A man faces a video camera and explains that his daughter is FaceTiming a boy. He has a baseball in his hands and says something about showing this “boy” what he is up against. This overprotective dad then barges into his daughter’s bedroom shouting something inaudible while waving the baseball bat around and trying to wrestle the iPad out of her hands.
This video was an attempt at humour, an exceedingly ill-judged attempt at humour. It’s freely available on social media, although I won’t say where you’ll find it because it doesn’t deserve any more views. I don’t want to make too much of this. It is, after all, just one stupid video on social media. We all know there are enough of them.
Even so, when I watched that video I was appalled. The intention may have been to create some amusing content, but it sends a shocking message to viewers.
Secondly, it plays to the most awful and dreadfully damaging ‘dad stereotype.’ You know the one: The father who has to protect his daughter from the outside world, in particular boys and men because all boys and men are “only after one thing.”
I could just write this off as social media silliness. Unfortunately, this is merely one example, albeit an extreme one, of the overprotective dad stereotype. It’s a stereotype some men are all too happy to perpetuate.
I often find myself socialising with other dads. After a few drinks many dads who have daughters will start cracking jokes about “sitting in a rocking chair on the porch with a loaded shotgun” to scare boys away.
Worse still, however, was the child who came to our house for a play date. I overheard this girl telling my child that her father said he’d “cut the head off” any boyfriend she ever had.
Yes, it was clearly meant as a joke. Tell me I’m taking this too seriously, but hearing a 10 year old girl repeat that kind of statement simply isn’t funny.
Not, you understand, that the finger of blame should be solely pointed at us dads for perpetuating the stereotype of the overprotective dad. I have heard women reinforce and express these opinions as well.
I find it an incredibly depressing and an ill thought approach. If young girls and women are drip fed messages about it being bad to meet boys or hear their fathers talking about baseball bats or beheading boyfriends, well, it’s going to create a major barrier between parent and child.
They’re going to start meeting boys in secret. If they’re meeting people it in secret, you have no idea who they’re meeting and you’ll have less chance to guide them away from troublesome boys. You can’t monitor what’s going on or offer healthy relationship advice. If they feel ashamed or embarrassed or think you’ll disapprove of their perfectly natural behaviour, they won’t be open and that could lead to all manner of problems.
Let’s just take a second to consider the impact of this stereotype on boys and young men. If you think about it, it’s just as damaging to boys and young men to hear this kind of thing.
If they constantly hear they are “only after one thing” or that they should “sow their wild oats” they’ll start believing it and behave that way. Better they hear a message that physical intimacy and sex should come as part of fulfilling and healthy relationship than something to be experienced in secret for fear of meeting the business end of a wooden baseball bat / being chased out the house by a man with a shotgun while banjo music plays in the background.
Getting back to daughters, at some point your daughter will meet an unsuitable boy or have an experience she isn’t comfortable with. Unfortunately, that’s almost inevitable but you can prepare her for these situations so she is better equipped for dealing with them. At some point she may even need sexual health advice.
Who knows, your daughter could come to you saying she is confused because she is attracted to girls. That kind of conversation can be difficult enough, harder still if your father struggles to take his children’s relationships seriously or is hot tempered and overprotective.
Talk of violence will not encourage your child to be open and honest. If anything, it’ll do the opposite.
The overprotective dad stereotype is one we should do away with. Men should not try and live up to it and women should not reinforce it.
We need to think very carefully how we behave and talk in front of children. Making light of personal relationships or equating them with violence is very unhealthy. My advice: Think before cracking stupid jokes and if you’re ever tempted to go near a baseball bat, think again.
Do you have any thoughts on this? Maybe you had an overprotective dad? Perhaps you see nothing wrong with jokes of this nature? Whatever your opinion. do leave a comment below.