The War On Women Begins With Girls

It is time for fathers to speak out and combat sexism. Here's how

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Daughters and fathers have been in the news recently. In his response to Rush Limbaugh calling Sandra Fluke a “slut,” President Obama said that he wanted his own daughters to grow up “to be able to speak their mind in a civil and thoughtful way…And I don’t want them attacked or called horrible names because they’re being good citizens.” A week later, John Ramsey expressed regret that he had entered his daughter, JonBenet, in beauty pageants and related events, including a parade just days before she was murdered. The need for fathers to help empower daughters is clear, since we still live in a world where some powerful men throw sexual slurs at adult women and girls are being sexualized and objectified at a younger and younger age. As dads of a combined 4 daughters (ranging in age from 1 to 21,) these recent events have made us pause and reflect on how to best encourage our daughters to combat these tendencies in our society.

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But how do we do this as fathers? One of the most important ways is to break down the old stereotypes that men are rational and logical while women are emotional. We can free our daughters from the burden of that myth by expressing our own feelings and by respecting the intelligence, decisions, and leadership abilities of women. When they see us opening up and talking, they learn to do the same and to not remain silent when something doesn’t feel right. A father’s influence can help a girl find her own strong voice. We also need to listen to our daughters more instead of trying to always impart a lesson. Listening paves the way for girls to discover what they want to say and the inner strength to say it.

The other big thing dads can do is treat women the way we would want a partner to treat our daughters. We wish that it went without saying that daughters need their fathers to reject treating women as objects through sexist jokes, stares and comments on the street, and pornography. The sexualization of girls is perhaps the most disturbing aspect of sexism in our society, and it is time for fathers to speak out about it. Haven’t we evolved beyond the beauty pageant and similar spectacles such as prom queens, debutante balls, and a swath of reality TV that undermine girls’ power? The emphasis on appearance not only robs girls of the sense of being valued for who they are, but also leads to body image distortions and self-criticism. Less obvious is the way that external praise and judgment interferes with a girl’s development of inner confidence.

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Finally, as fathers, we can use our relationship with our daughters to instill in them a strong feeling of being loved and cherished for who they are. Who they really are, beyond prettiness, niceness, and cuteness. When someone says, “Your daughter is so pretty,” we can respond by saying, “Yes, and powerful too!”  The world is very ready to sexualize our daughters, but as fathers we can teach them that there is a world of physical touch that isn’t sexual or aggressive. We can do this by cuddling and nurturing them as babies, roughhousing with them as children, encouraging their physical strength and athleticism as they grow older, and hugging and putting our arm around their shoulder throughout their lives.

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At the same time, as hard as it is for fathers to face, we have to acknowledge that our daughters can’t stay our precious little girls forever. We have to let go of our overprotectiveness. Joe Kelly, in his book, Dads and Daughters, describes the dangers of the stereotype of the “dad on the porch with a shotgun,” protecting his daughter’s virtue. As an alternative, Kelly proposes engaging with the culture that demeans our daughters. For example, his organization has a project based on fathers speaking out—as fathers, to fathers—against the sexualization of girls. His Dads and Daughters group writes to CEO’s (who are mostly men, and mostly fathers) asking them to imagine their own daughters or granddaughters as the models in their company’s sexualized ads. Try it yourself—it’s pretty disturbing. It’s no wonder that they have had success in getting some particularly offensive ads pulled.

So it’s pretty simple: Respect women, reject objectification, speak out against over-sexualization, and above all, listen. Because girls are powerful. As fathers, we have a unique opportunity to celebrate and support that power.

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3 comments
Verify1st
Verify1st like.author.displayName 1 Like

Both parents (fathers and mothers) must practice good parenting.  Fathers should not be blamed solely for the mistreatment of girls.  I've seen too many women these days permitting their young girls to behave and dress inappropriately on a routine basis.  They do this against the wishes of their husbands.  I know this, because my wife permits my daughter to wear enticing outfits when I've expressed opposition to such behavior. 

So men are not to be blamed for objectifying girls. Women encourage the behavior of objectification of girls just as much.  I always find it intriguing to find women encouraging their daughters to be 'eye' candy for men; knowing their are men out their who will seek to do things to one's daughter when given a chance.

Both men and women are equally to be blamed for the war on girls.   Please correct your position on this, because I encourage girls to be more reserved and to work on their inner beauty instead while dressing appropriately in public. 


A Father who seeks to encourage proper decor and behavior of both girls and boys (men and women). 

lustfulwanderer
lustfulwanderer

@Verify1st I realise you may not see this comment since it's been 8 months since you posted but I have to reply to this for my own sanity. 

"I always find it intriguing to find women encouraging their daughters to be 'eye' candy for men; knowing their are men out their who will seek to do things to one's daughter when given a chance." - firstly, let it be known that women are not encouraging their daughters to be eye candy. Women and girls have freedom to dress how the hell they want. If men can't keep it in their pants they are the ones with the problem. If men have a problem restraining themselves in the presence of a beautiful woman in a short skirt and a low top, they need to look at their own self control. What you're essentially saying is that if women don't cover up, men can't be held responsible for their actions? That men are predisposed to leer and perve and help themselves if women don't dress with modesty and decorum??? Interesting. 

You are contradicting yourself and proves the point of this article. If you stop looking at women in a sexualised way, what they wear shouldn't bother you.  - you won't feel threatened when they dress according to how they wish. 

 

logicallyspeaking
logicallyspeaking like.author.displayName 1 Like

@Verify1st Maybe your views on how a girl should or should not behave are not so relevant. Nobody is asking. Just let the girls choose whether they'd like to work on their inner beauty or whatever. Girls too have something called liberty or freedom to choose the way they live, dress, behave. 

"So men are not to be blamed for objectifying girls." So according to you, men will objectify anyway, and it's not their fault at all, but girls aren't supposed to even wear an outfit they like. Objectifying women is disgusting but wearing a cute outfit, short or long, is not. Girls don't wear clothes to be anyone's 'eye' candy; they wear clothes and look beautiful for themselves- not for you, or the people on the streets or anyone else for that matter. 

So next time, you see a girl wearing whatever she's wearing, remember it's none of your business. She's not infringing your rights. But you are if you think you can dictate how or what she should or should not do.