Quicklink: These jokes aren’t benign

Thoughtful post from Angus Johnston at studentactivism.net about President Obama’s habit of joking about his daughters’ romantic futures freaking him out:

These jokes aren’t benign. With them, the president is normalizing a patriarchal, sexist, adversarial take on parenthood — and on fathering daughters specifically. (It’s not an accident that Michelle Obama doesn’t make these jokes, or that she instead jokes approvingly about her daughters’ crushes on the Secret Service agents who protect them.)

Categories: gender & feminism, language, parenting, violence


8 replies

  1. I was surprised by how irritated I was reading the “He’s just being a great dad, I make those jokes about my own daughters” comments. Are these people really too naive to see that Obama has some speechwriter dood who said “and dads will totally love you if you joke about locking up your daughters. They’ll say, ‘hey, he may be the president but he’s just like me’, and you need more of that schtick in your routine.”

  2. *unlurking*
    Oh this sort of thing makes me so mad. I have a colleague who makes these kinds of comments all the time, and his daughters are preschoolers!
    ‘I don’t care what they do when they grow up, so long as they’re not promiscuous’ he says.

  3. I kind of disagree, you can go overboard with this kind of joke, but a few iterations does a good job of reminding white USA that their african american pres has weapons at his disposal. Given the racist nature of the US and the way that Obama’s presidency has brought that racism back up from its troglodytic lair he has to approach the weaponry thing with a great deal of care. it is unfortunate that he feels that he has to behave in this way (if indeed i’m right and he isn’t just an arse), but show me a politician that doesn’t deploy all their possible assets and i’ll show you a politician not getting elected. As for Michelle Obama’s jokes about the crushes on the secret service agents, that seems to me to be the other side of the same coin. In Micelle Obama’s jokes she seems to be defining the bounds of the acceptable and if secret service agents are whats acceptable, that is a very narrow set of boundaries.
    Personally, i don’t think either of them think or believe anything so narrow as these positions extrapolated from these jokes and I’m prepared to cut them considerable slack.
    As the at home parent of two girls, 5 1/2 and nearly 3, I’m invited to make jokes like BO’s fairly regularly, usually while shopping. I accept these invites for several reasons. first and foremost my family and I are blowins to this part of the country and i have absolutely nil experience living with this kind of community and I have no compunction about giving people something that they expect if it means that i can learn more about them and the community that i am in. Secondly I am protective of my kids, in a visceral way that surprised me when i became aware of it. this is a violent part of the world, what part isn’t for women, I’ve called 000 to report a rape in a car not far from my house and the local footy/cricket club and High School has a retrograde culture with rotten set of attitudes towards women. I’ve set myself the task of trying to address those attitudes, arrogant twerp that I am, but i have to do it the way i know how, which is from just inside the door, so i gotta get invited in.
    Sorry if that was too long.

  4. a retrograde culture with rotten set of attitudes towards women.

    Like that their fathers own them until their husbands do?

  5. That is part of it. There is also a fair bit of ‘more like the old country than the old country still is.’ some of the manifestations that confront me include a sense of women as consumable and discardable if they don’t fit a narrow ideal of purity and unattainability. Atwood’s Edible Woman metaphor is making a lot more sense to me these days.

  6. My point is that if you recognise that these are unhealthy tropes that do harm to women, why are you making excuses for a man using his public platform to perpetuate them? He’s not the new guy in the neighbourhood, he’s the guy who got in by talking about “change”.
    I refuse to accept that asking the Democratic President of a country that styles itself a world leader not to be sexist is asking too much.

  7. Change. Yeah he promised that, one of the changes he promised was to bomb Pakistan. Obama is really only left wing in relation to the Republicans. Politically I think he would be quite comfy in the Liberal party, tho the yanks don’t do party discipline like we do, so there would be fireworks.
    No nothing unreasonable about that at all, tho for a christian patriarch he is doing a lot better than most. The Obama’s are doing their Christian duty acting as gate-keepers re their daughters, yeah I think it is unhealthy, but I put it in the two smokes a day range, rather than the four packs a day plus raging meth habit that is Rick Santorum.

  8. I think this might be an appropriate point to appropriate Audre Lorde, ‘The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House’.

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