Being a bonafide daddy’s girl means knowing your father is imperfect but revering him even when he messes up.
Daddy is the kind of man who still opens all doors for me, randomly sends my 29-year-old grown self money and calls me baby. He’s a good man: charismatic, hilarious, intelligent, compassionate, giving, honest -- and you’d be hard pressed to find a soul who doesn’t like him.
But even with all those great characteristics I still found myself slightly yelling at him for the first time ever.
“You’re sexist! Your opinion on domestic violence is disgusting and disappointing,” I nearly shouted.
Earlier that day he’d sent me an “I love you, keep your head up and remember you’re the best thing that ever happened to me” text, knowing I’d been mourning a loss. By 9:30 that night we were vehemently disagreeing about Ray Rice and domestic violence.
After working a 12-hour day, he was home and relaxing by watching football when he called. Minutes into telling me he was watching a game, he brought up one of the biggest news stories at that time. “They just doing my man Ray Rice all wrong,” he said. Daddy was born and raised in Baltimore, a diehard Ravens fan. I knew this conversation was going nowhere good fast so I awkwardly fake-laughed it off.
“Né, the other day there were a bunch of women over the house [his wife’s friends, I imagine],” he said. “I went upstairs to put my Ray Rice jersey on and told them if they start acting up they’d have to meet me by the elevator,” he laughed heartily.
“Shoot. I don’t care. I’m gonna still wear my Ray Rice jersey.”
“Now Né, what he did was completely wrong. But I do not think he should have lost his job. He had his day in court and received the punishment they felt he deserved. The NFL already punished him based on the court’s decision. They should not be able to come back and take his job away. I believe he’ll be able to win his appeal.”
Unable to silently roll my eyes any longer, I blurted out, “I don’t care that he lost his job. He should. That’s how the world works. Do something unlawful and your job finds out about it? Lose your job. Should be no different with celebrities.”
“Yeah you’re right on that, but I don’t think he should’ve lost his job. Now that’s taking away food from her table.”
“It’s actually probably putting her in more danger,” I said.
“Né, stop. Come on now. You taking it too far,” he laughed. He thought this was the most ridiculous thing he’d heard all night.
“I’m serious. It’s classic abuser dynamics. I fear for her safety. Now that he has no job, has more time at home, and is facing such backlash, there’s a possibility he’s taking it out on her. Because that’s what abusers do,” I patiently told him.
He laughed from his gut as if this was completely absurd.
“You’re wildin’ now, Né. You’re taking it too far. There’s no possible way after facing the scrutiny he has and losing his job he’s doing any punching in that house. He’s not even going to look at her too harshly after this,” he insisted.
“Dad, that’s not how it works. Abusers aren’t magically reformed because of public humiliation.”
This continued for what felt like an eternity with him insisting that “wife beaters” can stop without rehabilitation. I urged him to stop using anecdotal evidence so we could talk about the actual facts. I mentioned the 1 in 4 women who’ve experienced intimate partner violence stat. I told him the tragic 1 in 3 women every year who are victims of homicide are killed by their current or former partners stat. And finally the horrific truth that every nine seconds in the U.S. a woman is beaten or assaulted. This only fueled his loud and wrong POV.
“Well what about women who hit men? She took accountability for the role she played. They said she fights him,” he said in response to the facts.
“Are you kidding me? Even if she did hit him, which the video doesn’t show that she did, he should’ve never hit her back let alone knocked her out. There’s no excuse.”
“I agree, but women shouldn’t be hitting men either,” he continued.
I insisted women hitting men shouldn’t be a point of discussion in this conversation because it shifts the accountability from the abuser and focuses on what the victim must have done to get hit. He went on a long diatribe about violence in general being something society needs to address and that we should also care about men “getting their butts whooped by women.”
“You’re coming at this from a feminist perspective,” he accused me.
“What?! Domestic violence isn’t just feminist issue. It’s an everybody issue. Globally,” I said.
He then annoyingly asked me what I had to say about Janay Rice staying with Ray.
“You’ve got to be kidding me! This is ridiculous. Now you’re victim blaming her. Victims of abuse tend to stay with their abusers for various reasons,” I said.
By this point I was annoyed, hurt, triggered and fed up. I felt he was choosing not to truly listen to the reality of domestic violence. I told him I was disappointed by his views. I let him know his “meet me by the elevator” joke was problematic as well. I pointed out that he couldn’t possibly care about violence against women if he kept deflecting to victim blame. He wholeheartedly said that is not true.
Once he’d grown tired of my rebuttals he pulled the “you’re getting angry card” which actually made me angry if I wasn’t already.
So I told him he was sexist. And so what if I was angry? Didn’t I have a right to be? Violence against women is infuriating. And how loosely society treats the issue is disheartening.
I’d had one of the hardest conversations I’ve ever had to have with my dad, whom I love, and it was triggering as all hell as a survivor, which he’s fully aware of.
Before laying the topic to rest, he reiterated that he was completely opposed to men hitting women. He told me he’d stepped in a number of times when he witnessed men hitting women. He apologized for triggering me and said he’d read more on domestic violence.
“Don’t be disappointed in me. I’m still learning.”
When we got off the phone I thought about how difficult that conversation was with a man who I love immensely and who I consider to be one of the smartest men I know. If this is how the conversation surrounding violence against women are with “good” men, how the hell do they sound with men who are idiots or have no respect for women?
It’s frustrating. To have these conversations and feel like nothing will change. How can you change attitudes and shift the dialogue and put the blame on the abusers where it belongs when even the “good” men have such sexist ideas about domestic violence?
Having the necessary dialogue with my dad reminded me of what feminism in practice looks like. It’s not always about writing an article. Or sending reactionary tweets whenever a problem arises. Or sitting on panels. Or intellectualizing about the current state of the movement. All those things are necessary too, but the real everyday work is having tough conversations with the people in your life, hopefully informing and changing attitudes along the way.
I don’t love my dad any less than I did before that conversation. I don’t think his views make him a terrible person either. I do think he, like most men (and women), are conditioned by patriarchy and have very little interest in unpacking those beliefs.
In the future, I hope he keeps his word and reevaluates how he thinks about domestic violence. Next time he calls me during football, I’ll politely curve him. And let’s hope he never wears that gotdamn Ray Rice jersey around me.