Back in Ye’ Olden Days of the Internet the email listserv was the preferred method of disseminating crackpot conspiracy theories, junk science, apocalyptic prophecies and nonsensical grandmotherly “advice”. But listservs were clumsy devices, with slow response times and undependable circulation. Plus your intended audience needed to actually click on the email, a dicey proposition if the recipient doesn’t know you well. You could be a Nigerian Prince for all Aunt Sally knows!
Today, because we live in the FUTURE we have left behind such primitive tools. Thanks to Blogs, Twitter, Google+ and especially Facebook, we now have the ability to share our most offensive, sloppily formed, bigoted, insensitive notions with EVERYONE who is still talking to us. Crazy Uncle Liberty downloads some pearls of wisdom from Glenn Beck University? Share it with EVERYBODY! Do kids these days need to seriously pull up their pants, stand up straight, go to church and get off everyone’s lawns? You can tell EVERYBODY! Have parenting advice for all of those people out their doing everything wrong and thus assuring the downfall of our once great society? YOU HAVE A VOICE! We have taken the time honored art of standing on a street corner and shouting at strangers and plugged it in to the Information Superhighway!
Of course there’s a downside… once you set your Internet Meme free, be it inflammatory blog post, snarky hashtag, or pithy Facebook image, it’s no longer under your control. Your traitorous liberal nephew, your feminist ex-roomate or your free spirited gay cousin might find it, carefully analyze it, then smash into a smoking pile of wreckage in Internet Meme Demolition Derby!!!
Our inaugural entrants come in the form of a list and an application. First, pointed out by Digby at that den of liberal iniquity Hullabaloo and hashed about by the Grounded Parents crew on our super-secret-backchannel private Facebook Group, comes today’s featured image… Ten Rules for Dating My Daughter.
- Get a Job (What, in this economy?)
- Understand I don’t Like You (I wish all misanthropes were this forthright)
- I’m Everywhere (Like the NSA?)
- You Hurt Her I Hurt You (He’s gonna stand you up at the prom?)
- Be Home 30 Minutes Early (He just appreciates punctuality, and Time Travel)
- Get a Lawyer (And perhaps a restraining order while you are there)
- If You Lie to Me I Will Find Out (Jeepers, maybe he is the NSA)
- She’s My Princess, Not Your Conquest (Elyse can handle this one, ” I love the way that vaginas are a game of capture the flag played between dads and boyfriends.”)
- I Don’t Mind Going Back To Jail (So… I’m guessing we aren’t a rehabilitation success story then)
- Whatever You Do To Her, I Do To You (So he is gonna stand you up at the prom!)
So I think we can all agree that we have a serious contender here for “Father of the Year”. There are, of course so many things wrong with this picture. There’s the antiquated patriarchal notion that a father must ward off his daughters suitors, perhaps whilst in shining armor. There’s the fairly icky habit of referring to any young woman who is old enough to go on a date as “my princess”. There’s the paranoia of someone who would treat his daughter’s dates as if they are all potential members of Al-Quaida. And last but not least the threat of violence implicit throughout, as if ones position as “paterfamilias” grants one the right to dish out vigilante justice. And the worst part is that he probably does think of himself as Father of the Year material. Big parts of the USA are still filled to the brim with folks who think like this about their daughters.
Your kids aren’t your property, folks. They are your responsibility. Certainly part of that responsibility comes in the guise of protector. And I understand the impulse to protect your kids from harm, both physical and emotional. Heck, no one is even asking you to approve of all of your dating age children’s romantic interests. If you have a bad feeling about Kenny The Boy Who Hangs Out Behind The Record Store, you should probably share that with Definitely Not Your Princess. But if you are interested in raising your kids up into functioning adults then you have to allow them to grow. And part of growth is making mistakes. Part of growth is getting your heart broken, picking the exactly wrong guy/girl, making poor choices and learning from them. And part of finding Mr. Right… or at least Mr. Right Now, is having the freedom to make those choices on your own. To know that when your kid does find someone they like that their parents will treat that someone with dignity and respect. And if you respect their decisions they are much more likely to respect your opinion when you feel you need to talk about whether dating a meth dealer is a smart life decision.
Maybe we aren’t being generous enough. Maybe we are being alarmist about something that is meant to just be some fun snark. Didn’t they make a perfectly innocent TV comedy a few years back, 8 Simple Rules (for dating my teenage daughter), that was fairly well received until it killed John Ritter? Maybe, but in some ways that makes it even more important to be critical of these kinds of cultural attitudes. Because something like this certainly can be funny. If these rules were part of a well delivered comedy act I’d laugh right along. And that can make these attitudes sound like harmless fun. But nothing is really harmless if it perpetuates harmful stereotypes. As Anita Sarkeesian says at the beginning of each chapter in her excellent video series “Tropes Versus Women in Video Games” (start here).
… it is both possible (and even necessary) to simultaneously enjoy media while also being critical of it’s more problematic or pernicious aspects.
It’s OK for us to chuckle along when presented with a list like this while at the same time being aware that there are certainly a lot of people in our culture who believe these things earnestly.
So yeah, dads definitely come off looking bad in this one. Certainly the moms know better than to indulge in such nonsense. Certainly our sons don’t have to deal with this kind of paranoia in their dating endeavors. If you think that’s the case then prepare to be massively disappointed as next time we run an “Application to Date My Son” through the Internet Meme Demolition Derby!
Have you come across an Internet Meme about parenting that you think needs to be demolished? Share it in the comments or tweet a link to @blotzphoto or @GroundedParents and we’ll see if we can give it the smoking mass of twisted metal treatment.
Featured Image: Dave Williett, at the 2005 Ontario County Fair
Thanks to Digby at Hullaballo