A lump rose to my throat, forming what felt like an Adam's apple. Some bitter taste swished around my mouth as I tried to assess the cause of my discomfort. "It's just a cute sentiment," some said. Unsatisfied, I sent it out into the web, asking for Christian feminists an others who ruminate on seemingly benign messages like this to weigh in. Libby Anne commented, "It compares a father-daughter relationship to a husband-wife one." The shy, yet rehearsed words of the Botkin sisters flooded my memory.
Firstly, you must love and honor and cultivate respect for your father. Second, you must seek your father’s heart and vision. Third, you must be able to come up with ways to use your gifts to make your father’s vision a reality, without him telling you what to do. (Visionary Daughters)
I realize that it is most likely God’s will for me to be married someday, and I desire and have the responsibility to be prepared, as much as possible, for this role as God sees fit. I want to be a true helpmeet to my husband, and what an excellent opportunity I have to practice this with my own father! (So Much More)That last twist at the end really gets you, no?
Back on the Facbeook page, another commenter expressed a guttural "uhhh" without understanding exactly what rubbed her the wrong way.
I'm with her. What does this mean? If it's a some e-card, then isn't it supposed to be sarcastic or humorous? This seems like a serious, reflective statement instead of an ironic one.
Passing the phone around the air-conditioned room on the 4th of July, I asked each person individually what this card meant to them. The answers surprised and fascinated me.
"It says that if a dad spoils his daughter, then she'll expect to be spoiled by her husband, too," my youngest brother explains. I was not expecting that response.Again, I was not expecting this interpretation, but maybe it was more the image associated with the message (gift-giving) and not the message itself (high standards because of a good dad) that led to these similar interpretations. I hadn't thought of it that way, I murmured as I passed the phone to the next cluster of people. Another interpretation rose to the forefront. And then another.
My oldest brother responds similarly, "If the dad gives the daughter lots of gifts, then she will expect that from dating relationships and her husband."
"Yeah," weighed in my younger brother, "And look -- the girl doesn't look happy even though the dad is being friendly and giving her another gift."
"Well what do you think it means?" It was now my turn to interpret this message that seemed to mean everything and nothing at the same time.I swallow hard. Thinking of purity balls conjures images of the Botkin sisters again and their hollow responses to challenges to their beliefs. Take this interview in which another set of sisters gush on how their daddy is the epitome of what they want in a husband:
"I think it says that a girl will have high standards for dating and marriage if she has a good dad, but I'm not sure that's universally true and I'm not sure if it's saying that a good dad equals a good marriage between the girl's parents or if a good dad teaches the daughter what standards she should have for dating." I pause before I mouth the following, "But this message regardless of what it intended to mean worries me because it is part and parcel of a system like Christian Patriarchy that says fathers should guide their daughters' dating relationships and be their protector, purity balls style."
Yes, it's an extreme. But I know plenty of people who adhere to the daddy-daughter/king-princess relationship. They take their little girls on "dates." They teach them that teenage boys "want only one thing -- sex." They purchase purity rings for their 16, 13, even 11-year-olds as a promise to abstain from sex until marriage. Are any of these things inherently Wrong? Yes. No. Maybe. There are far too many shades of gray in life, especially in the awesome responsibility of parenting.
But it should cause us to pause and ponder. What does this message mean? Is it the opposite-sex parallel to these words of wisdom: "You can tell how a man will treat his wife by how he treats his mother and sisters and other women in his life"? Is it just, as some would say, a nice sentiment, or is it part and parcel of a larger patriarchal system in which men are to lead, protect, and provide and women are to submit, nurture, and care for the home/children?
I don't know. All that's certain is that it gave my husband, me, and several others hesitation and that it can be interpreted in a multitude of ways.
Now it's your turn: what does this card mean to you?