American culture grows more crass by the day. Nobody even blinks any more when a Miami radio station changes its call letters to WFCUK.
The most successful American TV show is “The Apprentice,” starring Donald Trump – a man loaded with money, but bankrupt of class. The highlight of the show is when Trump humiliates potential employees by barking at them “You’re fired.” One can only grieve over a culture which promotes a coarse womanizer, who dumps wives in favor of young models, as its very symbol of professional success.
Indeed, watching people be humiliated is big business on American television. Shows like “American Idol” feature judges like Simon Cowell – known as Mr. Nasty – who shoot the middle finger at contestants they don’t like. Public degradation has become as American as apple pie with programs like “Fear Factor” garnering huge ratings by having participants eat bugs and swim with feces.
But perhaps the most disturbing examples of the culture of crassness is the growing trend of famous young women going through the rite of passage known as the nearly naked photo spread. Such recent graduates of the you-may-think-I-have-a-brain-but-let’s-instead-focus-on-my-bust school of celebrity include Scarlet Johanssen, who acted superbly in “Lost in Translation,” and which made her famous enough to qualify for a cleavage-bearing photo op.
Janet Jackson joined the club when she decided to have us all forget about her dancing and focus instead on her nipples, while Britney Spears is, of course, the club’s founding member.
The reduction of talented and intelligent women to two breasts and a vagina has reached its apogee with the “Girls Gone Wild” videos, in which tens of thousands of college girls, often on spring break, flash for the camera – their sole remuneration being a feeling of deep satisfaction that they have played their God-given role as entertainment for lecherous men.
Why have millions of young American women abandoned the feminist dream of being taken seriously by men and instead decided to gain male attention with degrading spectacles of their bodies? I am convinced the principal cause is an increasingly weak link between fathers and daughters.
In our society, we have it all backward. Too much is made of the father-son relationship at the expense of the father-daughter one. The image of a boy being taught by his dad to catch a baseball or throw a football is commonplace, while the only mainstream image of a father interacting with his teenage daughter is telling her not to come home too late when she goes out with her boyfriend.
Pop tarts like Britney Spears and Paris Hilton – who use nudity to advance their careers – are often close to their mothers, who may even serve as their managers, while their dads are nowhere to be seen.
Where you do read about a father’s central involvement in his daughter’s career, it usually leads to respectable women like Steffi Graff and the Williams sisters, all of whom resisted the offers for provocative photo spreads even after they became famous as tennis stars.
This is not because mothers don’t love their daughters, but because men are much more successful at protecting their daughters from other men. And when a daughter receives strong masculine validation from a loving and caring father, she is usually not desperate for sexual attention from manipulative and hormonal men.
Recently the New York Times ran a front-page story of a 15-year-old girl who refused to have sex with her 16-year-old boyfriend. He promptly cheated on her. When the girlfriend found out, she told her boyfriend they should both cut class and go and have sex. She did so, she said, “in order to keep him.” When I read this story, I wondered: Where was this girl’s father? Had her father been a strong male presence in her life, she would not have been so desperate for the affection of a scoundrel.
Even when I go to a Yankees game, I take my five daughters along with my older son True. They often don’t know the names of the players or even the score! But they know their father loves them and hates being separated from them. There is a special connection that daughters have with their fathers that even a mother cannot replicate, and which grants young women a startling immunity from compromising themselves with jerks.
Indeed, when a daughter is close to her father and respects him as a man and a dad, she begins to judge other men by that same high standard. When she dates men, she will not judge them by their smooth tongue, but by the depth of their commitment, because her own father was not a talker, but a doer.
She will not jump into bed with a man who has not married her in order to please him. She has high self esteem – and she expects the men in her life to make an effort to please her rather than the reverse. Her idea of a relationship is not coming down to the guy’s level, but raising him up to hers.
This is why it’s so important for a father to remain the most important man in his daughter’s life until she is 20, at the very least. I always lament witnessing the decentralization of the homes of my friends whose young teenage daughters are always out, either with girlfriends or boyfriends. My daughters will not date until they are of marriageable age – in our communities, from about age 19 and on. Up until that time, my own love for them will be that which sustains their need for male attention.
They will not be forced at too early an age to worry whether they’re pretty enough, smart enough, sexy enough or attractive enough. To their father, they are just perfect. And they will internalize that message in their most vulnerable years so that they can grow into confident and robust adults who attract men out of strength rather than weakness.
As for the criticisms that too close a relationship with your daughter will impede her ability to later form close connections with romantic partners, exactly the opposite is true. A young woman with an involved and loving father receives the confidence in herself to sever the umbilical chord from her father and begin a loving relationship with a man precisely because she has learned to trust men.
She has no fear being vulnerable – a prerequisite for romantic love – because her father has shown her an example of a man who can be trusted and relied upon. But if she feels betrayed by her own father, she will often run to another man more to escape pain than to find love, which is what usually makes her a prime candidate for that revealing photo spread.