Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Your Princess and Kissing Those Darn Frogs

I just finished reading a book called “A Return to Modesty: Discovering the Lost Virtue” by Wendy Shalit. Although the book was written in 1999, its wisdom is timeless. Indeed, it is quite remarkable to watch Shalit skillfully illustrate the troubling cultural messages being communicated to girls and young women about their bodies, sexuality and femininity. This book is still a must-read.

In any case, the book has caused me to think quite a bit about the role that fathers should play in protecting the innocence of their daughters and in helping them develop a healthy, resilient and positive self-image--a tall order indeed in a culture that increasingly seeks to sexualize our little girls. (We now have retailers that are making thong underwear for 11 year-olds and skinny jeans for toddlers.) My view has always been that a father’s role is to help his princess find her “prince” (i.e. her self worth) without “kissing all the frogs.” For sure, today the frogs are more plentiful and aggressive in their call…And the stakes are higher than ever and the consequences of poor decisions can be long lasting and quite dire.

A case in point is the recent situation that actor Lawrence Fishburne (Mystic River, The Matrix) faced with his 19 year-old daughter, Montana. She agreed to star in a pornographic video to help her become famous. She stated, "I view making this movie as an important first step in my career. I've watched how successful Kim Kardashian became and I think a lot of it was due to the release of her sex tape. I'm hoping the same magic will work for me.”

Clearly, Fishburne was not happy with this situation but Montana wouldn’t listen to him. In fact, to block the release of the video, Fishburne’s friends even offered the film producer what he apparently considered too “modest a sum” -- $1M for all of the copies. The producer distributed the film and it reportedly sold so well that he offered Montana a multi-picture deal.

Granted, Fishburne’s situation is somewhat unique but you have to wonder why a daughter whose dad is an accomplished actor would choose this route to fame. But, the script of Montana’s life is a familiar screenplay with a predictable narrative. It’s worth noting that Fishburne and his daughter’s mother divorced when Montana was very young. You have to wonder if he was "on location" when Montana was a little girl making the critical decision whether to embrace or reject the immodest “Kardashian type” messages and values celebrated daily in our culture. All dads should be mindful that if you “exit stage right” from your daughter’s life, you are bound to miss important “cues.”

Ironically, frogs can be quite alluring and very deceptive. But, outside of fairy tales, there is no “magic” in them. And, that’s why our daughters need involved fathers who have built strong enough relationships with them so that they will listen when he says “be careful what you wish and what you kiss.”


  1. This is such a difficult and precious situation. I have just seen an older daughter off to university and it is a constant worry. All you can do is hope that you have given them the right foundation, but there comes a time where they have to take responsibility for their own lives and make their own choices.

    Good post, very thought provoking.

  2. While this story is a sad one, I think laying it all at the feet of Mr. Fishburne's divorce too simplistic. I've no doubt it was a factor in his daughter's self-identity, but many, many messages girls get about that start with their mother's at a very early age (make-up, clothes, hair styles, dimeanor, and so forth) not dad or the media, or even dad and mom's relationship (though all are still culpable to some extent). Frankly, I think you can hold pure and simple greed the most accountable factor in Montana's decision. And that could've just as easily come about had her parents stayed married.

  3. I think Mr. Morley misses the point of this post. As Single Dad stated, you "hope that you have given them the right foundation, but there comes a time where they have to take responsibility for their own lives and make their own choices". But, hope is lost somewhat if there is a disconnect between the father and daughter.

    Many factors contribute to that disconnect - divorce being one of them - which can lead to a father's inability to stay involved in his child's (in this case daughter's) life. And, I agree fully, were Mr. Fishburne or any dad for that matter more involved in their daughter's life, the likelihood of that young girl resorting to pornography or any industry that profits on their sexuality would not be as high.

    We don't know what the relationship was between Mr. Fishburne and his daughter. We also don't know what prevented him, if that's the case, from being more involved in his daughter's life. One thing is clear; no young woman would go against their father's wishes to pursue this line of work if there was a mutual respect and strong relationship between the two.

  4. I must agree with Single Dad's perspective - we as parents (although I have a 7 month old son) or guardians/aunts/role models (I have two teenage nieces) must commit to do our best in providing our children with the 'right' guidance in building a solid moral/ethical foundation, which should include views on responsiblity and accountability.

    Yes, there comes a time when a child (boy or girl) who grows into an adult, must begin to take responsibility for their own actions/decisions AND be held accountable. Aren't parents supposed to teach children to be responsible/productive individuals in our communities?

    I believe staying 'engaged' in their lives, whether divorced or not, is the key. 'Modeling' is also an essential teaching tool. However, it shouldn't just rest upon the shoulders of the mother/female figure. For divorced fathers who are dating, the daughters see the 'type' of women their father's are dating. I child who is still impressionable and may have self-esteem issues may think, "if my father likes/love this woman, then maybe I should be like her so he will love me too or want to spend more time with me."

    Regardless of marital status, if both parents remain 'engaged' in their children's lives, the children's odds for success in life improves.


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