What’s a father to do when his teenage daughter posts sexy selfies of herself on social media?
Publicly shame her of course.
US father Chris “Burr” Martin thought his daughter Cassie’s selfies looked like she was trying to “escort Japanese businessmen” and that she should “tone it down”.
He decided to teach her a lesson by taking photos of himself in similar poses and posting them on Instagram. He wore crop tops and accessories, drew a fake tattoo on his gut, misapplied eyeliner, and pouted at the camera.
“So my daughter has been posting sexy selfies of herself and instead of telling her to stop, well, I thought of something better,” Martin wrote on his Instagram post.
What a wacky guy. And what an awesome parenting strategy. With record rates of depression, anxiety, eating disorders and self-harm amongst teenage girls, being humiliated by their fathers – the most important male role model in their life who is supposed to make them feel safe and worthy – is exactly what they need.
Martin thought he only had two options – order his daughter to stop taking selfies, or shame her to comply with his wishes – which demonstrates his lack of imagination, not to mention his lack of empathy. He was too busy feeling entitled to police his daughter’s sexuality to have any understanding for what life might be like for his daughter.
We bring girls up in a world where being hot and sexy is the most valued thing a woman can be. And then we mock our girls for – wait for it – trying to be hot and sexy.
Whether we like it or not, publicly demonstrating sexuality is a rational choice for young women. You can launch a multi-million dollar empire off a sex tape, get fame, fortune and 100,000 Instagram followers for dressing up as a sexy mermaid, or land a glamorous and coveted job in the media off the bat of crying and smiling on a reality TV show.
Sexy and come-hither posing is the path to fame and riches for some women. Why wouldn’t teenage girls, who have already been taught to see themselves as little more than objects to be admired and desired, try it out for themselves?
And let’s think about who first introduced teenagers to the world of social media and selfies. Their parents.
My social media feeds are full of photos of both women and men posing for selfies, carefully curating their images so they present their most attractive version of themselves to the world.
And while we may not be pouting, we’re doing the middle-aged, middle-class equivalent: taking photos of ourselves on holidays, dressed up at parties, or snuggling up under the doona.
Many of these selfies also include children. So it’s fine for us to take pictures of our little girls, but when they get old enough to do it themselves we think we have a right to stop them?
As Martin has found out himself, posting selfies can be fun and socially rewarding. Even though he claims his daughter has learned her lesson “a little” bit, he’s still taking mocking selfies of himself. He’s unwilling to give up his 15 minutes of fame that he landed via his daughter.
He’s even started taking photos of himself mimicking his son’s selfies – although, notably, there is no accompanying slut-shaming lesson for his son. It’s okay for the blokes to take photos of themselves, but when a girl does, well, she needs to be taught a lesson.
Cassie told Us Magazine that she is fine with her father’s brand of discipline. “My dad is a huge comedian in the family so when he did the pictures it was a huge laugh,” she said.
But this doesn’t make everything okay. In fact, it makes the situation ever sadder. Cassie’s father behaved abominably, but she feels the need to defend him, perhaps even believing that she deserved to be shamed.
This highlights just how much power and influence fathers can have over their daughters, and precisely why they need to be so careful with how they wield it.
Rather than shaming and mocking their daughters, fathers should be gently helping them to navigate and survive in a world that presents them with two false choices: to be sexy and shamed, or be to unsexy and invisible.