As a child of the 80’s/90’s era who was born to a young single mother, I had the pleasure of being placed under a societal microscope since my inception. Girls like me were written off by society and pitied by our own communities. We were expected to have low self-esteem, be ridiculously promiscuous, have multiple babies early, be on welfare, be emotionally unstable, and just never really amount to much. And we were told that our mothers were despicable, horrid human beings for becoming young, unwed parents and that any efforts she made to improve her situation was pointless because “fatherless daughters” won’t become more than a charity case, anyway. So inspiring, huh? But something amazing happened: I’m fine. I, like many young Black women from similar backgrounds, grew up relatively intact. I did well in school, graduated college, traveled, fell in and out of love, explored hobbies, etc. Imagine that! My life isn’t perfect but it’s no charity case, either.
Despite all that, however, I occasionally come across remarks from people, either in person or on social media, implying that women like me are somehow less than because we grew up without our biological fathers in the home. Or that any perceived quirk, character flaw or anger in a woman who grew up without a father is “proof” that she has “daddy issues”. Of course, the hurtful remark is never followed up with any actual reasoning that explains how the person came to that conclusion nor is it offered as a way of showing genuine concern for her well-being. Instead, it’s used as a ploy to invalidate the woman’s voice because since she has “daddy issues” this must mean she is crazy. Basically, it’s just another term used to disrespect and degrade Black women.
So, for all the Black women who grew up without their biological fathers (and for all the people who must hear this disclaimer: No, I am not implying that this experience is exclusive to Black people) and who are quite tired of people assuming they know your life or dismissing your legitimate concerns or implying that you must have a lifetime worth of mental and emotional problems to sort through because they see you as nothing more than a broken woman with “daddy issues”, this is dedicated for ya’ll. While I can’t speak for all of us, I feel compelled to break some basic things down so that they will always and forever be broke (or however way that classic line goes…):
Men who abandon their daughters are the ones with the issues. Not the daughters. DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT bring us no grown ass man’s issues. Please and thank you. Get on his case and leave us daughters alone.
If you do not have the spirit to challenge a man on his decision to be virtually useless to his children because you’re a punk, then do not suddenly be moved by spirit to bash the mother or label the daughters. And definitely do not coddle grown men by allowing him to weasel his way out of owning up to his personal failures with useless excuses for why he wasn’t “ready” to justify his flaky fatherhood. Don’t nobody care. Like, for real. I wasn’t ready for fall but somehow I managed to get ready. I wasn’t “ready” for my first period. I mean, I knew it was coming but that shit caught me off guard one random morning. But guess what? I got ready. I was 11. Surely, grown men can find some “ready” when it comes to fathering their daughters.
And the reason I focus on the daughters is because 1) I can only speak from the perspective of a daughter and not a son and 2) I find that sons without fathers are not insulted with the dismissive “daddy issues” label as much as daughters are.
The fact of the matter is that this has little to do with being “ready”- a state of being- and more to do with the person’s character. It is extremely selfish and damn near cruel for a man who knows how chaotic and vicious the world can be to wake up everyday and decide to be useless to his daughter, either by not giving her access to his protection, or his money and resources or life wisdom simply because he doesn’t feel like it. There are no two ways about it. (And there are many fathers in the home who still don’t provide these things and that, too is just as bad).
And again- but this time, let’s say it together: These are HIS issues. Not his daughters.
In a male-dominated society, it makes absolutely zero sense to insult the daughters who grew up without fathers as having “daddy issues” or relate to them like damaged goods who need to be “fixed”. But then turn around and say nothing to the father or coddle him during is attempts to explain his flaky fatherhood. And as if that’s not enough of a slap in the face, after we get insulted with the “daddy issues” label, we’re told – not asked – but told to forgive him or “let it go”.
Ok, so I have some tips for the hopelessly clueless and callous for when they meet a woman who grew up without a father:
Instead of speaking over women who grew up without fathers with our own projections of who they are as people, why don’t we let them tell their own stories. And rather than being so hyper-focused and borderline obsessed with picking us/them apart for any and every flaw, we need to put some more energy into figuring out how to avoid raising men, who under a system where men have more social power and wealth than women, feel entitled to bringing offspring in this world and abandoning them. I think that’s a more pressing “issue” to be concerned with.