Dad shopping for daughter's undies is deemed a security risk

Men in general are assumed to be depraved until proven otherwise. When it comes to gender discrimination, nobody mentions the rather disconcerting stereotype that men are especially likely to be foul in some way or another, and being a good father, demonstrating the ability to love and nurture children, doesn't allow an escape from this sinister suspicion.

More generally there is the persistent notion that fathers have their place in this world – the office – but when it comes to matters of how their children will be raised, dads are not to intervene. They are incompetent parents at best and potentially dangerous at worst. Mums call the shots, and any deviation from these rules of engagement is punishable in a variety of ways, something I was confronted with one Monday afternoon.

I was shopping in a department store. Given the time and day of the week, the store was relatively lacking in shoppers, and almost all of the ones there, except me, were women. I hadn't really planned to shop. Indeed, single parents rarely have the luxury of planning anything. Rather, what happens is that some unexpected circumstance affords a sudden opportunity to go shopping. In this case it was the cancelation of a 1.30 meeting that gave me a 2 hour window after lunch.

Another thing about being a single parent is that one rarely shops for a specific thing or even category of things. One chains together multiple shopping trips to take advantage of a precious opportunity. In this case, I knew both my kids needed clothes, but it was also time to do some grocery shopping, which meant I would have to swing by the house on the way back to work to put spoilable foods in the frig or freezer. For this same reason, I would have to buy the clothes first. I decided to start with my 3-year old girl.

Now one of the limitations of this approach to shopping is that one doesn't always have a list of needed items when the opportunity to shop arises. You have to rely on memory quite a bit. One thing I remembered from the previous week was having to do a load of laundry because my daughter was running low on undies, and I wasn't sure I would make it through the school week. So girl's undies seemed like a good place to start shopping.

But no sooner had I started then I became aware of a presence. I was being watched. I looked over my shoulder at an approaching security guard who said. "Excuse me, but what are you doing?" "I'm buying clothes for my daughter," I answered, somewhat surprised. "Don't you have a job?" he asked. "Yes, I do!" I responded, this time with some anger in my voice, as I became aware of what was happening and why. "Okay, okay," he replied and moved away.

What I became aware of was that the security guard simply could not imagine a father shopping for his child's clothes. He saw a pervert. If a working mum had been doing the same thing for the same reason, I seriously doubt there would have been any intervention at all. When I told some male colleagues with young children about the episode, one responded that he never shops for his daughter's clothes without a female around for exactly that reason. I was stunned to hear this, and the entire experience triggered a series of questions in my mind.

First, why was I compelled to go shopping for my daughter's clothes on a Monday afternoon in the first place? Would the same thing have happened on a Saturday afternoon, a more plausible part of the week for dads to shop for their little girls' clothes? Why do I have to juggle my responsibilities as a parent and an employee, and what does this say about the assumptions society makes about the "proper" roles and responsibilities of mothers and fathers?

Why can't I buy clothes for my 3-year old girl, or any 3-year old girl for that matter? Why do fathers find it necessary to have women along to make these purchases? Are we incapable of selecting girls' undies, or are we all assumed to be Humbert Humbert in Nabokov's Lolita until we can establish otherwise? Sounds like gender discrimination to me.

32 comments:

  1. As a woman I can sit on a bench at the playground and read a book. I might get a glance or two, wondering which kid is mine. Bet you couldn't do that. It's not fair.

    I was molested by a woman when I was 5. I still have a tendency to fear a man more than a woman.

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  2. There was a recent story in the news in New Zealand, where a father was thought to be a pervert for taking photos of his daughter playing netball.

    Link: http://www.3news.co.nz/Pervert-or-proud-father/tabid/817/articleID/186075/Default.aspx

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  3. Anonymous said...
    get over it

    Fuck you.

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  4. Anonymous said...
    get over it

    Yeah, super fuck you.

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  5. Alex in Toronto, ON CADecember 5, 2010 at 12:33 PM

    You should have approached the manager and complained about the security guards rude questions.
    Who the hell does he think he is, a member of the TSA?

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  6. Sounds like you were thinking about how it looked to be shopping for girl's undies and the security guard came along and confirmed your own inner insecurities. One person doesn't make a society.

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  7. I fully expected certain anonymous posters to trivialize this experience. The argument is basically that female stereotypes have had far more serious negative consequences for women and that women have sufferred these negative consequences for millennia, whereas men have only recently gotten a taste of their own medicine. I tend to agree with both aspects of this argument, but I think it misses a key point.

    Any negative gender stereotype cuts in both directions. Think of the negative aspects of my experience. If men are stereotyped as perverts, or people who should be at the office working on a weekday afternoon, the rather insidious implication is that women should be the ones looking after the children. Can't have perverts doing this, and if dads are supposed to be at the offfice working, then who picks Jimmy up from school at 3? How, exactly, do these kinds of stereotypes help women break through the glass ceiling?

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  8. Charles S. Areni said:...

    While I agree that there are negative stereotypes for both genders, it's not germane to this post. "A man getting followed around by security guards because he's in the toddler undies department" and "a woman not getting followed because she's presumed to be the more responsible, knowledgeable parent" are not equally negative to both genders.

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  9. Feminists will trivial this experience. Even though I may have no daughter. I may end up shopping for girl's underwear just to prove point. I think every father should do this and THEN BLOW THE COCK UP IF YOU ARE WATCHED ETC WITH GLANCES from staff.

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  10. Don't worry. Allah is watching everybody. You should care about His judgement, not others'.

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  11. Allah? For real? Allah doesn't even exist.

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  12. Allah the security guards were watching!

    Seriously though, what store was this? I'd be interested to know.

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  13. Anonymous said...
    Don't worry. Allah is watching everybody. You should care about His judgement, not others'.

    lol

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  14. To the anonymous retards: Whether you believe in Allah or not, the poster has a point: don't let others judge you as long as you are true to yourself. It's the same concept all dignified people across the board.

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  15. To the Allahmynous retards: I wish that were true. But until we can show a picture of Mohammad I don't feel like believing a word out of anyone's mouth who believes in Allah.

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  16. I would not say it is discrimination, The guard saw something out of the ordinary! Yes it is a little backwards but it is hardly the revelation of the century I am afraid.

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  17. Hi, sorry just followed a link to this site, but want ted to sat that I think you were treated horribly. Personally I wouldn’t have looked twice at you, in our house it’s assumed that we each do what ever needs to be done no matter what, clothes shopping, cooking, child care, car maintenance.
    Anyway just wanted to say not everyone thinks like this

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  18. This how I feel every time I take my daughters somewhere without my wife, especially my youngest.

    It is like society can't bring itself to believe that there are fathers that want to do things with their kids and not be the stereotypical 'bread winner' father.

    Or they assume I'm divorced and having my "weekend".

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  19. Read up on men's rights and misandry. You will find the culprit for all this man bashing is feminism. A good place to start would be to read The Misandry Bubble (Google it).

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  20. I think this is just dreadful, Mr Areni, and I see where yiou are coming from entirely. My husband recently was working on his car when a little girl fell over on roller skates in the road. He felt he COULD NOT approach her and see if she was okay, because of possible accusations against him about why he had approached the little girl. he came running into the house yelling for ME to go and see if she was okay.

    None of this does our society (ies) any favours. It is crazy.

    I was largely brought up by my father as my mother worked away alot. I am now 38 years old. Recently at a family reunion, i had an aunt comment that 'they' [the family] always 'expected' something to come out about my father because it 'isn't natural' for a father to bring up a daughter alone.

    I was, and am sickened by those attitudes.

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  21. Father here. I took parental leaves following the births of both my son and daughter. I would bring them to playgroups, swimming, and other activities at a local community centre where there were always many moms with their little ones. I was generally shunned, given dirty looks and was not spoken to by a group moms who regularly engaged my wife when she was about. I was made to feel like a creep for being a man with kids.

    My wife wanted to confront them about it one day and I begged her not to - it would have just make things worse.

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  22. Let feminists know the truth: http://manhood101.com

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  23. Just want to say, this is utterly disgraceful. After the birth of our son, my partner and I decided that I would go back to work when he was six months old, and he would look after him. The number of times he took our son out and remarked later that he hed been the subject of admiration for simply looking after his own son, and going to the shops with him was ridiculous. It seems to be assumed that men cannot have paternal instincts.

    Similarly, he feels uncomfortable at parent and toddler groups as he is the only father there. Why should he feel stigmatised just because he happens to have a different set of genitals to me and the other mothers in the area? Just ridiculous, and utterly indefensible.

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  24. Interestng post J. Hill. I have also experienced the "gee, what a great dad" reaction just for doing the things that mothers do all the time, with hardly any recognition at all (hence the term "invisible work"). Have a look at the post "The Stage Is Set for a Scene". Those are also true stories. Gender stereotypes cut in both directions.

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  25. Please avoid the Men's Rights sites. They have some good points, but a more misogynistic nasty minded bunch you'll never find.

    I'm really sorry you were treated that way. It's ridiculous & for some reason this kind of idiocy seems to focus more on men with daughters.

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    Replies
    1. who else will do something about this kind of things if not Mens rights activists? feminists? please.

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  26. That is appalling. I hope you complained to the manager at the department store.

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  27. Humbert Humbert was a pretty awesome man.

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  28. The other day I was in Walmart in the girls department and there was a man in there asking a random woman shopper how to figure out what size underwear his daughter needed. The woman helped him and he was on his way...

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  29. From an article in the Wall St. Journal.

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703779704576073752925629440.html?mod=WSJ_hp_mostpop_read

    "Last February, a woman followed a man around at a store berating him for clutching a pile of girls' panties. "I can't believe this! You're disgusting. This is a public place, you pervert!" she said—until the guy, who posted about the episode on a website, fished out his ID. He was a clerk restocking the underwear department."

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