Thursday, June 19, 2014

Better, but not quite there

My post earlier this week about a terrible tshirt designed to be worn by a violent criminal misogynist with superpowers who has a daughter he doesn't respect got some entertaining responses.  Specifically three different people sent me a link to the following tshirt that tries to be a better version:

This is a big improvement on the original in that it doesn't encourage the ideas that daughters are owned by their fathers, that violence and hatred are an appropriate response to lust, or that teenage boys need to be kept in line by immediate threat of legal intervention.  Unfortunately it doesn't get things right either.

The are a bunch things you really should get right if you want to make such a tshirt.  I would definitely want to remove gendered references from the shirt.  Why should you only be concerned about protecting your daughter from men?  Should it not be the case that you want all of your children regardless of their gender or the gender of those they date to be happy and safe?  Not only is the shirt above heteronormative it also assumes that there is absolutely nothing that a boy has to worry about with regards to sex - or at least that a father could not possibly be concerned about a male child.

I particularly dislike the framing of sex as a thing all males want and all females allow men to perform on them occasionally.  Perhaps instead we could frame sex as an activity people of all genders regularly enjoy and which can only ethically be pursued when both partners desire it and are certain of their partner's desire.  Go way beyond consent, past the "Am I allowed to do this?" bridge to the land of "We both really want this to happen."

I wanted to rewrite the shirt but I kept on hitting a snag.  Fundamentally the shirt is about setting down rules for relationships as dictated by daddy.  I just don't buy into that paradigm at all.  Even if I set down good rules I am still making it clear that I am the one in the position to do so and my child's authority to decide for themselves is contingent on my approval.  The very making of a numbered list of rules on my body tells people that I feel entitled to control these things and that I mete out that control to others only because I want to.

I don't want to be the one setting the rules, and I intend very much to do my best to be good to my daughter and anyone she chooses to be involved with without judgement on their personal choices that don't directly involve me.  I don't have a tshirt of my own to compete with.  If I did have one it would only have something like 1.  Be good to each other.  on it.  After all, that is all I want them to do.


  1. I don't fundamentally object to the shirt being explicitly gendered - it is intended as a direct response to the awful shirts, and is more effective if the title "rules for dating my daughter" remains intact.

    Rewrite: "Rules for dating my daughter: I don't know. Go ask her."

    The reason it doesn't work as well as a generic "child" is that boys already have assumed autonomy in this regard.

    And I mean, I dislike assumed heterosexuality as much as anyone else, butbthe narrative that this shirt isbtrying to combat is specifically the one around hetero teenage dating and its double standards, so.

  2. To add on what Val has said: The shirt you've shown isn't actually heteronormative. The only gender indicated is the one of the daughter. The audience could be male or female, and the shirt would still make sense.

  3. I suppose technically that could be true, but 'she makes the rules' seems a bit bizarre if it isn't assumed that the other party is male. Same goes for 'her body, her rules'. How does that make any sense if you are assuming a lesbian relationship? It sure looks to me like it is an assumed hetero relationship where the female is assumed to be setting the rules, which isn't an ideal situation to my mind. Mutual desire strikes me as a much better operating principle than one person writing the rules and that person being chosen by gender.

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    2. I took the fact that it indicates the daughter and not her partner not because the partner is assumed to be male (which could be said to be a heteronormative interpretation in its own right) but because the person wearing the t-shirt is the her father, and not her partner's father - bias by relationship to the daughter rather than by gender within the daughter's romantic relationship.