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misogyny and toxic masculinity

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My father is much, much older than I am. I won’t give away his age here, but he was nearly 50 years old when he had me. That means he was past the age of retirement when I graduated high school (though that man will never retire), and he was developing grey hairs when I graduated from elementary school. You see, I am the product of one my dad’s many marriages—an interesting dynamic in and of itself—and one of the factors that comes along with that is the simple fact that my dad and I are a couple of generations apart. We are more divided by age, and the cultural and societal differences that come with age, than, say, a daughter who is just 25 or 30 years younger than her father.

 

 

What do we know about older generations? They aren’t quite as advanced in the areas of women’s rights as the current one is. I won’t say it’s true of all people from my dad’s generation, but, in general, his was an era in which it was surprising if a woman worked and concerning if a woman wasn’t married by age 30. My dad doesn’t mean to have old-school views on women. Those views don’t seem “old” to him—they were quite on trend when he was a young man. But his ideas on how women should be and what it means to be a woman are so vastly different from mine, mainly because of that huge age gap.

 

I know we aren’t supposed to “excuse” the older generation for their outdated views, but it’s not so easy to be hard on your pops when he is still, well, your pops. But it is funny and frustrating at times to have a, for lack of better words, sort of misogynistic father.

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Correctness with his secretary

I have had to tell my dad that he isn’t supposed to call his secretary “Hun,” which was very difficult for him to understand. “That’s what I call women!” he said. “You’re hun. My wife is hun. I don’t mean anything by it.” But I had to tell him that, though some of his older secretaries in the past put up with it, his newer (twenty-something) one might file a complaint.

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He prefers female secretaries

I remember when my dad needed to hire a new secretary, it was taking him a very long time. When I finally pried into why, he told me about some of the interviews he’d conducted. Some sounded like perfectly fine candidates, but my dad said, “Ah, nah. Those were men. I just don’t feel comfortable having a male secretary.” Oh boy.

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He’s told me to jiggle

My dad always thinks I’m too thin. But, you have to understand that beauty standards for women were different when he was my age. He came from a time when the emphasis was on that hourglass figure. Curves were highlighted and embraced, and men liked a little “jiggle” on their women—something he reminds me of when he suggests I’m too thin. I have to remind him that I don’t consider what men like in my eating and exercise habits.

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His relationship views are frightening

My dad is really “impressed” by the fact that my sister and I work. I mean, thanks, I guess? But he often talks about how he’s always felt that relationships work best when the man works and the woman takes care of him, fueling his ambitions, and nurturing him. So he’s always worried that my partner may not like the fact that I work.

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And his advice is no better

I once had a very wealthy but very emotionally messed up boyfriend. He was manipulative, controlling, jealous, and generally unstable. When I told my dad I was considering leaving the guy, my dad’s input was, “Well, he makes a very good living. He could give you a nice life—nice trips, nice home, women like that sort of thing.”

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You should see these gifts

I’ve tried my whole life to tell my dad what I want for holiday gifts, and instead, he just gets me what he believes women like. A giant makeup set. A pink cheetah print hair straightener. Gaudy handbags with the designer name written in glitter. I try to tell him I’m not into that sort of thing but he just says, “Ah, come on. This is what my wife likes and her daughters—women love this stuff.” Ugh.

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He’s hard on my partner’s career

All I want from my relationship is that both my partner and I are free to pursue our passions, have enough money to live, and love and support each other. My dad, on the other hand, holds firmly to the idea that men should be providers for their partners, even if that means working a job they hate, so long as it’s a high-paying job. And on that note, he’s very confused by my partner’s career path. “Don’t you want to make more money, you know, for your girlfriend here?” he asks.

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Women’s fashion confuses him

Since my dad does come from a time when women mostly still wore those pointy bras and slept with curlers in their hair, he does not understand female fashion today. Do you think such a man knows what to make of the “boyfriend jean,” rompers, and army jackets on women? He just looks at me in awe sometimes and goes, “Why do you dress like that? Why do women think that looks good? It doesn’t show your figure. You don’t look like a woman.”

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Equating lunacy with womanhood

Throughout his life, when my dad has dealt with a woman who has behaved less-than-sane (he’s had girlfriends who threw plates when they’re angry, and female associates who went MIA during a business convention to shack up with someone they met), my dad has chocked it all up to them being women. “You know how women can be,” he’ll say. I want to tell him, “Um, not all women behave like that…”

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His stories are taboo

Sometimes, when my dad tells me stories of when he was a young, single man, I say to him, “Don’t tell anyone else that.” His stories are riddled with behaviors (his own) that would absolutely not fly in today’s #MeToo era. Don’t get me wrong: my dad never crossed that line, but he certainly didn’t adhere to the strict guidelines we have today surrounding how men should treat female colleagues and things like that.

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It’s easy to impress him

It’s quite easy to impress my dad. Considering that he expects women not to work and to just find a wealthy husband to lean on forever, my dad thinks it’s just amazing that I don’t need any help with my bills and am content living a modest life on my own salary. He really thinks that is quite out of the ordinary—but then again, he always looked for wives and girlfriends who didn’t have careers of their own.

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I have explaining to do

In social situations, I sometimes just have to explain to friends that, “Uh, forgive my dad—he’s from a different time.” I know it’s not really an excuse, but, I need to tell them something. When he makes certain chauvinistic assumptions (like assuming the male cashier is the restaurant owner, not the nicely-dressed female beside him), I need to provide some explanation.

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We debate #MeToo incidents

Luckily, he is open to learning why certain actions done by men are not okay, but he is having to learn. Almost any time a new allegation comes out against a famous man, my dad says, “Is that really that bad? I don’t know.” And I have to explain to him why, yes, it is that bad. He still doesn’t totally get it, but he concedes.

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I’ll always be his little girl

If I can say something that perhaps I’m not supposed to here: sometimes it’s nice having an old school dad. When I’m feeling just really weak, down on my luck, and like I can’t handle things, he totally allows me to fall apart. He’s immediately so nurturing and caring. He doesn’t tell me to “Man up” or anything like that. He thinks men should come to the rescue of women, and he’s always been happy to come to mine.

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Sometimes, I pity him

I’m not saying it’s right or wrong. I’m not trying pass judgment on myself for the feeling. It just is what it is, and what it is is this: sometimes, women will be hard on my dad for accidentally breaking one of today’s rules. Sometimes someone will lecture him on not calling her “Doll” or “Hun,” and, honestly, it makes me sad. They don’t know what I know about my dad—about all the sacrifices he’s made and all the ways he’s been there for me. To them, he’s just another old man with outdated opinions who needs a lecture. But…that’s my dad.

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