I heard John Mayer's "Daughters" playing in the grocery store recently, and though it had been years since I listened to the 2003 classic, the chorus came rushing back to me:
Fathers be good to your daughters
Daughters will love like you do…
I don't have a daughter. God blessed me with a beautiful baby boy, which is challenging enough, even in a patriarchal society skewed to benefit boys. I often tell my friends without children that parenting is like second-guessing answers to a test that's impossible to study for but easy to fail.
I do not envy fathers trying to raise girls in a world where "what was she wearing?" is still viewed as a valid question and "boys will be boys" an acceptable answer. Nonetheless that song, which looks at how a daughter's relationship with her father can shape future relationships with men, reminded me of the powerful mythology regarding fathers and daughters. From the "daddy's little girl" colloquialism to pop culture references such as "Daughters" or the #GirlDad hashtag, the fabled bond remains one of our most enduring touchstones. If we can only get our lawmakers to reflect that cherished connection.
This week CNN confirmed what the optics have long suggested: Male lawmakers, many of them fathers, are most eager to punish women for having an abortion.
One state representative in Texas, Bryan Slaton, introduced a bill in 2021 that would have made getting an abortion punishable by death, saying in part that "it is time for Texas to protect the natural right to life."
Because nothing says "pro-life" like the death penalty.
Slaton found four other male co-sponsors for the bill, including Rep. Briscoe Cain, who was put in Twitter jail in 2019 for posting "My AR is ready for you," addressing the threat to Beto O'Rourke.
Because nothing says "pro-life" like making death threats.
That same CNN report cites a candidate for the state Senate in Idaho who is quoted as saying women should carry a pregnancy to term even at the risk of their own health, embracing their natural "sacrificial behavior." As if making the difficult choice to terminate a wanted pregnancy comes without sacrifice.
And while nationally the Democratic platform speaks of protecting reproductive rights, locally, votes are not entirely along partisan lines. The network pointed out that "more than 140 Democrats from eight of the roughly dozen states with the most restrictive abortion laws voted in favor of the bans, and the vast majority of these state lawmakers were men."
Nine male Democrats in Mississippi voted to pass the 15-week abortion ban that was challenged all the way up to the Supreme Court and led to the overturning of Roe v. Wade.
Only male Democrats joined Republicans in supporting the trigger ban in Arkansas that criminalized abortion under nearly all circumstances.
Texas state Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., an antiabortion Democrat, said men "have shown that they have a natural instinct to protect the human race," which I guess is his way of explaining the disproportionate number of antiabortion laws written by men. An interesting take given all of the wars men have started and violent crimes they have committed.
What does a father tell his daughter about a world that now seeks to imprison her for miscarriages, as happened in Oklahoma last year, or force her to carry a fetus to term even if it is developing without a skull and cannot live, as a Louisiana woman was told to do this summer? I wish those examples were only hypothetical, but they are indeed the laws of fathers being forced upon daughters, including their own.
Is this what Mayer meant when he implored men to be good to their baby girls?
Kenny Chesney's "There Goes My Life," another tribute to how fathers cherish their daughters, chronicles the thoughts of a young man who initially didn't want to be a dad. The lyrics do not mention abortion, but it is clear the young lovers decided not to have one. Released in 2004, that song reflects a time when a daughter's right to choose for herself was protected by the Constitution. That world no longer exists.
In a post-Roe world, I wonder: Will artists like Mayer and Chesney croon about forced childbirth? It doesn't sound like a radio hit to me, but it would be closer to today's reality than the half-truths we tell ourselves about fathers and daughters.
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