Last night, I handed my phone to my husband and said, “Here. Read this.” He grumbled and asked why. My response was, “Because you’ll need to do this for your daughter one day.” So he read it, and then asked “Why would I treat my daughter any differently than my son?” I thought about his question for a moment, and then said, “Because the rest of the world will treat her differently, and you need to help prepare her for that.”
The more I thought about what had transpired, the more I realized how critically important a father’s role is in his daughter’s life, and that perhaps, in some cases, we should be treating girls differently than we treat boys. So honey, here is a whole host of reasons why you should treat your daughter differently than you treat your son…
Because you are the first and most important man in her life and she will always look to you for cues about how men should treat women.
Because she’ll grow up in a world where her body and women overall will be simultaneously hypersexualized and shamed.
Because women, on average make 77 cents on the dollar compared to men.
Because at some point, she’ll be told she can’t, or shouldn’t, just because she’s a girl.
Because she’ll read stories about how other women struggle in massive ways in cultures that treat women like property or second-class citizens, and wonder why she is any different.
Because when she has sex she will be slut-shamed and when she doesn’t, she’ll be called a prude.
Because if you don’t, she may give some other guy power over her that he shouldn’t have.
Because her sense of self-worth should include pride in and comfort with her body, but also a recognition that she is so much more than just her body.
Because she needs to understand that her body is about so much more than sex.
Because one day, someone will make her feel like she’s not good enough because of one physical attribute or another, and she will think that her value as a person is intricately tied to her appearance.
Because she will look at other girls and women who are thinner, taller, prettier by social standards and feel less-than.
Because people will say things to her that sound like compliments, but that will make her feel uncomfortable in her own skin.
Because chances are, people will comment on her appearance more often than they will comment on her accomplishments and the challenges she overcomes.
Ultimately, there are things that a father can instill in a daughter that a mother cannot. As she grows, she will develop more of a sense of self each day. Let her know that it’s OK to talk to you about her body, and that you love her and are comfortable with all topics, so that she feels safe coming to you with things she may not want to talk to me about. Tell her why she should never give a boy the power to determine how she views herself, and that she should always feel safe to tell you if something happened that made her feel uncomfortable or felt threatened by a man. She will undoubtedly go through that typical teenage phase where she hates me, and adores you. It won’t matter if or how much I tell her that she’s beautiful because of every single attribute she possesses taken together. But it will matter beyond belief if you, as her father, don’t. So tell her every day in every imaginable way that she is beautiful, and that her beauty is based on every part of her being, including her body.