The #GirlDad Hashtag Benefits Dads Even More Than It Does Girls

Doug FrenchFatherhood on Friday

When Kobe Bryant and his daughter were killed, ESPN’s Elle Duncan described a discussion she’d had with him about his four daughters, and how he’d have five more if he could, because he saw himself as a “Girl Dad.” And after thousands of dads responded with #GirlDad photos on Twitter came the now-predictable backlash: What about boy dads? What about dads of nonbinary kids? What about all this whataboutism?

If you don’t have daughters, and the #GirlDad gushfest left you feeling a little marginalized, you might want to read this piece by Rebecca Hains, who provides some longer-term context for the still shockingly-new idea that fathers should treat their daughters and sons as equally capable of achieving whatever they want. Kobe was a specific proponent of that, having stated confidently that Gigi was talented enough to carry on her father’s legacy on the court.

There’s also the important proviso by educational psychologist Lori Day that #GirlDad represent “mutual trust and respect — not old-fashioned paternal overprotectiveness — making space for their daughters’ own agency.” So we can finally give a proper Viking burial to all those tired memes about a dad threatening his daughter’s boyfriends

There are two more important takeaways here as well:

  • An outpouring of sentiment about fatherhood is a unilaterally great thing. Disputing whether dads are more important to daughters or sons establishes the central point that dads are important, period. Dads are building their own agency to form and express their opinions about how they function as parents. (For example, we can go back to Ms. Hains and list all the reasons why the term #BoyDad” is by no means “redundant.”)
  • Identity parenting is tiresome, but it’s also encouraging. Whenever a discussion topic invites a confluence of passionate opinions, the forming of mini-alliances is inevitable. We’ve seen it happen in our politics, and it’s been a staple of online motherhood for years. “Identity parenting” is a common growing pain in any movement, and you’re feeling the pain, you’re also experiencing the growth.

We’re not worried about Daddy Wars, because they’ll always be minor skirmishes at best. Deep down, we know we can all celebrate our differentness without losing sight of the simple fact that caring for a kid is a singular miracle of privilege.


What must it be like to have lost both your sons to drug overdoses? “Once a week at least, I go someplace alone and have a good cry when I’m reminded of something.”

Another Scandinavian country steps up to set an impressive example of paid leave: In Finland, paid allowance will increase to a combined 14 months, which works out as 164 days per parent.

Chris Askew planned to post a daily dance video on tiktok until his preemie son was strong enough to leave the NICU. It got 500,000 views on its first day.

His dad’s advice: “There may come a time in your life when the only one left who believes in you is you. In those times, you have to will yourself forward. You have to be relentless.

On World Cancer Day, this kid got the perfect birthday gift five days after his dad passed away from lung cancer.

A wonderful moment in the aftermath of Super Bowl LIV between Travis Kelce and his dad: “I’m so happy for you. You’ve worked so hard all your life.” 

Defining what makes a good father is more complicated than ever. To “be present” and “keep showing up” are common responses, but we also like the idea of “be strong enough to bend.”

Dads need to manage stress in front of our toddlers — especially our sons. And if we can’t, we have to figure out why.

Among these suggestions to be a better parent is to build “intrinsic motivation” for your kids to behave wisely, and to be prepared to react soberly when they don’t.


“Thousands of men will go through a similar situation; I want them to know that it is hard, and it’s completely normal to be affected.” — Carl MacDonald, Traumatic Births Can Be Hard For Dads Too. We Need To Talk About It

“I wasn’t just being judged for my hairstyling skills. The only person who calls me Poppa was judging me as a father — one with a history of deficiencies when it came to hair.” — Nevin Martell, The Importance of Learning To Style My Multiracial Son’s Hair

“I bring it up now to show why the prospect of my daughter beginning to cut haunts me more.  Up to now, I haven’t told you my ex-wife is a cutter.” — David Elliott, The Horrors of Cutting; Five Reasons Teenagers Cut Themselves

“This is hard. There’s no explanation he will understand and even if he could, nothing would help.” — Paula Ramsay, Dad Forgets Mom Died, but Sometimes That’s A Blessing

“Will my son remember the greatest adventure of our lives with such clarity? Twenty years from now, will he even remember it at all?” — B.J. Hollars, Risks Can Make the Best Memories


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Photo by Gift Habeshaw on Unsplash