A video of Jesse Parent performing at a poetry slam is being passed around this week. In the clip, the tattooed, scowling writer recites, "To the boys who may one day date my daughter: I have been waiting for you. Since before her birth, since before my spark* took hold and ignited the fire in her mother's belly, I have been training to kill you."
It's a humorous, passionate rant of a poem; Parent insists that potential dates "only approach me with love for my daughter." He claims "there will be no daddy issues for your teenage talons" and declares, "if you break her heart, I will hear it snap." Sweet, right? Cute.
But while there's no doubt that Parent is speaking from the heart and it's his story to tell, it does feel a little like pandering. People love the protective father routine, and we've heard it from dads like Bill Cosby and Louis C.K. And as the crowd laughs and applauds him for being threatening (he's got a toy cap gun prop), it's hard not to feel like there's a bit of agency robbed of the daughter, and an old, very familiar narrative playing out: The patriarch shielding the woman from the world. In its extreme, the idea that women are delicate flowers in need of defending and safeguarding is how we end up with stuff like purity balls and burqas. Women are humans, and emotional injuries, like getting hurt and having your heart broken, are part of normal human development. Parent does acknowledge his daughter's strength — "You can't make fire feel afraid" — but wouldn't you love to hear the other side of this? "To the Boys Who Want to Date Me But Are Intimidated Because My Dad Is So Aggro: Please Try Anyway, We Don't Have to Be in Love, I Just Want to Freaking Make Out."
*corrected from earlier version of this post, which read "spunk"