- A Reddit post about father-daughter dances is sparking some debate online.
- In the post, a father says he felt that a father-daughter dance held on Valentine’s Day seemed “creepy” and “romantic” to him.
- Some agreed with his concerns, while others – including his wife – feel differently on the matter.
- He told INSIDER that he’s surprised the post went viral, but is glad it’s sparking a discussion.
- Clinical psychologist Jamie Howard told INSIDER she understands both sides of the issue.
- Visit INSIDER.com for more stories.
Father-daughter dances have been a tradition for many years, but a recent Reddit thread is making people reexamine the idea behind them.
Reddit user pfunnk14 shared a post about a disagreement he said he had with his wife over the tradition after raising his concern that a father-daughter dance being hosted on Valentine’s Day felt “creepy” and seemed to “sexualize the relationship between daughter and father” – though he later edited the post to say that he perhaps meant “romantic” instead of “sexualized.” He also pointed out that the event seemed to be mimicking a prom and felt “oddly ‘date-like.'”
“The whole thing just grosses me out and makes my skin crawl,” he wrote. “I love my daughter with all my heart, but I don’t want to date her. I also don’t want to reinforce weird gender and patriarchal stereotypes in my daughter’s young mind.”
He said that he expressed his thoughts to his wife upon seeing the poster, and they didn’t exactly see eye-to-eye.
“She lost it. She was shaking and crying. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her look at me with such disdain,” he wrote in the post. “She thinks I would be denying my daughter a special bonding experience.”
He said that he would not be against going if his daughter – who is currently 2 years old – really wanted to go in the future.
“I don’t think I’d ever not go if it’s something that my daughter really really wanted,” he wrote. “But I still think as parents it’s our duty to do better than ‘it’s tradition.'”
It’s worth noting that father-daughter dances are becoming rather antiquated, with some schools taking “father” and even “daughter” out of the name of the dance, and choosing to call it a “daughter’s dance” or “family dance,” as a New York Times report from 2017 found. And in 2018, the Associated Press reported that some communities in New Hampshire were starting to debate whether the dances should be held at all.
The notion of a father-daughter dance may also be triggering to those without a father or parents, as it might be to people raised by gay parents, grandparents, or other parental figures.
The father received a lot of feedback online – both good and bad
The father told INSIDER that he mostly received supportive and insightful feedback from the Reddit community, though he said there were less positive responses from those reading articles about the thread on BuzzFeed and Fox News.
The father, who wished to remain anonymous, says he was shocked to see the post go viral outside of Reddit, and feels it’s possible that people are not fully understanding the intent behind the post.
“People that don’t really understand that subreddit thought that I had already made up my mind,” he told INSIDER. “I really wanted to hear people’s experiences. I wanted to hear if others were uneasy about these particular dances. I was genuinely curious and completely prepared to be proven wrong.”
He says another purpose behind posting the article was also to see what people made of his argument with his wife.
“I honestly didn’t know if I did irreparable harm to her image of me by expressing my reluctance to participate in what she considered a crucially important event in my daughter’s life,” he told us. “Did I make an issue out of nothing? Were my thoughts reasonable from a father/husbands perspective? I was honestly curious about both prospects.”
One of the details he wants to make clear is that he said his post was not about all father-daughter dances, just a Valentine’s Day-themed one that seemed “very strange and courtship-like” to him.
“People see an incendiary headline and think I’m a crazy person with an axe to grind against everyone that’s ever enjoyed a dance with their kids/parents,” he told us. “In reality, nothing could be further from the truth.”
He says the most interesting responses have been from people reaching out to him directly with their own experiences.
“Some people told me about lost friendships due to expressing similar feelings,” he told INSIDER. “Others shared stories of abuse and how their fathers would use these dances as a way to perpetuate the idea that they had ultimate control over them.”
INSIDER spoke with Clinical psychologist Jamie Howard of the Child Mind Institute, who says she understands both sides of the issue
“He made some nice points,” Howard told INSIDER, speaking of the Reddit user’s post. “The roots are more about fathers spending time with their daughters […] but it’s understandable that there is an element of something questionable based on our culture’s history.”
The father told us that some commenters referred to him as a “pervert” for thinking about the dances this way, but Howard says she didn’t see it that way.
“To me, it felt like a reaction from a contemporary dad’s perspective,” she told us.
Overall, she feels the dances are “not so nefarious,” though they may be “outdated.” She noted that the dances are traditionally meant to “carve out a bonding opportunity” for fathers who spend most of their time away from home, though this isn’t always the case anymore.
When it comes to his wife’s reaction, he says she was slightly upset about him turning to Reddit about a personal issue
Eventually, the Reddit user says they were able to figure out where the miscommunication occurred.
“She was upset because she thought I would refuse my daughter regardless of how much it hurt her because of my hang-ups about these dances,” he told us. “Once I told her I would never hurt my daughter and of course I would go if it really meant that much to her, she said she moved on in her head.”
Overall, he says the main lesson he learned is to communicate with your spouse when issues feel unresolved.
“Turns out I was imagining her continued resentment towards me,” he said. “Just goes to show… talk to your spouse. I could’ve avoided all of this had I just addressed my concerns with her instead of strangers on the internet.”
Though he’s unsure if he and his wife will ever have the same view on the subject, he’s happy that the post has sparked a discussion
“I’m happy people are examining these things as I think it can only move us forward,” he told us. “Maybe schools will adapt to ‘parent/child dances’ to be more inclusive to the fatherless children and take away those uneasy vibes.”
He says his post was never meant to invalidate other peoples’ positive experiences; he says it was simply to share his thoughts and hear from both sides.
“I really did come out of this with a more nuanced view,” he said. “I’ll always have a bit of a visceral reaction to these things, but I don’t fault anyone for participating or even enjoying them.”
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