Is This Rape Culture?

24 Jun


I’d seen this image pop up a few times on my Facebook feed, but it wasn’t until the super-popular website PostSecret shared it on their page that I really sat up and took notice. Or rather, it wasn’t until someone commented saying that this shirt promoted rape culture, and a friend asked me if I agreed with that statement, that I really gave it much thought beyond the usual oh great, more “hilarious” misogyny.

But you know what? After taking some time to think about it, I realized that I agreed with the PostSecret commenter. This shirt is really pretty gross. This shirt promotes some very problematic ideas about women and how they relate to men. This shirt implies that male violence, both sexual and physical, is the societal norm.

This shirt is rape culture.

Now, I’m not saying that this shirt promotes rape, or is encouraging anyone to go out and commit sexual assault. In fact, at first glance, the shirt’s message is pretty benign, right? I mean, it’s all about a dad protecting his daughter, and even if that idea is badly executed, well, the sentiment behind it is still admirable, isn’t it?

Except that it’s not.

The problem is that the real, underlying sentiment here is that the daughter is a man’s possession, not a person. She’s either her father’s “princess” or her boyfriend’s “conquest.” It’s clear that the daughter’s wants and desires mean nothing to her father – he says that he will dislike anyone that she dates simply because they are dating his daughter. It doesn’t matter whether this boyfriend (since the shirt is operating off the assumption that the daughter is cisgender and heterosexual) is a nice guy, whether he treats the daughter well, or even whether the daughter loves him – the father will still dislike him, based on the simple fact that this teenage boy wants to be physically close to his daughter.

I know what you’re going to say – But he’s not being possessive, he’s just being protective of her! He doesn’t want her to get hurt! That’s a totally natural way to feel!

What do we mean, though, when we talk about the daughter being “hurt” by her boyfriend? Do we mean hurt feelings? That certainly doesn’t seem to be what other people get from this shirt, based on the comments left on PostSecret’s Facebook page:

“He’s just trying to protect his daughter! You must have no idea some of the terrible things that happen to women.”

“It sort of more implies that these people are minors and are under their parent’s care. And being that teenage boys tend to be these creepy-ass horndogs, this is a father’s reaction to that.”

“If you dislike this shirt, you are obviously not a father.”

“I have 2 daughters [and] I agree with Sabria.. as parents we are the first line of defense. Unfortunately we may teach our daughters how to defend themselves, my eldest does, and we may teach them that they are not objects but people, but the problem still exsists where not everyone cares enough about their kids to teach them the right way. So yes jokes like these are stupid but true at the same time. I told my daughter, after finding out a girl in her class was molested, that i would happily kill someone to protect her and her siblings. I am her first line of defense so yes if you hurt my child i will hurt you back with twice as much force. The sentiment in the joke is to protect your child, not to try and objectify them.”

“My dad has never viewed me as his property, but he says stuff like this all the time when my mom prompts him by bringing up the length of my skirt or likewise. I can see how people would take this as implying ownership, but it simply does not. It’s just a dad saying, she’s my baby girl and I will protect her no matter what.”

So it’s pretty obvious that what we’re talking about here isn’t emotional damage, but rather sexual violence. Which brings us to point number ten on the shirt – “Whatever you do to her, I will do to you.” In the light of the comments above and the way that most people seem to interpret this shirt, it’s pretty clear that item ten on this list is a rape joke. The father will rape the boyfriend if he sleeps with the daughter. And that’s where the fact that this shirt is participating in and furthering rape culture becomes especially apparent.

Rape culture is the normalization and trivialization of rape and sexual assault. It’s a culture in which sexual violence is made to be both invisible and inevitable. It’s a culture that teaches us that male sexual violence is both normal and desirable. It also teaches us that men are not able to control their actions when they are aroused.

And that’s what this shirt is really saying, isn’t it? That a teenage boy will, given the chance, commit some kind of sexual violence against his girlfriend, and that the only solution to that violence is more violence, this time on the part of the father. This shirt assumes that the rape (or attempted rape) of the daughter is inevitable, and the only solution is to remove the boyfriend from the scene. This shirt says that the blame (sidebar – why the need for blame?) for any sex had by the teenage couple will be put squarely on the shoulders of the male partner. Why? Because our culture teaches us that men want sex more than women, that they can’t help being physically aggressive when it comes to sex, and finally that all of these toxic messages are just sexual norms and there’s nothing that we can do to combat them beyond matching violence with violence.

Look, I’m sure that the person who created this shirt had some very good, humorous intentions. I’m sure that they didn’t think about the possibility of people interpreting their message as contributing to rape culture. And I’m especially sure that PostSecret shared this on their Facebook page in good faith, figuring that it was something that their readership would enjoy and hopefully get a laugh out of. But the fact that this shirt and its message are so seemingly innocent is really what makes them so dangerous – because that’s how these messages make their way most easily into our cultural consciousness, not through overtly offensive or misogynist material, but through the stuff that seems harmless at face value. If someone shares a terrible rape joke on Facebook, it’s easy to explain why that’s wrong, but something like this requires a somewhat more complex, carefully calibrated approach.

I guess that what I want people to get out of this post is that it’s important to listen when someone says that something is wrong, or offensive, or contributes to rape culture. You don’t ultimately have to agree with them, but it would mean a lot if you could reign in your knee-jerk reaction of it’s just a joke or stop being such a humourless bitch or some people just want to be offended by everything and actually took a moment to try to see what that other person is trying to get at. You might discover that they actually have a point, or you might learn to look at stuff like this from a new angle, but even if you don’t, at least that person will feel as if they’ve been heard. And if they feel that way, then they’re more likely to listen to you, and that’s how dialogue works. And out of dialogue comes change.

And change is good.

66 Responses to “Is This Rape Culture?”

  1. empressnasigoreng June 24, 2013 at 3:47 am #

    I think it is misogynistic and distasteful but wouldn’t call it rape culture (although perhaps on the same continuum).

    • mgpcoe June 24, 2013 at 4:01 am #

      Go reread point ten on the shirt and tell me it isn’t part of rape culture.

      • Peter June 25, 2013 at 2:25 am #

        You don’t understand. That comment is about raping a man – so it does not count.

        God this whole discussion from both sides of the fence makes me want to vomit from an intellectual point of view…

      • Mark April 24, 2014 at 6:01 am #

        Common sense dictates that Point 10 is NOT about rape, since no macho heterosexual man is going to threaten to rape another man. Point 10 could definitely be referring to physical violence though.

        In general, I think you’re over thinking what this t-shirt stands for. What does Point 1 have to do with rape culture?

        This shirt does reflect a certain mindset, which I guess you could call sexist or patriarchal, but it’s not about rape.

        The mindset of the guy wearing this shirt is that most men are not good enough for his daughter. Furthermore, he’s fearful that his daughter will fall for the wrong guy who will end up wronging her, so he feels the need to be intimidating enough to stop that. Why does he have this fear? Well, what’s going on underneath is that the father probably spoiled the daughter growing up, and he secretly realizes that makes her more vulnerable to fall for the wrong guy.

        The father’s concerns are actually perfectly valid. What is sexist though is that we treat our sons differently. Boys are supposed to be able to look after themselves, but girls have to be protected. Boys can just as easily fall for the wrong girl, and I’m sure plenty of parents think that no girl is good enough for their son, but they don’t wear t-shirts saying that because the t-shirts would be ridiculed. A boy who needs to be protected from girls is considered a sissy.

  2. Su Leslie June 24, 2013 at 4:25 am #

    Reblogged this on Shaking the tree and commented:
    I saw this photo on FaceBook too and was disturbed. Here is a thoughtful and considered response to the image.

  3. Su Leslie June 24, 2013 at 4:27 am #

    Reblogged this on Zimmerbitch: age is just a (biggish) number and commented:
    I’ve also seen this photo on FaceBook and felt disturbed by it. Here is a thoughtful, considered and eloquent response from The Belle Jar.

  4. lisajaynecraig June 24, 2013 at 6:05 am #

    Feeling protective isnt just about fathers and daughters as this t-shirt implies and by default limits our thinking to.I also feel passionately protective of my sons and struggle with the suggestions about the nature of young men. No it’s not about rape culture as much as the paternalism that keeps individuals, communities and nations from growing into their unique and strong identities.

    • jennie1ofmany June 24, 2013 at 2:22 pm #

      I feel like there’s a profound difference in the way we as parents express our protective feelings towards our boy children and our protective feelings towards our girl children. Try re-gendering the sentiments on that shirt. They sound super-weird, especially the last three or four.

      We don’t, typically, call our sons our “little prince”s, and expect that to carry the same connotative load as daddy’s “little princess.” If I called my step-son a little prince, people would assume I was saying he was spoilt, high-handed, and arrogant (he isn’t), in a bad way. We don’t, typically, offer to hurt our sons’ dates, or expect that the dates will be the ones trying to get into our sons’ pants. There’s a whole world of agency that we expect of our sons that we don’t assign to daughters, and a whole language of possession (especially with respect to fathers and daughters) that we don’t apply to our sons.

      It’s understandable to feel protective of our kids. It’s even understandable to feel like we would kill or die to save them from harm. That’s not at issue here. What’s at issue is how we gender the expression of these protective feelings, and how the expression of these feelings as applied to daughters perpetuates a whole load of nasty cultural memes of women as chattel, as sexual gatekeepers without their own sexual agency. and of sexual violence as the inevitable outcome of their sexuality.

      • bellejarblog June 25, 2013 at 6:04 pm #

        Yeah I’ve also been wondering about how this shirt would look if the gender was changed. I can’t imagine anyone making up a list of “rules for dating my son.”

        This is perfect:

        “It’s understandable to feel protective of our kids. It’s even understandable to feel like we would kill or die to save them from harm. That’s not at issue here. What’s at issue is how we gender the expression of these protective feelings, and how the expression of these feelings as applied to daughters perpetuates a whole load of nasty cultural memes of women as chattel, as sexual gatekeepers without their own sexual agency. and of sexual violence as the inevitable outcome of their sexuality.”

  5. Kylie June 24, 2013 at 6:36 am #

    Really good post!
    I completely agree–the basic assumption is that men are violent predators. There’s an implication that this dad knows what the boyfriend will try because they’re cut from the same cloth (“I don’t mind going back to jail.”). It’s creepy.

    • bellejarblog June 25, 2013 at 6:11 pm #

      Totally creepy! And yeah, the normalization of male violence is pretty gross. Like, feminists are accused all the time of declaring that all men are rapists, but isn’t that basically what this shirt is saying?

      • Kylie June 25, 2013 at 6:53 pm #

        Yep–it is.
        I sometimes think some men are homophobic because deep down they are afraid that gay men will treat them or think about them in the same way they treat/think about women: violent and predatory.

  6. Julie June 24, 2013 at 9:22 am #

    AGREED! I had a lot of these thoughts when I saw this on fb too, but definitely never took the time to think of them as in-depth and eloquently as you. I think it’s also very telling when you think about the fact that you would never see a shirt like this on a mother about her son’s girlfriends. . . This just does a lot of feed into the perpetuation of violence and “benevolent” sexism :/ (girl in danger, man protect girl.)

  7. scotsman June 24, 2013 at 1:20 pm #

    I read the first bit of the post and was SOOOOO ready to disagree!

    Then I read the rest, and I don’t. It’s good to have assumptions challenged, and this one shirt had a TON of built-in assumptions! Thanks for a new point of view! I needed it.

    Scott Davis

  8. Ashley Austrew June 24, 2013 at 1:48 pm #

    I’ve seen similar things around, especially because I have a daughter (people always email me stuff like this like, haha isn’t it hilarious?). It always seemed sort of dumb to me, but I never thought about it in this way before. Looking at it in this light, I absolutely agree. It’s really pretty disturbing. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and opening my mind.

  9. ceruleanstarshine June 24, 2013 at 2:19 pm #

    I could just be playing devils advocate here–because I personally disagree with many of the shirts numerical “joking” statements, but as far as #10 goes, it could also be taken in the other direction. Yes, it could mean do somethind bad to my daughter and I’ll do something bad to you.

    However, it could also mean if they treat his daugther well, with respect, he will treat them the same way. I know that is a niave optimistic point of view, given todays societal issues, but I chose to interpret it that way, instead.

    That said I’d be pissed if my Dad wore this shirt, or my husband. Women aren’t property, and can damn well defend themselves, they don’t need someone to do it for them because they are helpless, shrinking damsels in distress. Then again, when I saw it on FB and Post Secret, I wrote it off as just another crass, obnoxious T-shirt…there are *many* out there and this one isn’t as bad as some I’ve seen. When did vulgarity become funny anyway?

    • Matt June 24, 2013 at 4:55 pm #

      Given the context of the rest of the shirt (particularly “get a lawyer” and “I don’t mind going back to jail”), I have a hard time seeing it as anything other than an implicit rape threat.

      • ceruleanstarshine June 24, 2013 at 5:16 pm #

        I agree with that. I was merely pointing out it could be taken innocently, but not in context of the shirt.

        Personally, I wish writing was banned from t-shirts because far more often, it tells me more about the person than I want to know.

  10. Amy June 24, 2013 at 2:33 pm #

    Thanks for posting about this. I have seen this and many iterations of it for a couple of years now. I always feel so uncomfortable when I see it. My dad would sometimes make jokes like that when I was young and beginning to date, and I wish I’d had the words to tell him how awful and not at all protected it made me feel. I agree that the intentions may be good, but it’s doing so much harm to both women and men.

  11. Kayleigh June 24, 2013 at 3:56 pm #

    You didn’t decide that it was rape culture until someone else said it first. That makes your point 100% moot to me.

    • Mememe June 24, 2013 at 4:57 pm #

      That makes absolutely no sense! This isn’t Hipster Opinion #356 or something like that! Just because someone else said it first doesn’t mean that her opinion is invalid. It actually probably makes it more valid because someone else agrees with her and is giving this idea validity!

  12. mandaray June 24, 2013 at 4:06 pm #

    I disliked that shirt the moment I saw it. As someone who’s been on the other side of a father’s “protectiveness” when it comes to dating, I can tell you it does feel a lot like possessiveness. When nothing you say or do is listened to, or changes the behavior of the father-figure, it’s so…dehumanizing. It makes you feel helpless, and in my case, made me feel reduced to my sexual organs. All because my father can’t handle the thought that maybe I’M the one who wants to be sexual; maybe I’M the one in “charge” of the relationship. It made me feel like I was never strong, never capable of standing up for or protecting myself–I had to rely on others to do it for me. And of course, you can’t say any of that, because you’ll get hit with the old chestnut of “Well, he just wants to protect his baby girl.” and then you feel guilty for supposedly throwing your father’s love and affection back in his face.

    Oh, and as a sidebar, the effect this cultural norm had on my boyfriends was always that they were constantly TERRIFIED of pissing off my parents, particularly my father, because of experiences they’d had in the past. One boy I dated was just positive one day my parents would figure out we were having sex and that my father would come shoot him. Seeing as how we lived with my parents, an arrangement which we ALL agreed to, I still don’t quite understand how he reached that conclusion. In fact he was so scared of it, he insisted that I whisper whenever we’d talk about anything even remotely sexual, out of fear that they’d hear us passing by our (closed) door. So I faced being powerless and silenced on two fronts, not just one.

  13. Trombone June 24, 2013 at 4:09 pm #

    I’m an ardent feminist but I interpret it as a symbol of reclaiming power and asserting masculinity, via manly ideals, but I do not see it as explicitly rape culture. A father feels responsible for his child, but cannot dictate their actions, and something like this is a vocalization of the response which is felt through this process.

    I imagine that a father who wears it does not/does not want to imagine his daughter in any sexually explicit context, and that the reprimands inferred are emotional hurt – i.e., you’re a douche to my daughter, I will hurt you. You cheat on her, I’ll make you regret it.

    It could also be argued that such as T-shirt is a response to t-shirts with things such as “Federal Boobie Inspector” or “Barmaid needed: to give good head essential” etc.

    Really, it’s a crap T-Shirt, and reflects tensions and difficulties in society. Misogyny and domestic violence is rampant in society – a caring father is essential in thwarting problems, even if he does express himself through a terrible tshirt.

  14. Amy R June 24, 2013 at 4:11 pm #

    I haven’t quite decided if I agree with everything you say here, although I do agree with a lot and think it’s a well written argument. What I can say is that when I first saw that photo I felt really uncomfortable with point number 10. I couldn’t even articulate it at the time, I just didn’t like what it implied. This post, and the ‘discussion’ on PostSecret has definitely given me something to think about

  15. Keely June 24, 2013 at 4:20 pm #

    This was a really interesting read. I’d seen this image before on facebook but I just couldn’t put my finger on what creeped me out about it.
    The only complaint I have about this post is the part that reads “…the daughter is cisgendered…” The correct terminology is “cisgender” and “transgender” without the “-ed.” The suffix makes it seem like gender identity is something that HAPPENS (like, “I became cisgendered,”) rather than an integral part of one’s identity (“I am cisgender”). Just a more polite and sensitive way to address this, since gender identity is a triggering subject for some people. Other than that, this was spot on. Thank you for your commentary!

    • bellejarblog June 24, 2013 at 4:30 pm #

      Oh! Good point! I will fix that right now 🙂

  16. Abbi June 24, 2013 at 4:21 pm #

    I understand that the shirt is a bit ridiculous, especially the last 2 points. However, saying that a father who wants to protect his daughter (whether from sexual assault or even the emotional damage that can come from becoming sexual active too early) is like treating her as his “property” is also ridiculous. My father was a very loving and caring man, encouraged me to wait to become sexually active, and expected that my teenage boyfriends respect that. I never once felt “possessed,” but very thankful that someone in my life was looking out for me.

  17. lysana June 24, 2013 at 4:24 pm #

    I would like to comment on your analysis overall, but some mistakes you made knocked me right out of the text. Your commentary contains a few assumptions of its own that perform several acts of erasure. “Cisgendered and heterosexual” erases multisexual identities (bi, pan, omni) as well as asexuality (a lot of asexuals go out on dates, too). You also erase trans women by assuming a father would only say this about a cisgender (note the correct spelling) daughter. Since you feel comfortable calling out others, I trust you will take this in the same spirit. Have a good day.

  18. Brianne June 24, 2013 at 4:52 pm #

    I’m a 25 year old woman, and I still fail to see how this shirt promotes rape culture. It’s a funny shirt, and it plays on the whole “if you make her cry, I’ll make you cry”, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I mean, for Chist’s sake, it’s a t-shirt that dads with young(er) daughters enjoy.

    At the risk of people attacked and degraded; I think, in this scenario, the only thing that is promoting rape culture is all the women “disgusted” because of a goddamn t-shirt. Loosen up, and see the humor. The only people that see this shirt as a bad thing are humorless feminists.

    • izzy82 June 26, 2013 at 2:03 am #

      Why does it bother you so much that people don’t like this shirt? And did you not read the last part? She told you that you can disagree, but asked that you not do one thing, but you did that exactly. In case you did not, here it is-

      “I guess that what I want people to get out of this post is that it’s important to listen when someone says that something is wrong, or offensive, or contributes to rape culture. You don’t ultimately have to agree with them, but it would mean a lot if you could reign in your knee-jerk reaction of it’s just a joke or stop being such a humourless bitch or some people just want to be offended by everything and actually took a moment to try to see what that other person is trying to get at. You might discover that they actually have a point, or you might learn to look at stuff like this from a new angle, but even if you don’t, at least that person will feel as if they’ve been heard. And if they feel that way, then they’re more likely to listen to you, and that’s how dialogue works. And out of dialogue comes change.

      And change is good.”

  19. Jennifer Dutcher June 24, 2013 at 4:55 pm #

    Bravo to Bellejar for writing it and bravo to scotsman for getting it.

  20. Abbi June 24, 2013 at 4:59 pm #

    Okay, I commented a bit ago, but ended up feeling so strongly about one thing that I wrote a blog about it.

  21. Kougie June 24, 2013 at 5:02 pm #

    It’s articles like this that make me hate humanity. Way to read so far into it that you feel the need to post a nicely-written piece of idiocy. This shirt is not specifically pointing at rape. It does not “promote” anything – at most, it brings attention to a society in which men tend to abuse women; I can take the last item easily to mean “If you punch her, I’ll punch you.” You don’t have to jump the fucking gun and yell “RAPE!! OWNERSHIP! OMG!” the second a man takes an aggressive approach to protecting his daughter in an aggressive world. I’m sure the men who would wear it are mostly targeting asshole guys who look like they might try something stupid. I’m not saying they won’t be suspicious of “nice guys” anyway, but you are making far too many assumptions to sound intelligent. I can see my own dad wearing this shirt; he’s fiercely defensive when it comes to my sister and me in the “dating” world, but, HOLY CRAP, he’s actually fond of my sister’s boyfriend. I’m actually upset at this sort of hypersensitive stupidity. Stop flattering yourself. Yeah, change is good – but not by relating everything remotely distasteful to rape just to get your point across. If this was an article about violence in general between men and women in society, it might be a little more credible, but, like always, someone has to take something just a bit too far.

  22. King June 24, 2013 at 6:19 pm #

    How the hell did you twist this into misogyny? The shirt is disturbing, but in no way does it send a misogynistic message. What if a mother wore a shirt like that, would you say anything? There isn’t anything wrong with a parent protecting their child, but they can take it too far, which is what the shirt suggests. But I don’t see how you can twist the message into something it isn’t.

    You want to do some actual good towards your gender? Call out the rampant double standards that men have to face regularly. We’re as much a victim to gender inequality as you are.

    • bellejarblog June 24, 2013 at 8:29 pm #

      I have yet to see this shirt designed for a woman, and I especially have yet to see a “rules for dating my son” shirt.

      And I did call out some of the ways that strict gender roles hurt men? In this specific post? Like when I explained that this t-shirt is basically saying that all teenage boys are rapists? You did actually read what I wrote, right? Ok just checking.

  23. franklinveaux June 24, 2013 at 6:25 pm #

    I take this shirt two ways.

    First: Yes, it absolutely is rape culture, for exactly the reasons outlined here.

    Second, and more personal: If I were considering dating someone whose father wore this shirt, I might see it as a yellow flag, a reason to evaluate carefully whether this was a good person for me to date.

    Not because of the threats if violence, or the heavy-handed paternalism, or even the tacit belief that I was a threat. Rather, because the sort of man who considers this shirt funny enough to wear is likely the sort of man who has raised his children in an environment of rape culture, patriarchy, sex-negativity, and people-as-property ideals. Those messages are powerful, and have a way of seeping into us even if we consciously reject them. They’re also not the traits I personally want in a romantic partner.

  24. lolmisoginy June 24, 2013 at 7:34 pm #

    The only TRUE rape culture is what happens to men when they are imprisoned. Not this fake, point and look at something that offends your sensibilities, soft ass shit you idiots are gawking at. White women are the golden calf of the world and can do no wrong yet still find new shit to complain about. If it wasn’t for their bullshit and all the simping idiots feeding into it we would already be colonizing Mars right about now. Even religion started out with us getting fucked over by women, isn’t that right Eve?

    • bellejarblog June 24, 2013 at 8:28 pm #

      I guess a lifetime of being oppressed by women has left you unable to spell “misogyny,” eh?

      Also, you do realize that the rape joke that I pointed out was of the male-on-male rape variety? Just checking.

  25. earthedangel June 24, 2013 at 8:22 pm #

    The thing that jumps out to me about the comments (from PostSecret, oh and also the comment immediately above mine) is that they’re talking about *protecting* their daughters, but every example given is about taking vengeance AFTER something terrible (presuming it actually is terrible, and isn’t consensual sex). That isn’t protection! It also assumes that’s what the daughter would want. If these fathers aren’t acting from a place of ownership, then if the daughter doesn’t want the boy hurt (or her father in jail), he should respect that. ALSO, how about the adult father act like a fucking adult in the face of the actions of a minor? If he isn’t acting from a place of ownership, that should be a clear path. If it was clearly a crime (assault, rape, etc), the way responsible adults handle that is to call the police. If it was consensual sex, the way responsible adults handle that is to make sure the daughter knows that her worth isn’t tied to the sexual acts she chooses, and that she is using adequate protection. If it’s something in-between (coerced sex*, e.g.), the way responsible adults handle that is to support their daughter with what she needs while looking out for her physical and emotional well-being, and perhaps having a discussion with the young man and/or his parents.
    Use your words, not your hands, to deal with your feelings! We tell that to toddlers, for crying out loud…maybe we could expect that of grown fathers? Sheesh.

    *just want to say that I believe we need to get rid of no-means-no consent expectations, and replace it with only-an-enthusastic-and-informed-YES-means-yes. That would get rid of a lot of that inbetween crap, or at least make it clear that what happened was rape.

    • earthedangel June 24, 2013 at 9:00 pm #

      Er, I guess there was a lag between my reading the article and comments and when I actually posted. So the comment in this thread I was referring to was NOT lolmisoginy’s [ha ha, you suck at spelling and are a terrible human being!], but in fact Kougie’s, a few comments above mine. 🙂

    • Cc June 25, 2013 at 5:57 am #

      I’m sorry, but I was sexually assaulted and the police didn’t do anything. It was incredibly comforting to know that my dad was by my side and if that son of bitch came around that my dad wouldn’t have blinked to cause him the same amount of pain he caused me. It was the same way when I was first dumped as teenager. I am his princess and if it wasn’t for his “encouragement” of rape culture (because he claims me as his “property”), I wouldn’t be where I am today. He stood by me and would have beaten the guy(s) that hurt me. Say what you will about this man not acting like an adult, but if anyone were to hurt your child in anyway, you would want to cause them the exact same pain.

      • earthedangel June 25, 2013 at 7:14 pm #

        I’m so sorry that happened to you and that you didn’t get help from the people who should have helped you. It sounds like your father was a great source of comfort during that difficult time, and still today.
        However, what he was doing was not *protecting* you from the original assault. He was (arguably…was he with you every moment like a bodyguard?) protecting you from further violence, and/or was willing to exact vengeance upon the person who assaulted you. From this and your other comment, I see that you also equate protection with vengeance. My point was that these are not the same thing, and you haven’t addressed that at all.
        Furthermore, a parent’s job is not to protect their child from all pain; it’s understandable that we try to – no one wants to see someone they love in pain – but that shouldn’t be a parent’s goal. A parent’s job is to teach their child how to cope with the pain they experience, and how to learn from pain experienced by them or others. A parent’s job is to raise a valuable member of society, which includes understanding consequences for actions, and having empathy, and being aware of the relationship between risk and reward. All of those things require an experience of pain, sadly. If I want my rambunctious son to learn that he needs to take care when he’s careening around the house, I can try to tell him, to explain to him, why that’s important, but until he gets an ouchie from it, he’s not likely to understand it. I could bubblewrap my house, but then when he gets behind the wheel of a car and crashes it because he doesn’t understand the concept of taking care when moving, that’s MY failure as a parent. (This is not to say parents should “let” their daughters or sons get sexually assaulted, obviously, but attempting to scare off every romantic interest for fear of pain is absolutely counter-productive to raising an adult that can function in the world.)

  26. Heather ONeill June 24, 2013 at 8:51 pm #

    seriously – some days you are my favorite. Thank you so much for calling this out.

  27. iRuniBreathe June 24, 2013 at 9:28 pm #

    When I read/skimmed through the first 3-4 points on this shirt it didn’t seem very funny to me. To me it sounded wrapped in a thin veil of humour that helps rationalize our acceptance of something disturbing to make it seem acceptable. Thanks for this post — it forced me to read the whole list and helped me see how we “convince” each other of rape culture.

  28. Lady Phoenix June 24, 2013 at 10:29 pm #

    I think the most concerning thing about this is that “Rape Culture” is even a thing. At what point did society turn? It’s as though the more awareness that is raised about these kinds of assaults, the more “accepted” it becomes in society as a normal behaviour.

    That shirt did pop up in my news feed and I am the daughter of a father who would undoubtedly say things like that in his gruff way of showing his protectiveness of me. But I can’t help feel like the fact that we have labelled this societal behaviour as “Rape Culture” the more we have enabled society to accept it as normal.

    I am not saying there isn’t a problem, there is, I just wonder if naming it hasn’t also enabled it further.

  29. Sin City Siren June 24, 2013 at 11:31 pm #

    Reblogged this on The Sin City Siren.

  30. Cc June 25, 2013 at 5:45 am #

    I’m sorry if people feel offend by a shirt, but if you can’t see the humor or the love this man obviously has for his daughter, you need to open your eyes. Yes. I can understand how this could be considered rape culture, but if you go and buy a skippy little bikini, you are also feeding into rape culture by buying articles of clothing that were intentionally designed to itemize women. This includes things like make up, high heals, skirts, etc. I understand that, yes, some are offended by the message this shirt gives saying how his daughter is his property. However, no matter how awful you think that is, every dad has the absolute right to protect his daughter for any sort of pain. Whether it be physical or emotional and this shirt can be taken either way. That is HIS daughter, he helped CREATE her and bring her LIFE. Who are you to criticize how this man shows his love for his daughter? And how dare you turn something so innocent, as a shirt, and blow completely out of proportion? You are no better than the people who will criticize an innocent children’s TV shows/book because they think it’ll turn their kids will turn into Satan or something. It’s a shirt, get over it and move on with life, if you don’t like the message you think it displays, than I have an easy solution for it, DON’T BUY IT AND LOOK AWAY!

  31. dandelion June 25, 2013 at 10:37 am #

    Thank you. I found this shirt totally offensive. If anyone believes that a 17 y.o. woman is a “baby” or a “princess”, he’s deluded.
    Train your children to protect themselves, to find a public place when they are frightened (stuff happens in private, less in public), and to understand that no means no. And teach children the tools to solve problems with words, not fists.
    And teach that sex is not rape and rape is not sex. Rape is a violent act meant to hurt. Just like hitting with fists.
    Yes, the rape fantasy is a dream of being overpowered- and the resolution to that is knowing how to save oneself. How to take action.
    I’m so tired of living in a world that is presumed unsafe. Please.

    • Candi June 25, 2013 at 7:21 pm #

      I understand the last two points on the shirt are leaning towards a rape joke, but in reading the comments, it seems as though most people are reading the whole shirt as a fearful commentary on sexual assault by a boyfriend.
      I read it as a father not wanting a teenage boy to pressure his teenage daughter to become sexually active too early. Isn’t it a father’s place to say “if you’re not ready yet, don’t”?

      • earthedangel June 25, 2013 at 11:54 pm #

        Except that’s not what’s happening. This entire list has nothing to do with the daughter; it is addressed entirely to the boy in this situation. And that (“if you’re not ready yet, don’t”) is a great message for BOTH kids, but he’s not even saying that. He’s saying “don’t have sex with my daughter” irrespective of the readiness of either of them. You’re right that the whole shirt doesn’t advocate rape culture, but the whole shirt definitely DOES convey very sexist notions.
        – Young women aren’t sexual of their own volition / Young men are basically dicks on legs
        – Young women are only defined by their relations (MY princess / YOUR conquest; why not “She’s not your conquest, she’s her own person”?)
        – Young women aren’t good enough judges of who they date; they need their father to scare their boyfriends/dates “straight”
        – Men are responsible for providing financially for women (“Get a job.”), even during the tender teen years.
        And all of that is BEFORE the inferences to rape. That’s the shit cherry on this poop sundae, but without it it would still be terrible.

      • Candi June 26, 2013 at 12:00 am #

        I think we’re forgetting that this shirt is (probably) aimed towards teenagers, in general. So despite a readiness physically, how ready are they, REALLY, to have an emotionally healthy sexual relationship? A father wanting to protect his daughter (or son) from possible emotional damage from becoming sexually active too soon is, in my mind, doing the right kind of parenting. (The t-shirt obviously is not).

  32. Heather June 26, 2013 at 1:03 pm #

    I agree that this shirt is portraying/enforcing rape culture because it is meant to allow us to think that all men want to hurt or rape women when that is simply not true. Also, I think that is portraying emotional abuse on the daughter in question.

  33. Smash June 26, 2013 at 5:16 pm #

    Well said! Things like this shirt are clearly very divisive, and we’re all going to formulate our own opinions. But the second we stop trying to consider what others are saying, searching for validity/reason in their views, then the dialogue is closed. If you feel so inclined to voice an opinion, then you should try to be receptive to the opinions of others as well.
    A very good read! I’m looking forward to more thought-provoking pieces from you 🙂

  34. Miriam Axel-Lute June 28, 2013 at 4:55 pm #

    I totally agree. I wrote something similar after seeing other, shortly shirts with the same messages go by.

  35. estherbjornson June 29, 2013 at 9:33 pm #

    Reblogged this on Box? What's a Box?.

  36. Sheila June 30, 2013 at 3:04 pm #

    Esther thanks for addressing this. I so think this t-shirts message promotes rape culture. it promotes rape culture with the implication that the man owns his daughter and his position isabout being in competition with some young buck that might misuse or abuse her and so intimidating him with threats. There is no mention of love, care, respect, or the daughter’ freedoms to make her own choices. It seems to be more about establishing hierarchy between two men.
    This shirt is a complete turn off. It screams POWER & CONTROL which is what rape is all about.

  37. eatshoploveblog July 2, 2013 at 1:44 am #

    What happened to good old fashioned talks between a father and daugheter’s boyfriend?. This shirt perpetuates a ‘type’…or insinuates that men ‘will’ do something bad? I dislike this type of messaging.

  38. Icarus July 15, 2013 at 4:06 pm #

    This shit is ridiculous. ‘Rape culture’? Is that even a valid term?

    This man loves his daughter probably more in his entire life. His paternal instinct, while overzealous, is merely indicative of how much he cares about the well-being of his daughter.

    Now there are people spinning this as some kind of gender oppression? What the fuck?

    • linddykal March 5, 2014 at 10:42 pm #

      Rape culture does not mean rape. It means a culture where the pressure is on the woman to not get raped instead of on the man to not rape.

      The reason (some) women don’t like this shirt, (or similar sentiments) is that a man is acting like his daughter’s body is his to police, to control. He would never have a shirt like this about his son.

      Yes, it’s just a shirt. But it’s a speck in what feels a never ending sea of men trying to control and dominate women. And we’re just tired. We’re just so, so tired…


  1. Monday feminist roundup (24th June 2013) | - June 24, 2013

    […] – The bellejar has a piece on that horrible T-Shirt that is doing the rounds on facebook etc. (The “She’s my princess” daddy, one). It’s gross, patriarchal bullshit. The bellejar discusses how it feeds into rape culture. […]

  2. Unintended Messages | ORGANIZING CREATIVITY - June 25, 2013

    […] Is This Rape Culture? | The Belle Jar […]

  3. Maybe My Snips-and-Snails Doesn’t Want to Date Your Sugar-and-Spice | Brenna Layne - June 26, 2013

    […] There is so, so much wrong with this that I don’t know where to begin, but there’s a photo of the ugliness and an excellent and articulate post on this subject at The Belle Jar. […]

  4. Feminists: Calling Your Daughter ‘Princess’ Supports the ‘Rape Culture’ | Cultural Marxism - August 20, 2015

    […] For The Love Of God, STOP Calling Your Daughter A “Princess”, Your Tango,  July 27 2015 [3] Is this Rape Culture?,, June 24 […]

  5. The Latest Feminist Lunacy Has Arrived: Calling Your Daughter ‘Princess’ Supports the ‘Rape Culture’ | Cultural Marxism - August 20, 2015

    […] For The Love Of God, STOP Calling Your Daughter A “Princess”, Your Tango,  July 27 2015 [3] Is this Rape Culture?,, June 24 […]

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