Saturday, June 18, 2011

Daddy's Little Girl

From listening to certain voices in our culture you would think that those dread patriarchs, fathers, are the enemies of their daughters’ independence.

After all, our culture, influenced by certain unnamed groups, has been militating against fathers for quite some time now.

It has been trying to teach girls that they should distrust men, rebel against male authority, and seek out female therapists.

Girls have been told that men are the enemy and that only women can possibly empathize with their plight.

Yet, some part of the message has not been getting through. As often happens, women know better than feminists. Or, at least, most women do.

If a woman’s goal is to be independent and successful in the workplace, she knows that she will be better under the aegis of male, not female, mentors. By now this is common knowledge.

Tomorrow is Father’s Day, so the articles appearing in the press today tend to be skewed toward Dad. To maintain fairness and balance I feel compelled to note that I have never been shy about praising great mothers, as in, the Tiger Mom.

All that being true, I was intrigued by psychologist Peggy Wexler’s observations about the resiliency of the father/daughter relationship in today’s Wall Street Journal. Link here.

Wexler acknowledges the fact that many segments of the culture have gone off on a gender-bending bender, refusing to see the differences between men and women, and thus, mothers and fathers.

Wexler offers a standard, and traditional, definition of a father’s role in relation to his daughter: “It has always been the father's job to protect the daughter until she is ready to be handed off to the protection of another man. Though time has softened the transaction—for one thing, women have long had a say in the matter—the basic concept has remained the same.

For the record, let’s recognize that this definition is not feeling-based. It is not about how well or poorly men express emotion. It does not make the relationship a function of empathy.

Nor does Wexler participate in the ambient slander against men, that they are either real or incipient child abusers and sexual molesters.

Is there a clearer sign of how deviant our culture has become when girls and women are being indoctrinated into thinking that they need to be protected from fathers rather than protected by fathers?

A girl who is not being protected by her father (or uncle or brother) will feel that she is not being protected at all. Even if she knows advanced Kung Fu.

By Wexler’s definition, fathers have a job in relation to their daughters. They have a role and responsibilities.

Most fathers want nothing more than to fulfill their responsibilities. Left to their own devices, the vast majority of them will.

As Wexler explains, for all the gender-bending and role-reversals, for all the confusion about rules, the father/daughter bond has managed to survive. Battered and bruised, perhaps, but alive and well.

She explains: “No matter how successful their careers, how happy their marriages, or how fulfilling their lives, women told me that their happiness passed through a filter of their fathers' reactions. Many told me that they tried to remove the filter and—much to their surprise—failed.

“We know that fathers play a key role in the development and choices of their daughters. But even for women whose fathers had been neglectful or abusive, I found a hunger for approval. They wanted a warm relationship with men who did not deserve any relationship at all.

Before we get all goo-goo eyed here, let’s pause for a minute and note that Wexler is talking about wishes, not necessarily realities.

She writes: “Nontraditional families are gaining acceptance everywhere, from TV sitcoms to our own neighborhoods. But even in such families that are successful in every other respect, I found that the absence of a father during a girl's formative years resonates into adulthood.

I think it fair to say that boys also suffer when their fathers are absent. Wexler is arguing, correctly, that if you were sufficiently gullible to believe what certain segments of the culture have been saying about patriarchy, you would have been misled to believe that girls do not really need a father’s presence.

I also think it fair to ask how it happens that so many fathers are absent from their daughters’ (and sons’) lives.

Neither Wexler nor Tara Parker-Pope dares to write the word in their articles, but the primary reason for the absence of fathers is DIVORCE.

Through the media and the divorce courts, those who want to make patriarchy the enemy and to drive a wedge between fathers and daughters have mounted a major assault on their relationship.

Parker-Pope summarizes: “In 1960, 11 percent of children lived apart from their fathers and 4 percent lived apart from their mothers. Today, 27 percent of children, or about 20.3 million kids, now live apart from their dads, according to data collected from the 2010 U.S. Census. About 8 percent live away from their mothers.

“Among fathers who live away from their kids, 27 percent don’t visit their children. Another 29 percent visit their kids one to four times a month, and 21 percent visit several times a year. Only 22 percent of dads living away from their kids see their children more than once a week.”

We don't need to think too long or too hard to see why this is so.

Decades worth of male-bashing, decades of rebellion against the patriarchy, decades of threatening and blaming men have damaged daughters and undermined their independence and confidence.

The good news is that girls have not entirely bought into this cultural distortion. The real news is that we, as a culture, need to do more to foster good relations between all fathers and their daughters.

We should start by discrediting the feminists who have made it their life’s work to attack men, to subvert the patriarchy, and to make relations between fathers and daughters difficult. People who place ideology ahead of human fulfillment are not our, or anyone else's, friends.

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