If you were on the internet at all last week, you couldn’t help but see this story, about a dad who “taught his daughter a lesson” by going out to dinner in short-shorts, aka. Daisy Dukes.
My first reaction, like most people’s, was to laugh. It’s a funny way for a dad to fuss about his daughters’ outfit, sort of a middle-aged dad protest. But the more I read those stories, and how the father was being praised, and about the “appropriateness” of the short-shorts, I stopped laughing. And I’m not sure I get it now.
Before I say anything else, let me be clear that I think this parent can make whatever rules he wants (provided no one is actually being harmed, of course) and that a little teenaged humiliation is just par for the course in a family. I will also say that I never owned very short shorts, first because my parents only bought shorts that were school-approved (aka embarrassingly long) and later because I felt to self-conscious to buy them myself. So I speak from indirect experience of the short-short phenomenon.
Anyway, back to the case in question. A dad disagreed with his teenaged daughters’ choice of pantaloons and showed his displeasure (after she refused to change) by cutting a pair of old jeans to make his own short-shorts, which he then wore out to the family dinner.
The caption on the NY Post version of the story is: “Scott Mackintosh struts his stuff to teach his stubborn daughter an unforgettable lesson.”
But… what, exactly, is the “unforgettable lesson”? Is it that if you do something dad disagrees with, he’ll make fun of you? Is it that your dad has nice gams?
The lesson we’re supposed to clearly grasp here is that short-shorts are “inappropriate” attire. But… says who? And why? What about shorts is inherently inappropriate?
I’m not trying to be facetious here; I am truly asking what the problem is. (Again, I acknowledge that this family may have rules about clothes, and that’s fine. But the story would not have gained popularity if other people didn’t agree in some way, and the NY Post article specifically states the girls’ shorts were “inappropriate.”)
So why are shorts that are short inappropriate? Is it the quantity of leg shown? Why are the tops of a young girls’ legs inherently scandalous?
I’m reminded strongly of Rosea Lake’s image “Judgments.” Check it out.
I said earlier I had never owned short-shorts. And you know what? Now I wish I did. Instead I feel very self-conscious about my legs and their shape, and I feel I missed an opportunity. Even though it frequently tops 100* in Texas during the summer, I predominantly wear jeans. Why? I’m ashamed of my legs, even when they’re fit and strong. I’ve gotten the message that my legs are shameful, loud and clear, so it was easier to just bow out of the conversation altogether than to try to find well-fitting “appropriate” shorts.
It’s so difficult for women and girls to feel comfortable in their own skin that I find the popularity of this image and its message a little disappointing. At 15, girls are exhilarated about their evolving shapes. They are beautiful, but are awkward like young fillies. Let them wear short-shorts, I say.
And yeah, I don’t have any problem with their dads doing it, too, if they want–but they might be mistaken for basketball players. (But that’s a different body-shame conversation for another day.)