A father of daughters

Any father of daughters knows that a woman isn’t actually a person unless you contribute DNA to her. But when you do, boy howdy!

Listen, as a father of daughters, I’m really against this kind of behavior, this kind of treatment of women. The kind where they get hurt or they can’t vote or we don’t give any money to them. You know the kind I’m talking about. The kind I don’t want my daughters to experience, and then I just sort of extrapolate out from there.

It didn’t always used to be this way. I used to only have sons. Things sure were different then. How merrily I used to drive down country lanes in my old Ford, periodically dodging off-road to mow down female pedestrians (you must remember I had no daughters then). Was what I did wrong? How was I to know? I had no daughters to think of.

Did you know that when you have daughters, it’s like making a woman you have to care about out of parts of your own body? Well, it’s true. Now that I have daughters (two of them, to the best of my knowledge), I’ve got all sorts of new ideas about how to treat women. Now that I’ve got daughters, it’s time for the whole world to make some changes.

Read the whole thing at The Toast, of course, to learn how the objective truths of the world changes when a man reproduces.

38 comments for “A father of daughters

  1. Trust
    September 17, 2014 at 3:37 pm

    Mowing down female pedestrians? Really? Is that meant to be satirical, maybe I don’t understand. Someone please explain.

    • Echo Zen
      September 17, 2014 at 4:55 pm

      It’s satire written by a woman, parodying how men can’t empathise with the notion that women are people unless they imagine them as relatives (or daughters).

      It’s good, but I think Oliver did it better.

      • Angel H.
        September 17, 2014 at 7:12 pm

        Link is broken.

      • Echo Zen
        September 17, 2014 at 8:18 pm

        Hmm, it works perfectly on my end. Well, here’s the full URL: http://-teesa-.tumblr.com/post/97551550305

      • Angel H.
        September 18, 2014 at 5:22 pm

        Thanks! That was awesome!

        (The link works on my work computer but not on my phone. Hmm…)

  2. KP
    September 17, 2014 at 4:35 pm

    I think this part was my favorite:

    I’m not proud to admit this, but before I had daughters, I sometimes used to harvest women for their organs to build Liver Pyramids in my backyard. I just didn’t see a problem with it. I sure do now, though. What if someone killed my daughters just to make a pyramid, or even a ziggurat, out of women’s internal organs in their backyard?

  3. September 18, 2014 at 8:40 am

    I didn’t like this that much. I get the joke, but didn’t think it was all that great. This is the same argument that is given when celebrities (or anyone) get passionate about a cause only after they have been personally impacted by it. I am willing to bet Michael J Fox didn’t do a whole lot for Parkinson’s research until he was diagnosed for instance. But now, he does a ton of good for that cause, so who would fault him for that?

    I am a father to a daughter, and so I know first hand how it changes your perspective, but keep in mind, it’s for the better. So why try and belittle those who have gained perspective? It’s kind of like saying “I was a feminist BEFORE it was cool.” Well, aren’t you happy for any time a man is enlightened, no matter what the reason?

    I have never considered myself NOT a feminist, and I haven’t really changed any of my opinions on equality etc, but they sure have gotten closer to home, which does make a difference. So it’s not like before my daughter came along, I had bad or unhealthy views towards women, I could still empathize based on having a mom, a wife, a sister, and friends… and just generally trying to be a decent human. Having a daughter seriously ups the ante. But having a kid in general ups the ante. Sandy Hook for instance hit me way way way harder than it would’ve if I didn’t have a child the same age when that happened. I am staunchly anti gun now because of it. If that’s what had to change my mind, then so what? It’s human nature, and sure it’s easy to satire that, but whatever, it doesn’t make it that entertaining. The ziggurat line was kind of funny.

    • September 18, 2014 at 12:58 pm

      Well, aren’t you happy for any time a man is enlightened, no matter what the reason?

      So it’s not like before my daughter came along, I had bad or unhealthy views towards women, I could still empathize based on having a mom, a wife, a sister, and friends…

      Men’s moral consideration for women should never be influenced by the women’s relations to them. That kind of reasoning supports the underlying logic of patriarchy, wherein women are defined by their romantic, sexual, or familial relations to men. Men should care about the misogyny that women face because women matter – an anti-oppression approach, if you will.

      • EG
        September 18, 2014 at 2:13 pm

        I think it’s about love. If a parent, like I do, suddenly finds that someone he loves more than life itself is going to be harmed by this oppression, I don’t think it is quite human to develop a new passion against that oppression. I don’t think that’s particularly or necessarily about possession or patriarchy. I care quite seriously about police violence against black teens, but I can only imagine how much closer to the bone I would feel it if things had worked out between me and my ex of ten years ago, and my own children were at risk.

      • September 18, 2014 at 6:02 pm

        I think you get what I was saying, EG.

        To Aaliyah, I DO care because women DO matter. That is what I was trying to say… I have always cared, but I think that once you have a child that it’s your duty to guide and protect, it’s pretty natural to forecast what their struggles in life are potentially going to be, and start aligning yourself towards being as big of an ally as you can for them. If I had a kid who ended up with some other sort of circumstances, I would get focused on that. I think of that as good parenting, not a clueless male all of a sudden giving a crap because he “now has a reason to.”

        Anyway, it was a satirical article, and actually the tone to me was kind of on the side of fathers because it was making a farce out of all the ludicrous ways a man might have been bad towards women prior to the birth of the daughter. I just kind off think it’s not something that really needs a bunch of sarcasm thrown at it.

        Would anyone prefer the alternative, where those men who are not respectful towards women continue to be not respectful and raise a daughter in that environment? because that is certainly common too.

      • IrishUp
        September 19, 2014 at 11:51 am

        Would anyone prefer the alternative, where those men who are not respectful towards women continue to be not respectful and raise a daughter in that environment? because that is certainly common too.

        Actually, my reading was that this is PRECISELY the angle of the satire. I mean, how much more decent is the Protagonist Dad in the essay, simply because his daughters have inspired him to understand the wrongness of a liver-ziggurat? Is that actually where the bar for “treat women as human beings” is?

        I think it also successfully skewers the type of defensive isht that Sam Harris tried to float “I can’t POSSIBLY be misogynist. I have a mother, wife and daughters!”

        YMMV, as usual.

      • IrishUp
        September 19, 2014 at 11:53 am

        er, to clarify, “as usual” = “different people frequently have different opinions & reactions”.

      • September 19, 2014 at 9:12 pm

        Irish Up… yeah, you have a point for sure. The dad is not exactly becoming a humanitarian all of a sudden, he is only having the vaguest notions of realizing how to treat others better.

        Well, either way, my “alternative” was talking about those that DO start turning things around and being better. Just the same as the celebs and whomever else that become advocates to a cause that becomes personally relevant to them due to some new circumstance.

        I see the point that it’s kind of annoying that the person wasn’t just an advocate for equal treatment, or an advocate for whatever the cause is just because it was the right course all along. I get that it seems totally ingenuous, and self serving and narrow minded and fake.

        My point is that if someone is converted by something like the birth of a daughter, or some other instance that makes it suddenly relevant to them, isn’t a decent consolation prize that the person is now on the right course, however they got there?

      • September 22, 2014 at 12:14 pm

        Ok, so I’m a woman of color, and if I ever have a child who turns out to be a girl of color, I would definitely be even more passionate about racism due to me focusing on protecting her from dangerous white men. I get what you mean, although that’s not what I was addressing.

        What I’m uncomfortable with is this dynamic wherein some men, regardless of whether they appreciate any women in their life and whether they have good intentions, care about women’s issues only once they realize how it impacts the women in their life. That is nothing short of the reinforcement of the core of patriarchy, the idea that women’s worth is defined by their relation to men. It’s nice when men try to fight misogyny, but not all of their reasons for doing so are incapable of being misogynistic.

      • EG
        September 18, 2014 at 2:13 pm

        That should be “I do think.”

    • Lolabunny
      September 21, 2014 at 10:27 pm

      The thing is… women should not be compared to parkinson’s. Women are people, like, humans beings. And you treat human beings with respect without having to have one of each “kind of people” as a relative to see them, respect them, acknowledge their struggles and try to be aware of their issues. Sure, you may not know all aspects of their struggles and all, but I believe something all humans should do is try their best to listen and try to understand others.

      I do think that is a great thing some men finally change after having a daughter. But the point is: women’s value should not be determined by their relationships with men. Women must be respected not for being somebody’s (usually a MAN’S) daughter, sister or mother, but because they are SOMEONE. That is all.

      • pheenobarbidoll
        September 22, 2014 at 8:12 am

        Exactly. It’s not really much of a consolation prize to know some sexist jerk treated me like a non human but now that he has a kid he gets it. Because my asking to be treated decently wasn’t enough. Women aren’t just sitting around hoping to be treated like humans, we’re pretty vocal about it. So not only did these fathers have their heads up their own asses until they had daughters, they kept their heads there purposely. They had no idea? Bullshit. They didn’t WANT to know. Big difference.

      • EG
        September 22, 2014 at 9:43 am

        Well, except we see this kind of thing happen all the time–remember that Republican lawmaker with the lesbian daughter a little while back who publicly came out in support of same-sex marriage? It’s one of the reasons coming out was and is such a powerful tool for gay rights. It’s not about celebrities, really. It’s about the fact that it’s easy to be against gay rights when gay people are some nebulous other; when you learn that your beloved son or sister or best friend is gay, though, it’s a whole different ball game, and you think of gay people very differently–this isn’t just theory, it’s a statistical fact (though I can’t find the cite right now and don’t have time to look hard). It’s just human beings. When you know and love someone, you’re more likely to give a shit about what happens to them. I don’t particularly need to read endless op-eds about these dudes seeing the light, but I do actually find it kind of touching that their love for their kids is able to overcome their sexism. Saying “I didn’t really understand how awful sexual harassment was until I thought about it happening to my daughter” is different from saying “don’t harass a woman because she’s somebody’s daughter.” The latter is measuring a woman’s worth by her relationship to a man. The former is a man gaining personal insight through his relationship to a girl or woman.

      • pheenobarbidoll
        September 22, 2014 at 11:13 am

        For that to be the same though, the Republican lawmaker would have had to be birthed by a lesbian, have lesbian relatives, grow up with classrooms full of lesbians, taught by lesbians, all his care givers were lesbians, all his secretarial staff be lesbians, marry and impregnate a lesbian and then, upon fathering a lesbian,suddenly realize they should have rights too. That’s what lessens the whole see the light stuff. It’s not like he didn’t already have loved female relatives in his life.

      • EG
        October 4, 2014 at 10:09 am

        Hmm. For me, it’s different, because what I feel for the kids in my care is such a more intense love than for other people I love. It contains far more protectiveness (though of course I do wish to protect my best friend and mother as well), for example. So while I take your point, it doesn’t quite get to the heart of the change for me, though that may be an individual thing.

      • Donna L
        October 4, 2014 at 1:12 pm

        Never mind fathers seeing the light; think of how many women become more committed to feminism after they become mothers of daughters. It’s a human tendency, all idealistic theorizing aside. Nobody’s saying that people deserve a cookie for it.

  4. pheenobarbidoll
    September 22, 2014 at 8:18 am

    And there never seems to be any real acknowledgement of the damage these born again feminist fathers did to women or the real harm they contributed to. Misogyny gets women dead….but he sees the light now so it’s all good.
    How nice for him.

    • Moxon Ivery
      September 24, 2014 at 7:15 am

      This, right here, is the problem with “feminist men”. One drop of feminism doesn’t erase an ocean of misogynist action.

    • September 29, 2014 at 2:37 pm

      I agree 100% with this post. If a man (or anyone) is guilty of something like in this case doing some real harm to another person, then becoming “born again” does nothing to erase the past crimes.

  5. tinfoil hattie
    September 24, 2014 at 7:56 pm

    So it’s not like before my daughter came along, I had bad or unhealthy views towards women, I could still empathize based on having a mom, a wife, a sister, and friends… and just generally trying to be a decent human.

    You’re still defining “women” in terms of their relationship to you, a man.

    This is what I find frustrating – when men are exhorted to care because THIS COULD BE YOUR MOTHER OR YOUR DAUGHTER OR YOUR WIFE OR YOUR SISTER – not because “this is an unconscionable way to treat women.”

    And there never seems to be any real acknowledgement of the damage these born again feminist fathers did to women or the real harm they contributed to.

    Yeah … except when they say “I’m hidin’ MAH daughter in a TOWER forever! With a LOCK on her VAGINA!” because they realize there are a lot of other men out there who treat women like crap – and now that they “own” a woman or two, they gotta “protect” them.

    • Nicky
      September 26, 2014 at 12:21 pm

      People define people in terms of their relationship to themselves. It the monkeysphere effect. Look it up.

      Its a proven psychosocial limit of our species that impacts the relationships of both genders equally and applies to all issues, not just sexism.

      You would care about the death of your child more than you would care about the death of 2000 children on the other side of the world. This doesn’t make you a bad person, it just makes you human. It also doesn’t mean you don’t care about those 2000 children, it just means you care about your own child more.

      Likewise, we all care about things that impact the men and women that are close to us more than we care about things that don’t impact on anyone you know. That doesn’t mean we don’t care about things that hurt strangers, it just means we care about things that impact on the ones we love to a higher degree.

      So please, stop blathering on about ‘the patriarchy’. It has nothing to do with that.

      • pheenobarbidoll
        September 26, 2014 at 4:03 pm

        So……..all those sexist men just miss that whole ” sexism impacts my mother, grandmothers, sisters, aunts, girlfriends and wives….”? Because until they have daughters that monkey sphere effect has a massive fucking blindspot. Wonder what causes that…hmmmm…it’s so very mysterious.

      • Daniel Schealler
        September 29, 2014 at 6:22 am

        I agree that all humans have value.

        It should go without saying that this includes women.

        It should also go without saying that this includes people of genders that fall outside the binary set of ‘male’ and ‘female’, people of genders for which I do not even know what the terminology means, and people of genders for which there are no labels.

        However, I continue to care more about the people I know and love than I do about strangers.

        Do you think that makes me sexist, a supporter of the patriarchy, morally inadequate, or otherwise a bad person in some way?

      • September 26, 2014 at 4:23 pm

        Whether or not the behavior you describe is natural or whatever, the point is that the patriarchy defines women’s existence in terms of relations to men – not the other way around – and so we have every right to criticize men who reinforce that aspect of the patriarchy, regardless of whether they’re well-meaning.

      • September 26, 2014 at 4:36 pm

        Also, you’re dead wrong about the monkeysphere effect. It’s a cognitive limit on how many stable relationships a human can maintain at once. It has no bearing on the ability to care for a marginalized group as a whole.

  6. September 29, 2014 at 2:24 pm

    well. I sort of lost track of this thread, and when I came back there was a multitude of responses, and some seemed to be in response to my earlier comments, and some not. Not sure where to start. I think Daniel Schealler summed up what I was trying to say much more beautifully than I was able to:

    I agree that all humans have value.

    It should go without saying that this includes women.

    It should also go without saying that this includes people of genders that fall outside the binary set of ‘male’ and ‘female’, people of genders for which I do not even know what the terminology means, and people of genders for which there are no labels.

    However, I continue to care more about the people I know and love than I do about strangers.

    Do you think that makes me sexist, a supporter of the patriarchy, morally inadequate, or otherwise a bad person in some way?

    having said that, I feel like according to the theory that “defining “women” in terms of their relationship to you, a man.” thing makes me a part of the problem, then according to that logic, I am logically (genetically?) not capable of NOT being part of the problem.

    I cannot change the fact that I was born a man.

    I cannot experience what it is like to be a woman. Not first hand.

    The best way I can relate is to do it through the females in my life.

    I guess I am saying that it is human nature to relate to others that are different from you by relating through the people close to you.

    In other words, if I didn’t have a mother, sister, wife, female friends and daughter, then I STILL think that women are equal and not in any way inferior to men. But because I have all those people in my life, that is how I vicariously experience the woman’s perspective. How else am I to go about that? It’s not like I think that any woman who doesn’t fit into the above categories are somehow “worth a lesser amount”.

    If I didn’t talk to those people in my life that are female, I would have no way to even come close to grasping the female point of view, aside from media, etc.

    I also still think that when there is something happening to people you love, it is WAY more personal than happening to others. The above comment about your kid vs 2000 kids across the world is pretty accurate sounding to me.

    So really, it’s not like women around the world who experience hardship are a non issue (or even a remotely small issue) to me, I only meant to say that that is how I grasp it all. My wife had some sexism going on at work, and it enraged me. If it was happening to a coworker, I would still be upset about it and not abide by it personally, but since it was my wife, and hit was closer to home, I was way more invested. I saw the guy at a restaurant, and it took some restraint for me not to confront him physically. If it were an acquaintance, the urge to assault him would be way lower.

    The David Choe thing really really upset me, and it had nothing to do with anyone close to me in life. Rape threats really upset me, and no one that I am close to has gotten one. None of my relatives have been (to my knowledge) raped, but I still get really upset about it. If one of the people on my personal list of close family and friends were subjected to any of those things, I would be out for blood.

    That’s just how it goes. I am confident that if you look at your own life, there is some instance of you taking a situation more seriously than you used to because it “hit home” somehow.

    Also, I am not comparing women (or being a woman) to Parkinson’s, just making a point about people we can observe in the public eye who become more passionate about a cause due to changing circumstances in their life. Michael J. Fox fights Parkinson’s because he has it. The father in the article “cares about sexism” (I know, not really) because he has a daughter now. So really, in my analogy, sexism is the disease.

    BTW, I was sexually harassed at work, and I hated it. Not all experiences with things of this nature have to come second hand.

    • October 1, 2014 at 10:54 am

      Also, I am not comparing women (or being a woman) to Parkinson’s, just making a point about people we can observe in the public eye who become more passionate about a cause due to changing circumstances in their life.

      From what I can tell, it would be like approximately half of everyone in Fox’s life having Parkinson’s, but he only starts caring about it when he has it. Acting in that way does happen (with people and with diseases), but it’s not exactly laudable.

    • October 1, 2014 at 12:32 pm

      I feel like according to the theory that “defining “women” in terms of their relationship to you, a man.” thing makes me a part of the problem, then according to that logic, I am logically (genetically?) not capable of NOT being part of the problem.

      It’s not a question of logical necessity or genetics. The patriarchy already defines women in relation to you – women are defined as those who are, loosely speaking, supposed to be owned by men. Even if you reject the roles the system has assigned you – to exploit and own women – you can’t step outside of them until the system itself is abolished.

      Because men are constructed by society as someone with power over women, it’s important for them to try to understand, as best as they can, how exactly they contribute to the patriarchy. And when men emphasize that their care for women is derived from their care for the women in their lives – their mothers, sisters, daughters, nieces, wives, girlfriends, and so on – they are contributing to a dynamic wherein women are valued solely for their relations to men.

      [part 2 coming up…]

      • October 1, 2014 at 12:42 pm

        [part 2]

        TW: abuse, misogyny

        It doesn’t matter whether you want to be Patrick McPatriarch who wants to shamelessly proclaim his hatred of women. Men, when they speak of how their care for women as a political issue came about, will be inevitably listened to more than the people who are actually oppressed on the basis of gender – women. A woman will speak about how she’s a feminist because she was abused and assaulted by men all her life, but it’s for the most part a man who says he’s a feminist because he cares about his daughters that will actually receive sympathy and wide media coverage. It’s important for men to take advantage of their social and discursive power to stress that feminism is important because women matter, not because it’s required for the sake of the good of their female loved ones.

        Also, I’ve explained earlier in this thread how the general claim that people mainly care about those who are close to them is irrelevant, but I’ll restate it: I’m a woman, and I admit that the women and girls I care for and worry about the most are the ones closest to me. But this is a matter of interpersonal relationships – it has zero bearing on my political mindset.

        I care for my loved ones as individuals, but my political interest in fighting against patriarchy isn’t reducible to my emotional investment in those interpersonal relationships. While I do hope that the abolition of patriarchy will benefit their lives, should they ever hope to experience it, I support women because I am a woman and because I have solidarity with all other women on the basis of gender. This is the reason A LOT of women are feminists.

        Of course, since you’re a man, you can’t be an ally of feminists for the same exact reason as me and many other women are feminists/womanists – and you shouldn’t try to, because that would be an appropriation of women’s experiences, which is deeply misogynistic. But you certainly can at least focus on women’s issues for their own sake rather than only to the extent that they have tangible effects on the lives of the women close to you. If I’m wrong about how you actually prioritize feminist issues, then whatever, but I’m saying all of this anyway because you keep missing the point.

      • Donna L
        October 1, 2014 at 1:59 pm

        Aaliyah, did your identification as a feminist, and feelings of solidarity with women, precede your identification as being a woman yourself? Or did you consider yourself a feminist ally back then?

        In my case, the answer to the first question is yes, thinking back all those years. Although it was difficult to maintain that identification in the face of the attitudes towards people like me held by so many feminists at the time.

      • October 1, 2014 at 2:29 pm

        did your identification as a feminist, and feelings of solidarity with women, precede your identification as being a woman yourself?

        They did. I called myself a “male feminist” – especially in my early days here on Feministe – but I only did that because I was still in my phase of forcing myself to identify as male (even though I didn’t really know at the time). Nevertheless, I found myself having strong emotional investment in women’s issues – so much so that I was confused as to why I would care about issues that “never affected me”. Everything made sense once I stopped repressing my gender, imagine that!

      • October 4, 2014 at 8:55 am

        I see the distinction you are highlighting here. the difference between caring more about an individual in your life because they are close to you, versus caring about the cause (in this case feminism) as a political stance, and how those are separate. I get that now.

  7. October 4, 2014 at 8:46 am

    Well, I am starting to see what you guys are saying about my views (also in this case the generic father character in the article) being a product of the patriarchy. I guess it really can be hard to see it from the inside. I recently read White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Backpack by Peggy McIntosh Which I realize might be old news to some or all of you, but for me, it was brand new, and very eye opening. Some of these concepts are new for me, and part of the value of me coming to sites like this is for enlightenment. Thank you all for making your points clearly and taking the time to have the other side of the discussion without dismissing my points too harshly.

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