It’s one of the first terms I became used to hearing growing up while watching sitcoms and romantic comedies, and it’s one that I’ve continued to hear since: daddy issues. More specifically, jokes about women with daddy issues.
You’ve heard it before: a woman had a bad relationship with her father and is still affected by it today. It’s supposed to be funny.
I say it’s time we stop treating it that way.
What Exactly Are Daddy Issues?
Daddy issues are emotional/mental problems that children (but most times, the term is used in reference to women or girls) face following relationship problems with their father.
Daddy issues can develop for a variety of reasons, such as a father being absent, a father being controlling, feeling unloved by a father, or any other associated problems that are rooted in a childhood relationship with one’s paternal figure
For Years, Daddy Issues Have Been The Butt Of Many Jokes
Across much of pop culture, “daddy issue” jokes are often made at the expense of the women who experience them.
People say things like women with daddy issues are more promiscuous, that women with daddy issues are inherently needier in relationships, or that women with daddy issues are attention-seekers. At the end of it, women with daddy issues are perceived as something damaged to be mocked.
The Thing Is, Trauma From Parental Upbringing Is Pretty Common
I personally find it interesting that daddy issues have been dominantly talked about in terms of women when many men face similar types of trauma from their fathers.
One of my favorite examples is in How I Met Your Mother. A female lead, Robin, has a complicated relationship with her father that results in her being the butt of many “daddy issue” jokes, but Barney, a male character whose emotional unavailability and struggles with commitment stem from his father being absent, is rarely talked about in the same manner.
Mommy Issues Are Also A Prevalent Issue
Mommy issues are pretty common, as well, in some women but also a lot of men.
Sometimes, the way that mommy issues manifest is that a child (often male) receives an excessive amount of love and praise from his mom until the child develops an overwhelming sense of dependency upon her. From here, we get terms like “mama’s boy.”
Just Like Daddy Issues, They Can Affect Both Genders
Another common way that mommy issues manifest is that a mother will put an unfair amount of pressure upon their child to emotionally support them, leading the child to do more work nurturing their parent than getting nurtured.
This is especially likely to happen in situations where a male child is somewhat pushed into the role of emotional caretaker for their mother in response to the father being distant or absent.
But Back To Daddy Issues
The reality is that it’s consistently unfair that we degrade, joke about, and disparage women who have daddy issues when, at their core, they are rooted in the behaviors of men.
Making light of daddy issues or the women who experience them is just another way to make women take the blame for the ways in which men have mistreated and traumatized them while absolving men of guilt.
When We Belittle Damaging Experiences, We Harm The People Who Experienced It
It would be one thing if daddy issues jokes existed in a vacuum, but the reality is that they have real-world effects.
When someone’s traumatic or damaging experience is constantly minimized by humor, they can end up feeling invalidated or further traumatized by the reactions of others. At the heart of it, daddy issues are the result of parental abuse and should be taken seriously.
We Need To Change The Conversation
I’ve had enough of the victim-blaming. I mean, you shouldn’t blame a murder victim for being killed by someone, so why do we expect women to take the blame for their own mistreatment?
Rather than centering the conversation on women and their behaviors, we should start instead asking the hard questions, including why it is that men so consistently and systemically fail their daughters that there had to be a highly relatable term created for it.
It Comes Down To The Very Real Sexism In Our World
The truth is that girls are consistently devalued, mistreated, and damaged by their fathers and other father figures for the same reason many women face similar struggles with male peers in their adult lives: sexism that exists in a male-dominated world.
As a society, we have to change the gender imbalances that exist in our society, and for many that starts in the home.
I’m Not Saying We Have To Stop Talking About It At All
The reality is that a poor relationship with one’s father does tend to shape women’s understanding of emotional intimacy with men, so we should still talk about daddy issues. However, it’s important that we reposition women to the front of the conversation and treat these issues seriously.
By elevating women’s voices in discussions about their own traumatic experiences, we’re signaling that we hear and support them.