Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Fathers as best friends

I've been reading Kate's guest posts on Love, Joy, Feminism (originally posted at Time to Live, Friend) about So Much More, by Anna Sophia and Elizabeth Botkin. Today's chapter is about how your father is supposed to be your best friend and confidant.

This makes me look back on my childhood and roll my eyes. My father was an alcoholic who abused me emotionally. (He was also an atheist, which has no relevance one way or the other, except to acknowledge that he probably isn't the sort of father the Botkin sisters have in mind anyway.) He started drinking after work every day, got drunk every single night, and wound up in a shouting match with my mother (also an alcoholic) and yelled cruel things at me on a daily basis. He was the last person I'd have wanted for a best friend. (I'll add that he's moved in with us in his old age, because there's no one else to care for him, and we get along okay now that he's no longer drinking. "Honor thy father and mother" isn't a good idea because God supposedly gave it to Moses on the mountaintop; it's a sensible rule that generally makes society run more smoothly, and one of the few Commandments that still generally works today.)

But I digress. Sweeping pronouncements like “Our fathers are supposed to be dear, trusted confidantes and friends….our knights in shining armor, our protectors, our guardians, and they are even supposed to represent God to us” don't work for everyone. Even if I were to accept this as a general rule (which I don't; the purity movement makes father-daughter relationships seem weirdly creepy and incestuous, in my opinion), there are still an awful lot of girls out there like me, whose fathers are not fit to be "dear, trusted confidantes and friends." This is because fathers are not mystical beings who are all created by God to be perfect friends and confidantes for their daughters. They are individual humans, with their own virtues and faults, the same as anyone else. Some men make great fathers, and some are abusive emotionally, physically, and even sexually. Telling girls that they should always trust their fathers and be best friends with them doesn't work for girls with abusive fathers, who can plainly see that their fathers are not the best of all possible role models.

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