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Overprotective Dads Are Not Sweet Or Funny But Actually Incredibly Sexist

I’ll start this off by mentioning that I don’t have a daughter of my own. If, God willing, I do have a daughter some day, this all may go right out the window. Who knows. I hope it doesn't because the whole Overprotective Dad trope is something that makes me bristle with anger every time I see or hear it and I think it's good that it does. I’m talking about the popular, often lovingly comical idea that Dad will be scaring off any oversexed punks that come near his little girl. “I’ll be cleaning my shotgun when she brings him on by.” That kind of dad. It’s such an endearing, funny archetype, huh? Except not really. I actually find it tired, sexist and more than a little offensive. I know a lot of it is tongue in cheek but there’s a harmful ideology behind it that's very demeaning to women.

First off, what’s your end game here? That your daughter ends up dying alone? Or maybe the idea is that you will decide who is worthy of her? Because she’s just a girl and her dizzy girl brain is too unwieldy for her to manage decision making on her own? Can you see how disrespectful that is? You should want her to grow up and be a strong, independent woman yet you’re training her to depend on a man to tell her what to do.

John Ritter's classic sticom about a Dad who dictates who his idiot, slut daughter gets to date. 

“I know what guys are like.” Do you now? For one, I wasn’t like that. I was always looking for a girlfriend first, sex second. Most of the guys I hung out with weren’t trying to get in the pants of every girl either. So I think more accurately, you know what YOU were like and if that’s really how you were, well I guess you were a douchebag and now the shoe is on the other foot. More than likely, though, you have a selective memory. You were in high school and not nearly as cool as you remember. Secondly, the girls were all pickling in the same cocktail of hormones as you were, experiencing the same sexual urges as the boys. You really think it was your superfly, teenage macking skills that sealed the deal?

This movie was so offensive to Gene Siskel that he considered quitting as a flim critic.

Women are pretty good at instinctually reading men. I’m sure your teenage daughter knows more about seeing through a teenage boy’s bullshit then you will ever know. What you don’t want to face is that teenage girls want to have sex too. And yes, often times when it happens, it is in fact their idea. Your innocent little girl is just as likely to be trying to get into her boyfriend’s pants.

And this is perfectly normal. She’s becoming an adult. Sexuality is now a permanent part of her personality. You can’t dictate what she’s going to do with her body, even if you have her best interests in mind. Your goal is for her to respect herself enough to make the right decisions. Controlling someone is not respecting them. She’ll probably have to date a few duds to learn how this whole thing works and you'll have to patiently sit back and let her. When she figures it out, she’ll likely base her model of what to expect in an ideal man largely off the qualities of the first man she’s ever known. So what kind of man do you want her to chase after? Someone who respects her or someone who controls her?

One of the most uncomfortable scenes ever filmed because 1) he seems like a nice, shy kid. 2) these are our heroes menacing him. 3) they're also police officers. 4) one of them is Will Smith. 5) it's funny(?)

Or maybe you'll help plant the seed that she’s wrong to have these perfectly natural feelings; that her body is icky. Hopefully when she meets the right guy she can bring with her a whole slew of the sexual dysfunction you caused by shaming her at a fragile age for something she couldn’t help.

Maybe you should get on her about dressing provocatively because her having a healthy body image is less important than your being uncomfortable with her embracing a healthy sense of sexual identity. “You’re sending a message when you dress that way.” But I think she’s fully aware of the power she has in that regard. She’s not an idiot. Or, more likely it’s summer. It’s hot out. Did you ever think of that? If us men get hot we can just rip our shirts off. Women have to keep their breasts covered or apparently all hell breaks loose. It may very well be she’s just wearing that bikini because for mammals, feeling the sun on our skin is a pleasurable sensation we’ve been enjoying for eons. It’s a natural, very healthy source of the vitamin D which we all need to live. She should deny herself that because some horny men might gawk? 

When your teenage son takes his shirt off do you also freak out and worry about all the lonely wives on the block objectifying him? No, because it's hot out and you want him to be comfortable and you don't see him as a sex object. Well, she doesn't become consumed with arousal every time she looks at her body either. It's just her body. She actually uses that body for thousands of other functions on a daily basis that have nothing to do with sex. Her body is actually a remarkable thing for a multitude of things that have absolutely nothing to do with sexual attraction. The implication of your freaking out about the way she dresses is that sex is the only purpose her body serves. And if she's constantly hearing that from you, how long before the message sinks in? If she were dressing like that to go hang out with her girlfriends would you be up in arms? Or even if she's not dressing that way for comfort, why should she be shamed for wanting to feel sexy? How about teaching her that she always deserves respect no matter how she’s dressed?

Aimed at the man his adult daughter is in love with. Who also happens to be one of his employees.

I realize it can be hard coming to grips with your little girl no longer being a little girl. But all the examples above are things I’ve witnessed from my own life either with friends or family and I was always observant enough to see the hurt they caused. By all means, if you want a sexually irresponsible daughter who gets in all kinds of trouble, play the macho hard-ass dad. That sort of thing never backfires.

If I someday have a daughter, I hope I can remember to teach her to respect herself by always respecting her. I’ll teach her that there is a standard that she should become used to in the way men treat her and I will make that standard as high as it can be. She’s going to have sex. I can’t stop that but I can teach her to be responsible with it by teaching her to respect herself and her value as a human being and let her know that she is always the one in control and that means she never, ever has to do anything she’s not comfortable with or ready for. If anyone violates that, THEN I get out the shotgun.

Pictures courtesy of Touchstone Television, Columbia Pictures and Touchstone Pictures respectively.