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Feminist fathers can make the rules

Lucy Miller Robinson is a walking oxymoron. She is a Seattle mother who thinks she can work at home and a hippie with a penchant for leather. When she’s not writing novels, short fiction or poetry, she might be paying attention to her bu...

How dads can teach daughters self-respect

A dad's cool feminist T-shirt went viral on Father's Day. According to the shirt, he doesn't make dating rules for his daughter. Can teenagers be trusted to make the rules? Is this true feminism?

If your newsfeed was anything like mine, you learned a lot about your friends’ fathers this past Father’s Day. You saw their smiles, learned their philosophies, read their eulogies. One girl’s Father’s Day tribute even went viral because she posted a picture of her dad wearing a “Feminist Father” shirt reading

  1. I DON’T MAKE THE RULES
  2. YOU DON’T MAKE THE RULES
  3. SHE MAKES THE RULES
  4. HER BODY, HER RULES

What is the context?

My first reaction to the shirt? I liked the idea, but something about it bothered me. I wondered — how old is "she?" If she is a grown woman, even a young grown woman, then great, I’m all for it. Date rape has become scarily prevalent and this shirt is a good way to spread awareness and empower women to think — my body, my rules. Conversely, if "she" is a teenager, if she is still living at home as the shirt suggests (why else would a dad be presumed to make the rules?), is she old enough to make the rules? Teenagers who make their own rules often end up with STDs or abortions and as a result, low self-esteem. Teenagers are children and children need rules, even if these rules make their parents seem very uncool.

Dads can be feminists

Fathers can be feminists and still protect their daughters. If a dad wants his daughter to seek out men who will respect her, he must treat the women in their life with the utmost respect, whether it's the mom, stepmom, teacher, aunt, coach or barista. Likewise, the women in her life must demand this kind of respect. Example is the best teacher.

Beware of sexism

And if dads want their daughters to think they are cool, they need not give her an unlimited curfew or wear a "progressive" T-shirt, but take her to do cool things. Think rock climbing, driving ranges and sailboat races. Forget "daddy-daughter" dates at fancy restaurants or shopping trips to the mall, men should do with their daughters what they do with their sons. Kick a ball around the backyard or ask her to help wash the car. Spending quality time with both parents will result in balanced, self-confident young women capable of fostering healthy, close relationships.

More on daughters

Feminists unite in 2013: 20 Most inspiring quotes
Raising girls: Take a backseat to Daddy
5 Steps to boosting your daughter's self-esteem

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