Fathers are known to be hypervigilant when it comes to protecting their daughters; however, if T.I.’s hymen comment taught us nothing else, it was a reminder that control and patriarchy can and will parade around under the guise of protection when left unchecked. Since we’re already on the subject of problematic and misogynistic behavior, here are 11 more ways that some dads will attempt to control their daughters in the name of “protection.”
Prohibiting male friendship
While it may seem like a dad who says, “No male friends” is trying to protect his daughter, his actions are often more deeply rooted in control than they are protection. His decision to bar his daughter from forming friendships with boys is not guaranteed to keep her safe. In fact, it can teach her to fear the male gender, which can lead to unhealthy relationships — both platonic and romantic — in the future. As parents, we should monitor our children’s relationships with all people to ensure that they don’t take a turn down unhealthy pathways. Boys are not the only ones who pose a potential threat.
Enforcement of rigid dress codes
When a father is hellbent on enforcing rigid and unreasonable dress codes for his daughter, his lips say that he’s protecting her from the judgment of others and of course, the attention of boys. In reality, he’s teaching his daughter that she has limited bodily autonomy and that she is responsible for regulating the male gaze. Both messages are equally harmful.
Acting as guardian to her virginity
Most parents would not be thrilled by the thought of their daughters having sex. Adolescents are often ill-prepared for the responsibilities and repercussions that come with being sexually active; however, at the end of the day, it’s not our choice to make. A controlling father will often go to obsessive lengths (aka hymen checks) to “guard” his daughter’s virginity (Ironically, this usually happens while he simultaneously allows his sons run wild). While his lips say that he’s only trying to protect her from teen pregnancy, he’s also trying to dictate what she does with her body. Spoiler alert: This almost never works.
Using undesirability as a threat
Some fathers will use desirability or a lack thereof as a means of keeping their daughters in line. This often sounds like “No man will want you if you do x,y,z” or “No one will marry if you…”And of course, he expects accepts that she will take his word as law. He’s a man, so of course he’s an expert on what all men walking the earth want in a woman.
Setting unreasonable dating rules
We’ve all heard dads jokingly tell their daughters that they’re not permitted to date until they’re thirty, but there are some who actually go to extreme lengths to keep their daughters from entering into romantic relationships. They believe that they’re sparring her from heartache and pain, but they’re really just being controlling and stunting her growth.
Discouraging financial independence
Having a father who can give his children everything that they desire is a beautiful thing. However, it’s also beneficial when teens can learn the value of hard work, experience how rewarding it feels to earn their own money and cultivate independence. Dads who struggle with control will often rob their daughters of those opportunities out of fear that she may need them a little bit less.
Setting unrealistic media limits
It’s a scary world out there, so it’s understandable when parents want to limit the amount of media that their children consume. However, there are some parents who take these limitations overboard. They become less about protection and more about control.
Watching her weight
Most parents want to protect their children from the ailments that come with obesity; however, there are some who unfortunately use diet and exercise as a way to control their children. This type of conduct, however, has a tendency to backfire. It can cause girls to overeat as a means of regaining control and lead to eating disorders.
Discouraging her interests or extracurricular activities
A controlling father wants to keep his daughter under his thumbs, so he will often discourage her interests if they don’t align with his agenda or the vision that he has for her life. Though fathers should certainly act as a guide to their daughters, part of parenting is also stepping back and recognizing that your child is an individual with their own wants and desires.
Trying to dictate her career path
We all have a vision for how we want our children’s lives to play out, but most of us understand that we have to allow them to choose their own paths. Sadly, controlling parents are known to force their kids into careers that they hate because they believe that they “know what’s best for them.”
Pressuring her to be perfect
In the mind of a controlling parent, pressuring their child to be the best is the only way of guaranteeing that their kid is on the path to success. Unfortunately, this kind of pressure often breeds anxiety and low self-esteem in children.