Daddy’s Little (Make That Big) Girl: 10 Ways Dads Empower Their Daughters
Either I’m getting old or a majority of hip-hop nowadays is misogynistic garbage. Now you know I am not the one to go blaming hip-hop for the reason some females have low self-esteem and relationship issues. In fact, you might even catch me in the club twerkin’ it myself on any given Saturday. But there’s a time and place for gyrating in your freakum dress to songs like French Montana’s “Pop That” and Juicy J’s “Bands Will Make Her Dance.” I just wish there were more variety for our young women to choose from besides songs that glorify having a big booty and bouncing it for some change.
Degradation and disrespect of women is nothing new, so it would be unfair of me to blame today’s hip-hop community for the massacre of the black female image. Let’s be real, Mitt Romney of all people believes womens’ bodies should still be at the mercy of federal laws. But even in a world where women are commonly referred to as b***hes and h*es, I was always assured that it wasn’t going down in my childhood home. I’d like to think a big reason why I have so much respect for myself and refuse to allow my self image to be at the mercy of male judgment was because I had the good fortune of having an involved father. By involved, I don’t just mean being there and paying bills. I mean having a father that treated my mother with respect and schooled his daughters on life, love and everything in between.
When a young girl has no positive examples of black men in her life, she may internalize the messages she sees in the streets and on TV and use them to define her womanhood. I mean, let’s be honest, to most young girls nowadays being called a “bad b***h” or “5-star chick” is the highest form of flattery. I don’t want young women to feel like they have to compromise their integrity to become successful or loved. But so often, young women receive mixed messages from men that tell them just that. Many fathers don’t realize the powerful influence they have over how their daughters feel about themselves and relate to men as they grow older. Here are 10 ways that dads truly do make a difference:
1. Teach her about respect and reputation.
As much as I love Drake, I must say he lead my sistas astray with YOLO. Girls are doing the most for some Twitter followers and false celebrity lifestyle, not realizing that somewhere down the line they may have kids or future employers to answer to. There are several paths to success and it’s hard for women to live certain pasts down, no matter how sophisticated or professional you eventually become (I’m sure you remember the former lingerie model turned teacher who lost her job because she couldn’t get her photos offline). Would we look at The First Lady the same if we caught her in a 2 Live Crew video in the past?
2. Treat her mother and other women with respect (even when it’s difficult).
It can be hard to practice chivalry with a woman who is acting anything but like a lady. She’s calling you every word in the Urban Dictionary, slapping you upside your head and it’s almost as if she wants your inner Ike Turner to come out. But keep in mind your daughter’s watching and listening to you. That doesn’t mean you have to be a sucker, but realize one of her first lessons in love is the relationship between her mother and father. Don’t contribute to the drama and walk away when you feel like you’re about to give her what she’s asking for. Also be conscious of how you speak about women around her; keep adult conversations for when only adults are present and make sure you talk about your respect for women as much as you talk about your desire for them.
3. Let her know she’s beautiful inside and out and do it often.
I’ve had men tell me I was beautiful while I had one eyebrow filled in and crusty morning drool and still couldn’t take them seriously. Our daughters are growing up facing images every day trying to tell us that all we need is light skin, long hair and booty injections. As much as our culture likes to preach black is beautifully diverse, we sure like to glorify the same repeated images of beauty. No matter what your daughter looks like, make sure you celebrate her inner and outer beauty, but more importantly, teach her to do the same.
4. Give her the real deal on relationships and appropriate affection.
One of the biggest problems that our young women face is that they’re being sold a fairytale Trey Songz video version of romance (which basically includes boot knocking and headboard banging) or they have a bitter woman in their ear giving her the Keyshia Cole pre-Boobie version of love hurts. There’s no balance. Our young women need to know that they are not powerless to love and pain and that they have some control over what happens to them. A father’s first instinct will be to shelter his daughter from heartbreak, and defend her honor by hiding the brutal truth about what men really think, but she needs to be schooled on how to fight for her heart herself. Let her know what men really think about women whose Facebook pictures feature nothing but them “tooting that thang up.” And let her know that true love isn’t just about freaking and fighting, but about all the intimate moments in between.
5. Make sure she’s educated, both in the school and in the street and cultivate her talents.
Invest in her education by not just visiting her teacher for report card conferences. Make education a priority both in and out of the classroom. My dad may not have been breaking down quadratic equations, but he always read to us and made sure our home was filled with books. Even today he will break down to me parts of political debates I may not understand, or take time to tell me a little bit about the Black Panthers or days of discrimination in the south. Even if you have negative experiences in your past, use them to educate her about her present and her future. Take active interest in extra-curricular areas where she displays some talent, even though she may not recognize it herself.
6. Encourage her independence.
Too many of our young girls think that the only way to get a Michael Kors handbag is through the Catch-A-Man Scholarship program. They feel like there’s nothing wrong with flashing a smile, switching their hips and giving up a little affection for some gel nails and a pair of shoes. What they don’t realize is that they’re selling a piece of their integrity. Encourage your daughters to take pride in being able to take care of themselves and teach her that relationships aren’t about bartering services.
7. Surround her with plenty of positive examples.
Make sure she has as much access to My Black Is Beautiful as she has to World Star Hip Hop. Expose her to the images in Essence magazine as much as, if not more than, to the models in KING magazine. As a young woman I was so self-conscious about the type of women men paid attention to most and even with the exposure I did have to diverse black women in my life, including my mother, teachers and other women in the community, I still struggled with defining myself. Surround her with a variety of examples of ALL kinds of women so she knows that beauty and success have many definitions.
8. Be involved in her life.
Like I mentioned earlier, being a father isn’t just about living there and making sure the bills are paid. Fathers should make an effort to know what kinds of friends their daughter is keeping company with and what kinds of guys they are dating. If you are separated from her mother, maintain communication with other men who may play a significant part in your daughter’s life. Make that relationship about more than your ego, and understand that if he’s a good guy he can be an advantage to her support system. The only thing better than one positive male role model who cares for her is two–or more.
9. Listen to her, even when it makes you uncomfortable.
Men often run at the mere mention of maxi pads or menstrual cramps. You don’t have to pretend to understand everything about female sexuality, and you don’t even have to fake being comfortable with those types of conversations, but the worst thing a father can do to a daughter who wants to open up to him about sensitive subjects is shut her down. Remember, you can give her something in every situation that her mother never can: a male’s point of view. Healthy, mature women know the importance of both perspectives.
10. Teach her how to check her oil, hook up surround sound and throw a sharp left hook.
One of the things that troubles me most about women and even myself is how defenseless and helpless we can sometimes be. I’ve stayed in relationships with men I wasn’t attracted to because I always knew I would have a ride before I learned how to drive myself, or money before I started working. Men will use these things to manipulate a woman into settling for less than she deserves. Make sure your daughter doesn’t ever have to depend on a man for things she’s capable of providing for herself. She can still embrace her femininity, but encourage her to be a problem-solver and to surround herself with resources that don’t require her to stay in relationships out of convenience.
Where you a daddy’s girl? What were some lessons you learned from your father?
Toya Sharee is a community health educator and parenting education coordinator who has a passion for helping young women build their self-esteem and make well-informed choices about their sexual health. She also advocates for women’s reproductive rights and blogs about everything from beauty to love and relationships. Follow her on Twitter @TheTrueTSharee or visit her blog Bullets and Blessings .