The first person who told me I had daddy issues was my ex. One day I was too clingy, another day I was too detached, but on most days my behavior could be attributed to my “problems with abandonment.” It’s true that my biological father left my mom before I was born, never giving us a chance to meet, and that I grew up without a stable male figure in my life. But, it’s also true that I never really got hung up on it until people made me feel like I should. Whereas daddy issues have become a dealbreaker for some, they are seen as an invitation for others.
[bf_image id="2stkkg9bbn46zvbk79kgrsq"] At its best, the “daddy issues” joke provides comic relief in an otherwise uncomfortable conversation about childhood trauma. At its worst, it victim blames women. Emotionally distant, physically abusive, and wholly absent fathers are unfortunately nothing new, but when did we start to blame their disservices to their daughters on the daughters themselves? Why are “daddy issues” a stigma that women must carry while the very men who gave them those issues are left out of the discourse? Sexism is so deeply rooted in our culture that we are punishing women for problems that men created.
The daddy issues trope continues to persist due to its function as a catch-all explanation for the varying levels of a woman’s emotional stability and availability. She doesn’t want to be in a relationship? Her daddy issues must make it hard for her to trust men. She’s eager to be in a relationship? Her daddy issues must make her crave male attention. There is no winning when the narrative can be bent in different ways in order to create the most convenient excuse. The phrase not only trivializes women’s feelings, reducing them to mere after-effects of another person’s actions, but reinforces the idea that those with daddy issues are “damaged goods” and, therefore, are unappealing.
[bf_image id="4f8jhwxs75w5s4n93s7pcgc3"] Yet, the exact opposite also occurs. In recent years, daddy issues have been incorrigibly linked to promiscuity and “loose sexual morals” in women (whatever that means). We’ve been socialized to believe that a woman who grew up with a subpar father will be more sexually forward in an attempt to fill a man-sized hole in her heart that just has to be there. Daddy issues are sexualized to fulfill the male fantasy of a woman who would do anything for male company and male approval.
[bf_image id="rvjs75rfbnc88484mrmpqs4"] The ways in which a person navigates their sex and love life may be influenced by so-called daddy issues, but it’s wrong to assume that they impact their every decision. This phenomenon has simultaneously ostracized and fetishized these people, who, according to popular discourse, should be avoided whenever emotions are involved but sought after for an easy hookup. The fact that my biological father is probably getting his morning coffee right now, living a life that conveniently doesn’t include me, is the “daddy issue” here, not whatever ways I choose to cope with what happened. By de-stigmatizing and desexualizing daddy issues, we can see that they were only spotlighted due to sexism, remove the shame from having them, and do better for those who are in need of support.