From The Dad Gang: Being a Girl Dad Means Fighting Misogynoir

Sean Williams, the founder of the Instagram-viral community for fathers, says being a girl dad isn't just about snapping photos and pretend play.

Sean Williams, founder of The Dad Gang, with his daughter
Sean Williams, founder of The Dad Gang, with his daughter. Photo:

Sean Williams

As the father of two beautiful daughters, I've been asked what it means to be a girl dad many times, and, to be honest, there is no one answer. Every person experiences fatherhood very differently. What I can say, without a doubt, is that for most of us being a girl dad is transformative. It's much bigger than taking cute pictures, pretend play, or learning how to do a decent hairstyle, even though a lot of these fun experiences inspired my first book Girl Dad.

Until a man becomes a father to a daughter, his relationship with women exists in the form of being a son to a mother, a brother to a sister, a nephew to an aunt, an uncle to a niece, a friend, a lover, a spouse, or more. None of these titles, though meaningful, require that person to feel solely responsible for a girl’s protection or emotional development. Becoming a girl dad, let me tell you...that hits differently.

So many fathers tap into gentleness and tenderness that they didn’t know they had. We fall in love with our little girls but it's a different type of love. When a man has a daughter it unlocks something deep inside. It's an experience that completely reshapes our perspectives, changing the way many fathers relate to women from then on.  

Some of us change because we feel a greater sense of responsibility to our daughters and we want to be model examples in their eyes. It makes us want to be more chivalrous on a daily basis. I've always been a gentleman, but for my daughters, I went above and beyond to hold every hand, open every door, and shield every raindrop when I could. It wasn't long before I embodied all of the characteristics of a true gentleman. 

Other dads may change because they become more emotionally aware and sensitive to their daughters' needs as they grow up, which in turn makes them more understanding of the needs of all women. The tender loving care that I displayed when caring for my baby girls was a first for me. I've sat through hour-long tea parties with stuffed animals, played dress up with dolls, washed and gently combed through kinky hair, and talked about boys at length. 

Being a girl dad, especially to a Black girl, also means helping our daughters develop positive self-images and good self-esteem in a society that undervalues them most out of any group in America.  It means showing them what healthy love looks like. It makes us challenge the systems and culture of misogynoir that limits Black women. We become feminists and advocates of women's rights by default because, like most girl dads, I'll be damned if I let anyone give my daughter any less than she deserves.  

Ultimately, I believe that becoming a girl dad was one of the best things that could have ever happened to me.  My two daughters have helped me understand women in ways that I couldn't have imagined otherwise.  

Here’s how I parent as a father to daughters.   

01 of 05

Show your daughter unconditional love.

I show my girls the love and acceptance they need to feel safe and secure. I’m not afraid to join them in their interests. It’s my opportunity to show them that my love has no limits. I allow them to express themselves openly and validate their feelings. 

A dad's love is one of the greatest loves many daughters will ever know. So it's important to nurture that love and help girls develop a love for themselves. We need to tell our daughters we will always be there for them and back it up with our actions.  

02 of 05

Build your daughter's confidence and self-worth.

Fathers should affirm daughters daily so they can develop positive self-images and high self-esteem. Speak highly of your daughters by letting them know how special and gifted they are. Let them know that their value is not just in their beauty but in their intellect and creativity. It's a known fact that Black women are one of the most under-valued, unprotected, and disrespected groups in America, so building our Black daughters’ self-worth is crucial for their success.

When my daughters were toddlers, I would stand in the mirror with them and recite positive affirmations before they left for school. Before they step out into a world that says they are not enough, it's important to ground them in self-confidence so they understand that they are more than enough and capable of anything they can imagine.  

03 of 05

Encourage your daughter's interests.

Teach your daughters to pursue their interests, while also taking interest in what they are interested in. Encourage them to explore different hobbies and activities. Help them to develop their talents and find their passions, and use that as a pathway to bonding. 

I remember when my daughter was debating between joining the track team or the high school cheerleading squad. I initially pushed her toward track because I understood it better. I thought it was more competitive and it was something I would've been more proud to see her participate in. 

Boy, was I wrong. She chose to cheer and, to be honest, I'm glad she did. It was incredibly competitive and the fact that I was so supportive and into it made her take it all the more seriously. It gave us another thing to bond over. By the end of the year, I couldn't have been more excited to stand in the bleachers and scream the cheers that she had been practicing at home. I was a bonafide cheer dad and I  was proud of it.  

04 of 05

Foster your daughter's independence and set boundaries.

Teach your daughters to be independent and responsible by giving them opportunities to make their own decisions and gain confidence in their abilities. Create safe and trusting environments for them by setting boundaries and expectations. Let them know what is acceptable and unacceptable but also give them the freedom of choice so they can weigh the possible outcomes and consequences of their decisions.  

05 of 05

Nurture your daughter's relationships.

Encourage them to form friendships and relationships with people who respect and value them.  Especially with men.  

Being a girl dad is a privilege that I take extreme pride in. I‘m honored to share in the responsibility of raising my daughters to be amazing young women. There are many layers in fatherhood, and I’m extremely grateful to be afforded the unique experience that only a girl dad is privileged to have.

Teach daughters how to build healthy relationships, respect others, and communicate openly.

Editor's Note:

Though this story addresses relationships between cisgender fathers and daughters, Kindred by Parents acknowledges that all fathers do not identify as men and all daughters do not identify as girls or women.

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