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Rebecca Hoskins / Her Campus Media
Sex + Relationships

The Issue With ‘Daddy Issues’

Most of us have probably heard the term “daddy issues” at some point or another.

Usually, the context is in reference to a woman who may be difficult to date because of her complicated or nonexistent relationship with her father. In turn, the said woman seeks to fill this gap of a father figure through a relationship with her partner.

The issues associated with these women include a lack of trust and fear of abandonment, which allegedly is due to the shortcomings of their father.

Here’s the thing: Doesn’t everyone have trust and abandonment issues?

Why do we file those insecurities under fatherless women? Worse, why do men fetishize women with daddy issues?

The biggest problem underlying the “daddy issues” trope is that it is associated with damaged women. Somehow, having a bad relationship with your father means you’re destined for ruin and loneliness for the rest of your life. Why would not getting along with your father suddenly make you “undatable?” Do you have nothing else to offer?

Of course you do. But “daddy issues” portrays a woman as though she is permanently defined by this absence rather than focusing on what is present.

There is also the theory that women with daddy issues tend to seek out a similar abusive or toxic dynamic in their relationships.

The problem with this is that it focuses on the notion that a woman would hypothetically choose to be in a volatile relationship. It’s a classic case of victim blaming. No one “seeks out” an abusive relationship.

This rhetoric also empowers abusive men on which women to target while simultaneously using their “complicatedness” as a scapegoat.

Strikingly, it also shifts blame of the negligent father and directs all contempt or judgment to the daughter, who is the victim. The phrase acts as a label to quickly warn potential suitors, and herself, that she is “too complicated” rather than focusing on trying to understand or help her. Baggage is baggage, but it can always be lightened.

I think it might be healthier for everyone to at least consider finding other ways to express the fact that almost all of us have unresolved issues with one or both of our parents,” said Dr. Gary Brown, a couples therapist.

He also points out how the term has “pejorative” connotation and holds much “judgment” and “shame” for these women.

“Daddy issues” becomes even grosser when it is fetishized. Yes boys, we see your Tinder bios boldly proclaiming you are “seeking a girl with daddy issues.” Yes boys, it’s disgusting.

Let me first say this: I’m not here to shame anyone’s sex life. What you do in the bedroom is none of my business. Live and let live. However, men that go out seeking girls with daddy issues are preying upon someone’s trauma and fetishizing it as something sexy. Why? Because there’s power in being what a girl is “missing” from her life. There’s power in developing a relationship with a person you view as vulnerable.

“Daddy issues” has been deeply embedded in the world of dating as both a red flag and yet something some men find to be alluring. Both are inappropriate ways of viewing someone’s trauma.

As Dr. Brown mentioned, anyone can have daddy issues. There are a number of men who do not get along with their parents, or don’t have a relationship with them at all. But this term has become exclusively associated with “troubled” women.

The weight this phrase carries is rooted in misogyny.

Considering it’s 2020, I propose we abolish the “daddy issues” trope and stay far away from fetishizing people’s trauma.

Also, it’s generally frowned upon to judge victims for being victims.


Alexis is a fourth-year journalism major with a minor in women's studies. Her ideal career would be one that incorporates her love for writing and her passion for social activism. For fun, she likes to read crime and romance novels, explore recommended podcasts, and binge watch New Girl. When she isn't curled up with a book or Netflix, she can usually be found enjoying the nature trails of Gainesville.
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