Texas Chick-Fil-A Hosting Daddy-Daughter “Date Night”

Saturday June 18 will be a creepy evening in the Dallas/Fort Worth area: it’s Daddy-Daughter Date Night at Chick-Fil-A. Dads and daughters can RSVP for tables at participating restaurants on DaddyDaughterDate.com, a site so festooned with red hearts, filigree and curlicue script that it wouldn’t look out of place on Valentine’s Day. Even though June 18 is the day before Father’s Day.

Anyone else got a case of the icks yet?Deep in the heart of Texas, daddy-daughter date night might not raise as many an eyebrow as it would elsewhere. Paternalism — the concept that a woman or girl needs a man to take care of her like a father figure, whether he’s her actual father, brother, another male relative, or romantic partner — is a tenet of fundamentalist Christian thought. Generally speaking, a fundamentalist Christian man is considered head of his household and the protector and provider of his loved ones. The oft-repeated justification for this is that man submits to God and woman submits to God — and then her husband. Evangelical Christians see this is as Biblical literalism, which it is. It’s also the very definition of “paternalistic.”

Submission to a male head of household is one thing. (And that’s a subject for another post entirely.) But Chick-Fil-A — a company run by conservative Christians, and is closed on Sundays— makes it all rather icky by conflating it with romantic love. While fathers in Western dating culture have had a stake in their daughter’s dating lives since, well, forever, a particularly problematic aspect of evangelical Christianity is the promotion of a dad as guardian of his daughter’s virginity. And yes, it is only daughters: the fundamental concern here is with women’s sexuality, not male sexuality. And no where is that more apparent than the creepiest evangelical Christian tradition to pop up in recent years, the purity ball. Purity balls are a prom-like phenomenon in which an adolescent girl — sometimes even a child — pledges to one or both parents that she will stay a virgin until her wedding night. Fathers at purity balls oftentimes give their daughters a purity ring as a symbol of his love and protection for her; the idea is that when the daughter is married, the ring will be removed and the ring from her husband will replace it. The purity ring, when gifted by her father, symbolizes how someone has to be looking out for her — instead of herself. There’s a place where love and concern becomes infantilization and both purity balls and daddy-daughter date nights are signposts on the way to it. (Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask how Chick-Fil-A feels about excluding families where there isn’t a dad? Or where dad is a bad guy? Or where there’s two moms? Etc.)

Just out of curiosity, I checked in with longtime Frisky commenter JSW, who is the father of two daughters, ages six and 10. As I suspected, he agreed with me on the creepiness factor. But he also had another point to make. “I don’t see an issue with it from the point of view of a father/daughter event,” JSW wrote. “[Our] town has an annual father-daughter dance, and so does the elementary school and my girls love to go. Love love love love to go. So I go, and it’s enjoyable because they’re having so much fun. And it’s a dance, not a date, but there are date-ish undertones. I suspect they’d like to go to the Chick-Fil-A thing as well. … The ‘date’ term is fun for kids, but not something I’d be comfortable with for teenagers” who have “genuine romantic feelings.”

That’s the other ick-factor in all this: Chick-Fil-A’s use of hearts, pretty invites, and the overall theme of “romance.” Clearly, I have issues with the sexism inherent in teaching daughters their role is to submit to either a father or husband. (Unless that decision is truly an adult woman’s choice, which is another topic entirely.) But I especially have issues with conflating sexual feelings for a boyfriend/husband with filial love feelings for a father. As Andrea Grimes wrote on Hay Ladies, “The idolization of the person ‘Daddy’ in romantic terms presupposes a female sexuality that is solely concerned with innocent romance (whatever that means) and wooing, and not ever with sexual behavior or pleasure.” (I sent the Hay Ladies post to an older male friend with an eight-year-old daughter, asking his opinion, and he minced no words suggesting it sounds “incestuous. So there’s that.) There’s plenty of ways to do daddy-daughter events — even daddy-daughter events with date-like elements, like giving her flowers! — that aren’t so suggestive of l’amour. If the ultimate, well-intentioned goal of daddy-daughter events, whether it’s my Girl Scout trips or Chick-Fil-A’s date nights, is to solidify a father’s place as a loving parent and sounding board — which is a worthy goal indeed — there’s no reason to make it creepy.

All that said, JSW had a valid point: little kids of any age just want to hang out with their dads and they don’t care about the venue (or the sexual-political-religious implications behind it). I’ve written here on The Frisky about my great relationship with my father. As an adult woman, my dad and I are good pals. But as a kid, I didn’t get to spend too much time one-on-one with him. Dad had five children to give attention to, plus he worked a full-time job and volunteered on (Republican!) political campaigns. I don’t have too many memories of Dad and I spending time alone when I was a kid, which makes the ones I do have really special — like the Girl Scout trip to Camp Hi-Rock where we shot BB guns together. As someone who grew up liberal Christian and with a burgeoning feminist consciousness, I don’t think as a girl that I would have dismissed other daddy-daughter events out of hand. I wanted to hang out with my dad. But no amount of greasy fried deliciousness could get me to go on a “date” with him.

What do you think about Chick-Fil-A’s daddy-daughter date night?

[DaddyDaughterDate.com]
[Hay Ladies]
[Dallas Observer]

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