I really don’t intend to try to have control over my daughters’ dating and relationships. I hope that CFM and I will have taught them well. I hope that by that point I’ve successfully cultivated a relationship of trust between us to where my not-so-little-anymore girl will listen to what I might say. I know that the only way to accomplish this is to show that kind of respect to her myself – listening to what she thinks and how she feels. I know that she will probably date some folks that don’t really top my list of candidates, and that I’ll have to check myself and discern whether my thoughts are actually concerns or just preferences. All that said, there are a few red flags that will definitely set off warning lights and buzzers on my daddy dashboard*. If I see these, I’ll have a conversation with the girl you’re wooing (my daughter) and make sure she sees them too.
These attitudes are hidden problems, really. They’re sneaky. Folks who say these things think they’re good. They think they’re being respectful. They’re not jerks. They certainly don’t intend to be jerks; rather they just end up treating women poorly because they don’t know that what they’re doing devalues women.
If you have one of these attitudes or outlooks, I’ve got some education for you. Really, take my advice and things will go more easily for you. I know you mean well. You think you’re showing respect. But you’re not. Here’s what I mean.
“Respect her because she’s somebody’s Sister/Daughter”
This statement looks great at first. Respect her! It’s right there. Show her honor! Well… Not really. When you look at the reason, it tragically changes the flavor of the respect.
Why should you be respecting my daughter? You should be honoring her person-hood because she’s a human being. She has rights. She has agency. She’s a being separate from other beings. Just by virtue of being a human being she should be given these basic human rights and treated with dignity and respect.
However that’s not what this statement says. One who has this attitude isn’t respecting her person-hood. (S)he is still viewing her as an extension of another person. She’s not a person in her own right. To say that you should respect her because of her relationship to another person is to say nothing of your respect for her. In voicing this view, one is only declaring one’s respect for the man to whom one connects her, whether her brother or father, etc. This is, in essence, declaring the opposite of respect for my daughter. It is declaring respect for another man and objectifying her. Probably not what you intended to communicate, I know, but it’s time to grow up and start thinking about what you say.
“I can’t ask her out. She’s taken.”
Let me tell you a little secret: my daughter gets to decide who can ask her out, not some guy. Although she will be encouraged to fulfill whatever she commits to, that commitment should not be inferred where she hasn’t made it. Just because you think she’s in a relationship is no reason not to check with her. If she’s committed she will tell you, and if she isn’t she’ll tell you. But I can tell you right now she isn’t taken.
This is just another way of assuming that she is under a man’s ownership. And that’s not how we operate in my family. Nope.
So yeah, ask her out. She has the right to decide between you two.
(This post is pretty short for the reason that I had to make an ER run with one of my daughters instead of my normal writing time. Everybody’s fine. It was a false alarm. But the result is a short post this week.
* Why yes, I did purposely write that to see how many cliches I can stuff into one sentence. Why do you ask?