Numerous times in the past 24 hours, a post titled A Daddy's Letter to His Little Girl (About Her Future Husband) has been shared by my Facebook friends, posted to Reddit, and tweeted out on Twitter (usually with a comment about moving the reader to tears), but can I be the seemingly sole dissenting female voice to find the content unpalatable?
Indeed, it's apparent the intent behind A Daddy's Letter to His Little Girl (About Her Future Husband) -- written by Dr. Kelly Flanagan and published on what appears to be his own site, the Good Men Project and Huffington Post -- is decent, and a response to what is undoubtedly negative pressure on females to keep their "man" interested. On that we agree, and Flanagan's ire is not misplaced in as much as content targeted at women is certainly way too focused on meeting a beauty standard than inspiring females to be and do things in lieu of waxing and curling their way to success in life.
Flanagan deserves his due for calling out the yuckiness of those tropes in A Daddy's Letter to His Little Girl (About Her Future Husband), but it seems that without awareness, he goes on to subtly reinforce the same ideals that lead a woman to that spot of self-doubt and transient value, and in doing so provides a good example of benevolent sexism.
Firstly, the post begins with a backstory as to what inspired it, and Flanagan (in the letter addressed to "Cutie-Pie"), begins by explaining that a Google search autocorrected to terms on how to keep a man interested:
"It startled me. I scanned several of the countless articles about how to be sexy and sexual, when to bring him a beer versus a sandwich, and the ways to make him feel smart and superior ... And I got angry ... Little One, it is not, has never been, and never will be your job to 'keep him interested.' "
True, it is not and should not be the goal of any woman to specifically keep a male interested, and such feelings should be organic when they occur and not generally a major concern for women.
But if you look closely, already, the child has been addressed with docile pet names, ones that would seem amiss in a similar directive to a young boy. A tone is starting to set in, one of a "daddy" and a "princess," one that pervades the culture of relationships in a way that is fairly inarguably disempowering to women.
One might suggest it is already suggesting a partner is a replacement father, filling the same paternalistic role and ideally, at least coming to the table with similar reverence.
The post continues:
"Little One, I want to tell you about the boy who doesn't need to be kept interested, because he knows you are interesting ... I don't care if he puts his elbows on the dinner table—as long as he puts his eyes on the way your nose scrunches when you smile. And then can't stop looking."
Sweet, right? So what's the problem?
The stated advice given -- to reject fitting an ideal and find a "boy" who is interested naturally -- still predicates a lot of the girl's value on the issue of being coupled at all. None of the writing or thoughts addresses the likely times in a girl or woman's life when she will be uncoupled, assuming the natural state of being for all worthy women is with a man who worships them no matter what. (The female's behavior, for instance, is not mentioned as a barometer of her future relationship harmony, nor is a circumstance where she chooses not to partner or marry at all.)
While again, the thrust behind A Daddy's Letter to His Little Girl (About Her Future Husband) is meant well, it unfortunately (to my eyes) seems to undermine its very own point and bolster the very idea it rails against -- that above all else, a woman's worth is dependent solely on a man's interest in her. It simply arrives at that point via a different path.
What did you think of A Daddy's Letter to His Little Girl (About Her Future Husband)?