I never could understand the big deal about fathers. When I worked as a domestic violence counselor, I couldn’t relate to how women agonized over their children not having a daddy anymore. As a child protective services worker, I couldn’t really empathize with girls in foster care feeling lost without their fathers. I felt leery and (I’ll admit it) a tad judgmental in the presence of any women who self-identified as a Daddy’s Girl. I found myself wondering, just what’s the big deal about fathers? They seemed fairly expendable to me.
Reading this attitude, you’re probably drawing certain conclusions about me. I must have been traumatized by an abusive or neglectful father, or raised by a competent single mother, or some such family situation. The truth is, my father is a perfectly decent and kind man. Growing up, he was a good provider for my family. He was funny, energetic, and gentle. He treated my mother well, coached my brothers in their athletics, and could tell a great story. I was the only girl in my family, and I don’t think he knew quite what to do with a daughter, so he left most of my raising to my mother—but I can’t think of a single time that he deliberately harmed me. Though I always felt disconnected and vaguely uncomfortable around my Dad, I didn’t think this was a problem to work through. I was certain that I was free from Daddy Issues.
Last night I was watching news footage of Hurricane Matthew, waiting to see if the hurricane would make a direct hit on land, when the storm coverage was preempted by the story of yet another of Donald Trump’s transgressions. It emerged that he had been recorded making lewd, predatory, and sexually aggressive comments about women, and he admitted to a practice grabbing women by the genitals (presumably, without their consent).
As a survivor of sexual violence, I felt pretty agitated listening to Donald Trump’s admission of acts of sexual assault, and I am disgusted and horrified by his belief that he’s entitled to help himself to the body of any woman he wants. I feel emotionally triggered whenever I’m exposed to any justification of sexual aggression or perpetration of rape culture. Listening to this story unfold last night, I found myself in a state of high agitation.
I stayed glued to CNN throughout the night as statements and reactions from politicians and the media rolled in. I listened with mounting anxiety as prominent men firmly stated they can no longer support Trump because of his vulgar attitude toward women.
Of course, I realize that I should have been outraged by the fact that Trump can denigrate disabled people, immigrants, and minorities and still get the support of the Republican leadership, but it’s the disrespect of white women that finally makes him unfit to be President. And I am (outraged). Also, my inner feminist should have bristled at the “women are precious” rhetoric, at the idea that women are objects to be revered on a pedestal, that women are only valuable because of their relation to men as wives and daughters. And I did (bristle).
But. Yes, but: Tears welled up in my eyes as I listened to Jeb Bush’s statement that “as the grandfather of two precious girls, I find that no apology can excuse away Donald Trump’s reprehensible comments degrading women.” And again when Mitt Romney said, “Such vile degradations demean our wives and daughters and corrupt America’s face to the world.” I listened as men called into the media outlets to say that they can’t let their daughters think they condone such behavior by supporting Trump. They think of their daughters, and how they love them, and are sickened by this man’s words.
Out of absolutely nowhere, I found myself falling into a deep, yawning pit of painful need. I sat in my apartment weeping three decades worth of tears. I realized I was desperate for a father. I needed my Dad to call up Fox News (his favorite station) and say he will not vote for Trump because he cannot condone such behavior toward women. “I think of my daughter, and I love her and respect her,” he would say, an edge of sadness in his words (he really, really liked the idea of Trump). “And I will never stand by someone speaking of my daughter this way.”
Before last night, I had been entirely unaware of my yearning for a father. Now, my Daddy Issues had made unexpected landfall. It was a direct hit.
Wave after wave of pain washed over me through the night. I thought about how growing up as a female in a mostly male household, I never felt a sense of integrity, or healthy pride, or true worth. How I always felt less than, both because I wasn’t a male, and because I was not the right kind of female. How growing into womanhood, I felt like a failure in my father’s eyes. I realized that I had a belief that all my father valued about women was their sex appeal. As an asexual woman, I wanted absolutely no part of sex appeal. This left me deeply questioning my worth.
I need to repeat here that my father is a perfectly wonderful man. There is no specific reason for my belief that he views women as sexual objects—other than the fact that our culture views women as sexual objects and my father has never resisted this. He has never defended me against the culture. He has never told me I am worth more than my body, that I have more value than as a sexual object for a man. He never told me that I deserve to be respected. Possibly most importantly, he never told me that I had a no, or a right for my no to mean no.
I needed someone in my life to tell me this.
And I need my father to say:
Mr. Trump, I will not tolerate you speaking of women this way. Because my daughter is a woman, and she is strong and capable and intelligent and powerful. I love her, and I want the world to be a safe place for her.
And I need my father to say:
My daughter, you didn’t deserve any of that. I would have protected you, had I known. I’m sorry it happened to you. If I’d known, I promise I would have helped you.