PLEASE READ THIS CAREFULLY: Sometimes I forget that the internet is a vast place comprised of many people. I wrote this post yesterday quickly and only after having discussed it with people who pick apart the various levels of society’s collective psyche in the same way that I do. So to clarify, keep in mind the following as you read.
1. I am in NO WAY AT ALL unsympathetic to this family’s struggle and grief. I feel strongly for them. I guess that aspect of the story is so obvious to me that I did not specifically mention it in this piece I’ve written. My sympathy for them is very real and not at all related to how I feel about this particular action.
2. I do not believe that they consciously intended this to be possibly psychologically damaging for their child. This is something I actually did state in the article, but apparently it needs to be clarified up here at the top. I believe they were aiming for something beautiful. What I am picking apart here is not the family’s intentions, but the fact that such a thing isn’t considered problematic in our society at all. I am not writing this to attack anyone. I am writing this to try to expose a societal problem that we need to all be conscious of. The more we become conscious of things like this the sooner we will reach true gender equality.
3. This is written with my own personal brand of insightful snark. If you have a hard time with snark, don’t bother reading this.
Okay. Now you may begin.
So there’s this story in the news today about a father, dying of cancer, who wants to walk his daughter down the aisle before he dies. It sounds lovely until you get to the part about how his daughter is only 11 years old, was never asked about this (it was a birthday surprise), and that they modeled this after an actual wedding complete with rings and a lacy wedding dress.
It’s reminiscent of those purity balls (heh. balls), where a father signs a pledge to act as his daughter’s protector “in the area of purity”. (The creator of this pledge swears it’s not about his daughter’s vagina, but I’m betting it’s not NOT about his daughter’s vagina, you know. Like. I’m willing to bet that her being pure of intent but sexually liberal is probably not okay. Therefore? TOTALLY ABOUT HIS DAUGHTER’S VAGINA.) In the instance of purity balls, it’s a disturbing trend not only because it’s disturbing, but because it encompasses an entire community. Yet that community is relatively separate from the rest of our society, at least in this habit. Those who are not of this ultra-conservative mindset look on these people as kinda wacky, to be honest. The majority of the world tends to see it for as fucked-up as it is.
And perhaps the father of this 11 year old was really entirely innocent in his own desires here. I can believe it. Sometimes we’re merely products of the fucked world we live in. It depends on how deeply you want to dig into the psyche of what’s really going on here. And, I assure you that I always want to dig as deeply into the psyche of shit as I can. And, frankly, this should be everyone’s goal – how else can we solve societal problems if we don’t try to understand their many layers?
On the surface of this situation, we want to believe the father is honestly just trying to share a beautiful moment with his daughter. And that’s a lovely sentiment that I can get behind. I think, perhaps, a letter written to her to be shared at her future wedding or other life-event might have been vastly more appropriate, though.
It’s irrelevant, though. No matter how sincere the intent, the world we live in is fucked up and even if he doesn’t realize it, what he is actually saying is not only that his daughter MUST marry (he’s not really giving her the option of how she will choose to live her adult life) but also that women are the property of the men around them and, in absence of a husband, a father will be the owner. If you check out the clip linked in this Jezebel article on purity balls (haha. balls), you’ll see the creator explain that the point of the purity ball is to teach daughters “how they should expect to be treated by men.” So, in this case, a literal child is told she’s going to pretend-marry her father without any consent on her part (it’s all planned ahead of time – even if she LOVED the idea, I argue that it’s without her consent). Is that how he wants a future man to treat his child? I’m guessing no. Probably because he considers her his property and doesn’t want another man controlling his property. But that’s just my guess.
Quite the opposite of how the majority of the world sees purity balls, in this story, this one incident involving the 11 year old, anyone questioning the appropriateness of the ceremony is considered to be the pervert. Just read the comments on the Facebook page where I originally found the article. This disturbs me because not only are we doing this thing to girls, but now society is not only supporting it, but we are also condemning anyone who questions it. Ew.
Further, this wasn’t about creating a lasting memory for HER, this was about what HE wanted. While I do think it’s important to do things for parents in the sense of creating memories and supporting them as people and in their parenting roles, the very point of being a parent is to raise people. We don’t have children for our benefit. That’s why we get pets. If you want a dog, get a dog. If you want to create a new person in the hopes of leaving this world in the hands of a competent and amazing new generation of people, have a child. This “wedding” isn’t just a nice, sentimental thing for her, this is his selfish desires warping her psyche. Even with the VERY BEST of intentions. As the creator of the purity ball says about 607 times in the above linked clip, “this is about fathers.”
Dads? Dont marry your daughters, okay? Instead consider treating them as though they are humans capable of intelligent thought and real feelings. And with that plan I bet you’ll get a pure-of-intent adult daughter and you’ll never have to pretend not to laugh when you hear the phrase “purity balls.” It’s basically win-win.
I want to write a serious, thoughtful reply but 1) laughing too hard at “purity balls,” and 2) grossed out.