When Jay Feely’s daughter was preparing for her high school prom, the former NFL player-turned CBS commentator was prepping his gun.
Get it? Get it? High school prom + teenage daughter + boyfriend = Sex.
Therefore: Fathers + firearm.
Feely thought his little gun gag so hilarious he tweeted an image of him holding his handgun as he stood between his daughter and her prom date to his 85,500 twitter followers.
But, social media didn’t appreciate the joke. Comments came from far and wide focusing on the issue of gun violence.
Feely later returned to twitter to tell everyone to lighten up.
While Feely felt the need to address the issues of gun safety, he remained silent on another theme running through the twitter replies: the fact that he was treating his daughter as one of his possessions to be jealously guarded from another man.
Evidently the idea of asserting ownership over his daughter is so commonplace and uncontroversial that it didn’t even register as inappropriate.
But as one twitter user replied, “It is not funny. It is violent, misogynist, misandrous [sic] & patriarchal. There is nothing funny about anything this photo portrays.”
Another added: “And out of touch with the idea that the daughter might be in control of her own decisions.”
Such images perpetuate the idea that girls and young women are neither capable nor entitled to make their own decisions about their bodies or their sexuality. It unsubtly says that it’s a father’s responsibility to police a young woman’s body, until such time as he hands her on to another man who meets with his approval, and he grants the new male owner exclusive access.
You might say that the whole “got-a-daughter-buy-a-shotgun” routine is just a joke, and it’s no big deal. But would Feely, or any man for that matter, think to threaten their son’s female partner with a gun?
Of course not. And why? Because, unlike daughters, sons are not seen as property belonging to men.
Boys and men are granted full agency by other men and encouraged to assert themselves in the world. While it’s not unusual for fathers to encourage their sons to sow their wild oats, how often do you hear the same advice given to young women?
Not often. Partly that’s because of unwanted pregnancies — although that doesn’t seem to stop us celebrating young men’s expression of their sexuality.
But it’s also because the idea that a woman might want to pursue pleasure for its own sake is still a confronting thought for many people, particularly fathers.
These attitudes are not just remnants of a long-distant past, or throwbacks to gun-toting parts of America. Before my first daughter was out of nappies my husband was told to get a shotgun to fend off boys when she’s older.
While it was intended as a joke, and probably an uninspired attempt to make conversation by people who don’t know what else to say, the fact that this is the standard conversation starter for men who have just had daughters is quite revealing.
And even if it is a “joke”, pretending to have a vested interest in the state of your daughter’s vagina — whether she’s 16 years or 16 months — is just plain creepy.
I hate to break it to you dads, but this whole “no trespassing on my daughter’s front lawn” schtick is also utterly pointless. You don’t get to decide when and with who your daughter has sex with. And if you don’t want other men to treat your daughter like an object, how about you lead by example and stop treating her like one as well?
Yes, protecting children — both girls and boys — from predators is important. And yes, it’s worth talking to them about what to look for in a prospective partner that’s appropriate to their age and stage of development.
But bad dad jokes that play on threats of violence and treat young women as property just need to stop.
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