Date Your Daughter

This video appeared in my Facebook feed today. I normally don’t bother with this stuff anymore, but I was bored and curious, so I clicked.

If you don’t feel like watching, here’s the summary: Guy getting all dressed up. For some reason, he’s with another guy, and they’re talking about whatever is going on like it’s a big deal. Guy #1 says whoever “she” is will be surprised. It sounds for all the world like he’s about to propose marriage (though from the title of the video you know already that’s not true). We follow him to another location, where he picks up not an adult woman but a little girl who turns out to be his daughter. He proceeds to tell her how cute she is (she says she gets it from her mother). Then they go on their “date,” all dressed up, to play at the playground. At the end, the text says, “You’ll always be her first love.”

Ew.

The first thing that grabs me is how utterly creepy this is due to the common aspect of conservative Christian culture where dads “date” their daughters and daughters make purity pledges. Now, I’m not saying that’s what’s going on in the video; only that it reminds me of purity culture. Aside from the unnecessary sexualization surrounding the “date” concept, this puts dads as a place holder for their daughters’ future husbands. What an absolutely inappropriate practice, a sheer removal of her agency in her own life.

I also found myself wondering why the hell they needed to get into formal wear to play on the playground. Have these people ever seen kids at playgrounds? Mine always come home dirty and sweaty. And fancy dresses are not a whole lot of fun for climbing and running and jumping. Couldn’t dad and daughter just have gone out to play without all the hoopla?

Additionally, what about a girl who doesn’t have a dad in her life? Perhaps he died or disappeared or she’s only ever had two moms. What then? Should her mom or moms hire a dad for the day? Or is she under the care of her grandfather or an uncle? On the flip side, a girl might have more than one dad. Is she expected to do this with both a father and a stepfather if she’s close to both of them? In fact, is she even allowed to? Do both her gay dads have to put on tuxes for her? And is that simultaneous or one at a time? I have so many questions.

We do not do this to our sons. We do not encourage mommies to dress up in pearls and ball gowns and “date” our sons. (Though if we did, it would look vastly different—it would be on the sons to pretend to be grown up men, courting their ladies.) In fact, we think boys with this attachment to their moms is unhealthy and strange. It’s even in our language. Being a “daddy’s girl” is a good thing, a sign that dad is the most important man in her life. Being a “mama’s boy” is exactly the opposite—evidence of an immature little boy in a man’s body who can’t let go (or his mother won’t let go).

I’m going to take it one step further and say that we don’t encourage moms to “date” daughters and dads to “date” sons, either. That speaks volumes to the fact that it does indeed have romantic/sexual overtones. If we were to encourage moms to “date” their daughters (and I mean more than a girls’ day out to the spa), we would have to acknowledge both the pre-sexualization and the homophobia present in the “date” concept.

We would also have to acknowledge the gender-role norming. Dads are certainly encouraged to spend time with their sons, but not ever by doing anything as “gay” as getting dressed up in tuxes and going on a date or as “feminine” as treating themselves to a day at the spa or a round of shoe shopping. (Believe me, I know plenty of guys—gay and straight—who would have loved the chance to do this with their dads!)

I’d like to propose a far less creepy alternative (with far less messiness than figuring out who gets to/has to play Dad-in-Shining-Armor). How about we eliminate the “date” concept entirely? Maybe we just spend time one-on-one with our kids, doing things they enjoy. Maybe instead of a surprise day of playing playground prom we get into our grubby clothes and hang out with them at the park. Maybe we listen to them and find out what their interests are and then find ways to enjoy their hobbies together.

Here’s an idea: Let’s talk about it and share ideas for fun things to do with our kids. If you’re a parent (even if your kids are grown), what do you like to do with your kids? What do your kids enjoy?

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8 thoughts on “Date Your Daughter

  1. I think your reading too much into this , my brother took my niece out just too show her how a guy should treat her when she started dating

    • You just proved my point. If your niece didn’t already know for herself how she wanted to be treated, then a “date” wouldn’t help that. No woman (or even teenager) should need a boy or a man to “show” her how women and girls should be treated on dates. She ought to be able to decide for herself what constitutes the kind of person she wants to be with and why.

  2. I agree with C … You’re stretching it to fit your need. There is absolutely nothing wrong with him dressing up to take his daughter out. As the mother of three girls, who love getting dressed up, I think they would enjoy this excursion.
    There are so many kids who would love to spend time with their parents, I think it’s sad you feel a need to tear this fathers attempt to do something fun, different, & special down.

    • To fit “my” need? No. I have a daughter, and her father does not “date” her. She does not need him to teach her how a man should treat her. If she has respect for herself, which her father and I are instilling, she will be able to decide for herself if she wants a partner at all and, if so, how she wants to be treated by that partner (regardless of her partner’s gender). Also, if her parents are so absent in her life that they have to pencil her in for “dates,” I have some concerns about that, too. I never said there was anything wrong with dressing up; but dressing up for the playground is weird. Being “nervous” about seeing your own child is weird. “Dating” your daughter is weird. Did you read the part of my post where I asked why we don’t use that language with sons? Or what happens if a girl doesn’t have a father but has two mothers? Honestly, are you here for discussion, or just to troll? Because if it’s the former, then please do not read into it about “my” needs or that I am “tearing down” something a father is doing.

  3. The “daddy date” concept is a fear driven belief that if dad becomes the ultimtae goal, the end result is what dad wants. Wipe the mind of personal feelings or aspirations, and you create a “predictable” future for the daughter.

    I dont have a daughter, but if I did, my motivation would be to drive her to find what she aspires to, not what my ideal would be.

    My son will learn nothing less. His hopes are what drives his future. I dont create that for him.

    • Oh, absolutely. I find it suspect that a girl (or a boy) should need this kind of thing in order to become well-rounded adults. The assumptions about what a child should aspire to abound in “daddy date” culture. I see nothing about helping her reach her potential as a person, only as a future wife. (And realistically, what if she’s not into men? Or relationships at all?)

  4. yeah, i totally find the whole “daddy date” culture extremely creepy and quasi-incestuous—my dad’s shortcomings were plenty, but he never did that shit, and i thank God for it every day

    • I’m particularly bothered by the concept of teaching girls “how they should be treated on dates.” Why? Can’t we figure out if a date is crappy without help? And why can’t a mom help a daughter learn that skill?

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