by Suad Abdoun
Every now and then, when I am driving through Isla Vista, blasting a random indie playlist, the song Daddy Issues by the NBHD will play and inevitably get stuck in my head for days. I have been thinking about the concept of “daddy issues” a lot as I examine insecurities I have and how I approach relationships, romantic or otherwise. The need for male validation is unfortunately a big part of being a woman. I have found that even though I consciously don’t care or want to care my subconscious begs to differ. Of course, the degree to which someone needs male validation varies from person to person. Often, women who have spent a good amount of time deconstructing these patriarchal ideologies are less inclined to conform to the male gaze and seek validation from men. And of course, the relationship women have with their fathers and other male figures in the formative years of their lives play a role in seeking out male validation and in other emotional and mental health issues. Before I transferred to UCSB, I was in a long-term relationship with an emotionally abusive guy who left me with a lot of trauma that I still find myself having to work through. It completely changed the way I viewed relationships and made me almost afraid to do it again. I don’t think I will seek out a long-term relationship again for a while because of this experience.
The important thing to note about my ex-boyfriend is that I ended up with him largely because of my so-called “daddy issues”. Growing up, my dad was always working and he wasn’t really around. He was also older, more traditional, and viewed a lot of things through a specific cultural lens. That’s not to say that I’m not grateful for all that my dad did to support our family growing up, but I suffered the consequences of having the stereotypical emotionally distant dad who was always angrier about my mistakes than loving me for who I was and the good things I accomplished. In high school, this came back to bite me in the ass when I continually sought out the affection of shitty guys to make up for the emotional void I had. All it did was cause me a bunch of heartbreak, and eventually, I settled for my now ex-boyfriend because he showed the slightest bit of interest and that was all I needed back then. Fast forward to now, I have thankfully worked through a lot of my issues regarding my need for male attention, but every now and then it comes back and I have to confront it again. It became more apparent again when I recently moved to Isla Vista.
After getting out of my relationship and moving here I was determined to have my fun little college “hoe” (in the most respectful way) experience. At first, I was having fun with it but I started to get frustrated with the lack of respect and the fact that it was harder and harder for me to find guys that showed a genuine interest in me and so I became obsessed with finding someone that was into me. A few weeks ago I was expressing my frustrations to my roommate and she told me to examine why I felt the way I did. I realized later that it was because in my mind I have never gotten validation from a man the way that I wanted it. In my eyes, it was something completely unattainable to me and therefore something I had to have. After telling her about my little self-revelations she made a really funny joke about daddy issues. We had a good laugh and after confronting this I felt a lot better. Ever since then I have just been chilling and enjoying life sans Tinder swiping. However, this whole experience made me think more about society’s views on daddy issues and how it affects women. There are many problems with the way that “daddy issues” are seen, portrayed, and talked about in our society.
First, most importantly, is by telling a girl that she has daddy issues it places the blame on her for a situation that is out of her control. It is absolutely not anyone’s fault that they have an emotionally neglectful or abusive parent. Furthermore, having emotional issues and insecurities that cause a person to behave a certain way because of this is nothing to be ashamed of. This is a textbook example of blaming women for the moral failings of the men in their lives. Second, it perpetuates a dangerous cycle of men taking advantage of women who they view as “weaker” and “damaged” because of their previous experiences with men. I saw this a lot in high school when guys in my grade would date girls younger than them. They would tell all their friends about how their girlfriend had “daddy issues” like it was a badge of honor when in reality it was just easier for them to manipulate and take advantage of girls that just wanted to have an emotional connection with someone.
Third, this attitude also leads to the slut shaming of women who spend a lot of time pursuing men due to issues with male validation. There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to sleep around, wanting to be in a relationship, or bouncing from one relationship to the next. More importantly, it’s no one’s business what someone else does with their lives. And while I advocate for mental health treatments like therapy because it is important to take care of yourself, there’s no need to shame someone for behaving in a certain way due to past trauma. Finally, there is a huge issue with the romanticization of daddy issues. With the rise of social media aesthetics like the resurgence of Tumblr and lolita-core, it is important to be aware of the concepts that we are making trendy. It’s not cute or aesthetic to have mental health issues or trauma and by making it a trend we are deciding that it is socially acceptable for men to continue treating women badly. The moral of the story is that we need to stop victim-blaming women for the mental and physical abuse that men put them through. The cycle needs to stop somewhere and it’s up to us to do our best to deconstruct patriarchal ideals and stand up for each other when society doesn’t stand up for us.