We’ve all heard the phrase “daddy issues.” Though it’s hard to come up with a specific definition, it’s often thrown around to explain associations, behaviors, or preferences a woman has — usually relating to romantic relationships or sex — as a result of a bad relationship with her father. But like most stereotypes and tropes, it’s problematic and needs to end.
“For the record, I don’t believe in the term ‘daddy issues,’” Amy Rollo, triple licensed psychotherapist and owner of Heights Family Counseling in Houston, Texas, told Healthline. “Many see this phrase as a way to minimize females’ attachment needs.”
To be clear, no one is saying that a toxic, abusive, or neglectful parent doesn’t cause trauma to a person. The problem is with the term and the way it’s used, not with the idea that toxic men can have long-lasting impacts on their children. Here’s why the term is sexist and problematic.
The phrase deflects blame away from the toxic (or downright abusive) men and onto the women they traumatize.
The outdated trope blames girls for how someone else (i.e. presumably their dad) mistreated or abandoned them when they were children and then also blames them for the abuse and mistreatment they might endure later on as women. The cycle of victim-blaming never ends.
As one commenter with a IG handle of @blumeani said, “I’d like to re-appropriate them as ‘daddy’s issues.’” Slow clap and amen to that.
The phrase assumes that stereotypical “daddy issue” behaviors are “wrong.”
The phrase assumes that if a female behaves a certain way — maybe she jumps from relationship to relationship, or she dresses a certain way, or she has too much sex or flirts too hard — that these behaviors or challenges are a problem. They might be, but not necessarily. Women like sex. Some women like to show their bodies and have sex with lots of guys and prefer to remain emotionally unattached. And that’s not necessarily a problem (assuming consent, of course). We need to stop dictating what is considered appropriate when it comes to women’s sexuality or a person’s relationship needs.
Toxic masculinity and harmful men traumatize all children, not just little girls.
Girls and women aren’t the only ones hurt by toxic masculinity and harmful men; all children are messed up by emotionally absent or abusive fathers. Yet with the “daddy issues” phrase, the focus remains on the ways women might be impacted. The term also reeks of heteronormativity.
It’s used inappropriately and incorrectly.
When used as a criticism of women who seek out and expect attachment and affection in a relationship, this idea can be used to gaslight a woman into thinking that she is expecting too much and something is wrong with her. Clinical psychologist Erika Groban, PhD told Elite Daily, the term “daddy issues” merely serves as “a catch all term used to describe women that men view as needy and wounded.” For the record, there is nothing wrong with wanting attachment and affection.
The term trivializes the very legit and far-reaching trauma that can be caused by abusive, neglectful, or dangerous male parental figures.
It ultimately dismisses what might be a legit and complex trauma into a corny trope — at a woman’s expense, no less. We need to take childhood trauma seriously, not reduce it to some ridiculous cliché.
Bottom line: harmful men and toxic masculinity are just that — harmful and toxic. These men cause generations of pain and trauma, not just to girls, but to all children. It is the failings of neglectful, harmful and dangerous men that must be called out, not the stereotypical behaviors caused by the trauma they induced.