Lock Up Your Daughters
You know those scenes in the last season of Games of Thrones when Samwell is forced to clean the medieval bedpans of aged and decrepit monks. Although he has more worldly experience, more useful knowledge and more gumption than these old farts all he is allowed to do is clean up their shit.
The worse job in the world right
Well at times being the father of a teenage daughter is a little the same. You know a lot, you’ve been through at least another 20 years or in my case 40 years of living. You’re busting to help, to guide, to educate and yet most of the time it seems your role is to come in and clean up the shit when you are called for.
That and drive them to places while listening to radio stations/playlists filled with songs I really don’t like.
I am exaggerating a little because of course there are far more times of great joy and satisfaction at helping raise a good, useful human being. And every child is different so teenager raising has always been a roller-coaster ride.
But there are times when I cant help think it was easier when you could send them down in coal mines by 10 or 11 years old or trade them for useful farm animals or you could, if you were in the right position, marry them off for large tracts of land.
There has always been many things to worry about when raising teenagers and thanks of course to the way we, and by we I mean men, have run civilisation the last 1000 years or so there has always been this extra supposed burden when you are the father of a girl or girls.
All the comments, jokes and clichés about this extra burden that falls on your shoulders as your daughter progresses through her teenage years are usually passed on to you in just about any social situation or network by the fathers of boys.
My thoughts on this matter have been more concentrated and I guess analytical since what appears to be a new wave of feminism is sweeping through the world.
We can see the outcomes from this resurgence with relevant events and data around equal pay, human rights, sexual harassment issues becoming widely known and general douchebag behaviour being called out e.g. Harvey Weinstein etc.
This has a while to run and who knows where this will end up. There are always winners and losers in these things, and like a big drunken party, someone always goes too far. There will be innocent victims and unpunished offenders. The world runs that way.
But if it means nothing else and I hope it means much more, I hope it means that I won’t have to hear those stupid clichés like
“All your problems are ahead of you. “ “Better get a shotgun” ever again.
Hell, I have even heard these gems of wisdom from other fathers of girls.
I hate them and here’s why.
First of all it implies I am a shit parent who hasn’t tried to instil a set of values into my daughter that reflects our culture but also allows her to make her own considered decisions about her life.
Secondly it implies that all boys will behave badly, thoughtlessly and selfishly around teenage girls. Something that is patently untrue.
Thirdly those parents of boys seem to be saying that if misbehaviour does occur then those very parents have either done a shit job on raising their boys or have washed their hands on this matter and either way the problem is now mine.
But most of all it portrays the teenage girl not as an educated socially adjusted human with free will who has her own thoughts about what is going on in her life at any given time and her reaction to it.
But instead it seems that teenage girls are still prizes to be won or defended from attack.
Reading too much into it? I don’t think I am.
To me the phrase “Lock up Your Daughters” is stamped on the other side of the coin that has “No Wonder. Look What She Was Wearing”
The comments convey another largely male groupthink that is not dying fast enough.
For things to change you’ve got to have a good hard look at yourself. We all play a part in these things and often these thoughts and actions which maintain the status quo are learned behaviour and instinctive. Off the cuff comments they maybe but they have meaning and context.
Now I spent my teenage years and early 20s at the beach surfing. As a subculture in the 70s and 80s surfing was no better and probably worse in its treatment of young females. I know I said things to girls I would not want someone to say to my daughter.
Although I did nothing criminal I know that I did things that would be classed as sexual harassment nowadays.
If nothing else, our sneering derogatory approach to females actually daring to go surfing had to change and of course nowadays it has.
There are very few saints in the world and unless good behaviour is demonstrated and leaders lead then things do not change. Back then what went on was regarded as normal so it was what it was.
But I can look back now and realise that we are on a journey to a better situation and as a civilisation we have improved but we need to keep moving forward.
You wouldn’t think it was that hard. After all we no longer burn women with unfortunate disfigurements as witches or make left handed people write right handed under the threat of violence or discriminate against people because of their sexuality.
Wait, yes we still do that but change is coming if a little slower than some would prefer.
So lets stop these stupid sayings and the thoughts behind them. Lets recognise that both teenage boys and girls have free will, and while I acknowledge they are given to impulses and poor decision making due to the stage of their brain development and lack of experience, they can make their own choices and need to take responsibility for their actions.
Even more importantly let’s recognise our job as parents is to instil kindness, respect and confidence into our teenagers and we have to walk the walk as well as talk the talk.