“A new line of shirts for dads is offering a refreshing perspective on fatherhood,” exclaims the Parents editor at Huffington Post. “Dad Combats Harmful Stereotypes About Fatherhood With Empowering Shirts” says the social justice warrior headline. “I wondered why so many people thought that the best relationship a dad could have with his daughter was one where he treated her like a possession,” says the author and budding entrepreneur. “Reynolds wants to redefine what masculinity means, to show boys growing up today that there is no one ‘right’ way to be a man,” says the article (I can totally feel him making air quotes while he says this).
Well, here’s to being a traditional father, and all that role entails in bringing up sons and daughters with strength, character, and self discipline.
While he makes a few good points, Reynolds (no relation) makes several fundamental errors about masculinity and its relationship to fatherhood.
His main complaint seems to be that he can’t be manly while doing science projects or making up bedtime stories, or something.
“We do science projects together, we make up bedtime stories about giants who play hopscotch, and we talk [about] our bodies, how they are changing, and about anything they’d like to ask me,” he said, adding, “I think this is a relationship a lot of dads have with their daughters but they’re told they should be protecting their daughters with their physical strength instead of building trusting relationships with them.”
Reynolds wants to redefine what masculinity means, to show boys growing up today that there is no one “right” way to be a man. Whether you fix cars or paint your nails, whether you cry watching movies or don’t shed a tear, whether you dress up as a princess or a superhero for Halloween, anyone who identifies as male is “doing it right,” he explained.
You know what? My dad was in the military, and he was as conservative as it got. His favorite insult throughout my childhood was, “What are you, some sort of a Communist, or a Democrat, or something?” He also did science projects with me, and wrote silly stories to my brothers and me while he was on tour for three months at a time aboard whichever submarine he was assigned to. I don’t think he ever painted his nails, and as far as I know he never dressed up as a princess for Halloween. I’m as conservative as it gets, and I read to my daughter (and my son) every chance I get. I work with her on her homework. I even play with dolls with her. But I also take both my kids fishing and shooting and camping and hiking.
It seems this author is a lot more hung up on traditional masculinity than those who are, you know, traditionally masculine. Somehow it seems to him that the fact that some women get raped, or rape culture is covered up on campus (a subject I wrote about just this month) is to be laid at the feet of all men. Fathers, being the oppressing gender, are to subvert their very nature to correct a societal ill. Indeed, he says, “You see people explain away sexual harassment with ‘it was just a joke’ and it is infuriating. … When you have hundreds of thousands of women sharing their stories of how they’ve been impacted by rape culture, you better think long and hard about how you can help change this as a man and as a dad.”
He then goes on to paradoxically proclaim that wanting to screen the kids who date your daughter is an unacceptable transgression of masculinity. “I want dads, and really, all men, to feel comfortable showing everyone that their version of masculinity is perfect ― that they aren’t less of a man because they don’t want to fight the people their daughters might choose to date.”
So rape culture is bad, but having a strong male presence who will be a girl’s protector is a bad thing. I suppose women owning guns and taking reasonable precautions over their own personal security are also somehow too masculine … ?
Reynolds seems to be an earnest guy honestly trying to be the best dad he can be. He clearly loves his daughters, and is rightly concerned about raising them for today’s world. And he doesn’t get everything wrong. He’s right that girls should be raised to be self-sufficient, strong of character, and able to stand up to negative influences in their lives. I don’t hate all the shirts he’s trying to sell. I particularly like the one that says, “Not because they are someone’s mother, someone’s daughter, someone’s sister, someone’s partner … because they are someone.” He obviously spends as much time in their lives as he can to be a positive influence on them. That’s a good thing.
He concludes, however, that masculinity and being a fatherly protector equates to “daughter-as-possession,” as he puts it.
Never considering that maybe I just want to protect my little girl from real-life monsters in the world. And when I can’t be there to protect her, I want her to be able to protect herself. Because I love her more than anything I know.
This coming from a guy who always cries at the opening scene of Finding Nemo.