News & Opinion | January 29, 2020 2:48 pm

#Girldad Is Very Dumb. Please Stop.

Did you know you can love your daughter even if a problematic NBA star didn't just die? Apparently these guys didn't!

#girldad is stupid

Thanks to the death of NBA star Kobe Bryant, fathers everywhere have realized that they, like Bryant, are the parents of female children.  

Or such, as I understand it, is the premise behind the trending twitter hashtag, #girldad

The hashtag, which typically accompanies photos of the tweeter with his daughter(s) as well as some kind of some verbal expression of like or approval of the female child(ren) pictured, first began flooding the timeline earlier this week, and like most things that have appeared on the internet in the past four days, it is related to Kobe Bryant.

CNN traces the origins of the trend to a Monday night SportsCenter report in which ESPN’s Elle Duncan quoted the late Bryant — who was a father of four girls including one who tragically died in the same helicopter crash that claimed the basketball star’s life — as saying “I would have 5 more girls if I could. I’m a girl dad.”

This apparently reminded a lot of fathers (including famous ones like Bow Wow and Alex Rodriguez) that they, too, have daughters, and can exploit them for attention on the internet. And thus, a hashtag was born

You may have noticed that I’m being kind of a sarcastic bitch about this whole thing. That’s not because I hate Kobe Bryant, resent paternal affection, or think it’s my place to dictate how people should express grief. I don’t and it’s not. There are definitely worse ways to honor someone’s legacy than by loving your daughter. There are probably also more appropriate ways, but if appreciating your child helps you pay tribute to a fallen icon and/or process the terrifying fragility of life, go for it. 

My problem with #girldad is not that men love their daughters. It’s not even that men want to publicly express their love for their daughters, though I don’t necessarily think such an expression should have to be tied so explicitly to the death of a popular athlete — especially one with a very notable and very troubling rape accusation (and near-admission) in his past.

Rather, my issue with #girldad is that it is merely another manifestation of a pseudofeminist trend in which men point to women in their lives as evidence that they are not and cannot be sexist. This has become increasingly common in the Me Too era, in which men often vie for imaginary male feminist brownie points by proudly asserting that “as the father of daughters/brother of sisters/son of a mother/etc.” they could never imagine committing an act of assault against a woman. 

This is ultimately a good thing — not assaulting women is objectively good and correct! — and it’s fine to credit the women in your life with helping you grow as a person. But, as widespread criticism of the “As a father of daughters…” thing typically goes, men shouldn’t have to have daughters or sisters or literally any female relatives at all to know that they should respect women. Female family members are not Get Out of Misogyny free cards, and treating women like human beings should not be hailed as some brave act of male feminism.

Likewise, being a father to a daughter — or, for that matter, to a child of any gender — is not in itself an accomplishment. As Darcy Lockman wrote for the New York Times last year, men are disproportionately rewarded and hailed as “good dads” for performing the same basic parenting tasks society sees as bare-minimum requirements for mothers. 

This effect tends to be especially pronounced when men prove themselves capable of competently parenting a child of a different biological gender. Case in point: the widespread media attention and praise showered on Hair Dad, a man who bravely learned how to do his daughter’s hair back in 2015. 

#Girldad, then, feels like a 2020 version of Hair Dad plus a little tasteless public mourning of a problematic figure. A kind of two-for-one special, the #girldad dad gets praise and attention for being a brave male feminist and a bereaved sports fan, all for simply acknowledging that he has helped create a female person. 

Listen, I get that it’s probably well-intentioned. What happened to Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna was a tragedy, and taking a moment to appreciate your loved ones is a natural and healthy reaction to a very public reminder of human mortality. 

Unfortunately, #Girldad is very dumb. I am not a father, and I am also a woman, but if I could impart one bit of fatherly advice to the dads out there, it would be: Please don’t do this. You look dumb.