LGBT child than a parent who isn’t? Probably, but I think it depends in part on whether the non-progressive parent is invested in views that are “socially conservative” in general and religiously homophobic in particular. I don’t think Cheney was ever really “that” kind of conservative, so it doesn’t surprise me so much that he accepts his daughter.

    And the fact that a parent is, in fact, politically progressive is no guarantee that they’ll be happy about a child of their own being LGBT. Or being a particular kind of LGBT: I have one trans woman friend whose mother fell in the “progressive” category, and was perfectly fine with it when my friend was living as a gay man, but refused even to see her for a number of years after she transitioned. and

  78. OK, straight women, you can either live here in this world, as imperfect as it is, and get laid by people who turn you on, or you can come to Feminist Utopia Land! All for FUL, please form a line to the right. Anyone?

    Uh….I’ll pass on fucking the women in FUL, myself, thanks. There’s feminist, and then there’s psychotic, and just because a whole lot of people are willing to trundle about in the overlap doesn’t mean we bi women should wind up there too :P

  79. macavitykitsune, you are an awesome lady who knows how to turn a righteous phrase. If I could, I’d buy you a drink–or several!

    *would be blushing if she were light enough* Thank you!

  80. No, in my feminist paradise, there ARE no men.

    Eliminationist rhetoric from that glorious hotbed of victim-blaming, transmisogyny (don’t think I don’t remember that Twisty was in a huge minority supporting trans rights) and elitist bullcrap? Why the fuck am I not surprised?

  81. DouglasG says:

    Things may have changed recently, but once upon a time one might be able to develop a following before negative views were known but couldn’t attain and retain icon status (a little different from the examples Ms Macavity gives, or ones I might add – Messrs Savage and Sullivan being big on South Park, or Elton John championing Eminem?) without being rather openly gay-positive. And it wasn’t (if memory serves) that Cher turned out to be phobic; she was surprised herself at the “not my child” thoughts she had and got over in reasonable time, whereas Sonny (and I thought he was an elected official at the time; I wasn’t thinking about the Cheneys at all, though they certainly fit the discussion) apparently was great from the get-go.

    Of course, gender could have had a lot to do with it; people whose appeal is strongly to lesbians or gays but not much of a mix have been known to have gendered responses to issues from the other side. And Ms Donna is quite right about one reaction not presupposing another.

  82. SydneyKait says:

    I think what Will Smith said was awesome. (although oddly worded). Somethings don’t need to be scrutinized.

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