Alani Vargas on What You’re Really Saying When You Say Girls Have “Daddy Issues”

Originally appeared on Slant News as a Trending Story, but can currently be found on Alani’s website here.


Recently, I overhead two college guys boasting about trying to hook up with girls.

Look for the ones with daddy issues!” one said boisterously. Maybe he read the Urban Dictionary definition, with related words such as “slut,” “attention whore,” and “bitch.” I would usually joke and laugh along if it was about anything else. But the term does not amuse me. At all.

My dad was my personal chauffeur all through middle school and at the start of high school. I usually got a ride with my carpool freshman year, so the drives with him at the wheel became less and less frequent.

But I remember each one. I would gush to him about the latest Robert Pattinson-Kristen Stewart (a.k.a. Robsten) news or about what was bothering me at school. He responded with jokes and a dash of advice. In that little beige Honda Accord, I was introduced to the greatness that is Eminem and The Beastie Boys. All the anger and energy in those songs were my form of coffee.

On one December day, my father dropped me off for my first final exam, right before Christmas break. It was the usual: He said “I love you” in the car and proceeded to yell “HURRY UP!” at me as I walked away, so loudly that the nuns inside could definitely hear.

And then he never came home.

He didn’t call my mom to say where he was. He first tried to play it off like he had to stay at work longer that day, even though we had plans to see Santa Claus at the mall that night. And then it became a week. He finally came back on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, but he didn’t stay the night. He packed his stuff and left on Dec. 26.

He went to live with his mistress ? a co-worker ? and her children. And since then, the person he has become almost completely diminishes the man who was once my “poppy.”

I don’t want to relive the memories of him coaching my soccer games for almost 10 years before that. I don?t want to think about how he would blast mariachi music and scream that obnoxious Grito, or “Mexican Shout.” I can only remember the bad. His harsh discipline. His terrifying disappointment when I got B?s.

It might have been different. But he left. Completely withdrew from my three siblings’ and my life. He didn’t show up for Christmas this year, despite saying otherwise up until the December 23. He would like to blame it on my mom, who is the best person I will ever know. But when someone doesn’t contact their kids for months, fails to give child support even when he has a full-time job, and refuses to take the blame, those accusations just further reveal his true self. And now I?m subjected to the judgmental expression, “Daddy issues.”

Urban Dictionary says this occurs when “a female has a [screwed] up relationship with her father,” leading “to the chagrin of any poor male in [her] life.”

The expression actually comes from a philosophical term developed by Sigmund Freud called the “Electra Complex,” as opposed to the “Oedipus Complex” in boys. It?s the idea that a toddler feels sexually attracted to the opposite-gender parent and competitive with the parent of the same sex. For a girl this “fixation” stage would end once she identified with her mother. If not resolved, the girl will continually want to dominate men by either becoming super seductive or really submissive. I don?t know when it got twisted to mean the girl strives for the acceptance of men, but it?s far from its origin.

“Daddy issues” are just a way to put blame on the victim, instead of the negligent dad that left her. My little sister hasn’t lived in the same house as my father since she was 3. Now 8, she is still in denial about how horrible he is. My other sister, who is now 15, doesn’t talk to him as often as the other two because she is so indifferent to him and she won?t notice when he says something offensive about her taste in music or her “attitude.” Even my little brother, 11, is so used to being disappointed by his dad and the seldom phone calls that they are a surprise and a conversation lasting more than five minutes is never expected.

They shouldn’t have to feel the pressure of not conforming to what society says will inevitably happen to girls (and boys) without fathers. Because they are not good things and it just adds to the personal difficulties they are facing with having a deadbeat dad.

Today, one-third of children grow up in single-parent homes, and many notable women have grown up without fathers.

Barbra Streisand lost her father when she was one due to complications from an epileptic seizure. She went on to become one of the most successful recording artists and one of few to win an EGOT (an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony).

And Sarah Michelle Gellar was raised by her mother and has said, “Just because you donate sperm does not make you a father.” (They were estranged until his death in 2001.) Gellar has gone on to play one of the most iconic female characters in TV history as Buffy, the Vampire Slayer.

Jenna Rowen, a post-doctoral fellow at the Family Institute at Northwestern University, said a child?s future self depends more on how loved and accepted he or she feels in general rather than what gender they?re being raised by.

I am not a misandrist, or man-hater; I love men and love fair portrayal and treatment of men even more. But if a child has a supportive and affectionate mom or moms, who raise their children well, she will most likely not grow up with unhealthy behaviors or psychological pain.

I know life isn?t fair and no matter how much a single mother or father tries, events happen, possibly leading a child on the wrong path. But just the idea that a girl growing up in a household with no male figure spells certain doom is sexist, archaic, and needs to stop. My dad leaving sucked. Real bad. But I?ll be damned if he gets to take any credit in shaping who I am today.

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