There’s an online dads group I’m part of. The guys in the group are, in the main, a pretty good bunch. Politically speaking they lean liberal, and regarding parenthood they tend towards the belief that dads should be just as involved as mums (and there are quite a few stay-at-home dads in the group). There’s the odd bit of grumbling about wives and partners, but rarely do I come across the kind of misogyny and misanthropy that is so rampant in other corners of the internet.
So it was a bit of a shock to read a post from another dad, whose 8 year old daughter had been bullied at a sleepover, describing the bullies as “slack c*nted mongoloids”. Now, I don’t think of myself as particularly prudish (although I do swear less than I used to since becoming a dad), but this took me aback. Quite apart from the fact that I would expect anybody over school age (or Ricky Gervais) to have grown out of the use of the word mongoloid as an insult, the use of slack c*nted to describe a group of 8 year old girls, regardless of what they’d done, is pretty breathtaking. I’m no longer a fan of the c-word, given its’ often misogynistic overtone, but i don’t inherently object to its’ use. To aim such a hateful, sexual phrase as ‘slack-c*nted’ at children though seems to me pretty vile.
What surprised me most was that only me and one other member of the group called him out on it. Much of the rest of the response was along the lines of “yeah, f*ck those b*itches”. I get wanting to support a guy going through a tough experience with his kid, but the tone worried me. It seems that, for fathers of daughters in particular, the natural protectiveness for their families often spills over into language or actions that they would not consider to be ok in any other circumstance. Dads are also protective of their sons of course, but the misfortunes of their sons do not seem to provoke quite the same ugly reactions, from my experience at least.
Another example of the anger of dads of daughters is the old trope of a father chasing away his daughter’s suitors with a shotgun, or otherwise threatening them with violence. Admittedly this is often trotted out with tongue firmly in cheek (think Robert De Niro in the Meet the Parents series), but it speaks to an often genuine anger that dads have towards any man who might come near his daughter. As dads, we know how awfully men and boys can behave towards women and girls. I think we also know, if we are truly honest with ourselves, that we ourselves are, or have been, capable of such behaviour. So, as well as protectiveness, there may lurk a sense of guilt, and from guilt often springs displaced anger.
So whilst we should never stop being protective of our daughters (and sons), when that protectiveness spills over into anger, it stops being helpful and can become as bad as the behaviour it is meant to protect against. Of course, it’s very easy for me to say this, as my own daughter is just 2 years old, and has yet to face the worst the world can throw at her. As she gets older, no doubt I will be as protective as any other dad. I just hope that I can also trust my daughter to make her own way in the world, and that being a protective dad doesn’t turn me into a man angry at our world.