Just to preface, I am not here to talk about my actual daddy issues, though they are plentiful. I really want to talk about the problems with how the phrase “daddy issues” is used and how it reflects back on the individual.
There is a common trope about a wide range of women- from those in the sex industry to those coming out of abusive relationships- that their current lifestyles are products of their poor upbringing. Specifically, their poor life choices and mental instability are all the result of trying to fill or replace the void that their deprived fathers created.
This angers me on so many levels. First, this idea claims that choices such as having many sexual partners, deciding to work in the sex industry, or being emotional (all things seen as poor or dangerous reflections of femininity) are inherently and always problematic. Women can be sensitive, unsure in relationships, or uninhibited sexually without it being a product of trauma. These behaviors by themselves are not problematic nor do they have to be explained off to an audience/outsiders.
Second, it implies that women are irrevocably broken or scarred by a man, and can only be fixed by a new man. You see this trope often in TV and movies where a woman comes from an abusive background (be it her father or a previous romantic partner) and only confesses to her past and learns a new way of living by entering into a new relationship with a man. At that point, and only at the point of her being in a new monogamous relationship, is she recovered. With this concept, a woman can never be in charge of her own life. Her well-being and success is always being determined by another, and, without that other person, she would presumably fail in life.
As someone who grew up in an abusive household, I really have to put my foot down about this. Recovery from abuse takes time, professional help, and a ton of hard work. It is hard to understand just how hard you have to work to combat cognitive distortions, skewed core beliefs, very real fears, and panic over the past. All of this must be done by the individual and for the individual. No one else can come in and do this work for you.
I was not broken by my father’s abuse, but I was very deeply hurt. Largely, though, in ways that are not visible to anyone who does not know me intimately. Using daddy issues to invalidate these women is an attempt to enforce traditional gender norms, not in any way showing how people actually recover from trauma.
I'm a bi female undergraduate student majoring in Psychology, with minors in Women and Gender Studies and African American Studies. I am passionate about issues of domestic violence and sexual assault, and intend to get my masters in social work in order to serve those populations.