Undead Sexist Cliche: Father Knows Best

That’s Obama’s stated reason for overruling the FDA on approving over-the-counter emergency contraception: He’s a father, so he gets it. As quoted in Salon: “As the father of two daughters…I think it is important for us to make sure that we apply some common sense to various rules when it comes to over-the-counter medicine.”
As several bloggers have pointed out, (here and here, for instance), a lot of people think the common-sense response is to realize that a lot of Plan B users are adults or young adults, that very few kids the age of the Obama girls (11 and 13) get pregnant and that in a country where pharmacists can refuse to honor a prescription because of their personal religious views on sex and contraception, requiring a prescription means more unplanned pregnancies even for adult women (and for 12 year olds unplanned pregnancy carries serious health risks). Plus it’s hard to imagine Obama restricting condom access to make sure 12 year old boys can’t buy them.
Obama may be rationalizing a political decision, as I’m sure the image of teen girls having sex without “consequences” would be a nice rallying cry for the right wing. He may be genuinely uncomfortable with the thought of his daughters having sex (the same discomfort that I think fuels a lot of opposition to the HPV virus) or with female sexuality in general (an attitude I discuss here) or just catering to those who are. But I do find it interesting he phrases his decision as that of a concerned father, something that crops up quite a bit when government and women’s lives intersect.
Steven Levitt of Freakanomics, for example, says here that his stance on what behavior should be allowed (regarding nonviolent, victimless crimes) is based on “Would it be okay if my daughter did it?”——so outlawing prostitution is okay by him, but not Internet gambling. Levitt presents this as a logical approach; pundit Ross Douthat concedes it’s a little subjective, but still seems to think it has value, if only because it ties abstract policy issues to someone you know (the equivalent, in a sense of “Would you want your daughter to marry one?”).
More generally, I’ve read lots of interviews where a guy describes how his perception of hot young women changed as soon as he realized other men might be thinking things like that about his kid. It generally comes across as if this is not simply a natural protectiveness, but insight: The father’s perception is truer than that of the young man on the make. So I suspect this idea of making the world safe for daughters (sons, of course, can take care of themselves) may be, as Levitt and Douthat suggest, quite common.
But it’s still bad. Because basing public policy on what you want or don’t want for your daughter ignores that (as Douthat, at least, acknowledges) other people do not want the same things——as witness some people still believe women shouldn’t work outside the home, should submit to their spouse in all things, should never use birth control, should not have the right to vote. As far as I’m concerned, this approach is a world of fail [Edited to eliminate reference to Ross Douthat’s views on rape, when the rape apologist was actually Rod Dreher. My apologies to Mr. Douthat]
Obama’s daughters and their sex life aren’t my concern. How the Obamas deal with teen sexuality is up to them and their kids. But whatever issues the president may have with female teen sexuality is no basis for medical decisions, or trying to play dad to every woman in America.


Filed under Politics, Undead sexist cliches

3 responses to “Undead Sexist Cliche: Father Knows Best

  1. Pingback: Eeny, meeni, minie links | Fraser Sherman's Blog

  2. Pingback: Back on line | Fraser Sherman's Blog

  3. Pingback: Undead Sexist Cliche: Women who give away the milk are DOOMED!!!!!! | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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