The idea of a father setting out dating rules for his daughter’s suitors to adhere to is both a tired sitcom cliché and a depressing symptom of a patriarchal society that assumes a woman has no independent thought and needs a man to decide what’s best for her.
But one dad’s rules are being applauded on social media precisely because they stand for the very opposite of those ridiculous notions.
The usual ‘hilarious’ rules, found on T-shirts, in sub-par TV scripts and floating around the internet, often include creepy, shotgun-laden references to “my baby girl” and “my princess”, mentions she’s a “lady” who needs a “gentleman”, a massive dose of ownership and some mother-in-law digs for good measure. Because their daughters are always heterosexual, innocent and pure, presumably inhabiting some hallowed place entirely separate to those fallen sexually liberated women who exist solely for men’s pleasure.
So many things wrong, so little time. Let’s just say a big fat no to the whole thing.
But Jeff Warren Welch’s post has been doing the rounds on social media because it sums up exactly what’s wrong with the dad-daughter trope.
He writes: “You’ll have to ask them what their rules are. I’m not raising my little girls to be the kind of women who need their daddy to act like a creepy, possessive badass in order for them to be treated with respect.
“You will respect them, and if you don’t, I promise they won’t need my help putting you back in your place. Good luck pumpkin.”
Welch often posts inspirational extracts and quotes from his writing work, but this one took off with more than 21,000 shares on Facebook, as well as thousands of likes on Instagram.
He and his wife have five daughters between them, aged from seven to 16.
Speaking to today.com, Welch said he understood the protective instinct of a parent, but that “the kind of posturing by fathers of daughters I was specifically responding to had nothing to do with that ‘protective instinct’ and everything to do with asserting their dominance over women and reinforcing a belief that women need men to take care of them.”
Welch, who describes himself as a feminist, has been overwhelmed by messages since the post but is careful to point out that he doesn’t expect praise for how he’s raising his daughters.
“These girls are amazing humans, and I can take no credit for that other than the fact that I at least knew that the best thing I could do for them is not try to ‘mold’ them.”
OK, it sticks slightly that his caption reads “ain’t raisin’ no princesses” and it’s always a shame that stories like this – essentially the acknowledgment that women are also people – are worthy of comment because they’re the exception, but obviously we’d much rather see things like this getting traction and attention than boring old misogyny dressed up as fatherly love.
Main image: Caleb Jones